- Animals: bees
- Animal Products: honey
- Animal Production: livestock breeding, parasite control
- Crop Production: beekeeping, pollination, pollinator health
- Education and Training: demonstration, farmer to farmer, mentoring, networking, on-farm/ranch research, workshop
- Pest Management: field monitoring/scouting, integrated pest management
1. Design a breeding program to create more resilient honey bee stock.
2. Apply the breeding program to our own stock in our local environment
3. Share both the honey bee stock we’ve created, as well as the guidelines for creating a similar breeding program, with other beekeepers.
The status of bees, beekeepers and their environment is in the most pivotal era in their entire existence. The introduction of the deadly mite (varroa destructor), bacterial diseases, viruses, nutritional issues, and pesticide exposure (sometimes by beekeepers themselves) has left the state of honey bee’s health in peril. We believe that though there are many bandaid approaches to all these problems, the honey bees themselves contain the solutions we are looking for hidden in their own DNA.
In the beekeeping industry we have producers know as “bee breeders”. In truth many of these bee breeders are often “queen producers” Rather than actually engaging in the conscious and selective practice of breeding bees, breeder queens are selected randomly by choosing the biggest hives in the yard in early spring. This method of selection does not reliably take into account the history of the colony’s age, adaptability, or health.
With this grant we would like to design a breeding program to collect data, evaluate stock, and ultimately create hardier, and more resilient honey bee stock. We plan to implement that breeding program beginning in April 2017, by monitoring test colonies over a year”s time, and then selecting the best performing 10% queens as our breeding stock for 2018. We will share our resulting honey bee stock with 10 other producers, and receive feedback on colony performance from those producers. We will not only share the honey bee stock itself, but share the knowledge of how a similar breeding program can be set up and implemented by other producers or beekeeping collectives, so that they themselves may increase the viability of their own stock. We plan to reach out to other producers, as well as the general public by means of a field day, a workshop, slideshow presentations, articles, social media, a mini-documentary and a bee breeding/queen rearing manual.
1) Design breeding program
2) Select breeders from other breeders and drone mothers from our own stock
3) Graft daughter queens
4) Set up 50 test colonies
5) Monitor test colonies and collect data monthly (May-March)
6) Analyze data on test colonies and select 2018 breeder queens
7) Share 2018 daughter queens with 10 other producers
8) Teach queen rearing/bee breeding class (March 2018)
9) Host Field Day (May 2018)
10) Create slideshow and poster board presentation about project
Maintain blog and social media posts about the process of the project
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.