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Author Topic: Using the Cupkit system ...  (Read 5204 times)

Offline little john

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Using the Cupkit system ...
« on: June 03, 2015, 07:17:07 AM »

I'm using the Cupkit system for the first time this year, and have already experienced the phenomenon of 'absent eggs' that other people report from time to time.

I have two questions: the first is: "how do you know for sure when the queen has layed eggs ?"  It's more-or-less impossible to see into the cells from above, past a crowd of milling bees, so that would suggest that some cell cups (the central ones would be favourite, of course) are being removed from the back to check - is that correct ?

The second question is: "has anyone ever used the protective plate, as described in the original Patent ?"

For those not familiar with this, US Patent 4392262 was awarded to an Austrian guy named Stickler in 1983, which describes the system now used by both Cupkit (Cupularve) and Jenter.

Within the Patent, Stickler writes:

"Immediately after the eggs have been laid, the screen is taken off, the queen bee and other bees are removed, and a protective plate is mounted over the honeycomb cell plate ..."

"The protective plate is removed about one day before the eggs open and the larva slip out ..."

Later he writes:
"Immediately after the eggs have been laid, screen (19) is removed and solid, i.e. unperforated, protective plate (20) is mounted in a similar manner as screen (19) ..."

This protective plate then forms one of his claims towards the end of the Patent.


Now why have any form of 'protective plate' - to protect against what ? Destruction or removal of eggs by worker bees can be the only answer.

Several of the instructions I've read for using the Cupkit system talk about worker bees 'caring' for the eggs over their 3 days of existence - but eggs don't need to be 'cared for' - they are supplied with nutrition just prior to being laid, which is adequate for them until the larva emerges, at which point larvae certainly do need feeding.

Anyway - I'm about to start another Cupkit run (between brood combs of course), but this time employing a 'protective plate' thus:





And we'll see if it makes any difference.

But - I really would appreciate the head's-up on how best to determine whether there are actually any eggs present in the cell cups (or not).

LJ
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Offline little john

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Re: Using the Cupkit system ...
« Reply #1 on: June 04, 2015, 09:59:21 AM »
Ok - so the logistical difficulty was how best to tell when the queen has laid eggs ...

It's almost 2 pm here in Britain, and I've just this minute come in from checking the Nicot Cupkit frame. The method employed was to make-up a pad of hessian sackcloth (burlap ?) which was placed on a plywood board. The Cupkit frame was then placed q/x downwards onto that pad, having brushed away as many bees as possible. I was then able to take the frame indoors away from circling bees, so that I could remove my veil in order to use a magnifying glass.

There are eggs - I checked by removing a few from the centre, and a few further away - all have eggs, lying within a 'dry'  cup.  The frame was then replaced with a 'protective plate' in place. As there's no royal jelly present (or so little it can't be identified as such), I'll need to make sure that plate is removed several hours prior to hatching.

So far, so good ...

LJ
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Offline capt44

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Re: Using the Cupkit system ...
« Reply #2 on: June 06, 2015, 07:31:14 PM »
I set up a hive as a cloake board system.
I place the laying frame without any covering into the top box.
I let them polish it for 24 hours.
I then place the queen on the cells and install the queen excluder cover.
You can place the solid cover on the back to keep bees from building wax in the back of the cage.
Place the cage in the brood box (bottom) and let the queen lay eggs.
Hold the cage up with the sun shining over your shoulder to see the eggs.
When you see the amount of eggs you want remove the queen excluder from the front of the laying box and let the queen walk out.
Replace the laying box with eggs back into the hive.
Check the next day or two and when you see wetness or larva in the bottom of the plastic cell you have larva.
Remove the plastic cells and place them in the white cell cup holders on your cell frame.
Place the cell frame with larva into the top box of the cloake board hive which is queenless.
They will draw out the cells about 1/8 - 1/4 inch overnight.
Pull out the metal (Cloake board) and the top box is then a queen right fininishing hive.
I use every part of the Nicot System except for the laying cage.
I graft directly into the plastic cell cups using royal jelly.
I just grafted 76 Thursday and Friday I had 72 accepted.
It is strictly a timing issue.
Download a queen rearing calendar and stay on schedule.
Good Luck, Practice makes Perfect..
Richard Vardaman (capt44)

Offline little john

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Re: Using the Cupkit system ...
« Reply #3 on: June 06, 2015, 08:05:31 PM »
I'm a tad confused. You start by listing how you use the Nicot Cupkit laying cage, but towards the end of your post you then say that you don't use the laying cage ...

So - why do you prefer grafting to using the cage ? You're not alone - I've heard many people say the same thing - so I've set myself the task of trying to find out why so many people experience difficulty in using the laying cage.

