Nicot Laying Cage - complete success !!
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  1. #1
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    Exclamation Nicot Laying Cage - complete success !!

    This thread is essentially an extension of: https://www.beesource.com/forums/sho...isc-Nicot-chat ... but the story I'm about to relate may be of value to others (perhaps ?), and so I thought I'd start a new thread to describe the following events.

    For anyone who hasn't read the above thread, it's a tale of woe. I've been trying to use the Nicot Laying Cage for many years - but always without success - with not even one larvae resulting. That is, until this year when I managed to recover 8 larvae (from 110 cells) - oh whoopee ...

    But those 8 larvae were to cause me to question "why were they left and fed, and not removed along with the rest ?" The only explanation I could think of was that they were larvae from the first eggs laid ... and perhaps there was a clue there ... once the egg reaches a certain age (assuming it hasn't been molested by then) perhaps the bees treat it differently ? Well, it was an idea worth pursuing ...

    Added to this was the idea of 'value' which keeps being raised in my mind: by this I mean if a colony is queen-right with lots of bees of all descriptions, maybe they don't really need any more brood - especially if they sense there's something not quite right about the comb in which eggs have been laid. Perhaps that 'iffy' comb has more value to the colony as a store for nectar instead ? So - "remove those eggs - there's something not quite right there, anyway."

    Contrast this scenario with that of a queenless colony - in the jargon "a hopelessly queenless colony" - that is, one which has been queenless for an extended period, and no longer has any means of generating a queen from existing brood. What 'value' would such a desperate colony place upon a frame (even an 'iffy' frame) of eggs ? So - let's find out ...


    At the moment I have two such queenless colonies: one is a 5-frame Joseph Clemens queenless starter-finisher (albeit recently moved into a 11-frame box, appropriately dummied down); the other is a much larger Laidlaw-sized 11-frame queenless starter-finisher. Both have been queenless for several weeks and have had open brood added at regular intervals during that time, with the resulting rogue queen-cells duly cut out.

    Two different (genuine) Nicot laying cages were used for this trial - one mounted in a slatted batten configuration, the other mounted within an existing and well seasoned black comb.

    Queens from two different strains of bee: one Carniolan, the other Buckfast - both F1's - were inserted into the laying cages, which were then left in their respective hives for approx. 36 hrs, until eggs were seen upon inspection. As soon as eggs were present in 8 out of 8 randomly removed cell-cups, the queens were released, the bees brushed off the frames, and protection plates inserted to prevent further access to the eggs. Then the frames were returned to hives for a further 24 hrs.

    After this time, the frames were transferred to the queenless starter-finishers (or "hopelessly queenless colonies"), with their protection plates now removed. 24 hrs later, the two Nicot Laying Cages were checked for larvae - with outstanding results.

    Every single cell examined contained either a larvae or an egg. Not one single evidence of egg removal was found.


    To recap then ...

    As soon as the breeder queen has laid her eggs, access to those eggs is then denied to her colony.

    After 24 hrs, those eggs are given to a "hopelessly queenless colony", which will presumably have forgotten the smell of their old queen, and so will not reject the eggs as being foreign to them. For that reason, I would suggest that it's unlikely this technique would work with a Cloake Board setup, as the duration of queenlessness is then too short.

    Needless to say, further trials will need to be conducted to ensure that this technique is sound, but identical results were obtained here by two trials having completely different components.

    If anyone else should try this method - please advise of the outcome.
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Nicot Laying Cage - complete success !!

    interesting idea moving them to a queenless colony before putting them on the cell bars. Only problem i see is that some queens don't start laying in the confined space right away. I suppose checking on them daily is needed.
    I would consider this a success if it was greater then 50 percent of all the nicot were accepted. Right now i'm doing about 30 grafts by hand and averaging 10 taken to capped. So 33 percent or so. To warrant the continued expense of the Nicot cups i feel there should be more return.
    Perhaps i'll try your method before i get rid of my queenless starter colony this year.
    Terrence

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Nicot Laying Cage - complete success !!

    Hi Terence - I think this workaround is certainly worth trying if egg removal is the presenting problem, and if you should decide to try it I'd be most interested to hear how you got on.

