Our Honey Bee Project – Natural and Chemical Free Breeding Program

We made a presentation to the Raritan Valley Beekeepers this past Friday.

Our presentation was titled:
OUR HONEY BEE PROJECT / Natural and Chemical-Free Breeding Program Listed below is a snapshot of our PowerPoint slides:

How We Got To This Point

  • We lost 50% of  hives in 2002
  • Mites developed resistance to Apistan & Coumaphos – Medhat Nasr
  • Queens impacted by Coumaphos- Anita Collins/Jeff Pettis study
  • Bees are certified “junkies” and beekeepers have become their “pushers.”  Marla Spivak
  • We practiced using chemicals for 6 years- we wanted to stop  using them
  • We wanted more control of how we did things and not be dependent on synthetic chemicals

Stock Time Line

Russian Queens

  • Glenn Apiaries: 2006, 2007, 2008  * II  daughters from Charlie Harper breeder queen
  • Bob Brachman: 2003,  2004, 2006 *RHBA
  • Charlie Harper: 2009, 2010, 2011  *RHBA- Breeder queens and daughters
  • Ray Ravis: 2004, 2005, 2006  *RHBA
  • Hubert Tubbs: 2003  *RHBA
  • Kirk Webster: 2006  * Nucs,  daughters from Charlie Harper breeder queen

Carniolan Queens

  • Glenn Apiaries: 2008
  • Tim Arhnheit: 2010 *daughters from Sue Cobey breeder queen
  • Sue Cobey: 2009, 2010, 2011   *Breeder queens II with German semen
  • Charlie Toth: 2007-8 * Nucs

Russian Honeybee Characteristics

  • Resistant to both Tracheal and Varroa mites
  • More hygienic than domestic colonies – USDA ARS Baton Rouge
  • Strong evidence of the importance of grooming as a mechanism of resistance- USDA ARS Baton Rouge
  • More aggressive in removing SHB – USDA ARS Baton Rouge
  • More responsive to environmental conditions than Italian bees.  e.g. Early in the spring, the brood nest will be smaller until there is adequate availability of both pollen and nectar. USDA ARS Baton Rouge
  • The size of the brood nest quickly equals or surpasses that of Italian colonies once brood rearing begins. USDA ARS Baton Rouge
  • Will winter with a much smaller population/ cluster.
  • They are frugal.
  • Require both nectar and pollen to build up hive population
  • Spring buildup can be so rapid they will become overcrowded and swarm if enough room is not provided…must provide ample room for the queen to lay and for honey storage to prevent swarming. Russian  Honeybee Breeders Association

Carniolan Honeybee Characteristics

  • They have been selected for traditional A.m. carnica characteristics
  • Considered to be gentle and non-aggressive
  • Able to overwinter in smaller numbers of winter bees; honey stores are conserved
  • Low use of propolis
  • Forage earlier in the morning and later in the evening, and on cool, wet days
  • Workers live up to 12% longer than other breeds
  • Well tuned to the environment. Sue Cobey
  • Spring buildup is rapid. Sue Cobey
  • Brood production shuts down when resources are scarce. Sue Cobey
  • Have been selected for productivity, rapid spring buildup, overwintering ability, tracheal mite resistance, hygienic behavior, pollen collection, gentle temperament and high brood viability. Sue Cobey

Breeding Program/Grafting Process

  • Use Cloake Board Method
  • New breeding stock added each year
  • Flood area with drones
  • Virgin queens open mate
  • Queens are allowed to lay 1 to 3 weeks
  • Only strong laying queens are sold

Selection & Ranking Protocol (Sue Cobey)

  • BROOD VIABILITY-Selection for high brood viability is essential to maintain the genetic integrity of the population.
  • TEMPERAMENT – The bees should be calm and gentle regardless of colony size and conditions during all manipulations
  • COLONY BUILDUP –  An estimate of population size is made by counting the number of frames covered with bees
  • POLLEN HOARDING –  A scan of pollen stores, noting the amount and placement of pollen is taken. A rainbow of pollen surrounding the brood is most desirable.
  • DISEASE – Several frames of brood are scanned for any evidence of disease Any disease or abnormality almost always eliminates this colony from the program
  • HYGIENIC TESTING -Hygienic behavior has been shown to reduce the incidence of disease and Varroa mites