The California Mini Queencage
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|The Story of the California Mini Queencage|
Why would a beekeeper use anything else to cage queens? Compare the California Mini Queencage (CMQ) with other traditional cages, and you realize that years of experience, considerable thought, and careful craftsmanship are behind the design from C.F. Koehnen & Sons, Inc.
The tiny cage (measuring just over 2 inches in length, and just under 3/4 inch in width) is easily inserted between frames without damaging the comb or disturbing the hive. Larger traditional cages such as the 2-Hole or 3-Hole cage require that the frames be separated to make space for the cage to be inserted.
The fine screen mesh protects queens from overzealous workers. The screen is pushed flat onto the cage and attached during manufacturing, resulting in fewer nicks and cuts for the beekeeper. The large release hole can be fitted with candy tube or cork and makes for easy queen caging, transfer and introduction. The natural material of the cage (wood) makes for ready acceptance by bees.
The California Mini Queencage is compatible with most banking and shipping systems. Four sizes of shipping boxes made just for the CMQ compactly hold exactly 28, 56,104 or 160 caged queens, and provide plenty of space for loose worker bees within the box. CMQs come with tails and corks for package bees; with candy release tubes for colony introduction; or with just corks for beekeepers wishing to bank the queens or use their own method.
Here at Koehnens, the typical queen shipment includes CMQs with the one-inch candy tube. The filled tube is inserted after the queen is caged in the field by our caging crews. Queens are smoothly introduced in the new hive when the candy has been consumed, which takes approximately 48 hours (Corked CMQ or 3 Hole cages are available upon customer request for queen shipments).
Another great feature of this cage is its affordability. The CMQ costs less per item than other wooden cages to manufacture, resulting in less cost to purchase. It weighs much less than older cages, and takes up less space during shipping, so shipper cost also decreases.
The California Mini Queencage did not spring forth fully formed in a single day. We've been making western style queen cages - originally to serve our own needs - for 40 years. Bob Koehnen says, "Need parents invention, and we'd been needing a really good queen cage since the beginning." Bob describes a decades-long search -- by means of discussion with other beekeepers and shippers as well as research of pertinent literature. Problems were isolated and analyzed; solutions were suggested and often discarded.
"The beekeeping industry deserved better queen cages," Bob explains, "and what we came up with is based in part on ideas contributed by many people." For example, a 1988 American Bee Journal article described in detail the same problems with queen banks that Koehnens had been observing for years. Worker bees would often injure queens by being overly aggressive. Getting their mandibles through the queencage screen, they would bite the tarsi, antennae and often the wings of the queens. Queens having chewed or otherwise damaged foot pads don't leave normal phermone prints, and this could contribute to early supersedure.
The far finer mesh on the CMQ solved this problem. Bob insists that much of the success for leaping this major hurdle goes to a screen company, which cooperated in testing various prototypes. The result was a 14-14 mesh that is 3/4-inch wide andt comes in 500-foot rolls.
In the initial development of the CMQ, our personnel, in cooperation with other beekeepers, spent a year experimenting with various systems for queen release. The result involved a newly sized cork as well as a closely fitted 3/8-inch plastic tube, either one suitable for use in the standard one-hole structure of the CMQ.
The plastic tube is cut without burrs. The wooden cage is cut clean also, or at least made sawdust-free. If burrs remain, however minute, the queen refuses to walk out. To deal with this problem, the tumbler originally devised is now augmented by a vacuum system.
We manufacture CMQ here at our ranch, along with the 3-Hole queencage. If you'd like to order either, please see our products page for pricing details. Try CMQ today!
(shown here with tubes, also available with corks or cork & tail)