    I agree that the Nicot system is far from ideal: unlike grafting you need to locate and confine the queen, and then check daily to confirm that eggs have been laid. I found that painting molten wax over the face of the cage helps to overcome any reluctance to lay, but I've found that young queens in particular can flatly refuse to lay eggs - even after several days of confinement.

    But - my biggest headache has always been egg removal - and of course this only becomes evident after the 3 day check for larvae. Add to this a couple of days to get eggs laid in the first place, and we're talking the best part of a week wasted each time this happens. Frustratingly, I still don't know WHY eggs are being removed or eaten - this is only a somewhat complex workaround to overcome that problem.

    But - even though it appears that I can now successfully harvest non-grafted larvae using the Nicot system, my preference remains the raising of natural queen-cells on white comb - it's far from being a commercially viable method, but ideal for the relatively small numbers of queens required here each year.
    'best
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

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    Default Re: Nicot Laying Cage - complete success !!

    Could you leave the Nicot eggs protected until they hatch?

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    Default Re: Nicot Laying Cage - complete success !!

    Bearing in mind that some of these larvae are going to become queens and not just bog-standard workers - I'd be very worried that their development would be seriously affected by even a brief period of starvation.

    In the original US Patent 4392262 (1983) - which of course predates the Nicot and Jenter systems - the author writes:
    "About a day before the eggs burst and the larvae slip out of the broken eggs, protective plate 20 is removed."

    'Broken' eggs - guess he didn't know that they dissolve ...

    Strange how this protection plate has never featured (afaik) in either the Nicot or Jenter systems ...
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

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    Default Re: Nicot Laying Cage - complete success !!

    Thank you for that! Has anyone noticed a difference in queen quality between different styles ( emergency, graft,Nicot, etc) of queen rearing? I woulda thunk genetics were most important.

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    Default Re: Nicot Laying Cage - complete success !!

    I'm sure genetics IS important - but I seem to remember someone with a good reputation within the beekeeping world saying something like: "a well-fed queen of poor genetics is better than a poorly-fed queen of superior genetics" - or words to that effect.

    With that in mind, can I suggest a read of Jay Smith's 'Better Queens', a copy of which can be found on Michael Bush's site: http://www.bushfarms.com/beesbetterqueens.htm - or one of the many .pdf versions of MB's contribution which have now sprung up on other sites, such as: http://apimo.dk/programs/special/Bet..._Jay_Smith.pdf

    The core message to be found within that book, is that it's both the quality and the quantity of feed given to the larvae which are key to the development of superior queens, and that in order to achieve this it is not only essential to have a sufficient number of nurse bees available for feeding - but they MUST be in 'active feeding mode' at the time that the larvae are given to them.

    Because - it can take a day or two for the nurse bees to go from a 'dormant' state to an active feeding state. So - even if you were to give a bar of grafts to a hive overflowing with nurse bees, if they're not actively feeding beforehand then those larvae will be fed a relatively impoverished diet until those bees 'get up to speed', and by the time they do - the larvae will then be that much older and so will have largely 'missed the bus'.

    One suggestion Jay Smith makes is to remove the brood combs from a breeder colony, and leave behind one newly-drawn white comb flanked on either side by one comb of pollen and one of stores - and that's all. [Even though I've already got more than enough new queens for this season, I've just started such a trial as a test.] Then, the queen will jump on that comb and lay it up within 24hrs [she did exactly that], and the whole colony's worth of nurse bees will then proceed to flood that single comb of eggs with an abundance of bee milk. [again, that's exactly what has happened]

    Later-on today I'll be transferring that comb (of now freshly hatched larvae) to a colony which has recently been made queenless, and who's nurses are still actively feeding 'rogue' (from my point-of-view) queen-cells. I'm expecting that colony to then draw out as many good-quality queen cells on that white comb as they can afford to feed.

    'best
    LJ
    Last edited by little_john; 07-09-2019 at 03:28 AM. Reason: spelling !
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    Default Re: Nicot Laying Cage - complete success !!

