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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am planing to make a couple hundred Nucs up this spring. I would like to make the Nucs up over several days then introduce virgin queens to the Nucs on the same day. My question is how long can a three frame nuc sit queenless before introducing a virgin queen? I want to incubate the cells and use only the best virgins. I have made this many Nucs before by placing queen cells but I think I will have a better success rate by eliminating the poor quality virgins before they are installed into the Nucs.
 

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Better Bee sells a cup that you can place your virgins in and they can chew their way out into your nuc.


ThomasYancey
 

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I've always had better luck introducing cells than introducing virgins. IF I were trying it again (and I probably won't) I would just smoke them and run her in. Putting her in a cage never worked at all. Another thing is that the nurse bees who feed her as soon as she emerges innoculate her with the appropriate microbes. The incubator innoculates her with the wrong microbes...
 

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I agree with Michael. Cells are far more likely to yield success. Sounds like you're producing the cells yourself, so you have many options. Perhaps you're trying to do too many nucs at once? Perhaps phasing this across a week or two would be more achievable? Personally, I find evaluating virgins somewhat pointless - this assumes that you've culled the small cells before emergence. How exactly are you going to evaluate the virgins - eyeball them for size, a scale? I say cull the small cells first then introduce the remaining cells. Many here claim to have good success introducing virgins, but for me its been far less successful than cells. Of course everything is easier during a good flow. Cells during a flow should yield close to 100 percent acceptance.
 

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Oh, forgot to mention that a virgin who emerges in a nuc will be better cared for than one who emerges in an incubator (assuming the incubator does not have nurse bees). This difference may greatly outweigh any selection that you could perform. Yet another benefit of introducing cells rather than virgins. I'm not referring to what MB suggested, just the fact that nurse bees know best in the care of newly emerged queens.
 

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I've had great success just placing them on emerging brood, no other bees. Of course that only works in warm weather. Gotta watch for SHB..
 

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> I think I will have a better success rate by eliminating the poor quality virgins before they are installed into the Nucs.

How can you spot a "poor quality" virgin? They are all small. Some of those small ones make great queens...

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21870968
 

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> I think I will have a better success rate by eliminating the poor quality virgins before they are installed into the Nucs.

How can you spot a "poor quality" virgin? They are all small. Some of those small ones make great queens...
I think what he meant was to have his bees eliminate poor quality virgins before installing, not a visual assessment.
 

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I think what he meant was to have his bees eliminate poor quality virgins before installing, not a visual assessment.
OP said: "I think I will have a better success rate by eliminating the poor quality virgins before they are installed into the Nucs"

That to me means that the "beekeeper" is making the selection. If they emerge in an incubator how will the bees make a selection? Please elaborate. In my experience, and thanks to MB, the above reference also suggests that beekeeper selection based upon morphological attributes is folly.
 

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OP said: "I think I will have a better success rate by eliminating the poor quality virgins before they are installed into the Nucs"

That to me means that the "beekeeper" is making the selection. If they emerge in an incubator how will the bees make a selection? Please elaborate.
Not necessarily, some beeks keep nurse bees in incubators and the virgin queens are in cages. If the nurse bees don't feed certain virgins, the bees are making the selection as to what queen(s) get eliminated by not being fed.
 

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I introduce virgin queens with pretty good success. It can definitely be done. I have a buddy that simply introduces them to his nuc splits just like a regular queen and gets about a 70% take. I think you can do even better than that if you use some techniques.

If you want to hatch virgins in an incubator you want to hatch them into queen cages filled with about 6-8 nurse bees to take care of them. I use the JzBz queen cages and place the tip of the queen cell into the opening access door (I built a little wire mesh holder that keeps the cages standing up in the incubator. Make sure that you use a thick queen candy because the higher humidity can cause it to become runny (I try not to stock the queen cages with attendants & queen candy until they are just about to emerge), which can be tough on the bees.

There are several factors that I think really help increase virgin introduction. Try to keep nucs really small (optimally 2-3 deep frames). Also, try to keep the nucs in the same yard they are made up in, but make sure to brush extra bees to account for the older bees that will return to the parent colony. This leaves an unbalanced ratio of young nurse bees and very few older bees. The younger nurse bees seem to be much more open to accepting a new virgin. I try to keep them queenless for around 24hrs (this allows time for the older field bees to return to parent colony and for the colony to fully realize it's queenless state). Also try not have grafting age brood in the split, so that raising there own queen isn't an option. Lastly, try to move the virgins into the nucs very soon after hatching (it takes several days for their pheromones to change). Sometimes with virgins that just hatch you can just let them walk onto a comb of a queenless colony and they will be accepted (don't recommend doing that).

A while back I saw an article in the ABJ. It talked about weighing virgins to evaluate them. I thought it was pretty interesting. I find that when my virgins just hatch they are quite large almost similar to a laying queen, but then over a couple days they get smaller (I assume as their bodies harden and as they prepare for flight, also virgins are kind of ignored while they are young (I assume low pheromones)). Back to the old question, "does size matter," who knows? I try to raise large ones! I assume that larger (to some degree) is associate to being fed well. I think there was a study done in Asia where they raised some queens in the lab with a special royal jelly diet and they grew much larger.
 

