This is the start of the seventeenth year of my queen breeding program. Early on the losses were high while selecting for the most desirable characteristics for the Northwest, I now feel I’m much closer to my goal of having a mite resistant bee. For others out there thinking of following a similar path I wouldn’t advice doing what I did. Stopping treatment cold turkey was very costly. These days there are very simple tests for measuring the mite count. This data should be used to select the more resistant colonies to breed from them while you reduce your yearly treatments. It is highly recommended that you add Instrumental Insemination to you’re program, because the drones flying from these high mite count colonies are not the ones you want mating with your future queen daughters.
General Comments/Goals for 2016
The general health of all my colonies has never been better. I continue to employ the live and let die principles. No treatment of any kind natural or otherwise has ever been used. Violation of this basis rule would upset the validity of the whole selection process. This winter has been much colder than average. I’m very happy with the progress being made on the effort to get closer to a balanced Northwest bee. All colonies are presently stable with their mite loads. Spring mite level measurement is planned as final breeder selections are made. I don’t yet have the dead out percentages for this winter, but they will be posted in March/early April. Early February we stood at 9% From what many are telling me last years varroa mites where the worst that many local beekeepers have seen. Either the queens out of California are not as resistant in recent years or the mite is evolving into a little tougher beast to battle.
A directional change was tried the past several years and was found very successful. Here a “fast track” program was put together to identify up and coming queens and produce a round of daughters very quickly. I’m a small operation and this makes a program like this possible. The highlights of the program are to identify up and coming top queens that really stand out. The queens from these hives are used to produce up to twenty daughters, which are then returned to Nuc’s and hives. A few are often distributed. A little Baton Rouge pure VSH semen is added in some. This is based on mite data and diversity planning. These daughters are studied and ranked. In this short time I can see some really exciting bees emerging. The most important question asked about a new breeder queen is–What are her daughters like can be quickly addressed with real field data as each will have a winter under their belts.
I have not added any external queens to my general mating population in years only semen by instrumental insemination. Queens from outside apiaries are studied in location external to my mating yards until decisions can be made as to their future. Very often the semen from drones is collected from them and introduced into daughters from my breeders. I’ve found this to allow examination of the hive characteristics without the concern of general drone population contamination. Drone genetics reflect only those of the mother. The behavioral changes are slow enough to track and make future direction decisions from without the risk of introducing a broad potentially dangerous directional change into the general population.