Is Wintering Locally Adapted Queen Bees in Bulk in Climate Controlled Storage a Viable Climate Change Adaptation for Northeast Beekeepers?

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2024: $30,000.00
Projected End Date: 05/31/2026
Grant Recipient: They Keep Bees (Formerly Yard Birds Farm & Apiary)
Region: Northeast
State: Massachusetts
Project Leader:
Angela Roell
They Keep Bees (Formerly Yard Birds Farm & Apiary)


  • Animals: bees


  • Animal Production: animal protection and health
  • Crop Production: beekeeping, pollinator health
  • Education and Training: farmer to farmer, networking, on-farm/ranch research

    Proposal summary:

    Beekeepers in the northeast
    region face significant hive losses, up to 50%, due to
    overwintering challenges.
      These losses not only lead to a
    decrease in localized winter-hardy genetic diversity, but also
    increase reliance on imported honeybees and queens from outside
    the region, exacerbating pest and viral

    This proposed project aims to
    evaluate the efficacy of climate-controlled storage on
    over-winter survival of honey bee queens in the Northeast, a
    region where such research is currently lacking.  Previous
    studies, mainly in Canada and western United States, have shown
    promising results for queen survival under controlled temperature
    and humidity conditions. 

    Queens will specifically be
    assessed through the process of “queen-banking.”  The queen
    banking process requires combining a number of queens together in
    one “bank hive” and providing them brood/food to maintain their
    necessary health characteristics.  Queens stored in bank
    colonies will be compared to queens established in nucleus
    colonies (small hives), both overwintered in a climate controlled
    environment, to determine which is most efficient and
    economically viable for Northeast beekeepers.  

    We will disseminate our findings to beekeepers in the
    Northeast with the goal of assessing how climate controlled
    technology could help supply the market with localized genetic
    stock and make Northeast beekeeping more sustainable.

    Our research aims to establish
    whether long-term cold storage is a viable option in our
    region.  Increased understanding of queen banking could lead
    to substantial shifts in regional food system viability. 
    The results could help improve the survivability of honey bees in
    the Northeast region.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This study will evaluate the
    efficacy of overwintering honey bee queens indoors in climate
    controlled storage when comparing queen banks to nucleus
    hives.  Utilizing recommended temperature, humidity and
    queen banking techniques
    we will overwinter 100 queens in queen banks and 40 nucleus
    colonies in a climate controlled modular storage

    Our objectives:

    • Assess the percent survival of
      queens banked overwinter in bulk indoors for 4
    • Compare survival of 5 indoor
      queen banks with 20 queens per bank to queen survival of 40
      nucleus colonies with a laying queen. 
    • Analyze the sperm viability and
      morphology of queens overwintered in bulk in an indoor climate
      controlled environment utilizing laboratory
    • Evaluate the performance of
      queens overwintered in queen banks and nucleus colonies in a
      climate controlled environment by comparing open & capped
      brood, population density, and brood disease prevalence when
      introduced to hives.
    • Utilize a cost benefit analysis
      to evaluate the economic viability of indoor temperature
      controlled storage of honey bee queens when comparing queen
      banks to nucleus colonies.
    • Disseminate results to 500
      beekeepers in the Northeast with the goal of assessing

      how climate controlled
      technology could supply the market with localized honey bee
      genetic stock, making Northeast beekeeping more
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.