    Quote Originally Posted by Andhors View Post
    Thank you for that! Has anyone noticed a difference in queen quality between different styles ( emergency, graft,Nicot, etc) of queen rearing? I woulda thunk genetics were most important.
    In my short time making my queens i've only been able to make smaller queens. So not the big and plump ones. However they lay like freight trains so far. Much better then the big ones i've bought in the past. I personally feel we place too much emphasis on size just like we do with cars, dogs, meals.
    The bees themselves make larger queens but i have not taking calipers to them to figure out the size difference.
    Terrence

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    Default Re: Nicot Laying Cage - complete success !!

    Quote Originally Posted by Andhors View Post
    Thank you for that! Has anyone noticed a difference in queen quality between different styles ( emergency, graft,Nicot, etc) of queen rearing? I woulda thunk genetics were most important.
    I have raised queens through Nicot and grafting and have of course gotten queens through splits at swarm time and supercedures. I have never noticed any difference in quality based on the way they were created. I have noticed that most of the queens I raised were much better than any I have ever bought. The spring build up in hives with the queens I raised really shows a difference. I will say that the bee suppliers I have used really do a fine job and I will NOT badmouth any supplier I have gotten queens from. All the queens were good and some were bought for a specific reason. When you mass produce queens, it is impossible to really evaluate every queen before she gets shipped out. When you do it yourself on a small scale, evaluating every queen is easy to do. My belief is that shipping and storing queens damages them more than we realize. I have no proof, only a hunch. The queens I raise never get stored in a box for days and weeks but are in hives and laying the entire time.

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    Default Re: Nicot Laying Cage - complete success !!

    Final update on this topic - the first virgin (of about 40) emerged within the incubator this evening at around 8 p.m. The 'due day' for emergence was calculated as tomorrow, so just a few hours early is a level of timing precision I've never experienced before when working with natural queen cells. Very impressive.

    She's a big girl and a well-marked Carnie (black with narrow ivory stripes) - I hope the rest turn out just as well. I can probably find homes for around 20, and will try to give the rest away.

    I'm now looking forward to next year, when I'll be trying the same modified Nicot Laying Cage method again - only next time much nearer to the beginning of the season, rather than towards the end.
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

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    Default Re: Nicot Laying Cage - complete success !!

    Congatulations LJ. Sounds like you figured out the right magic spell. Maybe I need to brush up on my Latin 'cause I am still working on getting it right.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

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    Default Re: Nicot Laying Cage - complete success !!

    Thanks. For me it's been a long haul - so many years of hearing of other's successes with the Nicot 'laying cage' system - during which time I've had nothing but 100% failure. The only consolation during this time has been hearing similar stories from those who have also experienced complete and utter failure.

    The most frustrating thing has been that the system should work flawlessly - the theoretical logic behind it makes total sense - and for so many people it does indeed 'produce the goods'. "So why not for me ?"

    I still don't know why eggs are removed from the cage - I only know that this happens time and time again, no matter what variation in position or other condition is being tried. The use of an egg protection plate for some 24hrs, followed by cage transfer into a 'hopelessly queenless colony' who's bees have been kept in 'feeding mode' has been the magic solution for me - I only hope this alternative procedure solves the problem for others.

    BTW - a few more lovely virgins emerged overnight. Looks like today is going to be a busy one. It's not over yet, of course - still need to get 'em mated - but I haven't seen too many swallows yet and not one single dragonfly at the time of writing.
    LJ

    resoluta catenis incedit virgo, pretiumque et causa laboris ("freed of her chains the virgin advances, the prize and the cause of our labour.") ... from the Tale of Perseus and Andromeda.
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

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    Default Re: Nicot Laying Cage - complete success !!

    Quote Originally Posted by little_john View Post
    I'm sure genetics IS important - but I seem to remember someone with a good reputation within the beekeeping world saying something like: "a well-fed queen of poor genetics is better than a poorly-fed queen of superior genetics" - or words to that effect.........

    LJ
    Unsure about this one LJ.
    It is a commercial talk that just gets replicated over and over.


    I would take a crappy Q (be it an oldie or a dink or whatever) originating from a good line (a survivor in my world) and try to produce more queens/drones from her - THUS still persisting the genetic line for the benefit of the local population (if you are interested in maintaining the local population).
    I don't particularly care to fetch a top-producing commercial queen - no matter how big and strong and beautiful - while the show is on (they tend to die after the show is finished and sale is made).

