Pennsylvania queen bee improvement program: Sharing the best

2013 Annual Report for 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

Pennsylvania queen bee improvement program: Sharing the best


Since their spread and introduction in 1987 Varroa mite infestations have caused substantial financial losses to beekeepers. Mite infestations are known to decrease size, strength, and productivity and are now associated with Colony Collapse Disorder. Currently the majority of the beekeeping industry uses chemical controls for mite and disease problems. Mite resistant honeybees would ideally eliminate/minimize beekeepers/farm hands exposure to pesticides. Recently, a honeybee behavioral trait defined as “varroa sensitive hygiene” (VSH), which effectively allows workers to identify and remove Varroa mite infested brood, has been identified. This is a vital tool for an IPM approach to the problem. We were awarded SARE grants in 2011, 2012, and 2013 for field evaluations of several genetic lines of honeybees. During 2013 we used Karnica (K), Ontario Buckfast (OB) and Pennsylvania Survivor Stock (PSS) to produce 16 Artificially Inseminated (AI) Queens. The 2013 AI Queens headed nucleus colonies, that were evaluated and compared to a control group.  Queen daughters were also produced from these AI Queens.  The colonies were measured for Hive Strength HS, and of those, 6 AI Queens and 3 daughter queens are still living, andcurrently being overwintered.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Artificial insemination from selected stock

Our objective is continued improvement the queen bee stock in Pennsylvania.  In 2011, and 2012 we introduced over 200 virgin queens throughout the state. Then we evaluated these colonies for mite counts, hive strength, and honey production.  During the 2013 project, the best queen-daughters were artificially inseminated with drone semen selected from the best colonies.   From this select foundation stock, we produced 16 AI Queens, (6 are still alive and are currently overwintering with participating beekeepers). 
Additional objectives were to:
1) Raise daughter queens from AI Queens.
2) Measure the hive stength of the AI Queen colonies.
3) Present this program, and data at a statewide level.


Produce and Evaluate Queens

During 2013 our goal was to create AI Queens from the best reamining genetics from the 2011, and 2012 evaluations.  We produced a total of 16 AI Queens, 6 were inseminated on June 22, 2013, and another 10 on August 3, 2013.

The AI Queens then headed nucleus colonies, and began laying eggs, from these eggs, larvae grafts were made to produce daughter queens.  We grafted queens in teams, individually, and by workshop from July through September 2013.  Several hundred grafts were made, less than one hundred virgin cells were finished/completed by the nurse bees, and less than 50 were introduced into mating nucs.  After these daughter queens were mated, and started laying, and the colonies evaluated the queen, several were killed by the workers or other causes, leaving only 3 daughter queens alive to date.  Poor production of queens was attributed to low hormone levels in AI queens and eggs, poor honey flows during grafting, and possible poisioning by agrochemicals.

Measurements were made of the number of frames of brood, honey, and the mite counts for most of the AI Queen nucleus colonies.  Data is currenty being tabulated and analyzed.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Outreach and spreading the program

The queen bee improvement project was well supported by an increasing number of participants, and more have signed up for 2014. 

Outreach was by presenting the Queen Bee Improvement Project Power Point presentation at:
Home and Garden Show, Pittsburgh, PA March 10-12, 2013, and
Farm to Table Conference, Pittsburgh, PA March 23, 2013, and
EAS Regional Conf. ( Eastern Apiculture Soc.) W. Chester, PA Aug 8, 2013, and
JCEP Galaxy IV (Joint Conf. of Extension Prof.), Pittsburgh, PA Sept 19, 2013, and
PSBA (Pa State Bee Assoc), Lewisburg, PA Nov 8, 2013.

Online we have a facebook page: Pennsylvania Queen Bee Improvemaent Program.
Online Forum participant for state breeding projects at:

Power Point presented to Pa State Beekeepers Nov 2013


Dr. Maryann Frazier

[email protected]
Entomologist,Extension Agent
The Pennsylvania State University
547 Agric. Science & Indusrty Bldg
University Park, PA 16802-0000
Office Phone: 8148654621