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The Introduction of Traveled or mailed Queen Honey Bees

There are many methods that have been used, and there are several types of cage... Many bearing the originator's name. I have used only a few of the available types, the top part of the list gives the type, No of times used and success rate. (Figures with an asterisk are from memory rather than record.)

Nursery Cage 20+, 80%* (maybe only 70%)

Hardwood Nursery Cage I was never happy with this item, I thought they were too small and I did not like the 'single' candy hole.

The type shown has a hardwood body, mesh on the opposite side and a sliding plastic front (there is a candy hole in the end opposite the queencell plug).

There is another version with mesh on both major faces, Dimensions 39.5 mm wide x 24.5 mm wide and 60 mm tall.
Double width Nursery Cage

Double width Nursery Cage
(chantry type), 50+, 90%*

As a result of my dissatisfaction with the standard type I designed a version that was twice as wide, (shown right) it had two candy holes of different depth and a small piece of zinc queen excluder over the inner end of the shorter tunnel. There were two sheet aluminium 'wings' that could be folded out using countersunk screws as pivots, to allow the device to be hung between frame top bars. The process of extending these wings uncovered the candy holes. As all dimensions apart from width were as before... They would still fit a nursery frame and mix with the original sized nursery cage.

Dimensions 80 mm x 40 mm x 24 mm

Hair Roller (Nicot) 300+, 80%*

Cupkit Hair Roller type Cupkit Hair Roller new type Used mainly for their simplicity and functionality, also used with the Nicot cupkit system.

I have used these for queen banking on a small scale in nucs and even mating nucs.

I use both old and new types and have no idea what percentage of each I have used in the past. By the same token I still use both of these types fairly often for minor banking within mating nucs.

The old type is on the right and is single ended, the open end will take a candy cap filled with a lump of marshmallow.

The new type has a captive cap at the large end that is similar to the Nicot adaptor and the small end will take a candy cap (shown in the drawing as an inset).

JZ/BZ 14, 78.5%

Jz-Bz Cage I tried these when I first stocked them at APEX. I thought they were functional, but rather on the small side. I have not tried the banking facility that is possible with this type of cage. (I no longer have any.)

The drawing was produced from a sample provided by
'Bee Equipped'

3 hole Benton cage 38, 81.5%

Benton Cage The traditional type that has been used all over the world. These are often made from basswood.

Dimensions are 75 mm x 25 mm x 16 mm. Mesh size varies from 8 mesh to 20 mesh.

3 hole Rice cage

Rice Cage

I have never used this Australian Type that is made by Norman Rice.

The holes are bored 'blind' and mesh is stapled over the front face of the holes after one of the main holes has been filled with candy. (The mesh itself has been omitted for clarity.)

The grooves in the sides break into the main cavities to provide ventilation.
Czech Cage

Mailing cage, from Czech Republic

I have not used this Type either, but I was impressed by the quality of production, which I presume was by CNC controlled equipment. The material is basswood. The twin (0.7 mm) grooves in the sides break into the main cavity to provide ventilation. Dimensions are 100 mm x 40 mm x 11.5 mm.

If I were still in business I would use this device with paper as the release medium and a thin plastic strip to cover the paper so that the Steve Taber/Albert Knight/John Dews Method could be used.

Nicot Mailing Cage

Plastic mailing cage 300+, 80%*

Used mainly because they were cheap and readily available. The type illustrated is made by Nicot.

Dimensions 80 mm x 35 mm x 13 mm

Plastic mailing cage, (queens puzzle)

Puzzle Cage

This type has not been used by me (they are relatively recent in design).

Made by Swienty these orange plastic cages can be latched together to form blocks for mailing. It is a complex little gadget, but looks easy to use.

At 77 mm x 36 mm x 13 mm the dimensions of the cage are slightly smaller than the Nicot one above, but the connecting lugs increase the envelope size to 84 mm x 42 mm x 13 mm.

I may try this type, inverted and without candy in the Steve Taber/Albert Knight/John Dews Method.
Queens Guard Cage

Queens Guard Cage 18, 55.5%

I, like many other beekeeping equipment dealers, sold this device from Israel... They were not particularly popular.

The curved shape is unusual and the sliding action has a 'gritty' feel to it, making precision difficult.

The transparent top slide has several possible positions... The front position, as illustrated, allow the attendants to escape. The first detent is the fully enclosed traveling position and the rearmost position allows the notch in the cover to align with the hole in the candy chamber so that the bees can eat their way to release the queen.

With the slide in the traveling position the peg in the top slide can locate in a hole in the underside of another cage, allowing a stack to be assembled for mailing.

Butler Cage (wire mesh) 12, 91.6%

Butler Cage I first used these with newspaper and rubber band as indicated in literature, but later used foundation moulded over the end and pricked with a pin. The cage is 12.5 x 25 mm (or 20 mm) in cross section and up to about 75 mm in length. One end is blocked with a solid wooden plug.

See Steve Taber/Albert Knight/John Dews Method... Further down the page.

Butler Cage (Thorne Manufacture) 2, 100%

Butler CageThis commercial type is longer at 94 mm and thinner at 20 mm x 12 mm than I have used before. I am using a tinplate end cap made from a steel beer can to protect pre-perforated paper caps that have been glued together on a mandrel.

