The art and science of beekeeping has been a human endeavor for ten thousand years. Bees are critical to the pollination of crops and a multitude of flowers. They also produce a wide array of useful and tasty products such as honey, wax, royal jelly, and bee pollen.
Many theories abound as to the best method of cultivating bees, but apiary science agrees that a hive needs a healthy and strong queen to lay many eggs, damper reproductive urges in other females, and maintain the hive population at sustainable levels.
Bee colonies are dependent on their queen, who is the only sexually mature member of the hive. She will lay hundreds of thousands of eggs during her time in the hive, and it is she who determines whether to fertilize the egg and develop it into a female worker bee or not fertilize it and allow it to develop into a male drone.
A queen's pheromones control much of the behavior in the colony, but these pheromones may lose their strength as the queen ages. Some colonies can replace the queen naturally, but new queens often need to be introduced artificially by human beekeepers.
There are two possible scenarios in which a beekeeper might have to introduce a new queen into the hive. The first scenario is if the hive needs to be split and a new queen needs to be introduced either into the nucleus colony or the split colony. Artificially introducing a queen might be faster than waiting for the hive to raise a queen from their own eggs or queen cells.
The second scenario is if the hive becomes queenless for one reason or another and a new queen is being introduced into the colony before the workers, in the absence of a queen and developing brood, begin to lay the unfertilized eggs that will eventually turn into drones.
All queen introductions tend to work best when the hive does not contain any queen cells and is left queenless for at least a day or so before a new queen is introduced in a cage. The caged queen should be kept at room temperature, away from breezes and out of the sun until you are ready to introduce her to a hive.
This process can be tricky due to bees' propensity to sting when threatened. In addition, a queen's stinger has no barbs, so she can sting multiple times without being hurt herself.
Queen cage beekeeping is a popular form of modern apiculture. Introduction of a healthy queen via a safe and secure cage makes a major difference in ensuring the viability of the hive. A successful breeding operation can yield three thousand eggs per day, though a typical yield is closer to fifteen thousand to two thousand eggs per day.
Although one should always be gentle and calm when working with bees, this is especially true when working with and handling queens. Make sure to pick up the queen by her wing in order to avoid hurting her.
Using a specialty cage designed for this purpose allows the queen access to the hive while sparing her any of the many dangers of being rejected or attacked by worker bees.
The older drones are especially prone to violence towards the new queen even when the old queen is gone, and they have no hope of raising a new queen of their own. An attack from the older drones becomes exponentially more plausible if the queen is unmated, or not well-mated, with numerous drones from unrelated colonies.
Once the queen is placed in the hive, allowing the existing bees to get acquainted with the new queen while keeping them from attacking her because they might see her as an intruder. Believe it or not, a matchbox can be used as a queen cage.
Modern beekeeping, however, looks to technology to solve the intricate challenge of introducing a new queen to a hive, and thus several innovative queen cage designs have emerged.
Regardless of which type of queen cage one selects, the cage allows the beekeeper to gauge the best timing for introduction and release of the queen into the hive. Releasing too soon can cause the queen to be harmed. It's a delicate balance, and therefore the cage itself needs to be reliable and relatively easy to manipulate.
Additional accessories, such as candy tubes containing an edible fondant, allow time to lapse before the queen is released and the existing bees can get used to her. When you are costing out your cage of choice, be sure you factor in the cost of these accessories and their contribution to the complexity of assembly.
This article will compare the California Mini Queen Cage with different queen cage products based on quality, ease of use, and vendor services such as warranties and shipping methods.
The California Mini Queen Cage is a tiny apparatus that measures 2 inches tall by 3/4 inches wide. This small size allows the cage to be placed in the hive without disturbing it or damaging the frame.
The designers of the California Mini Queen Cage understand the criticality of maintaining the safety of the queen to ensure that she is not damaged by overzealous workers. Specific design elements of the California Mini Queen Cage, coupled with the fact that it was designed by beekeepers for beekeepers, make it a compelling product.
