Hatching Queens into Mason Jars
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  1. #1
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    Default Hatching Queens into Mason Jars

    Hi Everyone,
    What does everyone think of moving some queen cells to an incubator and suspending them inside a mason jar with some mesh screen used in place of a lid? I'm raising a small number of queens right now, and about time for them to hatch out, but there's been a run of bad weather and I haven't wanted to try making up nucs while its so cold, and in the meantime its getting pretty close to when I expect the queens to emerge. I'm thinking it might be a good idea to separate the cells, just in case, and the mason jars were the best idea I came up with. Does anyone have experience keeping the queens in glass jars, maybe smearing honey on the mesh so they'll have something to eat for a day or two? Thanks.

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Hatching Queens into Mason Jars

    I use Nicot Cupkit queen cages: designed for the job and much smaller so more practical

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Hatching Queens into Mason Jars

    I was also thinking along the same lines a few weeks ago, as the basic Nicot system doesn't really lend itself to working with natural queen cells - but then I discovered that Chinese cell protectors will fit Nicot roller cages and hold natural q/cells in 'em perfectly. Photos at: https://www.beesource.com/forums/sho...isc-Nicot-chat

    But - if you don't have any suitable kit handy - then I'm sure that what you are proposing will work ok as an emergency measure. Keep the jars as small as possible (I was going to use ramekins), and suggest you put a couple of workers into each jar, along with the q/cell.
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Hatching Queens into Mason Jars

    Sounds to me like it should work. My only advice is get the now empty queen cell out of the jar soon after she emerges. The queens have a habit of re-entering the queen cell, getting stuck, and dying... They are probably after royal jelly residues.

    Virgins are not as well accepted by nucs, relative to queen cells, but I have frequently done it. Works best if she is only about a day old after emergence. The older they get the less likely it is to work. Lightly spray the queen with sugar water to stop her from flying and to mask her scent, open the nuc, spray them all with sugar water, and let her go into the top of the nuc. Don't try sending her in the front door past any guard bees...

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Hatching Queens into Mason Jars

    Quote Originally Posted by Ambrose View Post
    Hi Everyone,
    What does everyone think of moving some queen cells to an incubator and suspending them inside a mason jar with some mesh screen used in place of a lid? I'm raising a small number of queens right now, and about time for them to hatch out, but there's been a run of bad weather and I haven't wanted to try making up nucs while its so cold, and in the meantime its getting pretty close to when I expect the queens to emerge. I'm thinking it might be a good idea to separate the cells, just in case, and the mason jars were the best idea I came up with. Does anyone have experience keeping the queens in glass jars, maybe smearing honey on the mesh so they'll have something to eat for a day or two? Thanks.
    You should modify your profile to include your location. What exactly is the predicted weather? When are the cells emerging?

    I've found that honey, glass, and bees is not a great combination. If honey drips from the screen and lands on the bottom of the glass jar, and then if the queen lands in it she will likely get coated, which usually doesn't go well. Again, we don't know your predicted weather, but even if it was going to be 50F (and no rain), I'd make the splits and place the cells.
    Horseshoe Point Honey -- http://localvahoney.com/

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Hatching Queens into Mason Jars

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Anderson View Post
    The queens have a habit of re-entering the queen cell, getting stuck, and dying...
    They reenter the cell and die because they are starving, not because they get stuck.
    Horseshoe Point Honey -- http://localvahoney.com/

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Hatching Queens into Mason Jars

    Hi Everyone, I appreciate the responses. It's finally started to warm a bit, but up until yesterday the highs were around 50, it was cloudy and windy, and there was intermittent rain.

    I ended up harvesting the queen cells on Monday evening after the weather broke, and I did end up using 8 oz jelly jars with mesh screening on top. The nub on the top of the queen cup fit pretty well into the mesh, and I put 5 or 6 workers into each jar along with the cell. The queens should be emerging today, the 15th.

    I was concerned about the ability to regular temperature, airflow and humidity, since I was using glass. I set the incubator at 93, and left a dish of water for humidification.

    The honey I left on the screen did end up dripping onto the bottom of the jar, and I did see that a couple of workers had become sticky. I had considered that this was a possibility for the emerging virgins as well.

