For any beekeeper, queen breeding could be considered leveling up!-it involves a whole new skill set that is not covered in basic beekeeping practices. There is an entire industry within beekeeping that focuses on producing quality queen bees, we got a sneak peek into the methods for producing Hilo queens this season.
With Hilo queens the focus is on keeping varroa resistant traits while also selecting other qualities that beekeepers want in a commercial operation, such as honey production.
Here Saira Mendez Urbina is using a magnifying glass to find and carefully graft eggs into queen cups. She places a newly hatched worker larvae inside the queen cup, then queenless bees will feed the larvae royal jelly and draw out the rest of the queen cell. (pictured right)
Another preparation for inseminated queen production is to catch drones and harvest the sperm. Drones are too large to pass through a queen excluder, so by placing one in front of the entrance the drones returning from a flight are stalled, and can be caught and taken to the lab. Drones do not sting and are easy to grab by hand! The first photo shows Bob Danka catching drones this way. Another tool, a drone catching cage, also allows you to capture drones. Just like with mating in the wild, this is a one-way trip for these drones.
Once in the lab, the drone's sperm is carefully collected. When the queens emerge from the cells, virgin queens will be carefully inseminated using sperm collected from drones (previously caught in the apiary). The middle photo shows Juliane Steckel in the middle of this process, and the last photo is a screen shot from a short video demonstrating insemination of an earlier batch of Hilo bees.
After insemination, each queen is carefully marked and placed into a cage for banking until they are ready to be introduced into a nucleus colony.
Finally the inseminated queens are installed into nucs-together they will become a new full-size colony of known pedigree as she lays more eggs and their population grows. To learn more, check out the Hilo bees website!
Survey data is extremely important to researchers and beekeepers to keep a pulse on bee health trends, economics of beekeeping, best management practices, and emerging threats to honey bees. Completing surveys is an easy, anonymous way to contribute directly to honey bee health research!
Here are two efforts that we encourage you to participate in. The first survey, from UC Davis, will gather information that can help growers provide benefits, such as flowering cover crops, to beekeepers (and bees) while pollinating almonds. The second survey, from the Bee Informed Partnership, collects the crucial colony loss and management information that researchers and beekeepers rely on for an up-to-date picture of honey bee health and beekeeping practices year after year.
Economic Value of Contract Enhancements in Almond Pollination
From Dr. Goodrich:
Almost no documented research exists quantifying beekeeper preferences for certain contract features, so this research will provide much-needed information to the beekeeping and almond industries. This survey will take approximately 20 minutes to complete. As compensation for your time, you will be provided with a $20 Amazon gift card.
This survey closes on April 15th! Download the letter of consent here.
Take the survey here! (password: Apism2021)
Bee Informed Partnership's Annual Management and Loss Survey
Any beekeeper can participate in this survey, and it is shorter this year! This long-standing effort provides essential data to beekeepers and researchers alike, including the annual colony loss chart and map. This survey closes on April 30th.
Take the survey here!
Cover Crops and Habitat: The Link Between Better Pollination, Healthier Bees and Soil.