This is the start of the nineteenth 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 heathy bee that scores high in mite resistance and Northwest survival characteristics. 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. Locals are given free extra queen cells/extra mated queens should mite data indicate things are out of control. I’m happy to be the magic bag that replacement queens come from to improve your genetics. It is unfortunate that all my queens are not created equally great. A small percentage will be replaced in late summer. 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 2019/strong>
Colonies are looking scary good. Where did all the mites go this year. I continue to employ the live and let die principles. There are a number of reasons for this. Only me running all the work and my pockets are not that deep to evaluate all the internals happening in the hive. I have difficulty explaining how my hives manage the mites and I feel it is important to continue to investigate this with what time there is. 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. Looks like a mild winter coming. What bringing in pollen on Halloween in the Northwest crazy right. 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. I’ve noted yellow jackets and hornet are killing hives and entrance sizes need to be managed carefully to avoid their entry. Spring mite level measurement is planned as final breeder selections are made. I don’t yet have the dead out percentages for this winter (too early), but they will be posted in March/early April. Losses last year came in at 15% over winter.
A directional change was tried for the last five 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. Potential breed queens 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. This plan is working great and very exciting what it is yielding. 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. It can’t be emphasized enough the importance of having the desirable trait follow into the daughters with a different set of mating drones. I’m after traits that are in the mothers genetics. Once verified you have proved her drones also carry the desirable genetics. Drones are female in genetic material since they only carry the queens genetics.
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 mating population.