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  1. #1
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    Default Talk About Your Incubator

    This thread is to talk about and show pics of your queen cell incubator.

    To kick off I'll show mine, it's home made from 2 inch thick polystyrene glued together. It works OK although the temperature swings more than I would like. This is because the temperature controller is set to a maximum variance of 1 degree, but the temperature probe is rather big and slow to react. So the air temperature has to pass the set temperature by around a degree, before the probe will get to the actual trigger temperature.

    Anyhow here's some pics with explanations.


    This is the outside of the incubator with the lid leaning on it. The temperature controller is an Aqua Logic that used to be on my fish tank. Higher up, there is a small fish tank digital thermometer, this has a very small probe which reacts faster to temperature changes, so gives a more accurate reading and it tells me the temperature swings more than the display on the aqua logic reads, which I assume is because the temperature probe of the aqua logic is quite thick so takes longer for the temperature to change, ie, there is a lag between the temperature of the probe, and the air temperature.




    This pic is the inside. The dimensions are pretty much the same as a langstroth box only deeper, so frames of cells can be hung inside on the wooden slats glued near the top. The other main parts are labelled in the pic. The heat source is a 50 W ceramic bulb that came from the pet store, it's the kind used for reptile tanks it doesn't give off any light as I thought light may bother the cells. Under the light is a tray for water, this is to provide humidity, as I'm told humidity in a normal broodnest is around 95%. There is a small computer type fan, not very powerful but the idea is to provide a small amount of air movement to keep temperature even from top to bottom of the incubator. It also blows directly onto the temperature probe, to hopefully speed the reactivity of the probe.




    The incubator works. However I am not 100% satisfied with it.

    I'm hoping others will contribute with both ideas and more pics, that will be helpful to both me, and others.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Talk About Your Incubator

    Sorry no pictures of mine but I will try to add links to the items I use.

    First is a large Styrofoam box. Not as deep as yours otherwise dimensions woudl be similar. I do not try to hang fraems of cells in mine. the cells go in holders that I built. I also cut a hole in the tip of mine and covered it with a picture frame and glass for a viewing window.

    I use a regular incandescent bulb shielded by a metal coffee can. High risk of the heat source failing this way.

    I do not do anything for humidity as I hear humidity needs to be around 50%. the temp needs to be at 95.

    I use a temperature controller I got off e-bay for $20.00. It works very well and I have never measured a temperature swing although I have tested it many times. one trick to reduce temp swing is move the probe closer to your heat source.

    Materials:
    For a box a regular old ice chest even the cheap styro ones will work.
    Lamp fisture I use these. http://www.homedepot.com/p/Westingho...1#.Uepq7qyfPvE

    For a temperature controller I use this but make sure you get the 120 volt version not the 12 volt dc. unless you want 12 V DC. http://www.ebay.com/itm/Digital-All-...item5653d71183

    Now for what I woudl like to improve.

    First I woudl like it to look nice enough to keep in the house. this can be done by using things like old broken down wine coolers. Here is an example but I am not suggesting buying one new.
    http://www.lowes.com/pd_326324-47224...r|1&facetInfo=

    I would also like mine to be more upright with the viewing window in the front. I would also like loading to be from the front rather than the top. The wine cooler solves both of those problems as well.

    Final method to a nice incubator is to just buy it with all the problems solved for you. I like this one but there are many many other options to just purchase an incubator.
    http://www.exo-terra.com/en/products/incubator.php
    I believe to get anything comparable to the Exo-Terra you can expect to spend about $80 or a bit more and then build it yourself. If I get into making any number of queens at all I will be getting the reptile egg incubator.

