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June 9, 2019

I have been exclusively using virgin queens in my operation, since started producing them years ago.  I liked using virgins as opposed to cells as I can cull optimimally. Often you will find candled cells where the pupae died, or the queen has deformities. (underdeveloped wings, one leg not working, etc) Allowing them to emerge in the incubator allows me to keep inferior queens from taking up a mating nuc,or even a full sized colony. Many people have had frustrations with introducing virgin queens.  Sometimes its effortless, and sometimes they are rejected to a high degree. I've experienced high percentage takes, and very poor. I often noticed when holding queens in their nucs for instrumental insemination, that the queens appeared to be accepted and were fed in their cages. After the procedure, they were killed by the bees when released. This was puzzling to me. I then realized that the colonies that were killing their queens were constructing queen cells while the queen was caged, an...

May 30, 2018

This is a very hot topic among beekeepers, and has sparked countless debates.  So why not write a few thoughts about it? A short scan of beekeeping sites on Facebook will yield several arguments on this topic. "You're reproducing bees that have no resistance to mites!" an advocate of treatment free practice says. "You're producing mite bombs!" an advocate of treating for mites retorts. So who is right?  Could it possibly be both? After pondering the issue for some time and hearing some great talks on the subject, I have concluded that it is simply a battle between short term solutions and long term solutions. It is as is any beekeeping topic, rife with variables to complicate the issue. 

      Natural selection is a very powerful selection mechanism that has functioned for as long as life has been on this blue planet. This is the primary reason people choose not to treat their bees, as well as not liking the thought of adding chemicals to their hives. Tom Glenn...

May 23, 2018

    What do people mean when they use the term resistant stock?  The term resistant can address several behavioral or genetic traits that allow a colony to continue functioning and survive if not given relief to pests or diseases through various treatments. The most effective traits I have seen are VSH (varroa sensitive hygiene), and a resistance to viral transmissions from mites. VSH is a set of traits that allow bees to detect reproductive mites in capped brood, and uncap and remove infested pupae. This breaks the mites reproductive life cycle without chemical intervention. It is reported that the bees will leave non-reproductive mites alone, and only address the ones that are raising young. This discovery was formerly called SMR or (supressed mite reproduction) due to the suppression of mite levels by addressing reproductive mites.  The term was changed to VSH after it was discovered this was a variant of the known hygiene response in bees. VSH bees are extremely hygienic, which als...

April 15, 2017

The first thing I look for in a potential cell building colony while I'm performing Spring inspections is size.  When I pop the top, I don't even want to see much frame. It needs to be black with bees. The first thing I think when I see a colony that size that is crowded is, o no, they're going to swarm. That's the perfect colony!  Why? Size equals resources. And they're already in the mood to rear queens. When the population approaches that size and the colony is becoming increasingly crowded, it triggers them to rear queens.  They're in the mood, and have increased brood production from incoming nectar and pollen.  The bees are programmed to know when to rear queens.  A period of abundant nectar and pollen will ensure the queens will be well fed, and if a swarm is issued will strengthen it's chance of survival. The timing is no accident.  Once I find a colony of this size, preferably wanting to swarm, I remove the queen.  I typically add her to a small nucleus colony "retirement home...

April 6, 2017

Everything.  Everything affects the quality of the queen. This is why I'm obsessive about the process of queen rearing. I want THE best quality queens possible. We're leaving genetics out of the equation here to focus on physical development. Genetics is highly important, don't get me wrong. From day one, larvae intended to be queens are fed royal jelly. Workers are switched to a dilute mix around 24 hrs of age. This is where the path diverges. The first question would be, at what age was the larvae fed royal jelly?  Did they start receiving worker mix only to be abruptly switched to pure royal jelly?  It happens often in walkaway splits, emergency worker comb queens from accidental queen death, or when larvae older than 24 hrs are grafted. It comes as a surprise to many that someone would say this about walkaway splits, which are still a popular method of queen rearing.  However, this is old news. GM Doolittle, the father of modern grafting noticed and pinpointed this issue in the 180...

February 10, 2017

I was taught instrumental insemination by Sue Cobey in the summer of 2014.  Prior to learning "II" we'd purchased II'd breeding stock from outside sources to bring in high concentrations of resistant genes and lay the foundation for our bees.  We no longer purchase II'd breeders, but instead are using in-house II'd queens to take our stock in the direction that best suits us and our local environment. With superb instruction from Sue, we've had great success with our initial practice of II. Many of our II'd queens have outperformed their open mated sisters, likely because of drone selection and sound insemination procedures.  We have inseminated some phenomenal queens within our own lines, as well as II'd some unrelated stock back to our drones.  My most recent project is crossing Purdue universities' Mite Biter line with semen from our VSH Italian drones.  I'm very interested to see what comes of it. The Purdue queen which was II'd in 2015 was very dark in color. Her offspring are uni...

February 10, 2017

Varroa Sensitive Hygiene is a fascinating genetic trait that allows worker bees to detect female mites that are reproducing beneath a capped cell.  It's likely the bees detect reproductive mites by smell.  The worker bees uncap and remove a large percentage of pupae which were infested with reproductive mites, and throw them outside the hive.  The female mite must then find another cell to occupy, and start over. The life cycle of the mite is disrupted by these natural resistance mechanisms as opposed to using chemical miticide applications.  It's not that VSH bees have no mites, but they naturally keep the mite population in check and very often well below a treatment threshold. We have been using instrumentally inseminated VSH breeding stock for years to solidify the gene in our breeding population. Our original VSH breeder queens were supplied by Tom Glenn.  We have also added Pol Line Hygienic Italians to our stock in addition to VSH. After Tom retired we purchased II'd VSH queens...

February 5, 2017

Sustainable beekeeping has become a topic of discussion in recent years, and rightfully so.  Beekeeping used to be much easier and worry free, but times and our environment have drastically changed.  Now we have plenty to worry about; mites, small hive beetles, pesticide exposure, and starvation.  These worries motivate us to examine what makes a beekeeping operation sustainable.  After a quick google search, I determined the definition of sustainable to be "capable of being sustained" or "the capacity to endure."  What makes a beekeeping operation sustainable?  The first thought that comes to my mind for larger operations is profitability.  If they are not able to yield an income to fund their operation and yield a profit for their efforts, they will at some point cease to exist.  For smaller operations money is also a factor, but can be a non issue for many hobbyists.  What made my operation sustainable?  What singlehandedly shifted my hobby from expensive pastime to profitable side...

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