In order to determine the optimum time for removing the protective plate, I did a Google for a more exact figure for the egg incubation timing - as 72 hours does sound a rather 'convenient' figure - and it appears that in so doing I've unearthed one of the reasons why the Nicot Cupkit and similar systems are proving to be so 'hit and miss' in practice.

These systems are based upon the core idea that the development of eggs and larva adhere to a precise timetable, with beekeepers performing certain tasks in accordance with this assumed development. But - the biology of bees doesn't work like this.

Firstly, the queen may not begin laying on the first day, which then affects all subsequent timings ...

Secondly, contrary to widespread belief, eggs are not 'incubated in 72 hrs' - that's an average figure - they can hatch into larva in as little as 48 hours, or as long as 144 hrs (that's 6 days !), depending upon the temperature :

Quote
Eggs lose about 30 percent of their weight during incubation and after 48 to 144 hours, temperature dependent, hatch into larvae. All honeybee eggs hatch, not by rupturing the shell (chorion), as in most insects, but by gradual dissolution of the membrane during hatching, a characteristic unique to honey bees.

Egg dimensions: 1.3 - 1.8mm long; 48 - 144 hrs to hatch, average 72 hrs (at 93 deg F, 33.9 deg C)

The Beekeepers Handbook, Diana Sammataro & Alphonse Avitabile

Which goes some way to explain why grafting is preferred by so many beekeepers, for the selecting of individual larva by their visual appearance appears to be a far more reliable method of ensuring that only larva of the appropriate size, and therefore of the right age, are chosen to be raised as queens.

I'll be pulling some cells cups tomorrow, so should be seeing some results in the next day or two.

LJ
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Offline little john

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Re: Using the Cupkit system ...
« Reply #4 on: June 23, 2015, 04:01:17 PM »
Ok - since my last post I've done 2 Cupkit runs ....

During the first run, I installed a protective plate (as per Patent). From 110 cell cups, 61 '24hr' larvae *appeared* viable, 27 were unhatched eggs, and 22 were duds. But acceptance was so poor that I abandoned that run.

The second run was conducted without the protective plate, and of the 110 cell cups, 52 contained viable larva, 1 contained double larva, and there were 57 duds. These were '30hr' larvae (hence no unhatched eggs) as the result of a severe weather front with torrential downpour passing over. Acceptance by the cell builders has been very nearly 100%. Big difference.

Provisional conclusion: the use of a protective plate is not just unnecessary, but is positively detrimental - as it appears to prevent the nurse bees from pre-loading the cells with jelly at a key moment. It's no wonder Jenter and Nicot don't supply such plates. But - it was worth one trial in order to establish this.

I'm not surprised that 30hr larvae had a higher acceptance than 24hr larvae - as they are slightly bigger, and thus produce a little more brood pheromone.

I think physically checking cell cups for viable larvae whilst removing them is essential before any proceed to a cell-starter. Unfortunately with my eyesight I can't see very much whilst they are still within the cell matrix, especially when looking through a veil.

Could be a good system - will keep playing with it.

LJ
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Online Michael Bush

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Re: Using the Cupkit system ...
« Reply #5 on: June 24, 2015, 08:39:08 AM »
If your eyesight isn't that good there are things you can do.  You can take a picture of the cells with a digital camera at high resolution and enlarge it.  If there are no larvae or few larvae or a lot of larvae you'll know.  Assuming at least a decent amount, you can just do extra cells to make up for not knowing for sure if a given one has a larva in it or not.
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Offline capt44

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Re: Using the Cupkit system ...
« Reply #6 on: June 25, 2015, 10:54:47 PM »
Little John I started out using the laying cage but have found I have better results grafting into the cell cups and not using the laying cage.
I have the cell cups on a bar and graft directly into the nicot cell cups.
I use it for all the parts fit.
Here is a nicot setup in my incubator with queens emerged.
Richard Vardaman (capt44)

Offline little john

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Re: Using the Cupkit system ...
« Reply #7 on: June 26, 2015, 01:43:15 PM »
Hi Capt'n - that's interesting - so you made the switch for reasons of improved results then ? ... whereas I'm considering switching back to grafting for logistical reasons.

As I mentioned earlier, the underlying reason why I've been trying the Nicot Cupkit system is in an attempt to understand why some people swear BY this system, and yet others swear AT it. And I reckoned the only way I could find this out for sure, was by playing with it myself.

Yes - the system works, and the results can be good ... BUT ... (isn't there always a 'but' ... ? ) the problem I'm finding is logistical: it is necessary to predict 5 days or so in advance what the weather will be doing on 'cell-cup transfer' day. For with British weather, it can mean the difference between opening-up two or more hives and moving larvae around on a gloriously sunny day, or sheltering from the elements as a summer storm passes over, instead.