    At this point I was able to make splits and place all of the cells into new colonies, unhatched, except for one, which I hope I can get to today before the virgin emerges. I guess I'll see in a couple of weeks what these queens are like. I'm not sure I would ever plan to do it this way again, but in a pinch when nothing else was available to me, it seemed like the best option, in case someone decided to emerge a day early.

    By the way, in researching this idea, I saw that a lot of people use hair rollers for cages. Is that mainly because of the size, or does it also have to do with material, ventilation, etc?

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Hatching Queens into Mason Jars

    Quote Originally Posted by Ambrose View Post
    I'm not sure I would ever plan to do it this way again, but in a pinch when nothing else was available to me, it seemed like the best option, in case someone decided to emerge a day early.
    Sure - "any port in a storm" (is better than none).

    By the way, in researching this idea, I saw that a lot of people use hair rollers for cages. Is that mainly because of the size, or does it also have to do with material, ventilation, etc?
    Lots of reasons ... The Nicot cages are part of their system, so the cages fit securely onto the cell-cup holders. The caps are well designed - they have several shallow indentations, intended to hold very small amounts of honey - which is ideal. Genuine Nicot caps can also fit onto the mounting blocks (instead of the cell-cup holder), so the roller cage can be used upside-down - say for standing in some kinds of incubator. This can't be done with the Chinese clones (they missed that one ...).

    I've made my own cages in the past - all they need to do is stop the queen getting out, allow ventilation, and have a mesh size suitable for workers to feed the virgin queens if they're being used inside a hive (instead of an incubator). But my DIY jobs were never as good as the commercial item.
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Hatching Queens into Mason Jars

    Quote Originally Posted by Ambrose View Post
    Hi Everyone,
    What does everyone think of moving some queen cells to an incubator and suspending them inside a mason jar with some mesh screen used in place of a lid? I'm raising a small number of queens right now, and about time for them to hatch out, but there's been a run of bad weather and I haven't wanted to try making up nucs while its so cold, and in the meantime its getting pretty close to when I expect the queens to emerge. I'm thinking it might be a good idea to separate the cells, just in case, and the mason jars were the best idea I came up with. Does anyone have experience keeping the queens in glass jars, maybe smearing honey on the mesh so they'll have something to eat for a day or two? Thanks.
    Well, I didn't have - but now I do. And it works very well indeed.

    The first three emerged this morning - here's the kit I've been using - all very crude - just whatever I had handy. A dab of honey in a cell-cup, rather than smeared over the mesh. Now that I know this technique works (and works well), I'll proceed to make some proper tops for them.



    The only problem I could foresee was "how to get the queens out from the ramekin jars ?" - and so I made (what I'm calling) a 'ramekin extraction plate'. Patent Applied For - of course ... LOL





    This plate has enabled me to gently induce each virgin to enter a Nicot roller cage which was then closed with a cell holder, together with a cell-cup containing a dab of honey.

    They'll now be placed in a queenless holding hive for 24 hrs - where they'll hopefully be joined by several others - before being finally given a new home.

    Here's a close-up of these first three cells, showing the huge chunks of comb which can be left attached to them when using this method, so that - even when using the softest white comb - there's no need for fingers to come anywhere near the cells themselves, and no need to trim any comb away.



    It's occurred to me that such a method of incubation would fit-in rather well with Jay Smith's non-graft system of queen-rearing - for those who prefer to work with emerged virgins, rather than ripe queen-cells.

    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Hatching Queens into Mason Jars

    Thanks for having a go at that, and for letting us know how it worked out. Very interesting.

    Were those Q cells opportunistic (i.e. swarm cells) or did you induce them with a particular Q rearing method? With such a large chunk of comb, were you still able to secure it to the lid?

  12. #11
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    Default Re: Hatching Queens into Mason Jars

    Hi - my thanks to YOU for reminding me of a method I'd thought about several times over the last year or two but had been side-tracked from working on it while I kept trying to get the Nicot laying-cage to work (which it never has to my satisfaction) ...

    Yes - those Q cells were opportunistic, although not swarm cells - they were cells started from my best Queen. I'd grafted a couple of bars from a 'white comb' which she'd laid-up in - which pretty-much failed (as usual, as I'm hopeless at grafting) with only 2 'takes' - and so I put the whole comb into the starter-finisher to see what they'd make of it. I can't remember now how many were started, but ten were finally capped.

