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).
Picture curtesy of
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.
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.
Picture curtesy of
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
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.
The Jenter Cell Plug System has the cell base only on the removeable
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.
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.
The plug and cup form a complete unit that then fits into the yellow
plugs illustrated above.
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
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!
Revised... 30 November 2001