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).