    Commercial producer interests and local enthusiast beek interests can be very different.
    Last edited by GregV; 07-18-2019 at 09:45 AM.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

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    Default Re: Nicot Laying Cage - complete success !!

    Quote Originally Posted by GregV View Post
    Unsure about this one LJ.
    It is a commercial talk that just gets replicated over and over.


    I would take a crappy Q (be it an oldie or a dink or whatever) originating from a good line (a survivor in my world) and try to produce more queens/drones from her - THUS still persisting the genetic line for the benefit of the local population (if you are interested in maintaining the local population).
    Hi Greg.
    Well, I can't remember who said this, but as far as I can recall it was related to the quality (or otherwise) of an existing queen for current purposes ( i.e. during the present season). What you're describing appears to be rather more about the potential of such a queen's genetics - that is, following another round of queen-rearing.

    I don't particularly care to fetch a top-producing commercial queen - no matter how big and strong and beautiful - while the show is on (they tend to die after the show is finished and sale is made).

    Commercial producer interests and local enthusiast beek interests can be very different.
    I think there's a risk here of falling into the trap of tarring all queen producers with the same brush. Are you seriously suggesting - for example - that Michael Palmer produces queens which die prematurely and are therefore not worth purchasing ? I think not. And yet to quote your words, his queens are indeed "big and strong and beautiful".

    Speaking for myself, my intention at present is to produce the healthiest queens I can. To do this I've been selecting 'breeder' queens which have consistently produced healthy brood as well as heading colonies which demonstrate desirable behaviour, and have produced both daughters and grand-daughters with these same characteristics.

    As I may have already mentioned, this season I've been following the basic principles outlined in Jay Smith's 'Better Queens', right up until where he employs the Alley Method to actually produce the queen cells, which is where I've substituted the Nicot Laying Cage instead. The main thrust of Jay Smith's methodology is to provide ample food for the larvae at all stages of their development. I likewise believe this to be the key factor in the rearing of quality queens, and sincerely hope that no-one would be contrary enough to suggest that the converse approach - i.e. involving a restricted diet - could possibly provide any positive benefit.

    Although my intention has never been to produce "big and strong and beautiful" queens, each of the virgins emerging from the incubator during the last 48 hours has indeed fitted that description, despite each cell cup having been completely depleted of Royal Jelly - thus dispelling any suggestion that these virgin queens have been overfed (not that this is necessarily a bad thing - rather quite the opposite) - but I'm more than happy with results thus far.

    The size of these virgin queens - whilst being much larger than I normally produce - can only be as a consequence of this ample feeding, but such size has never figured in my mind as being a queen-rearing objective in itself.
    'best
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

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    Default Re: Nicot Laying Cage - complete success !!

    Quote Originally Posted by little_john View Post
    Hi Greg.
    Well, I can't remember who said this, but as far as I can recall it was related to the quality (or otherwise) of an existing queen for current purposes ( i.e. during the present season). What you're describing appears to be rather more about the potential of such a queen's genetics - that is, following another round of queen-rearing.

    I think there's a risk here of falling into the trap of tarring all queen producers with the same brush. Are you seriously suggesting - for example - that Michael Palmer produces queens which die prematurely and are therefore not worth purchasing ? I think not. And yet to quote your words, his queens are indeed "big and strong and beautiful".

    Speaking for myself, my intention at present is to produce the healthiest queens I can. To do this I've been selecting 'breeder' queens which have consistently produced healthy brood as well as heading colonies which demonstrate desirable behaviour, and have produced both daughters and grand-daughters with these same characteristics.

    As I may have already mentioned, this season I've been following the basic principles outlined in Jay Smith's 'Better Queens', right up until where he employs the Alley Method to actually produce the queen cells, which is where I've substituted the Nicot Laying Cage instead. The main thrust of Jay Smith's methodology is to provide ample food for the larvae at all stages of their development. I likewise believe this to be the key factor in the rearing of quality queens, and sincerely hope that no-one would be contrary enough to suggest that the converse approach - i.e. involving a restricted diet - could possibly provide any positive benefit.

