In 2017, a sub group of Saint Louis Beekeepers club (Sustainable Stock Apiary or SSA) started a honey bee queen rearing project at 1259 Stephen Jones Avenue in Wellston, Missouri. The Sustainable Stock Apiary is a honey bee yard consisting of established "parent" colonies and queen-rearing "nucleus" boxes, strategically situated in north St. Louis, an area that has recently been identified by SLU Professor and bee researcher Dr. Geraldo Camilo as above average for bee species diversity and bee population density. With the SARE grant award in 2018, SSA was able to significantly scale up the number of queen rearing boxes and supporting equipment to increase locally mated honey bee queen production. The goal is to provide the St. Louis area beekeeping community local raised and adapted queen bee stock.
This proposal plans to address the problem of the lack of available, local, survivor honey bee queens for beekeepers. We plan to address this problem by raising queen stock from local survivor colonies for sale to beekeepers and also to teach sustainable honeybee queen rearing practices to beekeepers. In 2017 we shared hive resources from our own apiaries at the newly formed SSA Queen Rearing Apiary and began practicing sustainable queen rearing under the direction of Jane Sueme, Certified Master Beekeeper. We tested our hives for diseases and used the pathogen-free colonies as starter stock for our queen rearing project. We had success in raising a few queens, however we need to explore methods of queen rearing that produce a higher quantity of quality queen bees and methods of “banking” those queens for availability to beekeepers throughout the beekeeping season. Providing queens from stock that successfully overwinters in our zone to local beekeepers greatly increases their springtime hive strength and honey production, while decreasing cost of stock replacement and apiary operation. The location for the apiary was selected because very few managed bee hives are in the area and it allows for easy access for field days and teaching workshops.
- Produce 100 locally-raised and adapted honey bee queens that successfully overwinter each season
- Provide access to this local queen stock by making the queens available for sale to local beekeepers
- Document over-wintering success of queen honey bees produced, which will include two cycles during the 23-month period of the grant
- Share methods, outcomes and education with local beekeepers through field day workshops, beekeeping association email communication and meetings, a quarterly electronic newsletter to a database of the St. Louis region’s beekeeping community, social media and regional club presentations.
A number of our SSA members took queen rearing classes at the recent Heartland Apicultural Society annual conference held in St Louis, MO this July 2018. There were pertinent recommendations made regarding adding large numbers of nurse bees to our starter colonies when grafting. Additionally, another suggestion we are utilizing is the use of California queen cages to protect queen cells from being destroyed by first emerging queen.
Several beekeepers attended a beekeeping conference sponsored by the Heartland Apicultural Society at Washington University in July, 2018. They learned several methods of queen rearing that we might consider utilizing at the apiary.
The group faced several challenges in raising queens. The spring 2018 season was unusually cold and wet, causing the bees to remain inactive until late April. The overwintered hives suffered loss of bees so we had to rebuild resources to continue with the queen rearing. These caused us to start queen rearing behind schedule and with fewer resources. Hive beetles were also a challenge. We also destroyed a hive that showed pathogens on test results.
We plan to address these challenges in the second year of the queen rearing project by starting as early as the weather will allow. Though the weather is out of our control, we will be ready. Also, we will purchase package bees to increase our supply of bees in order to be more successful at raising local queens. In addition to these, we will supplement the colonies with pollen and sugar syrup to help them survive the weather until enough natural pollen is accessible to the colonies. We plan to aggressively address the hive beetles with traps in each nuc and hive to help limit the hive beetle population. These actions along with the additional knowledge gained through the HAS Queen Rearing class will help the teams to be more successful at queen rearing this season.
We have learned valuable lessons during our first year of queen rearing. We learned that we need more resource hives to supply the quantity of nurse bees necessary for successful queen rearing. We will increase the number of bees shaken into nucs when placing queen cells into the nuc. We learned that several elements affect the success of queen rearing, some of which are completing out of our control, such as the weather. We learned that creating queens by splitting hives is the most successful method we have tried. While grafting, cloak board and nicot methods were attempted, they didn’t produce the quantity of queens that they could have potentially. We will continue to explore these queen rearing methods to determine which method best suits our situation.
While we had several challenges and learned valuable lessons, the team did experience some success. The queen rearing team works very well together. They are flexible and willing to jump in and help each other whenever they can. The team members are willing to share information and experience with each other. We did learn that we need to better utilize the record-keeping software used to track hives and queens. This will help us to have better continuity and communication with regard to the status of each hive and the next task needed. This camaraderie will help with future queen rearing success. Our team is very dedicated and disciplined and are taking the extra time to tend the hives, working around job schedules which often includes traveling out of town. When asked if they would continue, the team almost unanimously stated that they would return and keep learning and practicing queen rearing. They are dedicated to addressing the issue of a lack of local queen stock for local beekeepers.
Educational & Outreach Activities
This presentation was created to be used at meetings to share information about the SSA queen rearing project funded through SARE. StL SSA presentation
Annual Field Day – Last year (2017) approximately 75 people attended our pot-luck dinner; a purpose-presentation was conducted on-site; a tour of the yard was provided; coincidentally, a swarm was spotted and collected. This event is widely publicized and open to all. RSVP is suggested so we can manage drinks and BBQ (paid for by our club, the St Louis Beekeeper’s.) Attendance in August 2018 matched the 2017 pot luck event. A tour of SSA apiary was provided by SSA team members with discussions of queen rearing methods utilized by our teams. There were several beekeepers from outside the St. Louis Metropolitan area at this event including a representative of a beekeeping club from Northwest Missouri. A lively discussion was started with attendees about queen rearing and how to determine hygienic trait in a brood. We had a good open forum that was interesting and thought-provoking.
Jeanne Koebbe represented us at the Ferguson-Florissant School District celebration at Little Creek Nature Center, October 2018. She took beekeeping equipment for demonstration and gave an overview of our FNC18-1145 project. This was an open house at Little Creek with many members of the community participating.
Jeanne Koebbe presented an overview of SSA project to St. Louis Beekeepers Club January 2019. 50 club members were in attendance.
Jeanne Koebbe and Connie Bachmann presented an overview of SSA project to Bellerive Acres Community Association February 2019. There were 12 participants in attendance. This organization plans social events and garden workdays in the community. They maintain the gardens which are the islands and entrance to the community. They have applied for and received grants for their work. The group was very interested in bees and asked very good questions.