    I had to work fairly quickly to save those capped q/cells, and so an already half-finished incubator was hastily thrown together dimensioned to house eight 'ramekins' (small volume wide-mouthed jars), with it's temperature regulated at 34 (+/- 1) degrees C, and it's humidity held to around an indicated 70% RH, also by courtesy of a ramekin jar filled with distilled water sitting directly on the warm base and 'regulated' by a moveable cover. It was a lash-up, but after a couple of days of testing I reckoned it would at least serve to evaluate this method.

    Of the ten remaining capped q/cells, eight were able to be cut out on Day 12/13 (of 16), but two were positioned 'back-to-back' and so were left 'as is' and a nuc started using those and what was left of that comb. The eight cut-outs were each placed directly on the floor of a pre-warmed ramekin, together with a Nicot cell-cup holding a dash of honey, with a weighted mesh placed over each.

    Results:
    From the eight cut-outs, six virgins emerged - the two remaining cells were left for an extra day, and finally cut open this morning to reveal that they were - for all intents and purposes, completely empty. Each one had a tiny grub in there, but one which had obviously never got started - but no matter.

    Of the remaining six, one died from an unknown reason whilst being held in a queenless colony for 24 hrs (so that would have been a wasted q/cell had it been donated in that form), but the other five virgins are real crackers. Three have already been used to re-queen slightly 'warm' (not really 'hot') colonies, and the others will be housed later-on today - as right now it's 7.30 a.m.

    In conclusion - I'm absolutely delighted with this trial, as I've been looking for some time now for a really good method of handling natural queen-cells. It's easy enough to create them - the bees are very good at doing that ! - but it's the management of them afterwards which has thus far eluded me.

    Most people seem to prefer placing 'ripe' q/cells directly into nucs - but one of the problems with naturally-produced (i.e.'on the comb') q/cells is predicting the time of emergence, as one early virgin can demolish the lot !

    But removing those q/cells a little earlier - just to be on the safe side - can also be problematic, for at 8-10 days the larva mustn't be dislodged from food or will die, and between days 14-16 should the cells ever be chilled or shaken wings may be damaged - and so it would appear that cutting-out queen cells is best conducted between days 11 and 13. Hence the incubator.

    Bees much prefer drawing q/cells using 'white comb' (Jay Smith has quite a lot to say about this), but such comb is very fragile indeed when it comes to trimming off the excess to fit the q/cell into a cell protector. The use of glass jars solves this problem very nicely.

    So, all-in-all it's a great idea (imo), and I'll now proceed to make a more workman-like incubator, and one which can accommodate (say) 16-24 cells. That should be more than adequate for my own modest needs.

    'best
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  13. #12
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    Default Re: Hatching Queens into Mason Jars

    LJ, I wonder it heating the screen and gently pressing the comb portion of the qc into the screen would allow the cell to hang in the ramekin. I have always just pushed them into the top of a hair roller cage. Problem with that though is the queens can often get out and I find them all over the incubator. I had to put a screen over my water pan as two fell in and drowned earlier this year.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  14. #13

    Default Re: Hatching Queens into Mason Jars

    As for introducing virgins an old beekeeper who runs around 200 told me to keep the cell she emerged from. Put it on the top bars for about a minute and then let her go right next to it. Successful takes without balling is way above 90%. Its high enough I dont mind having virgins emerge into roller cages if I got something going on and can't get the cells out, weather etc.

  15. #14
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    Default Re: Hatching Queens into Mason Jars

    I fully agree - if you can 'introduce' them within the first 2 days of emergence - then they can just walk into a queenless hive, with the other bees not even noticing them.

    After two days it may be a different story, as by then they've begun to develop pheromones and thus start to begin to smell like queens - I suspect such delayed intro is behind the many stories of virgin-intro failure.

    BTW - I was always told that q/cells MUST be held vertically upright at all times. Urban legend. Check out this Khmer Beekeeping video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=92xMa0e4JC8 (from 9 minutes onwards). In later videos the guy even holds q/cells awaiting emergence upside-down !

    It was after watching the above video (maybe 18 months ago ?) that I firmed-up the idea of laying natural q/cells onto the floor of ramekin jars ...
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

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