Butler Cage (perforated zinc) about 30, 85% (guess)

Zinc Butler Cage I only made five of these... They were 38 mm wide x 10 mm deep and 75 mm long. I can no longer remember my reasons for making them.

I had to solder a wire rim to the open end otherwise the foundation moulding action crushed the cage end, I also soldered a piece of steel wire, cut from a paper clip, centrally across the mouth to reduce the 'crushability'.

Match box 2, 100%

The matchboxes were used simply because they were available and a queen cage was not, the drawer was left open about 2mm and the bees chewed away enough of the cardboard to release the queen. (2 cannot be considered a representative sample, but it is a good score!)

My Banking Cage Queen Banking Cage
(only Marshmallow)
16 (so far), 93.75%

The marshmallow plug is inserted in the profiled hole shown in red.

More about this later...

Worth Cage

Worth Introduction Cage
Not tried by me, but a neat way of implementing the chantry principle. The short passage is provided by the queen excluding staple, and the long one is the unobstructed side. In use the staple side is filled with candy, the queen is placed in the cage and the exit is blocked by filling with candy to a greater depth than on the staple side ensuring a time differential between worker ingress and queen exit.

Swienty Pin Cage

Pin release cage This unit is 40 mm in diameter with pins of 1 mm diameter that are 40 mm long. The pins are moulded into a plastic annular top on a 3.2 mm inter-pin spacing. There is a central plastic plug that can be removed and candy or marshmallow can be pushed into the hole to act as a release agent. To use it as an introduction cage it is pressed into the surface of the comb and the queen is popped into the hole which is then plugged with your preferred release medium. The worker bees are able to feed the queen through the bars whilst the plug is chewed away. The diagram shows part of the skirt cut-away.

Pipe Cover Cage

Pipe Cover Cage This type of cage is considered old fashioned by some, but it is simple to use... The cage is placed on the surface of a comb ensuring no worker is trapped by it, the queen is placed under it and the tinplate edges are screwed into the comb. The depth to which it is inserted governs the time that it will take for the workers to chew away the damaged cells to effect release.

Plastic Press in Cage

Nicot comb face introduction cage

This is a large device 147 mm wide, 130 mm deep and a thickness of 10.5 mm.

The four plastic prongs are forced into the comb and the queen is placed through the hole which is then closed by the purpose made plug. Queen release is achieved via a candy filled channel which is at top right of this illustration (picture from Thomas catalogue).

I have one of these, but as yet have not tried it.

Release Media

I started by using candy, as all the books say, but I have used foundation moulded over the end of Hair Roller and butler cages of both types, prick a couple of pinholes to get the workers started. I have also used newspaper as they were intended to be used. These days I use small marshmallows 13mm dia x 13mm long (do not allow them to dry out). John and Angela Flint use scrunched up paper tissue as a release agent.

Steve Taber/Albert Knight/John Dews Method

Butler Cage 'in situ' Use a Butler cage for the introduction. No workers in the cage of course, and no candy. The entrance is closed with a pre-pricked piece of newspaper, and this is covered by plastic film (shown blue). The cage is placed along the top bar of a frame (in line with the frame) A glass quilt with an extra framing of wood is fitted on the underside equal to the thickness of the cage (or the board Illustrated on Observation Boardand alluded to in the diagram to the right) is then placed on the brood box and the roof replaced. The bees in the colony will now be able to climb all over the cage. The queen will be fed, but until the workers show signs that they are no longer aggressive towards the queen she is not allowed to be released. This is when the bees are not making the cage look like a hedgehog and biting the wires. It can take several days before the bees have stopped doing this. John Dews had one queen two weeks in the cage before he could release it. Observation through the glass every day or so will give the indication when to allow the queen to be released by just removing the plastic film.

The above text was transplanted from an Email sent by Albert Knight, to the Irish Beekeeping discussion list. So far Albert and John report 100% success with this method. There are many things that make this 'the best method yet' as the cage is lying along the top bar the queen can walk about on the bottom of the cage without her feet coming under attack. I am very enthusiastic about this idea! and have now tried it, it was successful and the monitoring process was also enjoyable (it took 7 days on the first occasion that I used it and 9 days on the second).

There is a method of uniting a frame of bees to a stock, which, if a queen is present, becomes an introduction method. It is a method developed by John and Angela Flint and is called the 'Newspaper Bag' method.

The mechanical methods of introduction are only part of the story... The condition the colony is in at the time of introduction has a major influence on success.

Availability of Queens

The introduction process discussed here starts with the premise that the queens are in laying in established nuclei (either mating nucs or holding nucs) or have been mailed from a remote place.

Season of the year

More to come

Period of queenless state prior to introduction

The bees need to realise that they are queenless. In spring they seem to 'know' in about 15 minutes, but in summer, in a full flow, it may take five or six hours.

Size of Colony to be Requeened

If a queen has been queen banked, transported or traveled through the post I recommend that it is first introduced to a mating sized nuc and then subsequently re-caged and introduced to the full sized colony in a separate operation or the nuc should be united with the full size colony thus achieving the introduction.

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Written... Autumn 2000, Revised... 11 June 2001, Revised... 15 April 2002, Revised... 02 May 2002, Revised... 09 October 2003,

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