A comparison of strength and survivability of honeybee colonies started with conventional versus northern requeened packages

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2012: $14,997.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Region: Northeast
State: Maine
Project Leader:
Erin MacGregor-Forbes
Overland Apiaries

Annual Reports


  • Animals: bees


  • Animal Production: housing, animal protection and health, preventive practices
  • Education and Training: demonstration, farmer to farmer, networking, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: risk management
  • Pest Management: biological control, chemical control, integrated pest management, physical control
  • Production Systems: holistic management
  • Sustainable Communities: urban agriculture, urban/rural integration

    Proposal summary:

    According to the Bee Informed Partnership, for the fifth year in a row Beekeepers lost over 30% of colonies over the 2010-2011winter. (http://beeinformed.org/2012/01/winter-loss-survey-results-2010-2011/) This continuation of a multi-year trend has occurred across the United States and Maine beekeepers have also been experiencing high winter mortality levels averaging approximately 30%. The dead colonies are generally replaced (at significant expense to the beekeeper) with packaged bees produced in commercial bee breeding operations of the Southern or Western US. The project will compare package started honeybee colonies headed by queens from local sources with commercially raised package bee colonies. The project proposes to demonstrate that colonies headed by a queen that comes from local sources have a higher survival rate than commercially raised package bees. The project will compare thirty-six new honeybee colonies. Eighteen of the colonies will be traditional commercially raised honeybee packages, and Eighteen will be packages in which the queen is removed and replaced with a New England raised queen. All colonies will be managed by an experienced beekeeper and assessed multiple times over the season for health, strength and winter survival. This is a continuation of work started in FNE09-665 and FNE10-694 comparing commercially raised packages, requeened packages, and northern raised nucleus colonies, which showed promising results and substantially higher rates of winter survival survival in both nucleus and requeened package colonies. Additional exploration of requeened packages compared to commercial packages will increase the statistical significance of the prior year results and further demonstrate the value of this option when starting or replacing colonies. The project's beekeepers are EAS Certified Master Beekeeper Erin MacGregor-Forbes and Georgia Certified Master Beekeeper C. "Bee" Bee (yes, her real last name).

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The project participants will manage the colonies “as a new beekeeper would”, feeding and maintaining the colonies to maximize survival and strength, not necessarily honey production. The colonies will be assessed several times throughout the year and the project participants will document the progress of the project not just in data collection, but also through a series of ongoing articles in the Maine State Beekeepers Association newsletter.

    The project colonies’ success will be measured by regular use of an assessment form evaluating hive health and survivability. Ultimate colony strength and survival through their first winter will be the final evaluation, but honey production, disease load and overall colony strength will also be measured. The “hive assessment tool” used in the previous related SARE projects; FN09-665 and FN10-694 will be used for this purpose, and will provide continuity in the data between the three project years.

    This data will be compiled and reviewed by the participants as well as with our Cumberland County Beekeeping Association cooperators. Appropriate data analysis will be conducted and findings will be discussed and integrated into a draft report. We hope to demonstrate that colony survival can be improved by requeening with locally raised queens, and teach this relatively simple but underutilized management practice.

    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.