Here are a couple of colonies that looked great going into winter, but died rapidly before spring with a small cluster of bees left and plenty of stored honey. Varroa mite infestation is suspected for their demise. You can see a number of dead bees on the plywood. This picture was taken in January. These colonies where untreated for mites or nosema as part of evaluating potential resistant breeding stock.
Linked here is the hive InspectionSheet I use for evaluating colonies in my stock improvement program. Mites are recorded with a powdered sugar test while Nosema spore measures are recorded on a separate piece of paper. Doing these measures at specific times, allows for calculations of specific interests, such as the change in number of adult bees in spring, or change in mite population growth The numbers of frames of each measure (bees, brood, etc.) is done by generally estimating by looking at the frame.
Sometimes, I will deviate from this inspection sheet by estimating only the number of adult bees, thereby avoiding pulling out every frame to look for brood and stores. This for example can allow for an early estimate of the over-wintered cluster when its still fairly cold.
Branding new boxes with ‘ROSECOMB’
Beekeepers brand their boxes to discourage ‘bee rustlers’ and, well its just aesthetically pleasing. Here I am branding some new boxes for 2013. My brand is ‘ROSECOMB’ for Rosecomb Apiaries. Once you coral them in a small space like a garage, you can manage to hold them down for the brand as them come out. Once its over, they line up pretty good.
Here is an excellent article published in the Journal of Apicultural Research 52 (1) 2013 which overviews good methods for queen rearing and breeding selection methods.
R Büchler, S Andonov, K Bienefeld, C Costa, F Hatjina… – Journal of Apicultural …, 2013
… The richness in biodiversity of races and ecotypes of Apis mellifera reflects a long lasting,
continuous … mating and testing are needed for the improvement, comparison and exchange of
breeding stock, and to … of high quality queens, both in a physiological and in a genetic sense. …
Here’s a story about my bee breeding project SARE put together
Beekeeper Conducting Stock Improvement Program for a More Sustainable Honeybee
By Candace Pollock 12/05/2012
CLINTON, Tennessee– A beekeeper in eastern Tennessee is hoping to give the struggling honeybee a fighting chance against pests and diseases through a bee stock improvement program. Michael Wilson of Rosecomb Apiaries…
Read the full story here..http://www.southernsare.org/News-and-Media/Press-Releases/Beekeeper-Conducting-Stock-Improvement-Program-for-a-More-Sustainable-Honeybee
Fall is close to ending at my home / queen yard. For the bee breeding project, I started about 60 new colonies for the season to evaluate as potential breeding stock for 2013. About 20 of those where selected against by natural causes, leaving just under 40 colonies (some of which are pictured below) to evaluate. I’ve completed two evaluations of colony strength, diseases, and pest levels. In spring, I’ll do a third and final evaluation.
To prepare them for winter, since the end of July, I’ve feed each colony about 9 gallons of syrup and 1.5 pounds of pollen. This was required to start and keep this many colonies in one place for a comparable evaluation. Each colony was required to build the majority of their combs to give the opportunity to evaluate them for comb building and colony growth. With the warm weather we expect this weekend, I’ll probably try and give them one more feeding before winter. A warm fall and winter is not necessarily good for the bees in our area because they become active while few flowers are available.
The 2012 Heartland Apiculture Society queen rearing short course in St. Louis was a success. We provided presentations, a grafting workshop, and apiary demonstrations over three days. Here are a few pics of the cell builder we set up in the apiary, a ‘queenless cell starter / finisher’. A cell builder is a colony manipulated to raise queen cells from grafts.
Here Greg Hunt and Krispn Given (Purdue University) are opening the cell builder to check our grafts. We set it up two days before by removing the queen, reducing the hive down to a single deep, leaving little brood, and shaking large amounts of nurse bees from other hives into the box. The next day we placed our grafts into the queenless and crowded hive, and here we are about to check them for acceptance the following day. Notice there are LOTS of bees in the hive. That’s what you need to get many cells started and finished.
Here Krispn Given is holding the frame with the cell cups. Notice how many bees are covering the cell bar frame. Here again, many many bees are needed to start and finish the cells. This is a double thick frame holding 6 cell bars. This gave everyone in the class a chance to try grafting several cups and see if they would be started. Started cells are indicated by royal jelly in the cell and some construction of wax around the top of the cup. In unaccepted cells, the larvae are removed and less wax is build around the rim of the cups.
Here is the cell builder with the cell bar (grafted cells) removed from the center. Notice again how the builder is packed with bees. There is a division board feeder on the right to provide the builder with copious feed to build the cells. They nearly emptied it in 24hrs. The frame beside where the cell bars was has a good amount of pollen so its nearby the queen cells being fed. When setting up the cell builder, any brood remaining in the colony (although very little is desired) should also be next to the cell bars to keep nurse bees near where the grafted cells are placed the following day.
