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Wohlgemuth Introduction Frame
to suit the Kirchhain Type Mating Hive
This unusual method may at first sight seem to be rather elaborate, but the queen introduction method devised by Dr. E. Wohlgemuth of the Celle Beekeeping Institute, combines safety with speed of release, which can be quite important in keeping time scales short, if there are racial differences between the introduced queen and the stock in the mating nucleus. The method is thought to have been devised during the 1950s.
The reasons for the design of this special cage/frame were…
A method was needed that would give good results at any portion of the season between April and October.
Speed of acceptance and release was desired in order that the minimum time was lost due to no egg laying taking place in the nucleus, in order that the nuclei are maintained in strength for subsequent work.
The method needed to be mechanically simple so that many colonies can be requeened in a day by one operative.
Release and acceptance of the queen, was required not disturb the normal routine of the colony or nucleus concerned.
Wohlgemuth introduction frame for Kirchhain type nucs Frame construction
The 175 mm long top bar has two grooves on it’s underside that are about 37 mm long, these are cut directly into the surface of the wood so that they are ‘blind’ and of restricted length. Small strips of foundation of around two cells in depth are glued into these grooves using melted beeswax… The modified soldering iron in the embedding tools section is useful for this purpose. The incomplete grooves and closeness to the cage body are important, in order to focus the bees attention close to the cage body.
The central hole in the hardwood top bar and the two candy holes at the bottom of the cage body are 9 mm in diameter. The top bar hole is used for entering the queen and is plugged with a hardwood tapered peg. The candy holes are of two differing lengths to enable the use of the chantry principle that is outlined on the page that deals with Introduction cages under the heading ‘double width nursery cage’, similar swivelling aluminium covers could also be used if delay was was intended before the workers could get at the candy.
The holes that form the cage cavity are two of 50 mm diameter and one that is only 25 mm in order to create the difference in length of the two candy tunnels. These holes are numbered 1, 2 & 3 and must be drilled in that order using hole saws, otherwise there is no material left to take the pilot drill when boring the third hole.
The mesh that covers both faces of the cage is #8 mesh. The body of the cage is nominally 21 mm in width and as this thickness is uncommon it is often possible to make this block from thinner pieces that have been salvaged from the scrap bin and then laminated together, using PVA glue and spring clamps, with the grain at right angles, to reach the required thickness. This laminated construction also helps to stop the block from splitting when the holes are bored.
Method of use
Use of the Wohlgemuth cage allows a certain amount of separation of young bees from older workers and ensures that the majority of bees in close contact with the queen, during release, are young bees. This separation is achieved by giving the occupants of the nucleus some wax drawing work to do. The narrowing of the tapered cage creates the space for this wax drawing and the two small pieces of foundation give a focus for wax workers, but not enough to satisfy all of the young bees of wax drawing age.
The closed ends of the short grooves that hold the small strips of foundation are so as to ensure that the molten wax that fixes them cannot run along the grooves and extend the influence of the wax starter away from the cage itself.
The young bees on the fringe of the wax work are effectively at a ‘loose end’ but are in close proximity to the queen in the cage and thus get involved in feeding her and in consuming the candy to release her. This high concentration of young bees isolates or cocoons the queen among young bees within an overall mixed age population of bees. Their proximity during the time that the candy is being consumed also ensures that this group of younger bees are exposed to a higher concentration of the queens pheromones, although these pheromones may be weaker in strength than normal owing to the queen only being recently mated.
The influence of pheromone residue and youngness of the bees surrounding the queen in the cage also extends to the period after the queen has been released, which in turn makes it less likely that the queen is directly attacked as the young bees form a screen.
Effectiveness is 90% or better, but if the queen is of extreme value, then the more reliable Steve Taber/Albert Knight/John Dews method should be used with it’s higher reliability, but often much longer introduction time.
The nucleus hive should have it’s queen removed a few hours before it is intended to place the special frame in place, at the same time an outer frame is removed and others shifted across to leave a central gap, (the spacing is governed by the moulding of the nuc body). The gap will attract young bees of wax working age that will cluster in preparation for wax making. Once the Wohlgemuth cage is positioned it should be left for one or two days, after which, the space it occupied can be filled by an empty, but fully drawn comb, which will be rapidly laid up. If the queen is particularly valuable the cage can be left in place for a week or ten days without any disturbance to the nuc at all, as it is often this sort of disturbance that can cause the queen to be turned upon.
The principles behind this method can be extended to Apidea type mini nucs by attaching travelling cages to Apidea frames using wire, after putting small fragments of foundation in the groove in the plastic top bar.
Another very ingenious idea.It should be noted that queen introduction should NOT be normally a speedy affair and far to many queens are lost at this point at huge cost.