Identifying the Most Effective and Accessible Queen Rearing Method to Strengthen Northeast Beekeeping Practices

Project Overview

ONE19-326
Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2019: $17,879.00
Projected End Date: 08/31/2021
Grant Recipient: University of Massachusetts Amherst
Region: Northeast
State: Massachusetts
Project Leader:
Hannah Whitehead
University of Massachusetts Amherst

Commodities

  • Animals: bees
  • Animal Products: honey

Practices

  • Animal Production: genetics
  • Crop Production: beekeeping, pollinator health

    Proposal abstract:

    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. And beekeepers know this; in fall 2018, we surveyed 116 Northeast beekeepers, and 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 is logistically complicated and resource intensive. This project will compare queens produced through two common rearing methods (10-day queen cells and walk-away splits) with a novel method (48-hour queens). This novel method, which may produce high-quality queens using fewer resources and simpler techniques, would be easier to teach to beekeepers, and could enhance our ability to improve and exchange genetic stock. We will compare the quality of queens produced through these three methods to determine which technique is most effective and resource-efficient in our bioregion. To share our findings and improve beekeeping strategies, we will host queen rearing workshops for backyard beekeepers and produce a guide to queen rearing in the Northeast. By comparing queen rearing methods and testing a new, promising technique (48-hour queens), this research will enhance our ability to disseminate high quality northern genetics and teach queen rearing to beekeepers, ultimately improving the sustainability and resilience of beekeeping in our region.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    queen rearing methods, including one novel technique (48-hour queens). Our specific objectives are to:

    1)   Compare the reproductive potential of queens produced through three methods (48-hour, 10-day and walk- away splits) using the following metrics:

    1. Queen acceptance
    2. Hypothesis: queen acceptance will not be different across our three treatments b. Queen rearing quality (weight, head width, thorax width)
    3. Hypothesis: queens produced through grafting (48-hour and 10-day) will be larger than queens produced through walk-away splits
    4. Queen mating quality (number and viability of stored sperm)
    5. Hypothesis: queens produced through grafting (48-hour and 10-day) will have more sperm, and a higher percentage of viable sperm, than queens produced through walk-away splits

    2)   Produce a guide to queen rearing methods in the Northeast, which incorporates best practices and the research results

    3)   Conduct workshops to teach beekeepers how to raise their own queens using this method.

    If this project is successful, it will expand the accessibility of queen rearing and northern-hardy genetics in the

    Northeast, ultimately increasing the sustainability and resilience of beekeeping in our region.

     

    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.