Once the cells are capped at day 5 after grafting they could be moved to an incubator, or left to incubate in the colony until day 10 when they are ready to be placed into mating nucs. This colony can be used again to start and finish more cells once the first set is capped. To keep the colony going, since its queenless, one or two frames of capped brood, with some open brood, can be introduced each week at the position beside the queen cells. More nurse bees (bees on brood frames) from other colonies can be shaken into the box if the population drops noticeably. This setup can be used for a month or even longer, as long as it is producing good cells.
On a side note, here I am with President Obama whom happened to be at a downtown ice cream parlor.
And you can’t go to St. Louis without checking out the arch.
For the third year in a row, I’ll be helping out with the Heartland Apicultural Society (HAS) Conference and queen rearing course. This year we will be in St. Louis, MO, July 12 – 14th, University of Missouri. See full details of the conference, schedule, and registration info at www.heartlandbees.com.
Greg Hunt and Krispn Given from the Purdue University Bee Lab will be doing the full planning of the short course this year. In years past, other’s to help out with the instruction have included Larry Connor (Wicwas Press), John Skinner (Univ. of TN), and Garrett Dodds (USDA-ARS).
Come graft a bar of cells at HAS 2012!
I highly recommend an introductory course (especially this one) as you learn how to raise queens. But be sure that no amount of coursework is a substitute for practice, practice, and some patience. However, courses are great for both an overview and those little key pieces of information that make an enormous difference to your beekeeping operation. We demonstrate steps in raising queens, in the apiary, with the bees. There is nothing like the experience of actually doing a task (like shaking loads of bees into a swarm box) to add clarity to your understanding of how something works. Hope to see you there, or at an HAS in the future.
..is the place to buy Rosecomb Apiaries honey when you are camping out at the Obed in Morgan County. Its at the Lilly Access for Clear Creek. If you don’t know where I mean, you don’t know where I mean. Other amenities include, the Obed Climbing Guidebook by Kelly Brown, ice, used books, bug spray, lighters, batteries, climbing chalk, and other necessities for the camping rock climber or whitewater boater. Primitive car camping is $5 per night per person.
The Lilliy Pad General Store. Get you climbing guide book, ice, honey, used books, and other camping gear for the Obed Wild and Scienic.
I made the honey shelf out of an old bee hive super, a bottom board, two top bars from the frames, plus one board in the middle.
For any experiment, a plan is required. This is more formally called the Experimental Design. Included in that, is the timeline and what actually will be measured.
Control of variation and the timeline
Of great importance to the plan is how variation from random effects, or things we don’t care about, will be controlled to a minimum. For example, all the queens will be mated and kept in one location so that different locations will not effect the results.
Here is the timeline for bee breeding in 2012 and 2013. The outline will be repeated for each year. Click on the image for a larger view.
The time of year that the colonies will be started will also introduce variation in the results. It won’t be possible for me to start all 40 colonies in the same week, therefore I will start some colonies from each of the four mother queens each week. If I instead started queens from a different queen each week, there would be a four week difference in resource opportunity and available drones for mating in the first and fourth queen. That would not be good.
The timeline above looks really good on paper, but when working with bees, or any other animals, things happen and things change. Its important to be able to be flexible and still have a reasonable control over unexplained variation.
Measures of interest
Here are the measures I'm interested in for selection. Click on the image for a larger view.
When raising queens with the grafting method, I have batches of about 20-30 queen cells ready to hatch once a week. With grafting, its best for me to either raise queen cells on a weekly basis until I want to stop, or don’t bother. Once I’m set up and going, its time consuming to stop and start again.
If you don’t bank virgin queens, queen cells must be placed in mating nucs after incubation on day 10 after grafting. That means, you have 1-2 days before ‘day 10′ to split hives for mating nucs and if the weather is rainy or there is an emergency at work, too bad it must be done. Unless, you instead cage the cells so they emerge caged in a queen bank. They can remain banked for up to one week and placed in mating nucs at your ‘leisure’ . Dr. Larry Connor recommended this in his course, and I think he is right.
Queens that have emerged in a queen bank. The 'candy cap' for the hair roller cages can be used to hold capped queen cells instead of candy. Do place some queen cage candy at the bottom of these cages so the queen has her own source of food. For a queen bank I use the cloak board method which will be described in another post.
Once virgin queens are banked, they need to be introduced into mating nucs within about one week. Otherwise, they will be too old to be mated properly. I graft cells on the same day each week. This means I can have fresh, banked virgins ready to go any day throughout the season when I have the time (and weather opportunity) to split some hives or when I find a queenless hive that needs a queen. Virgin queens should be introduced into mating nucs caged, just like a mated queen.