The California Mini Queen Cage is made from wood and contains a fine screen mesh that allows access to the queen’s pheromones without endangering her foot pads, antennae, or wings.
The mesh is a unique material developed especially for this purpose, resulting in a 14-14 mesh that is 3/4 inches wide and comes in five-hundred-foot rolls, allowing for precision in cutting and forming it to the cage.
The California Mini Queen Cage comes in three product options: queen cage with cork only for beekeepers who plan to bank the queens, queen cage with a plastic candy release tube for colony introduction, and queen cage with corks and aluminum tails to allow the cage to hang inside a bee cluster.
Four sizes of shipping boxes made just for the CMQ hold exactly 28, 56, 104 or 160 caged queens and provide plenty of space for loose worker bees within the box.
How the California Mini Queen Cage Compares to Competitors
We picked several similar products available on the market to see how they compare.
The Ultimate Wood Hive Stand is delivered already assembled, so it is effortless to use. It comes to the customer ready to use and basic. The design concept is simple, create a box of sorts to set the hive on top of keeping it off of the ground.
Using a double-walled wooden base, the box design has a screen in place to fight off unwanted mites and other intruders. This model is not nearly as tall as the more traditional stands, so it does not give as much relief for the backs of the beekeepers.
A simple wooden box appears to be more natural than the plastic stands, but it also seems to be more prone to things like rot and mold. The wood is treated to a certain extent, so there is protection from natural elements. The screen design also lends to a certain level of utility missing from an open stand.
The JZ-BZ Queen Cage is an all-in-one plastic cage made from lightweight plastic. The size of the cage allows for the queen to move around, hide from aggressive worker bees, and communicate via the provided holes.
The JZ-BZ Queen Cage boasts a lighter weight than wood cages, therefore making it cheaper to ship, and the all-in-one nature of the apparatus eliminates the need for corks or screens. The cage also comes pre-scented with pheromones to attract hive members to the new queen. The stirrup-like feature on this cage can be utilized to hang the cage in a colony for an introduction.
The Clip Queen Bee Butler Cage is a plastic clip that allows for both catching and caging a queen. Made of transparent plastic, this cage can both capture a queen and cage her on top of a frame. The cage measures roughly 7x5x5 inches and comes six to a pack.
The Queen Bee Cage Bee Transport is a lightweight plastic cage that measures 8.5x4 centimeters. The apparatus is an all-in-one capture and delivery cage that can hold the queen and up to 10 worker bees.
The cage is a bright yellow and has two compartments for the queen to either hide or communicate with its hive mates. The cage suspends between frames and features mesh holes large enough to free the queen during an introduction.
The Queen Bee Butler Cage/Tube Catcher is a plastic, tube-shaped cage that lets the beekeeper scoop up an existing queen and attendants, as well as store and release new queens. This cage has a cap that is attached to the tube, and it also has an opening at the other end, which has space enough for a candy cap.
Beekeeping is a pastime that is not for the faint of heart. People who enjoy working with bees care deeply about the bees' survival and quality of life. Introducing queens is a tried-and-true method of ensuring a long-lasting colony that thrives.
If you are interested in Queen Cage Beekeeping, you need to have confidence that the cages you are using are well-designed with the health of the queen in mind. You also need to be aware of how easy or difficult the cage is to assemble and use, and how easily it can be introduced into the hive with minimum disruption.
For a well-designed queen cage that is relatively inexpensive, you cannot go wrong with the California Mini Queen Cage. While the small size may initially prove a challenge to manipulate with gloves, the CMQ wins based on its thoughtful design, its cost-effectiveness, and its commitment to queen health.
Successful beekeeping requires a calm and relaxed presence. Knowing you have the best quality queen cage allows you to approach your bees with confidence, reduce the stress on your hives, and keep both queens and workers contentedly working in unison to allow the colony to thrive.