Note to readers, attached is the complete final report for FNE04-506
Based on our testing and observations in appears that Russians can be introduced successfully using procedures described in this report. The next step will be to establish a program that will identify Queens to use as breeding stock. A breeding program that selects for winter survival, gentle behavior, less swarming and increased honey production will, over time, improve our stock. This will lead to a sustainable population of Russian honeybees.
Note: Africanized honeybees are not established in the Southwest (Texas to California) and have recently been found in Alabama and Florida. This is a serious threat to commercial package and Queen Producers and their ability to maintain breeding stock without the genetic influence of Africanized bees. This further underlines the importance of establishing a permanent population of honeybees in the Northeast.
Our observations also show that Russians may take a longer period to draw comb resulting in slower population buildup than Italian honeybees. We observed that Russian brood nests would increase when natural pollen and nectar were available and slow when nectar flows stopped. Further testing using food to stimulate faster increase in brood rearing is needed. A study comparing food would be useful in improving the rate of colony development. Although, we did not specifically compare syrup to honey or pollen substitute to natural pollen, it was observed that the Russians increased brood nest area rapidly when natural pollen was plentiful. This may indicate that feeding honey and pollen would stimulate brood rearing. Also Russians may benefit by stimulative feeding during times when natural food sources are scarce.
Swarming is a considerable problem for Russians. Losing swarms decreases colony populations and reduces honey production. Late season swarms were a particular problem. There are many manipulations that can be used to prevent or stop swarming. A swarm prevention program that works would be a valuable tool for managing Russians.