    One final note. I do not bother with a fan in my queen cell incubator. I have not found it necessary.
    Stand for what you believe, even if you stand alone.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Talk About Your Incubator

    I posted a description and some photos of a incubator I built from a used 8 bottle wine cooler in a different thread below this one(not sure how to link threads,maybe Rader Sidetrack can help with that) It will hold 40 to 50 cells the way it is set up now. I got a lot of good info from Lauri's posts, thanks Lauri! I was going to buy a exo-terra incubator, but after reading various reviews on different reptile forums, I decided just to build one. I still have to mount my Ranco ETC to the side. Right now it is just sitting on top of the cooler. You have to be careful with using light bulbs for a heat source. I started with 2 80 watt incandescent bulbs (wasn't thinking) but the amount of heat they generate is unbelievable. It actually started to bubble the plastic in the cooler even with a metal shroud with air between it. I am using 2 40 watt bulbs now and could get away with something smaller. I may try a reptile heat bulb in the future. I used a ceramic light bulb fixture with a Screw in Y adapter to get 2 bulbs. I bought the Ranco ETC from honey run apiaries for I believe $75 pre wired but you can get it cheaper if you want to wire it your self. So I have about $130 into this build, which is still less then what it would have cost me to buy one.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Talk About Your Incubator

    Quote Originally Posted by Creekside View Post
    I posted a description and some photos of a incubator I built from a used 8 bottle wine cooler in a different thread below this one(not sure how to link threads ....


    Here's the referenced thread:
    http://www.beesource.com/forums/show...154#post970154


    Linking threads is the easy part. Often the hard part is finding the right thread ...

    Once you have found the correct thread, move your cursor to the "address" box [URL] at the top of the page. As an example, the URL for this thread reads "http://www.beesource.com/forums/showthread.php?286777-Talk-About-Your-Incubator&p=974108#post974108"

    Then left click on the address to highlight the URL. Copy it with with a [Control]-C or a right click and choose "Copy". Then go to the thread you want to paste the link into, left click at the location where you want the link to appear, and type [Control]-V or right click and choose "Paste".

    Personally, I find it easier to do this by having two Beesource windows (tabs) open at the same time. One window has the post I am composing, the other is where I find the thread I want to link to.

    It takes longer to describe this process than to actually go thru the steps. What may take the time is finding the thread in the first place.

    .
    Last edited by Rader Sidetrack; 07-20-2013 at 08:30 AM.
    Graham
    --- Victor Hugo - "Common sense is in spite of, not the result of, education.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Talk About Your Incubator

    I'm using a commercially available reptile egg incubator called "reptibator". It's the only one I've ever used, so any comparison to other designs is, at best, theory.

    I think the biggest issue with the swing is how much heat the heat source provides when it is on. There is some inertia/hysteresis in the temperature swing, and the more heat (hotter/more mass) the source produces when it is on, the faster it gets up to temperature, but also the more likely it is to swing wide of the target temp even after the thermostat cuts it off.

    Remember, most heat sources are off or on.

    The reptibator uses a heating wire, but pulses the charge, so that it doesn't get nearly as hot, and doesn't swing the temp so high.

    There is no fan, but I plan to add one...or make a new cabinet incubator and just use the lid/heating element/thermostat from the reptibator.

    I put a container of water to add humidity.

    http://www.amazon.com/Zoo-Med-Reptib.../dp/B0038Z5RMU

    For a homegrown version, I think i would use a simple microcontroller so that I could modulate the pulse width to vary how hot the element is getting...so I could make up large differences quickly, but hold a tight range once established.

    You might be able to pulse a ceramic heater, but I don't think it would be good for the life of a bulb or bulb like heating element.

    deknow
    The irony is free. It's the sarcasm you are paying for....ironically.
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  6. #6
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    Default Re: Talk About Your Incubator

    Thanks, useful info.

    Glad I also posted this on my local forum also, there has been a good discussion, with at least one electrical engineer.

    Turns out, the top line temperature controllers come with what is called PID software. What happens is exactly what you say Dean, the heat source heats up, then when the controller switches off, latent heat continues to come off the bulb or whatever causing a heat spike. Also, there can be a lag in time it takes for the heat sensor probe to get up to temperature compared to the air it is in.

    What PID software does is monitor this, if it notices there is a heat spike after the controller is turned off, it will calculate when it should turn off earlier so that there will not be a heat spike, and it can do the inverse on the way down.

