The queen cell incubator can be used to safely store and transport queen cells once they have been capped. It may also be used prolong the life of drones when collecting semen for instrumental insemination or for storing queens for a short time before and after insemination.
The most common use for the incubator is storing queen cells. Cells may be placed in the incubator after they are capped until they are ready to be placed into mating nucs. This can be used as a management tool, protecting cells from being torn down by a rogue virgin in the cell builder, and by allowing cells to be removed from the cell builder when the weather is good. While it's fairly easy to place cells in mating nucs in inclement weather, it can be problematic to remove the cells from a crowded cell builder. Storing the cells in the incubator makes this unnecessary. It can also make it easier to have cells available for pickup by local beekeeper.
Cells should be kept at 92 to 94 degrees (Set the differential, amount of temperature variation, of the ETC unit to 1 degree. (Brood temperatures may be higher, but there is more risk with overheating than under heating the brood. Research indicates temperatures may be even lower with no negative effect on the brood, but that it does delay emergence, an effect that can be used as a management tool. However, we have no data as to how long emergence is delayed nor how low the temperature can be adjusted without harm to the brood.)
Humidity should also be high, but not too high, around 60 percent, in the incubator. This can be accomplished by simply placing a container with water in the incubator. A small plastic container or frame feeder may be used. To avoid spilling water if a shallow container is used, a sponge can be used in the container. Humidity should not be too high however, or it will encourage mold and mildew.
The incubator is not intended to be air tight. The heating pad is enough to keep the incubator warm unless the ambient temperature is near freezing. In small incubators such as the 5 frame incubator, a fan is unnecessary. However, if designing a larger incubator, or one that is more tightly sealed, a fan may be necessary to keep the temperature even throughout the unit.
Do not place queen cells directly on the metal sheet in the incubator. The metal sheet will get too hot for the cells. Cells can be placed in the incubator in their frames, in nursery frames, or in Styrofoam blocks. (A simple queen cell holder can be made by taking 2" or 1 1/2" thick Styrofoam and drilling or melting appropriately sized holes (approximately 5/8" dia.) about 1" deep.)
The incubator is wired for 120 Volts and may be operated on a voltage converter in a vehicle. Maximum power consumption is approximately 63 Watts.