Saturday, April 1, 2017

Plastic Queen Cages and Packages

Hey Folks, I noticed that this year Mann Lake has switched to using plastic queen cages inside plastic package boxes for their bee deliveries. A few people were unsure about how to use them, so I figured I would post a few pictures and explanations to avoid any bee genocides.

This is an (older) JZ-BZ queen cage, very similar to the one that came in the Mann Lake packages. They have a few advantages over the old wood kind, but aren't as intuitive to use.
Give them a sniff and you might notice a mild fruity smell. The plastic is infused with artificial queen pheromone to increase acceptance of new queens.

When you take the cap off, make sure you cover the opening with your thumb. The queen is quick. Make sure you don't catch a wing or foot. You'll want to stuff the entrance tube with a mini-marshmallow or some fondant to prevent the queen from getting out and the workers in the package from getting to her before her scent has permeated the new hive and overridden their instincts to reject the foreign queen.

The pink bar used to suspend the queen cage in the package can be snapped off the lid. Then it can be used as a bar to suspend the queen cage wherever you want it.

Gently insert the clip end into the grille on the side of the queen cage. Again, be sure not to catch any part of the bees inside. Be gentle.

One of the greatest advantages of the JZ-BZ queen cage is at the bottom. See the bar at the bottom? It pops out.

And when you pop it out, it becomes a queen excluder. The queen is stuck inside and protected from the mass of workers, but if you remove the bar, a FEW workers can pass in and out. This will massively speed up the rate at which her pheromones are spread amongst the workers in the package and make acceptance that much more foolproof.

Once the marshmallow is in and the pink clip inserted, you can press the pink bar through a frame with comb, like I have pushed it between my two fingers.
You should put it near the top of your hive, right between the two middle frames. The bees will cluster around it and keep her warm until she is released.

The new plastic packages. Each side is a door that opens up. Be careful NOT to open these until you have removed the feeder can and the queen cage.

With feed can and the queen cage removed, after the two side doors are opened, the entire package should open like a clamshell. The spread box can then be slowly turned over the hive and the bees can then gently be laid down on top of the queen. No need to shake, no need to remove frames. Just gently slide them in.