Pennsylvania queen bee improvement program: Sharing the best

Project Overview

FNE13-771
Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2013: $15,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Grant Recipient: Always Summer Herbs
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
Jeffrey Berta
Always Summer Herbs

Annual Reports

Commodities

  • Animals: bees

Practices

  • Animal Production: general animal production
  • Pest Management: integrated pest management
  • Production Systems: holistic management

    Proposal summary:

    Mite resistant honeybees would ideally eliminate beekeepers/farm hands exposure to pesticides. Recently, a honeybee behavioral trait defined as “varroa sensitive hygiene” (VSH), which effectively breaks the life cycle of the Varroa mite. This is vital tool for an IPM approach to the problem. We were awarded SARE grants in 2011, and 2012 for field evaluations of several genetic lines of honeybees. We plan on taking the best genetic lines, Karnica (K), Ontario Buckfast (OB) and Pennsylvania Survivor Stock (PSS) and producing 25 Artificially Inseminated (AI) Queens. We want to take the best queen-daughters and artificially inseminate them with drone semen from the best colonies. The AI Queens will head nucleus colonies, and be empirically evaluated and compared to control group. We plan on producing 25 Artificial Insemination (AI) queens. The actual AI will be performed by a technician at Mike’s Bees in Forest, OH. Further queen-daughters will be produced from these AI Queens by the participants. The results will be posted on our Face Book page entitled “Pennsylvania Queen Bee Improvement Project” and posted on our webpage, www.AlwaysSummerHerbs.com. We plan on presenting and/or making this information poster available at our local bee club, PASA Conference, and the Pennsylvania Beekeeper Association annual conference. A one-page pamphlet will also be produced encouraging chemical free bee keeping based the results of this study. But most importantly, we will distribute AI Queens to collaborators in the Northeast region by sharing queen-daughters of these promising lines.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    We were awarded SARE grants in 2011, and 2012 for field evaluations of several genetic lines of honeybees. We plan on taking the best genetic lines Karnica (K), Ontario Buckfast (OB) and other Pennsylvania Survivor Stock (PSS) and producing 25 Artificially Inseminated (AI) Queens. We want to take the best queen-daughters and artificially inseminate them with drone semen from the best colonies. We are targeting at least 25 AI Queens which will be distributed back to the participating beekeepers.

    There are many steps that need to be implemented to complete the task. First, eggs/brood frames will be collected from the selected best colonies. Second, unhatched drones will be collected from the best colonies.
    Third, these will be transported to an AI technician at Mike’s Bees , or VP Queens. Fourth, virgin queens will be raised and ripened & drone semen will be collected. Fifth, virgin queens will be Artificially Inseminated, and fertility verified. Sixth, AI Queens will be transported back to SARE beeyards and inserted in nucleus colonies.

    Starting around May 1, 2013, J. Berta, W. Miller, R. Williams, and R. Hawrenko will collect brood and drones stock from the selected colonies. J. Berta and others will transport genetic material to AI technician in Ohio or Helmsville PA. The AI tech at Mike’s Bees or VP Queens will perform ripening of queens, semen collection, AI, and fertility verification. J Berta and others will pick up and distribute finished AI Queens and daughter cells back to the SARE participants. Some virgins queens may be raised and ripened by the participants or source breeders to facilitate logistics, and deadlines.

    This experimental field trail will empirically measure, and evaluate Artificially Inseminated (AI) Queen Bees, with a control group (C). As described in the previous section, 25 AI Queens created from Karnica, OB and PSS genetic lines produced. The AI Queens will head up nucleus colonies in at least 5 separate beeyards. The beeyards are currently near: Warren, Slippery Rock, Saxonburg, Mercer, Bellefonte, and Manchester, PA. Control group (C), will be the surviving 2011 and 2012 colonies, this will measure the new AI Queens versus the old parent colonies.

    Measurement Dates
    The life cycle of honey bee colonies in Northeast is inherently seasonal, related to day length, temperature, food supply, and rainfall. Therefore, the dates we have chosen to for performing field measurements are tied to the three specific benchmarks during the season, they are: Spring Build Up, Summer Dearth, and Fall Closure. The exact dates may be shifted based on weather, and other factors.

    Spring Build Up Measurement
    The first measurement date will be around the end of June, when the related to the dandelion bloom. Therefore, we will measure both the hive strength, and mite count.

    The hive strength will be determined by counting and recording the number of frames of eggs and brood in the colony on that date.

    The mites will be counted by the “powder sugar” method. As the powdered sugar coats the bees, they respond by grooming each other, which causes a percentage of the parasitic Varroa mites to fall onto the bottom board. A piece white IPM ‘counting board’ is placed on the bottom of the colony, and the number of mites will be counted and recorded.

    Summer Dearth Measurement
    The second measurement date will occur during the July. Measurement of hive strength and mite counts will be performed and recorded.

    A composite pollen sample may be collected, and submitted for a lab analysis for pesticides. Excess honey will be weighed and noted.

    Fall Closure Measurement
    Measurement of hive strength and mite counts will be performed and recorded. Also, if any excess honey needs to be removed, it will be weighed and noted.

    Winter Hardiness
    The ability for a colony to survive and northeastern winter is important. Adequate honey will be left on the colony for winter survival. Sugar and protein supplements will placed in the colonies for winter.

    Measuring and Evaluation of Data
    The techniques used in this field trail are industry recognized methods, which should be familiar to most proficient beekeepers.
    Overall data will be summarized in a tabular format, so the reader can look at specific raw field data. There will be two graphs, one for hive strength, and one for mite counts. A table of Winter Survivorship will be presented. Also we developed a quantification called “Hive Strength” derived by a mathematical summation of brood, honey, and mites. Hive Strength proved useful, and insightful in the 2011 and 2012 reports.

    These AI Queens hopefully will prove mite resistant, which would ideally eliminate the need for beekeepers/farm hands from being exposed to pesticides and fungicides. Reduced agrichemical usage would lower the production input costs, as well as producing purer honey/wax and a hopefully a stronger, healthier and more productive colony.

    The overall objective is to create 25 AI Queens, distributed to other Queen breeders, which will serve as foundation stock for 2014.

    Public outreach is planned to be at the EAS beekeepers meeting in August, or the PA. Beekeepers Assoc. in November 2013. Other information will posted on our website Always Summer Herbs, and our facebook page Pennsylvania Queen Bee Provement program. The Northern Queen Bee Breeders and Penn State maintains a listserv for sharing information, collaboration amongst peers is ongoing.

    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.