Queen bee improvement program: Another step foward

2012 Annual Report for FNE12-737

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2012: $14,999.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Grant Recipient: Always Summer Herbs
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
Jeffrey Berta
Always Summer Herbs

Queen bee improvement program: Another step foward


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. Disease and mite resistant honeybees would ideally eliminate or reduce the need for beekeepers/farm hands from being exposed to pesticides and fungicides.

During the growing season of 2012 we conducted a experimental field trial that evaluating Ontario Buckfast (OB), and Karnica. We empirically measured, and evaluated these supposedly superior lines of queen bees, compared to a control group.

In five different Beeyards across our state, we measured the colnies for colony strength, mite counts, honey production, and winter hardiness. Overall data is still being summarized, and analyzed.

The preliminary results have been presented at the American Bee Federation Conference at the Norther Queen Breeders roundtable January 2013, and at the Pittsburgh Home. Finally, we are working with other collaborators in the region, and plan on exchanging selected superior queens, this should ultimately improve the quality of our honeybees.

Objectives/Performance Targets

In 2012 we evaluated Ontario Buckfast (OB), and Karnica. Both of these proved promising empirical results. Note, both OB and Karnica have been bred from chemical-free survivor stock in their own geographic regions (Ontario and Ohio). Karnica which is a Carniolan based line developed by Dr. Latshaw, who specializes in the selection of VSH breeder queens for the commercial industry. The OB is a line being developed in Canada, an extension of the heritage stock from Buckfast Abbey, in England.

During 2012 we planned empiracal measurements from 30 colonies in five beeyards, during three measurement dates. For the most part, viable colonies were measured accrding to plan.


During the Spring and Summer of 2012 we introduced 103 unhatched virgin queen into our 5 beeyards accross the state. The initial breeding goal was to have 10 colonies of each of the 3 genetic lines, for a total of 30 colonies. Note that mating of virgin queens are typically between 25-40% success, so we were within expectations. We managed the breeding target, but lost some colonies during the season due to disease, insectacide poisioning, and robbing.

During winterization of the colonies some were combined or elimated because they were ready to perish. Preliminary January inspections look promising for the remaining 20 plus colonies.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

On a subjective basis, the OB and several Karnica colonies appear have large and strong clusters of Winter bees, and substantial amounts of honey remaining. The control group of Italian bees have required emergency supplemental feeding of sugar and protein patties to keep them alive. Based on our trained obervations, it appears that we will enter Spring 2013 with at least 10 exceptional colonies, and 10 average/below average colonies.

The quantitative data for the measurement of colony, and mite counts are still being tabulated. And, the the results of Winter Survivorship percentages will not be determined until February 2013.


Dr. Maryann Frazier, PhD

[email protected]
Entomology -Honeybee Research
The Pennsylvania State University
547 Agriculture Science & Industry Bldg
University Park, PA 16802-0000
Office Phone: 8148654621