Demonstrating Russian Queen Bees Resistance to Mites to Benefit Midwest Beekeepers

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2013: $22,490.50
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Region: North Central
State: Iowa
Project Coordinator:
Jason Foley
Foley's Russian Bees

Annual Reports


  • Animals: bees


  • Animal Production: livestock breeding
  • Crop Production: application rate management
  • Education and Training: demonstration, mentoring
  • Farm Business Management: e-commerce, value added
  • Pest Management: biological control, genetic resistance, integrated pest management
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture, transitioning to organic
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, sustainability measures


    In partnership with NCR-SARE, FSA, Project Partners, Russian Honeybee Breeders Association, and The University of Florida’s entomology division; Foley’s Russian Bees successfully completed their 2013/2014 project “Demonstrating Russian Queen Bees Resistance to Mites to Benefit Midwest Beekeepers”. Through the efforts of all partners FRB was able to expand its operational capacity in 2013 and distributed numerous queens to clubs and individuals across the Midwest and farther. Studies were sent out in the fall of the year to determine the overall health and observed benefits these queens provided in those apiaries. A second set of surveys were sent out in late winter/early spring to determine the winter survivability of those same hives. The results of the surveys did show significant improvements in the key areas of the projects’ focus, and we are considering all efforts to be a great success.


    Honey bees pollinate approximately $15 Billion worth of crops in the U.S. each year. Bees play a vital role in the sustainability of agriculture. The beekeeping industry is responsible for the majority of the world’s food production through pollination. The vast majority of bee hives in the United States use Italian genetics. Over the years the bee industry has been facing various hardships in the form of pests and diseases. In 2011, the average hive loss a beekeeper suffered was 25.3% across the United States due to the combined problems of mites and diseases. In northern states such as Iowa the percentages were much higher due to cold winters. In 2012 hive losses were up to 30.6% nationally, and a much better number of 23.2% for the 2013 season. Chemical treatments are available, but they are not necessary or sustainable if selective genetics can solve the pest and death loss issues. Research from North Carolina State University has concluded that breeding Russian queen bees may provide a natural method for increased hive survival rates in the cold climate states, due to their resistance to mites that infest the hive. However, most of the breeding of Russian queens and their availability is in southern states and California.

    Over the past four years FRB has experimented with the introduction of Russian queens in their hives. The hives used in this project for queen rearing are chemical free and have had 100% survival rate for the last four years of operation (checked by the Iowa Apiarist, Andrew Joseph).

    Project objectives:

    To grow the current operational size to have a larger impact and capacity to influence beekeeping in Iowa and the Midwest. To integrate high quality standards, artificial insemination practices for heightening genetic traits, and distribute quality mated queens to individuals and clubs. To provide education to individuals and clubs on the benefits of Russian Bees and the problems faced by our industry. And to survey the results of the Russian Queens distributed with a fall analysis and spring analysis judging overall health and honey stores going into winter and survivability/health into the 2014 spring in comparison to the rest of those apiaries.

    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.