Improving Apis mellifera Breeding Quality by Swarm Impulse Manipulation

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2024: $8,468.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2025
Grant Recipient: HoneyApple Hill
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Shelley Stuart
HoneyApple Hill


Not commodity specific


  • Animal Production: livestock breeding

    Proposal summary:

    The growth and reproduction of a honey bee colony relies on a
    complex mélange of pheromonal cues that are not entirely
    quantified. These cues include information that tells worker bees
    to create new queens under duress (emergency supersedure) or in
    advance of healthy colony-level reproduction (the swarm).

    In both swarms and supersedures, a new queen is made; in the
    former through an egg laid in a queen-sized cell, and in the
    latter by an egg laid in a worker-sized cell. Beekeepers use
    supersedure impulses to take larvae from worker cells and turn
    them into queens by transferring them to artificial starter
    cells, or queen "cups”. This allows for commercial queen rearing
    where dozens of queens can be bred simultaneously.

    This experiment aims to leverage the swarm impulse instead,
    creating conditions where a beekeeper raises queens from eggs
    laid directly into queen cups. This means creating varied frame
    configurations, with artificial queen cups placed in different
    locations. The queen will then be confined to a restricted space
    for laying. The colony will be overcrowded with excess nutrients,
    to simulate a natural swarming situation.

    If the colony conditions can be manipulated such that a queen
    will lay eggs directly in artificial queen cups, the resulting
    eggs will be larger, resulting in a more robust queen that will
    have more robust laying potential (Wei et al., 2019).
    Additionally, the offspring from these queens are likely to
    themselves be more robust, with greater pollen and nectar
    foraging capacity (Yu et al., 2023).

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Create a new queen-rearing process that induces a queen honey bee
    to lay eggs directly into beekeeper-supplied queen cups. Test
    successful methods in real-world situations with volunteer
    beekeepers. Communicate project results through in-person and
    virtual talks, as well as trade magazine publications
    (American Bee Journal).

    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.