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May 29, 2020

This year we started offering untested, or not yet laying II'd VSH breeder queens. These are VSH daughter queens that are II'd to a blend of drones from our top colonies that tested very high on Harbo's VSH assay. All test colonies have thrived at least a full season, survived winter, and received no miticide or antibiotic assistance. The queens that are shipped next day air the day after the instrumental insemination procedure, and two CO2 treatments. I modeled this after John Harbo's untested breeder queens as a more cost effective alternative to my breeder nucs that are available pick up only. My intro recommendations differ from others a bit, which usually involve a push in cage. I developed this method after unexpectedly receiving a couple untested Harbo breeders and needed a quick and successful intro.

Option 1) Pick out a medium sized colony that is healthy, and take out ALL the brood frames, and the queen. This leaves a fair sized population of bees with plenty of stor...

June 9, 2019

I have been exclusively using virgin queens in my operation, since started producing them years ago. I like using virgins as opposed to cells so I can easily cull any inferior queens. Often you will find cells where the pupae died, or the queen has physical issues. (underdeveloped wings, one leg not working, etc) Allowing them to emerge in the incubator keeps inferior queens from wasting space in a mating nuc, or even a full sized colony. Many people have frustrations with introducing virgin queens. Sometimes it seems effortless, and other times they are annoyingly rejected. I've experienced almost perfect take, and have seen very poor. I 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, some were released and killed by the bees. This puzzled me. I realized that the colonies that were killing their queens had made queen cells. I slowly got smarter. I started making up nucs u...

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 from pests or diseases through chemical treatments. The most effective traits I have seen are VSH (varroa sensitive hygiene), and some form of viral resistance, that I'm not sure how exactly it functions. 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 a mysterious suppression of mite reproduction. 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...

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, and all queen cells. If the queen is a rockstar, I typically ad...

April 6, 2017

 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. For now we're leaving genetics out of the equation to focus on physical development. Genetics are quite an important factor, don't get me wrong. From day one, larvae intended to be queens are fed royal jelly. Worker larvae are fed a diluted mix around 24 hrs of age. This is where the developmental path diverges and the larvae will be either a queen or worker. Often beekeepers graft larvae that are too old and have consumed worker mix. This results in poor queens that do not perform, and have under developed ovaries. 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 speak negatively about walkaway splits, which are still a popular method of queen rearing. To me, this is old news. GM Doolittle, the fath...

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 exclusively from outside sources to bring in high concentrations of resistant genes and lay the foundation for our bees. 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 uniformly colored like darker Italians. My thought process was that if VSH bees are highly resistant to mites, adding allogrooming to their genetic makeup,...

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 from...

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 from reduced forage. 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 factor shifted my beekeeping from an expensive hobby, to p...

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