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Discussion Starter #1
Ive been raising my own queens for 3-4 years and am considering purchasing or building a small incubator.
Just looking for peoples opinions on introducing hatched virgins vs ripe queen cells...benefits and drawbacks to each approach.

Ive been using cells to date without cell protectors and the vast majority of them hatch and do well. Just thinking i could move the bottle neck if i were able to hatch virgins in an incubator and also i could then mark them prior to putting them in mating nucs.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts team
 

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In my view the ability to see them, mark them and confirm they are healthy is about the only advantage of letting them hatch. I’m a pretty strong proponent of placing the cell within 24 hours of hatching and leaving them alone for at least 2 weeks. If the cell is properly handled the probability is extremely high that a healthy queen will hatch out of a cell And I think you will find your acceptance rate is better than with a live virgin. You can always mark them on check backs if you so desire.
 

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If you have a reasonably stable climate during the queen-rearing period, then I'm sure Q/C's are fine - and even to be preferred. But if you live in an area (as I do) where temperatures can suddenly drop significantly during q/cell development, then the use of an incubator can prevent those losses which might otherwise occur when q/cells hang from a cell-raising bar.
LJ
 

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Just thinking i could move the bottle neck if i were able to hatch virgins in an incubator
I think you answered your own question. There are arguments for and against, but this is probably the driving reason.
 

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My understanding is that the rate of acceptance is higher for cells rather than virgin queens (assuming they both produce a healthy queen). I am not sure if that is the case, but it makes sense if you're setting up mating nucs and those nurse bees you harvested still have their past loyalties intact.
 

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I am settling into part 2 of your plan. I don't have the incubator yet so I've been putting the roller cage on them before they hatch while still on the grafting bar. Mark them then move them. I've only done a few rounds this year but after vacation I plan to go full bore into it since I will have time and honey season pt 1 will be over.

As far as acceptance, Lauri did some research and posted her findings on here. She found that when you put the empty cell in with the virgin the new colony almost always accepts it without issue. I can't recall her numbers but it was high enough that I'm doing that. her theory was that the empty cell had pheromones in it.
 

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A lot of acceptance has to do with the temperament of the hive you are putting them in. Could be newly hatched virgins accept just as well but my thoughts have always been what’s the point when ripe cells clearly have been proven to work well and are much simpler.
 

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I have been using virgins a lot the last couple of years. I let them emerge in the incubator in a roller cage, mark them, and put them where they are going within 12 hours of emergence. At this point this year, I have completed 27 cycles of virgin introduction and then checking 14 days later for a laying queen. 25 of the 27 attempts were successful. That's 93%. I currently have 13 more cycles incomplete so I will report back later on those but the 90+% was also my experience last year. If they don't come back I write it off to swallows and dragonflies which are risks that using queen cells would also endure. When using the virgins, you get to pick which ones get used. I select for size. You can select for colour if you want. I successfully remove laying queens from mating nucs and at the same time add the virgins, no queenless period. The very young virgins have no queen pheromone presence and the bees typically totally ignore the virgin. They'll walk right over her. I have done as Lauri promotes and added the cell cup too but I didn't find the bees paying any attention to it so I just place the virgin down on the frame where there are cells of nectar and nurse bees and watch her for a minute or two. If any bee acts slightly aggressive I poke that bee with a finger to move her along. The other bees will start feeding the virgin.
 

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I have been using virgins a lot the last couple of years. I let them emerge in the incubator in a roller cage, mark them, and put them where they are going within 12 hours of emergence. At this point this year, I have completed 27 cycles of virgin introduction and then checking 14 days later for a laying queen. 25 of the 27 attempts were successful. That's 93%. I currently have 13 more cycles incomplete so I will report back later on those but the 90+% was also my experience last year. If they don't come back I write it off to swallows and dragonflies which are risks that using queen cells would also endure. When using the virgins, you get to pick which ones get used. I select for size. You can select for colour if you want. I successfully remove laying queens from mating nucs and at the same time add the virgins, no queenless period. The very young virgins have no queen pheromone presence and the bees typically totally ignore the virgin. They'll walk right over her. I have done as Lauri promotes and added the cell cup too but I didn't find the bees paying any attention to it so I just place the virgin down on the frame where there are cells of nectar and nurse bees and watch her for a minute or two. If any bee acts slightly aggressive I poke that bee with a finger to move her along. The other bees will start feeding the virgin.
I have been doing exactly the same method. I am finding 90%+ success as well. Only difference in my method is a puff of smoke when the virgin walks into the frames.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I am settling into part 2 of your plan. I don't have the incubator yet so I've been putting the roller cage on them before they hatch while still on the grafting bar. Mark them then move them. I've only done a few rounds this year but after vacation I plan to go full bore into it since I will have time and honey season pt 1 will be over.

As far as acceptance, Lauri did some research and posted her findings on here. She found that when you put the empty cell in with the virgin the new colony almost always accepts it without issue. I can't recall her numbers but it was high enough that I'm doing that. her theory was that the empty cell had pheromones in it.
yes i did see that article from Lauri about including the cell with the virgin...quite fascinating really.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I have been doing exactly the same method. I am finding 90%+ success as well. Only difference in my method is a puff of smoke when the virgin walks into the frames.
i did hatch a few inadvertently into hair roller cages this year just because i was giving them to a friend and i had run out of nucs to put them in. I have to check with John what his acceptance of those virgins were. They literally hatched while we were pulling the cell bar from the builder colony.
 

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I have always maintained that one should use virgins within 24 hrs after emergence and preferably only within 12 hrs after emergence. I also believed that at 3 days after emergence that the virgin queen would most likely be killed. To test that latter hypothesis, I took a virgin that was 3 days after emergence, sprayed her with sugar water to stop her from flying, and introduced her into a queenless mini mating nuc (Mann Lake single). 24 hrs after introduction I opened the nuc and she was still there alive and kicking.
 
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