Sustainable Honeybee Strains for Western North Carolina

2010 Annual Report for FS10-244

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2010: $9,959.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: Southern
State: North Carolina
Principal Investigator:
Ryan Higgs
Blue Ridge Apiaries

Sustainable Honeybee Strains for Western North Carolina


Season 1 Summary

Attaining the desired stock to conduct the proposed research proved to be the biggest challenge in the first year of this project. The timing of the project was unfortunate, following a very difficult year for beekeepers in the Southeast. Drought in the summer of 2009 led to a poor honey flow particularly with late season forages that colonies rely on to subsist through the winter. This was followed by one of the coldest winters on record that resulted in high colony losses across the region. This led to unprecedented competition for the stock required for this project. Despite these challenges, the stock was attained from the desired reputable sources. However, different stocks became available at different times, such that some strains benefited from the spring flush while others were not available until the area was in a dearth period. The consequences of this was very apparent at the end of the season in terms of colony size. The good news is that all of the colonies were able to establish themselves adequately to winter over. The bad news is that in contrasting one strain against another, it is an apple to oranges scenario since some got a late start.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Adapting Project to Season 1 Circumstances

The unique circumstances described above has led to the necessity to adapt accordingly. As originally conceived, the objective of the project was to create an environment with all things being equal in which various strains could be evaluated using objective analysis. The ideal of the project occurring on a level playing field was compromised by the availability of stock in 2010. A colony’s ability to winter-over, pollinate, forage, resist mites, etc. is related to colony size. Given the disparity in colony size between the different stocks, more subjectivity will be required in evaluating the strains than was originally planned.


Good Things Don’t Come Easy

The acquisition of the stock desired for this project was a major accomplishment given the circumstances. Given recent changes in the MN Hygienic realm of beekeeping, a 1400 mile roundtrip was the most convenient way to attain certified stock. This seems insignificant considering the nearly 2700 miles that the New World Carniolan stock traveled to participate in the project. Yet surprisingly, it was the Russian Bees that were the most difficult to secure given the weather-related events of 2009-2010. Every member of the Russian Honeybee Breeders Association in the Southeast was contacted in an effort to attain authentic stock.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Looking Forward

The difficulty encountered in acquiring the stock necessary for the project inadvertently led to a much deeper understanding of the relationship between the various stocks than I would have anticipated. Much of this was the result of the countless conversations I had as I worked my way up the supply chain to the source of the individual stocks. Each of these stocks represent a different ideology in response to the state of modern beekeeping. Understanding the intent behind each breeding program and how they differ is as revealing as experiencing the differences in behavior between the stocks in the apiary. It is this relationship between breeding ideology and the manifestation of the ideology in the bee yard that I look forward to studying further in 2011 and sharing with the beekeeping community at the end of my project.


Dr. David Tarpy
Extension Apiculturist
North Carolina State University
1558A Gardner Hall Addition, North Carolina State University, Dept. of Entomology, Campus Box 7613
Raleigh, NC 2769-7613
Office Phone: 9195151660
Seth Nagy
Extension Agent
120 Hospital Ave NE
Suite 1
Lenoir, NC 28645
Office Phone: 8287571291
Dr. David Tarpy
Extension Apiculturist
1558A Gardner Hall Addition, NCSU Dept. of Entomology
Campus Box 7613
Raleigh, NC 2769-7613
Office Phone: 9195151660