Testing Darwinian Honey Bee Breeding Protocols for Mass Replication: Evaluating the Efficacy of the “Walk-Away Split” as a Queen Rearing Method

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2020: $14,953.00
Projected End Date: 11/30/2021
Grant Recipient: Yard Birds Farm & Apiary
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Angela Roell
They Keep Bees (Formerly Yard Birds Farm & Apiary)

Information Products


  • Animals: bees


  • Animal Production: animal protection and health
  • Crop Production: pollinator health
  • Education and Training: workshop
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities, sustainability measures

    Proposal summary:

    Recent SARE research found that honey bee hives headed by northern-adapted queens survive winter nearly twice as well as hives with southern queens. This suggests that rearing northern queens could improve the biological and financial sustainability of beekeeping in the Northeast.  A 2018 survey of 116 Northeast beekeepers found that 65% “usually” or “always” seek out queens reared from Northeast stock, and 68% are “very interested” in learning how to rear queens. However, producing high-quality queens in the Northeast’s short season is logistically complicated and resource intensive. 

    This project seeks to demonstrate the viability of the “walk-away split” method as an effective and productive queen-rearing strategy.  The “walk-away split” is the technique of splitting a hive into two or more hives by distributing resources equitably and leaving the bees to raise a new queen.

    This project’s objectives are to: 

    • Trial 4 methods of “walk-away split”, 
    • Compare “walk-away splits” to traditional 10-day queen rearing method and the novel approach of producing 48 hour queen cells funded via SARE: ONE19-326.

    We seek to determine if we can produce high-quality queens using fewer resources and simpler techniques, thus making it easier to teach beekeepers and enhance our ability to improve and exchange genetic stock. . By simplifying methods and lessening inputs, beekeepers can increase their hive numbers and provide more hives for sale in our bioregion.

    To share our findings and improve regional beekeeping strategies we will host a queen rearing symposium and create a printed guide book of our methods.  

    Project objectives from proposal:


    To build on our NE SARE partnership research, and improve our ability to produce northern-hardy genetics, we will test 4 “walk-away split” methods to identify which one produces the highest quality queens. Our specific objectives are to: 

      1. Trial 4 methods of “walk-away split”, 
        1. Compare the reproductive potential of queens produced through 4 methods of “walk-away splits”.  Use the following metrics:
          1. Mating Percentage 
            1. Hypothesis: queen acceptance will not be different across walk-away split treatments.
    • Winter survivability & 2nd year mite level
    • Hypothesis:  queens raised through “walk-away splits” will have higher than average winter survivability, and lower mite count in the 2nd year.
    1. Compare “walk-away split” queens to traditional 10-day queen rearing method and 48 hour queen cell method funded via SARE: ONE19-326.  Use the following metrics:
      1. Queen rearing quality (weight, head width, thorax width)
      2. Queen mating quality (number and viability of stored sperm)
    2. Produce a guide to best practices for “walk-away splits” in the Northeast, which incorporates research results.
    3. Conduct a queen rearing symposium to teach beekeepers three queen rearing methods:  “walk-away splits”, 48 hour queen cell and 10 day queen cell methods.

    Ultimately this project could increase the sustainability and resilience of beekeeping in our region by sharing adaptive strategies for queen production in the Northeast.

    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.