Increasing the production and use of disease and mite resistant queens adapted to northern conditions

2009 Annual Report for FNC08-705

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2008: $11,478.28
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Region: North Central
State: Illinois
Project Coordinator:
stewart jacobson
Illinois Queen Initiative

Increasing the production and use of disease and mite resistant queens adapted to northern conditions


A major Illinois Queen Initiative (IQI) goal of the development and beekeepers adoption of disease and mite resistant, productive queens adapted to local conditions raised by Illinois beekeepers. During its first year the Illinois Queen Initiative had the following accomplishments:

1) Two, day-long queen rearing classes in May, 2009 presented by Dr. Joe Latshaw (Ohio Queen Breeders) to a total of 33 beekeepers. The classes included both presentations and hands-on components. Participants learned the basics of queen production, including setting up queen cell building colonies; they also “grafted” larvae into artificial queen cells. Arrangements for the classes, facilities, equipment and bee colonies were carried out by regional coordinators David Burns for the central-eastern region class and by Phil Raines for the northern region class.

2) Three 4-6 hour, follow-up sessions were held in northern, eastern and central Illinois for a total of 38 persons, about half of whom had attended the queen rearing classes. These occurred in June, July and August 2009 and were designed to allow the participants to share their successes and problems in queen rearing. In addition, there were presentations on an alternative method of managing queen cell producing colonies as well as demonstrations on testing for hygienic behavior, which is a key selection tool for honey bee breeding stock. The presentations and demonstrations were conducted by Phil Raines, Jeff Ludwig and Stu Jacobson. However, the majority of the participants also shared experiences and ideas related to raising and producing queens.

1) One change due at least in part to the project is an increased interest among Illinois beekeepers in raising or buying locally-adapted disease and mite resistant queens. For example, Terry Combs, southern region project coordinator, was told in 2009 that there was little interest in a queen rearing class among members of a beekeeping association in his area. However, recently the association’s president asked him to set up just such a class for this March (2010), which he has done.

2) Another indicator of change is that for the first time project members bought five disease and mite resistant, artificially (instrumentally) inseminated breeder queens for an outlay of more than $1000 of their own funds. This represents a significant change in beekeeper behavior. One of these queens cost $500 (vs. $16-20 for a production queen) and was bought jointly by beekeeper Terry Combs and the Stateline Beekeepers Association; her daughter queens were distributed to15 beekeepers for use in producing resistant queens. At least several additional beekeepers have expressed plans to purchase such breeder queens during 2010.

3) Thirty-three beekeepers were trained in queen rearing techniques as a result of he project’s efforts. We estimate that about 70% raised queens last year.

4) At least 450 more queens were produced this year due to the training of beekeepers in queen rearing than during the previous year; this does not include the increased number of queens produced by David Burns, Illinois’ largest producer of queens.

5) Funds were expended for travel, stipends, queen-rearing supplies and for liquid nitrogen and related supplies, as described in the project proposal. In kind contributions included time donated by Mr. Burns, Raines, Ludwig and Jacobson. Additional contributions to the project included the purchase of $1100 worth of breeder queens; one beekeeper donated queen rearing equipment and supplies estimated at $350.

1) Four more queen rearing classes will be conducted.

2) Three-four follow-up sessions where those trained in both 2009 and 2010 will be able to share experiences and obtain additional information and assistance, as was done in 2009 (see above).

3) At least six talks at regional beekeeping association meetings in Illinois that will increase beekeeper understanding of the importance of disease and mite resistance, promote the queen rearing classes and serve to market Illinois-produced queens.

4) Presentations at the Beekeeping Association Illinois State (ISBA) annual meeting as well as the heartland Apicultural Society annual meeting where the project’s results also will be presented.

5) At least two articles in the ISBA newsletter.

6) SARE project members will buy eight or more instrumentally inseminated disease and mite resistant breeder queens in order to continue to improve the genetics of bee stocks in Illinois.

7) A project webpage or website will be developed that will provide information on the project’s activities and relevant to its goals.

8) A day-long honey bee breeding forum will be held to provide additional information on this topic to project participants as well as to complete a plan for the Illinois Queen Initiative’s future.

Stu Jacobson made presentations on breeding disease and mite resistant bees, on year-round nucleus colonies and -- at a panel discussion he organized -- on the SARE project at the Heartland Apicultural Society (HAS) annual meeting in Oberlin, OH. HAS is an association centered in the Midwest that each year attracts about 300 persons to its meetings; approximately 60 persons attended Jacobson’s three sessions.

Jacobson also made presentations to 50 persons on breeding disease and mite resistant bees at the Kankakee Valley Beekeeping Association, to 45 persons at the Three Rivers Beekeeping Association in Missouri as well as to 60 persons at an Urban Beekeeping Symposium at the Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago. These talks served as opportunities to promote and market queens from Illinois producers.

In addition, Jacobson published an article in the American Bee Journal July 2009 issue, How to Get the Best Disease and Mite Resistant Queens. The article mentioned the Illinois Queen Initiative as well as the SARE support it has received. He also prepared an article on the Cloake Board method of raising queen cells that was distributed via the Internet to project participants.

David Burns gave a presentation on the SARE project to 40 persons at the summer meeting and to 60 at the annual meeting of the Illinois State Beekeeping Association, to about 70 persons at the Cook-DuPage (Chicago area) and to 30 at the Central-Eastern Beekeepers Association. Burns also had three articles on the SARE project in the Illinois State Beekeeping Association newsletter during 2009.

Phil Raines gave presentations on the project to approximately 60 persons at the Stateline Beekeepers Association (IL & WI), 50 beekeepers and others at the Heller Nature Center north of Chicago and to a class of 40 new beekeepers in northern Illinois.

In 2010, at least six presentations will be made at regional beekeeping associations as well as at the heartland Apicultural Society annual meeting. At least one article on breeding disease and mite resistant bees will be prepared for a trade journal, as was done in 2009.

Objectives/Performance Targets


Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes