Queen Bee Improvement Program-Building on the Foundation of Pennsylvania Survivor Stock

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2011: $14,984.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Grant Recipient: Always Summer Herbs
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
Jeffrey Berta
Always Summer Herbs

Annual Reports


  • Animals: bees


  • Education and Training: participatory research
  • Farm Business Management: value added
  • Pest Management: cultural control, genetic resistance, integrated pest management
  • Production Systems: holistic management
  • Sustainable Communities: partnerships, sustainability measures

    Proposal summary:

    Since 1993 Varroa mite infestations have caused substantial financial losses to beekeepers. Mite infestations are known to decrease size, strength, and productivity and are associated with Colony Collapse Disorder. Currently the majority of the beekeeping industry uses chemical controls for mite and disease problems. It is not clear what affects theses chemical treatments are having on bees. Disease and mite resistant honeybees would ideally eliminate or reduce the need for beekeepers/farm hands from being exposed to pesticides and fungicides. Recently, a honeybee behavioral trait defined as “varroa sensitive hygiene” (VSH), which effectively breaks the life cycle of the Varroa mite. This would be vital tool for an IPM approach to the problem. Two lines of promising, commercially available queen bee stocks that have VSH traits are Olympic Wilderness Apiary Survivors (OWA), and ‘Karnica’. The next step forward would be merging the genetic lines of OWA and Karnica with the winter hardy Pennsylvania Survivor Stocks. This grant is to conduct a experimental field trial that will empirically measure, and evaluate these supposedly superior lines of VSH queen bees, compared to a control group. The field trail will measure colony strength, mite counts, honey production, and winter hardiness. Overall data will be summarized, and analyzed using a graphical format and statistics. The results will be presented at several conferences/meetings, and online. Finally, by working with other collaborators in the region, sharing selected superior queens, should ultimately improve the quality of our honeybees.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Two lines of promising, commercially available queen bee stocks that have VSH and disease resistance, these lines are Olympic Wilderness Apiary Survivors (OWA), and ‘Karnica’. Both OWA and Karnica have been bred from chemical-free survivor stock their own geographic regions (Washington and Ohio). Local beekeepers are working along the same lines, creating what we call Pennsylvanian Survivor Stock (PSS). PSS bees are kept with chemical free methods and have survived two winters. The next step forward would be merging the genetic lines of OWA and Karnica with the winter hardy PSS stocks.

    We plan on comparing two new lines of Varroa Sensitive Hygienic (VSH) queen bees with supposedly superior, to ordinary queen bees with no such special claims. The VSH queen’s bees we plan on using are the OWA and Karnica races of bees, these will be termed VSH1 and VSH2 for the experiment, and the standard queens will be termed C for control. At least ten queens of each will be purchased of the VSH1, VSH2, and C. Queen stock will be purchased from Miksa Honey Farm in Groveland, Florida who maintains/propagates these genetics for their owners. Control stock may come from Miksa or Wilbanks in Georgia. These queens will be introduced and bred using standard apiculture methods into small nucleus (starter) colonies.

    This experimental field trial will empirically measure, and evaluate supposedly superior lines of queen bees (VHS1, VHS2), with a control group (C). As described in the previous section, 10 colonies with queens of VHS1, VHS2, and C will be purchased, and then randomized into 5 separate bee yards

    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.