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Cell Plug Boxes

This method has allowed many "would be" queen rearers to achieve their objective. It is a simple mechanical way of transferring larvae from the artificial comb, in which the eggs were laid, to artificial queen cell mimicking cups. The bees do the rest!

Whilst there is a little more to it than my simple description might indicate... Providing the timing is correct and the weather is not too bad then useful results will be easily achieved. It is common for beekeepers that have started by this method to go on to develop their skills in grafting and to use the components of the kit, cell cups, yellow plugs, adaptors and frame bars in a similar manner to other cell cup systems.

Worldwide there are many different types of cell plug box... I am familiar with two particular types:-
The Nicot Cupkit System.
This is made in France and available from several UK dealers.

The Jenter System.
The origin of this type is either Switzerland or Germany. For reasons of which I am uncertain the Jenter system seems more popular (although I personally have two Nicot kits and only one Jenter box).

Nicot Cupkit

Nicot Cupkit Box
Picture curtesy of Gilles Ratia.

Nicot Cup The illustration shows the small brown cell cups (detail immediate left) being loaded into the back of the comb box. The spigots onto which the cups are placed are the hexagonal tubes that simulate normal cells. These cells are accessed by the queen from the front compartment of the box wherein she is trapped by a queen exluding plastic cover.

As the queen lays her egg it is deposited through the artificial cell onto the inner surface of the brown cell cup.

Nicot Cupkit System, Picture curtesy of

Here is another view, of the front of the box, that shows some of the accessories (further pictures of the components are available on the Plastic Bits page.

Jenter System

Jenter System

Picture curtesy of Swainty.

The Jenter comb box is organised differently to the Nicot version with holes at the base of part depth plastic cells that the small brown plugs fit into. The full depth of cells is achieved by the white hexagonal plastic grid that act as a spacer and forms part of the cell walls.

Parts associated with this system are illustrated below.

Yellow adaptors for the Jenter systemWhilst originally designed for holding Jenter cell cage two part cell plugs for cell starting and finishing, these plug sets are versatile and can be used for ordinary grafting.

Jenter Cell Plug
The Jenter Cell Plug System has the cell base only on the removeable plug.

Jenter Cell Cup Collar (Old Type)
The cell is formed by fitting the plug into one of two types of collar. This is the old profile which is smaller internally. The mouth is 8.5 mm diameter.

Jenter Cell Cup Collar (New Type)
The second type of collar has three "wings" which make it easier to handle. The internal profile is more parallel sided than the smaller version and its mouth is 9.5 mm diameter. I am concerned that this alteration in shape and size is a further manifestation of continuous cellsize enlargement.

Jenter Cell Plug & Cup Assembled
The plug and cup form a complete unit that then fits into the yellow plugs illustrated above.

queen laying in Nicot box

Mounting the comb box in a frame... Each kit comes with instructions and these will say to take an empty used, but sound comb and cut away a central portion to accept the comb box future comb box in frame drawing
When I first used cell plug boxes I fitted the box into a new frame and trimmed foundation to fit around the box. To get this frame drawn and to ensure that it was cleaned and accepted by the bees I placed it in a box of foundation frames that were being drawn out by a swarm. I also left off the front and rear covers so that the bees could clean up the inside of the rear compartment of the box.

After a few seasons of using the comb boxes in this fashion I inadvertantly left one in a colony for several weeks and the bees filled it solid with honey that then crystalised. This was then ignored by the bees when I tried to get them to eat the contents.

As a result of this event I resolved to alter my system so that the comb boxes were mounted in half width frames and to fit out the unused space with wooden strips to form a labyrinth that would be transparent to bees, but would not provide any space for comb building. The smaller frames can be introduced into a colony with full sized frames by means of an adaptor frame (link) and the smaller frame will fit many of my nuc boxes and mating nucs giving greater flexibility of use.

The prepared frame should be given to the bees 24 hours or so prior to it being needed for use so that it comes up to temperature and the bees can "condition" it to their liking.

More to come!

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Revised... 30 November 2001