It is just so much more straightforward (both a quicker and more reliable exercise) to wait until a fine day presents itself, then pull a frame, graft and install the rearing frames within (say) a half-hour time-slot.

So it looks very much like I'll be investing in a better quality jeweller's loupe than the one I have at present, and like yourself, graft directly into Nicot's cell-cups.

I had planned on doing several more runs with this kit, but today had been 'cages-on' day, and the heavens predicably opened up yet again.  Tomorrow will do just as well, of course, but I think the gods are trying to tell me something.

'best
LJ
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Offline Colobee

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Re: Using the Cupkit system ...
« Reply #8 on: July 03, 2015, 08:57:06 AM »
Read up on the Hopkins Method?  :smile:
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Offline little john

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Re: Using the Cupkit system ...
« Reply #9 on: July 03, 2015, 08:21:02 PM »
I tried the Hopkins Method a few times back in the 1970's. It works, but it's not a system I would recommend using. There are several better ways (imo, of course).

But this thread has not been about alternative systems, it's been about trying to identify WHY some people succeed with, and yet others fail, with the Nicot Cupkit system.
LJ

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Offline Colobee

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Re: Using the Cupkit system ...
« Reply #10 on: July 10, 2015, 11:31:25 AM »
Roger that.
 
It's been a few years but I had about 60% final mated & laying success with the Cup kit - following the directions that came with it. I used it in conjunction what is now commonly referred to as a Cloake board. Success ratios went up in June.
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Offline little john

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Re: Using the Cupkit system ...
« Reply #11 on: July 10, 2015, 07:24:51 PM »
I'm really pleased you mentioned the Cloake Board, as for some 3 seasons now I've been playing with a Morris Board which, although based on the same principle as that of the Cloake Board, is far less popular - certainly, I can't get it to work very satisfactorily.

However, it's just occurred to me that the differences in success between these two boards probably lies in the doors fitted at the edge of the Morris Board - which have cracks around their edges. These are allowing chinks of sunlight into the hive from the front (resulting in a reluctance for bees to leave the hive via the back entrance), and queen pheromone to escape (resulting in an unwillingness by returning foragers to enter the queenless nuc above the slide, rather than the main hive).

Of course the Cloake Board has no such 'doors' - only a single slide which, when fully closed, allows neither sunlight into the main hive, nor pheromone out. So - think I'll make one, and bin this Morris Board.

Thanks for that.
LJ
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Offline Colobee

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Re: Using the Cupkit system ...
« Reply #12 on: July 29, 2015, 09:39:16 AM »
I found my old Cloake board. I haven't used it in quite some time (haven't intentionally reared queens). I originally made it with some reclaimed oak "tongue & groove" flooring wood - the grooves are perfect for the sliding door. The oak is holding up like... oak. The sliding door is long gone. It appears to be ready for a second life, but not likely until next spring.
 
How is it going for you? I hope it's working out.
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Online Michael Bush

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Re: Using the Cupkit system ...
« Reply #13 on: July 29, 2015, 10:01:27 AM »
>So - why do you prefer grafting to using the cage ?

This is why I graft.  Let's look at my calendar for each method to get the cells in the starter box.

Jenter (or other graftless method):
Monday: go to the beeyard, find the queen and confine her.  Between 30 minutes and 2 hours depending on how hard the queen is to find.
Tuesday: go to the beeyard and check for eggs.  If there are eggs release the queen.  If not, wait another day and check again. 20 minutes.
Friday: go to the beeyard and shake a starter box full of bees and add some pollen and honey.  Get the Jenter cage and transfer the larvae and put them in the starter box.  3 hours
Total (if all goes well) 3 trips to the beeyard.  5 hours and 20 minutes.  If all does not go well, another trip to the beeyard and a batch of queens that is running a day late.

Grafting:
Friday:  go to the beeyard and shake a starter box full of bees and add some pollen and honey.  Find a frame with the right age larvae and graft the larvae and put them in the starter box.  3 hours 10 minutes
Total 1 trip to the beeyard.  3 hours and 10 minutes
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Offline little john

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Re: Using the Cupkit system ...
« Reply #14 on: July 31, 2015, 08:35:36 AM »
Michael makes a persuasive case for anyone working out-apiaries. My own situation is somewhat different in that the hives I use for queen-rearing are only 200 feet from my back door - but there's still a good case to be made for "getting in - select the larvae - and get out again" at one visit.

It's high summer over here, and therefore it's been raining pretty-much non-stop for 6 or 7 days. Not at all unusual. If I'd started a Cupkit run using the laying cage/matrix - then I'd be stripping it down again today in order to start over ...  There are sound reasons why Brits take their holidays and import their queens from around the Mediterranean.

So - yes - a system to get in and get out and set the ball rolling whilst the weather is kind (make hay whilst the sun shines, etc) is the only type I'll be using from now on.