    So that's what I'll be doing, switching out for a controller with PID.

    Something else that's come up, is you don't want a heat source that is too hot. The faster it heats the incubator each time, the further behind the temperature of the heat probe will be, than the air temperature. A heat source that heats the incubator slowly, will mean the heat probe has more time to keep up to temperature and will switch off lower in the heat cycle.

    Not knowing much about electronics, I'm glad I posted and found out this stuff. Anyhow I'll go & check out your other thread Creekside.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Talk About Your Incubator

    thanks for starting the thread ot, and to the contributors as well.

    this was my first year grafting and i didn't use an incubator, but i can see how it would be more convenient to place the capped cells in one and not have to retrieve them from the finishing hive, especially given the fickle nature of the weather during mating season.

    also, any ripe cells that aren't placed in mating nucs to hatch can just hatch out in the incubator and the virgins used as needed.

    the one that lauri upgraded to this year looks like a pretty nice one.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Talk About Your Incubator

    Where is the info from Lauri, I don't see it in the linked thread?
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Talk About Your Incubator

    Here's a thread where Lauri has photos of her incubator:
    http://www.beesource.com/forums/show...tor#post947231
    Graham
    --- Victor Hugo - "Common sense is in spite of, not the result of, education.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Talk About Your Incubator

    IF you realy want to see this lag due to the time it takes the thermostat from registering the temperature. use a water heater thermostat. Other temp monitoring devises have this same effect to some degree. but the water heater stat is the most consistent at being so bad it is a problem. The solution is to have the stat very close to the heat source. basically it is the first thing to get heated up, not the last. Everything else then follow along just fine. In extreme cases where very tight temperature control was required I have had to place the back of a water heater stat 1 inch or less from the bulb. At times I have placed it not only this close but also placed it above the lamp so that it was exposed to the hottest rising air. I have gotten even a water heater stat to hold a temperature to within 2 tenths of a degree this way. Another problem with the water heater stat is it requires the room temperature the incubator is in remains stable. I have built three Styrofoam incubators one out of the remains of an ice maker and one out of a broken down refrigerator size incubator. I have hatched chicken eggs in them cured tobacco and reared queen cells. queen cells are a no brainier in comparison to hatching eggs. eggs require a temperature remain stable to within plus or minus 2 degrees for 21 days. Plus you must not only be able to maintain accurate humidity you must be able to alter the humidity reliably and on demand. Make an egg incubator and anything else pales in comparison.
    Stand for what you believe, even if you stand alone.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Talk About Your Incubator

    Thanks again Rader. Oldtimer that's some good info about the PID controllers. I did not know about them. Something tells me that they may be a little more money then the Ranco ETC. I almost bought a Reptibator but they wanted $189 plus our rediculous tax! The exo-terra looks nice and you can pick them up on eBay for really cheap but it sounds like they are hit or miss. The research I did on them made it sound like they usually crap out in a few months or if your lucky they last a year or so. Hopefully Lauri will post and let us know how things are going with her incubator.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Talk About Your Incubator

    You know to make it simple what you need is a heat source that has just enough wattage to maintain the target temp (slightly above actually) if it was left on all the time. And more thermal mass such as a jug or two of water. Then there should be very little temp spike when the thermostat turns it off. Great thread. Now I know what I'm going to do with the beemax hive setup that I don't care for.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Talk About Your Incubator

    Quote Originally Posted by David LaFerney View Post
    Now I know what I'm going to do with the beemax hive setup that I don't care for.
    LOL

    You'll have to post pics when it's done that will be interesting.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Talk About Your Incubator

    Just a note on PID control.

    It stands for proportional, intragal, and derivative, and as Oldtimer suggested, it is the most effective method of temperature control. Unfortunately it does not work with a device that is strictly on off, such as a light bulb.

    How it works.