    Although my intention has never been to produce "big and strong and beautiful" queens, each of the virgins emerging from the incubator during the last 48 hours has indeed fitted that description, despite each cell cup having been completely depleted of Royal Jelly - thus dispelling any suggestion that these virgin queens have been overfed (not that this is necessarily a bad thing - rather quite the opposite) - but I'm more than happy with results thus far.

    The size of these virgin queens - whilst being much larger than I normally produce - can only be as a consequence of this ample feeding, but such size has never figured in my mind as being a queen-rearing objective in itself.
    'best
    LJ
    LJ,

    Nothing wrong with the "big and strong and beautiful" queens as long as your expectations are reasonable for your particular setting.

    My personal issue with them is that people here (in WI!!!) order those beautiful queens from Hawaii and then expect ....
    I don't know what they expect from them.
    I know they will die come winter, no matter how big and strong.
    I don't need such queens for free (and I don't want people around me getting those queens either) - that is detrimental to my program.

    Lucky for your customers - your placement in the UK makes your queen final destinations relatively similar to your base.
    This is very different from placing Hawaii originating Italian queens in Wisconsin or Alaska.
    But people do that; in fact, people will sell queens from Hawaii to Alaska. What is that?

    Now - remember that old "jerk" that refused to sell you his old and used queen(s)?

    Well, this is exactly the point I am driving at - no matter how practically useless the particular queen is - IF you can get only few eggs from her - you can persist the entire genetic line AND take advantage of that.
    This the only point I really made.
    That "jerk" knew exactly the same risk IF he gave you his material (so he did not).

    So, the worst, under-mated/under-fed dink (due to the circumstances) is a very worthwhile object to keep/obtain AS LONG AS this dink can produce only few eggs of a very desirable genetic line.
    This is ALL I am saying.
    But this makes no practical sense to most honey producers OR most backyard keepers (they have been taught otherwise - they have been taught to think commercially - more honey and more bees - that is all they think).

    I am sure the queens produced by you or by M. Palmer are a superior and worthwhile product.
    Sorry if it came across otherwise.

    Now, gimme your dinks!
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

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    Default Re: Nicot Laying Cage - complete success !!

    Quote Originally Posted by GregV View Post
    LJ,

    Nothing wrong with the "big and strong and beautiful" queens as long as your expectations are reasonable for your particular setting.
    [...]
    I am sure the queens produced by you or by M. Palmer are a superior and worthwhile product.
    Sorry if it came across otherwise.

    Now, gimme your dinks!
    Hi Greg - now I understand - fully agree with the "Hawaii to Alaska" aspect - crazy or what ?

    Dunno about dinks - if you were anywhere near this locale, you'd be welcome to take your pick from the best I have - and be welcome to them
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

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    Default Re: Nicot Laying Cage - complete success !!

    Quote Originally Posted by little_john View Post
    Hi Greg - now I understand - fully agree with the "Hawaii to Alaska" aspect - crazy or what ?

    Dunno about dinks - if you were anywhere near this locale, you'd be welcome to take your pick from the best I have - and be welcome to them
    LJ
    LJ, a bit too far from me - too bad (and a very different locale too because of the distance - the bee could be too different from my current needs).
    Now, IF I lived down the road - I'd change my tune.


    But if I am close to M. Bush (only a state over and similar to my zone) - I'd be extremely happy to scoop up several of his dinks/old/any trashy queens (maybe even pay $5 a piece).
    But would he be willing to let me dig in his trash can?
    Unsure.
    If NOT - I can totally understand for reasons stated above.
    M. Bush spent lots of time and effort building his TF empire to be, essentially, giving away his proprietary secrets and materials to some strangers.

    So yes - it is pretty much general full-production queen criteria vs. some strange queen criteria by a nut-job (me).
    However, most all local hobby beeks should be thinking the same way I am thinking (too bad - they don't).
    Last edited by GregV; 07-20-2019 at 11:11 AM.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

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    Default Re: Nicot Laying Cage - complete success !!

    LJ, I am still trying to figure out a way to smuggle a few of your Carni queens across the pond. I think the climate in VA is similar to yours.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

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