Tuesday, March 10, 2009

making the queen bees in Florida

Here we are in Florida once again, breeding queen bees from the best genetic material we can find with stock we pick from the best survivors with robust egg laying capabilities, gentle nature, and varroa mite resistance. We think varroa mites, sometimes called vampire mites are at the root of the CCD (colony collapse disorder). The mites transfer virus and weaken the honeybees health overall.

Sharon, Niki, and JJ have been executing the day to day queen raising work, preparing the cell builders and grafting the larvae into small "cups" to place into well fed hives to which feed the larvae huge amounts of royal jelly and transform normal worker bee larvae into queens.

We do stock and mate about 600 mating nucs for producing our own queens, but we do not have any surplus to sell. We use all the queens we produce. Last year I was able to observe multiple mating flights within several feet of me. The mating flights look like small comets with a virgin queens followed by a plume of drones.

Many beekeepers from the surrounding area of our Florida panhandle winter farm come to us to purchase queen cells to place into new hives. The cells are shaped like small peanuts and are timed to hatch out within one day of placement.

We ordered some VHS breeder queens from Glenn Apiaries last fall and have found that the colonies headed up by these queens had less mites in the general population. I have reported this to the local beekeepers and we plan to order more of this stock for next year.