    P-only control:
    The basic principle involves regulating the control variable in proportion to the change in the process variable. If electricity is used to heat air, regulating the intensity of the heat element would be the CV or controlled variable, and the incubator temperature sensor would be the PV or process variable. The ratio of change in the CV due to the PV is known as GAIN. A gain of 1 would mean the ratio is 1:1. A gain of 2 would mean that for every degree the PV changed, the CV would change by 2 watts. Or 1:2.

    Lets say the temperature sensor has a range of 0-200F, and the heat element can be regulated between 0 and 200 watts. Using a gain of 2, the air temp is being controlled at 90 F, with a CV output of 100 watts, or 50% and you open the door to install a bowl of cool water, the temp sensor or PV drops to 80F. The proportional controller will adjust the CV or output to 120 watts.

    This is P-only control, and as you can imagine, works well on your car for cruse control, but it has the downside of offset, similar to on/off control and is not effective for accurate temperature control.

    PI control is much better, as it measures the amount of error between the set point SP, and the PV. It then will adjust the output to correct the error. ( I think I went a little far explaining p-only, so I will summarize). This has the advantage of eliminating offset from set point, but with temperature, a PI control system will be effective, but getting up to a stabilized temperature will take longer than using a PID control system.

    PID control, using Derivative is almost solely utilized for temp control. This is because it has the accuracy of PI control, but the derivative speeds up the time it takes to eliminate error from set point. It requires a slow reacting system, like temperature, to work effectively, and is unstable controlling things like flow, and pressure.

    Summary
    PID control is awesome for temp, but what heat source are you going to use, and how are you going to implement the control algorithm required for PID control? If I had the answer to these questions, I would be building my incubator using PID. I'm currently building mine using electrical heat tracing rated at 7 watts/ foot, and on/off control.

    Luke

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Talk About Your Incubator

    Yikes! Well whatever you said there was pretty awesome Sharpdog

    Nah just kidding you explained it very well. Actually I'm glad you ran through it, might save me buying a controller that still will not do the job.

    The heatsource I'm using is not a lightbulb as such, but is a so called ceramic lightbulb used as a heat source in reptile tanks, they are commonly available at pet stores. It does not make light, just heat. However I don't know the actual mechanism it makes the heat, or if a dimmer could be applied to the bulb.

    However as you know far more about PID than I could ever hope to, what is your feeling about using a PID temp controller on one of these ceramic lightbulbs?
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Talk About Your Incubator

    Sharpdog I've gone a step further with this and emailed the ceramic bulb manufacturers to see if their bulb is compatible with a PID controller. Once they have replied I'll post up for your and others continued input on this. Just incase I get the wrong info from some tech support flunky.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Talk About Your Incubator

    Oldtimer the answer is, I don't know. Here is the problem:

    Typically process control or PID control is performed by taking an input (temperature) and calculating an output. The output however is not something that can directly control a heater, or dimmer or valve for that matter. The output is typically a very precise tiny electrical signal of 4mA-20mA. If your ceramic heater is variable, you would still need to convert the 4-20mA signal into a usable output of say 0W-100watts. ( if the controller calls for 25% output, that sends an output of 8mA which would need to be converted onto 25 watts going to your heater.)

    I work for an oil and gas company where everything we deal with uses compressed air to control the valves. So if we have a fired heater, such as a boiler, we will use PID control to open and close the fuel gas valve that feeds the fire. If our heater needs 25% output, the PID controller will output 8mA, that electrical current will open a tiny control valve that will send just enough air to our fuel gas control valve to open it 25%.

    So the question remains is there an inexpensive method of controlling an electrical heater? I'm not sure. If you find out, let me know.

    Luke

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Talk About Your Incubator

    OK well found something on this on our local aquarium forum, here is a cut and paste -

    QUOTE "Small preamble.

    My background is Electrical Engineering. Albeit very rusty these days, I can still call on that knowledge and its relationship to this hobby. Which is handy every now and then.

    What follows is my 2 cents worth on Aquarium temp control and how it should be done. It may be of interest to some, it may be rubbish to others.

    Firstly. Its appears to me, people do spend a fair amount of their hard earned cash on this corner of the hobby. So you want the best.

    The best IMHO is a PID temperature controller using a PT100 sensor.

