Queen rearing

Sustainable beekeeping tips and tricks.

Open breeding vs artificial insemination. (the birds and the bees)

In nature, the queen breeds only one time. Her mating flight consists of her flying about 50 ft up in the air, and the drones that are fastest get to mate with her (about 20 drones). Drones are like teenage boys, they drift from colony to colony. So when a queen in my apiary goes on her mating flight, she’s got the top guns from every colony making a beeline straight to her. This is nature’s way of selecting the best local genetics to pass on to the next generation.

In commercial beekeeping (the guys that are screaming about all the dead bees), it is standard practice for the queen suppliers to use artificial insemination to breed the queen. (They breed them with tools, how rude is that?)

The problem with their system is: they do not have a diversity of genetics that are acclimated to the geographic location where the queen is shipped to. Thus the genes of just a few lines of queens are spread throughout the entire U.S. This drastically reduces the diversity of genetics that nature would create. Diversity equals life. Maybe this is why natural beekeepers, over time, have less losses!

Queen rearing is surprisingly simple when you are working with nature. At Beelanding, I got my start from a fellow natural breeder just south of us in northern AR. Using a regional queen, I am open breeding with the local genetics (meaning breeding my own bees and finding swarms). It takes time to weed out the weak genetics, but over time, we are creating strong bees. We are allowing diversity to happen by letting nature takes it’s natural course.

I continue to be overwhelmed with requests for nucs to buy. (Nuc is short for nucleus, which is a small working colony with a laying queen that will grow to a full size one). To that end, I have decided to have some top bar nucs for sale in the early spring of 2011 . We will have a limited amount to sell, so I will let my hive customers have first choice. So now is a good time for me to build your hive and get on the waiting list for your own queen and her top gun’s offspring. You will be able to buy a hive with your bees already in it!


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2 Responses to “Queen rearing”

  1. Cat Ellis says:

    Informative article. We haven’t tried queen rearing yet, but it’s on the ever growing “list” of beekeeping things to learn.

  2. beemin says:

    Yes it’s a necessary step to being a sustainable beekeeper.

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