Quote
Colobee: How is it going for you? I hope it's working out.

Thanks. The last crazy weather front has hopefully now passed, and I'll be starting queen-rearing again this weekend. Time is beginning to ebb away - 1st August tomorrow - and so I've set up one very powerful hive with a Cloake Board, and have also set up a 5-frame Nuc Box as a Joseph Clemens queenless starter-finisher. I'll run larvae through both systems and see what results.

Will keep you posted.

All the best,
LJ
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Offline little john

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Re: Using the Cupkit system ...
« Reply #15 on: August 25, 2015, 03:25:19 PM »
... this thread has not been about alternative systems, it's been about trying to identify WHY some people succeed with, and yet others fail, with the Nicot Cupkit system.
LJ

And although I did say back in July that I was abandoning the Cupkit laying cage matrix, since then I've done a couple more runs only to find that many of the q/cells have produced ladyboys (drone 'queens').

It was while unravelling this snafu that a flaw in the Cupkit design has revealed itself. This is a flaw which may affect some people, but not everyone - hence some people have roaring success with this laying cage, and yet some report that they can't even get the queen to lay ...

To explain this flaw, I've pulled some data from the Dave Cushman site, where it states that 'modern' foundation has a cell size of 5.45 mm. With the aid of a 5.5 mm twist drill, which has a slightly sloppy fit in a cell hole, I estimate the Nicotplas 'Cupkit' (Cupularve) laying cage matrix to have holes of 5.6 mm.

So - if you're running with standard 'modern' foundation, the queen may experience no particular problem with recognising the slightly larger 5.6 mm hole as being a worker cell.

BUT if you run small-cell (4.9 mm) or - as I do - run foundationless, then the following ranges of cell sizes (again, data ex-Dave Cushman) applies:

Natural worker comb: 4.76 - 5.08 mm
Natural drone comb: 5.95 - 6.35 mm

And it immediately becomes clear that 5.6 mm sits uncomfortably between the two cell-size ranges - it's neither one size nor t'other - although it has a slight bias towards the drone cell sizes.

So - a caged queen happens upon a 5.6 mm cell but can't decide whether to lay a worker or drone egg - confused, she moves on to the next cell ... and it's same story there. No wonder she doesn't lay - but if she does, then there's quite a high probability it'll be a drone egg.

Which fits-in exactly with what Michael Bush has written:

Quote
7/11 or Seven/Eleven = Foundation with a cell size that is 700 cells per square decimeter with 11 cells left over. Hence 7/11. Actually 5.6mm cell size. Used because it is a size the queen dislikes laying in because it's too big for worker brood and too small for drone brood. If the queen does lay in it, it will usually be drones.  http://www.bushfarms.com/beesterms.htm

I'm only surprised that I've manage to raise any queens at all with this kit.

A guy named Velbert Williams spotted this a while back, and recommends inserting suitably-sized straws into the Cupkit cell holes to reduce their diameter.

I'd found great difficulty in sourcing such straws - the best I've managed so far is 6.0 mm , and so I'm in the process of slitting these in order to insert them, which reduces the hole diameter to 5.0 mm.  It'll be interesting to see if the bees will accept these hole liners, or chew them out.

Will keep you posted.

LJ
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Offline little john

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Re: Using the Cupkit system ...
« Reply #16 on: May 06, 2016, 11:32:42 AM »
As promised, here's the modified Cupkit laying Cage ... with nothing apparent in this shot:




But, when viewed from an angle, the aluminium liners I've fitted become apparent:




And here's a back view:




So - I'm now in a position to start a sensible trial, with 5.1mm liners in half the cells, and the other half left at 5.6mm as a control.  I'll be taking larva equally from each side, and we'll then see what results.

Should there be any resistance to the 5.1mm liners, then I'll reamer-out their diameter in 0.1mm increments until Herself is happy.

Again, will keep you posted.

LJ




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Offline Colobee

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Re: Using the Cupkit system ...
« Reply #17 on: June 23, 2016, 03:01:05 PM »
Have you had a chance to try it out yet?
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Offline little john

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Re: Using the Cupkit system ...
« Reply #18 on: June 24, 2016, 06:54:54 AM »
I've tried a Cupkit 'run' twice - between thunderstorms - during June, but the results were pathetic.  I'm putting this lack of success down to the weather - which is the wettest June on record, thus far.  But, I'm not giving up - just as soon as the weather shows signs of improvement, I'll try again.
LJ

 
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Offline Colobee

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Re: Using the Cupkit system ...
« Reply #19 on: June 24, 2016, 12:33:47 PM »
Good luck. A careful measurement of my current Nicot box confirms your measurement. I suspect you may be onto something here.
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