    Mine cost about $90NZ with a PT100 sensor.

    That is a pretty bold statement. I doubt I could walk into a pet shop and ask for what I bought. Simply because I don’t think that technology exists in the world of aquarists yet. Which strikes me as rather odd? (personally my belief is 'they' make huge margins on rather old technology).

    Ok. I can see I’m getting some sideways looks. What is PID control goat?

    PID Control stands for Proportional Integral Differential.
    These PID temperature controllers are more than a simple thermostat, they contain a microprocessor which determines the difference (Differential) between the current value and the Set value . . . Integrates (Integral) this with the heating devices known heating characteristics . . . and applies an output pulse which is Proportional to the difference and the amount of heat required. . . so that the temperature reaches the set value and stays there

    I’ve googled it and come up with a further explanation. Below;
    Understanding a PID Controller

    If that was as clear as mud. Feel free to ask Q's. I will do my best to answer.

    *****
    Secondly.
    Heaters. Elements. Hot things that heat water.
    Again. Money.

    This is what our PID controller will control essentially.

    The biggest gruntiest domestic element out there in NZ will be about 2.4kW (or 2400 watts). We are limited to this because we have a 240VAC 10amp rated sockets in most houses (stoves etc are the exception).

    I don’t know of many people that use a 2.4kW heater for aquarium heating. 1.2kW probably. I think I did once years ago.

    Again. We invest our hard earned money into this heater, so we want it to last. We then do our utmost to destroy it by switching it off and on in effort to control the aquarium temp at some pre-determined set point. This is not PID Control, it is simple ON OFF control.

    Elements do not like contracting and expanding. This is ultimately what kills most normal elements (the kind you might use in an aquarium).

    This is where the PID controller comes into its on.

    What it does (via a solid state relay – more on that below SSR) is switch the element so fast that it never actually cools or heats to extremes [via pulse which is Proportional to the difference and the amount of heat required- from above]. The element will stay less on or more on if you like. Which in turn means we get better temperature control with smaller variations in temp and our element/heater last for years.

    PID controllers have the ability to ‘learn’ how long it takes your heater to get up to temp also thus obtaining very fine control of temperature.

    Back to the solid state relay (or SSR)
    Generally the output from our PID controller is a simple low DC Voltage of a few milliamps (10V 40mA), although it can be a relay . . . but this is often only capable of handling around 3A . . . ideal for a small Aquarium heater but not some of the bigger ones you may use. Plus the rapid switching of the PID would rapidly wear out a mechanical relay. . . hence the reason a Solid State Relay is used. SSR's are capable of switching huge currents, and are ideal for the 1.2kW + elements we generally use for heating large aquariums where an accurate temperature control is required.

    It is important to choose the correct temperature sensor and for our work the best sensor is a PT100 probe. As mentioned at the top.

    Hope this helps

    goats 2 cents on fine temp control for aquariums.

    P.S. I wont be using pulse output to switch my chiller. This would lead to fail. So Ive bought a Rolls Royce to drive to the dairy so to speak
    " UNQUOTE
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Talk About Your Incubator

    Sorry for the delayed response Oldtimer....i've been busy.

    I have never worked with a pulsed output, but it makes perfect sense that it would work. The only criticism that I have with the above quote is when he said "PID controllers have the ability to ‘learn’ how long it takes your heater to get up to temp". I assume that he is speaking about the way it seems to work, as opposed to how it does work. In actuality it uses a defined algorithm that calculates how much heat it should provide, and it will repeat itself exactly every time under the same conditions. The only change to this is the user’s ability to "Tune" the control loop to act more quickly, have less overshoot, and be more stable. Just so you are aware that none of these controllers will actually learn and improve themselves. This must be user configured. I will look for a solid state relay controller, and if they are inexpensive I agree it’s the way to go.

    Luke

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Talk About Your Incubator

    I use this module at work. It's everything you'd need, except for maybe an ice cube or RIB relay.

    http://acsinfo.honeywell.com/Buildin...s/Features.htm

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