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Not necessarily, some beeks keep nurse bees in incubators and the virgin queens are in cages. If the nurse bees don't feed certain virgins, the bees are making the selection as to what queen(s) get eliminated by not being fed.
Yes, I emerged them into a small queenless nuc and have observed what you are saying. I've wondered if that observation is sufficient to assess a virgin? Regardless, the OP is attempting this on 200 queen scale within a few days which would be a lot of effort. I still strongly suggest cells and then go back later and fix any issues.

No question that virgins can be introduced. Beekeepers do it all the time. However, based upon my experience, cells yield much greater success. I worked a lot last season on introducing virgins, trying various methods, and sure it can be done and 70% is not unrealistic, perhaps higher depending on the level of effort, but doing cells is so EASY. I really can't imagine doing 200 virgins in one pass.
 

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Yes, I emerged them into a small queenless nuc and have observed what you are saying. I've wondered if that observation is sufficient to assess a virgin? Regardless, the OP is attempting this on 200 queen scale within a few days which would be a lot of effort. I still strongly suggest cells and then go back later and fix any issues.
AstroBee,

I agree that on a scale of 200 nucs using queen cells would be way easier and probably more successful. If making up that amount of splits, in a short time, I assume it would be easiest to split them all and not even bother looking for queens (unless you happen to see one) and simply split them by evenly dividing stores and brood. Then go back and give everyone a queen cell (if the queen is there they will tear the cell down). I would then have a following wave or two of queen cells ready for the ones that don't take. This, by far, would be the easiest way, though it would sacrifice some queen cells. If you really want to use virgins I would run a few smaller test batches till you have a system down, before attempting it on a larger scale.
 

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I have worked with virgin queens last year with some good success. I did it on a small scale of about 10 splits. But before I introduced the virgins I actually marked them allowing me to know with 100% certainty what my success rate is in grafting, introduction and mating.

Marking a virgin queen, just a couple of hours after emerging, is really easy and it seams it did not influenced her acceptance (agreeable it was a small batch of 10).

So for somebody new to grafting, the use of virgins gives you a unique opportunity to actually see the outcome and success of your grafting and cell building - including a verification of the time table you are using to determine when the cells are ready.

If you graft 40 cells and all of them hatch in a time span of 12 h at the right day - that gives you a huge confirmation that you have chosen the right age of larva.

This year I am planning of doing some splits where I will introduce a marked virgin queen and a capped cell at the same time - after two weeks I will see which one the bees prefer!
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Thank you all for your comments. You all make good points. Some of the reasons I was thinking of incubating cell are along the same thinking of AlmondRalph. Marking, eliminating queens that do not emerge, knowing that a healthy looking virgin is put in each nuc, and I also like the idea that if I do not get my cells installed into Nucs early enough they do not get destroyed by the first virgin out. I realize this can be easily avoided by better management but I have had it happen a few times. (Slow learner syndrome). There is also something very satisfying about checking my incubator and finding several newly emerged queens. It is almost as fun as finding one of my own queens at the head of strong overwintered colony.
Are there any other advantages to using incubators. I have read that several large queen producers use them. There must be some advantage to use them.
Originally I was thinking the incubator would save me a little time and increase my sucess rate. Maybe I would be better off by installing cells shortly after making up Nucs then giving another "second chance cell" a few days later as a "plan bee". (Sorry I could not resist) Has anyone tried this? Dose it work?
 

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I've read the post of a commercial beekeeper where he was saying that he placed two cells into hives when "requeening".
 

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>Are there any other advantages to using incubators. I have read that several large queen producers use them. There must be some advantage to use them.

My thinking when I got an incubator was that it would free up the cell finisher for another batch of cells. Some are using them because their intent is to do II on the queens. If I were having better luck introducing virgins I might use it more. My other thinking was if I was running off to speak somewhere I could let them emerge into the incubator rather than kill each other...
 

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There must be some advantage to use them.
Originally I was thinking the incubator would save me a little time and increase my sucess rate. Maybe I would be better off by installing cells shortly after making up Nucs then giving another "second chance cell" a few days later as a "plan bee". (Sorry I could not resist) Has anyone tried this? Dose it work?
I often will use my incubator instead of a finisher. I'm sure most of us have lost a batch or part of a batch due to poor timing (schedule conflicts, etc) or accidental wrong age selection of a larva.
One huge advantage is that you can separate out all the queen cells easily, so that if one hatches early it won't destroy the entire batch. I set up little racks that hold the mini cali cages and simply set one cell over each cage (when I don't intend to hatch in the incubator). One thing to keep in mind, if you loose power your incubator stops heating (had that happen once, I was able to save them with a car battery some extra wire and some spare light bulbs....LOL). Some folks will also setup a hatching frame that they place into queenless colonies.

Plan "B" would probably be the easier, but would waste queen cells.

I have often marked virgin queens. It is nice when the queen is specific stock you want to keep track of and with certainty be able to identify, especially if you number her. When they just hatch you have to be careful with there wings and body, especially the first few hours while they harden.
 
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