Honeybees are the most important managed pollinators contributing $15 billion to the US economy. However, managed bee colonies are in a 60% annual decline in Ohio. The ectoparasitic mite Varroa destructor is the most severe factor for the disease and weakness of the colonies since 1987. Promoting mite resistant bees is one of the most effective ways to mitigate bee decline. We have a collection of bee stocks from feral colonies that are mite resistant. However, the limit factor for local honeybee resources is fewer queens and nuclei available to fulfill the demand of beekeepers in the region.
Working with experienced queen producers in 2019, we aim to improve the queen quality of honeybee stocks by using the queen cells. We have tested the quality and colony demographics of 48-hr queen cells from either commercial package bees (n=3) or feral stocks (n=5). We had difficulties using the commercial package bees to produce queen cells probably due to the biology of these bees. Therefore, we are adjusting our plan for 2020 to use the same cell builder colonies for both commercial package bees and feral stocks.
We held two workshops in 2019 for Southern and Western Ohio beekeepers. Both workshops integrated lectures and field demonstrations on queen quality, queen cells, discussions on how to do queen rearing in a sustainable way. We distributed sixty queen cells with mite resistant traits to twenty-seven participants, who gained hands-on experience on how to use microscopes to check on mite biting behavior. We followed to all the bee yards of participants and collected mites in the fall of 2019.
We have increased the queen quality and genetic diversity of honey bee stocks that display mite resistance behavior by using queen cells. The outcome is to improve the quality and quantity of queen production in Ohio.
Our objectives are 1) to test the possibility of 48-hr or 60-hr queen cells for efficient queen bee production, 2) to increase the queen quality and genetic diversity of honey bee stocks that display mite resistance behavior by using queen cells, 3) and to distribute 200 queens with mite resistant traits to local beekeepers. Our project will significantly improve the beekeepers’ understanding of the biology of queen bees, and help to transfer and distribute favorable genetics to more bee farmers. The outcome is to improve the quality and quantity of queen production in the region.
- For feral and commercial queen bee evaluation we used a method of queen rearing of Gilbert Doolittle and took advantage of the bees’ emergency response.
- For feral bees, three totipotent larvae were grafted into queen cups. Cells were transported to the CSU apiary with optimal conditions of temperature and humidity. Each cell was placed into a mating nuc colony.
- After three and a half weeks all three queens emerged from queen cells, were mated near campus, and returned to colonies successfully. Colony demographics of eggs percent, adult population, nectar percent, cap brood percent, pollen percent, capped honey percent wintering ability, and abdominal size was evaluated.
- For the commercial bees, three packaged bee colony was purchased and we completed the exact procedures (Fig. 2) to produce 48-hr queen cells.
- We set up 2 experiments to create cell starters and initially grafted a total of 20 larvae using the commercial colonies in a separate apiary (5 miles away from feral stock queens) near campus.
- Colonies in both treatments (feral vs commercial) were fed with regular protein and sugar supplements when needed.
Educational & Outreach Activities
We have provided two workshops in Ohio for beekeepers in 2019. We are creating the course material and fact sheet for the workshop and the public. Participants have learned about queen biology, behavior, and development, genetic diversity, how to take care of 48-hr queen cells, how to do queen rearing, swarm traps, and sustainable apicultural practice.
We have presented our research at the Ohio State Fair, Ohio State Beekeepers Association conference in Nov. 2019, Undergraduate Research Symposium at Central State University in Oct. 2019, Greater Grand Lake Beekeepers Association meeting in Feb. 2020 in Saint Marys, Ohio, and American Bee Research Conference in Schaumberg IL in Jan. 2020.
queen quality, 48-hour queen cells, mite biting behavior
Thirteen beekeepers of Ohio have practiced on how to use the microscopes and check mite biting behavior on their new queen cell colonies in their own bee yards.
One grant is submitted to USDA AFRI and is awarded related to the mite biting behavior and initiates the breeding effort.
One family to participate in is from Cedarville, OH. I’m very impressed by the passion of both the mother and son beekeepers. They are the stars of my participants, and their queen cells performed really well over winter. The son is in middle school, but he is already an experienced beekeeper with very active 4-H projects every year about beekeeping.