06346 Revised 2006
Copyright © 2008 Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved.
NOTE: This is a Web Sampler. Information about the complete publication and how to order it is available here.
The majority of queen bees used by beekeepers in the U.S. come from queen rearing operations located in the southern tier of states, including California and the southeastern seaboard. Traditionally, non-migratory beekeepers (i.e., those that winter their colonies in the North) obtain new colonies by ordering packages or nuclei from companies located in the South. The packages and nuclei are hived in Minnesota and the upper Midwest beginning in mid-April. Wintered colonies are requeened with individual queens purchased from southern queen breeders in May or June.
Migratory beekeepers transport all or a portion of their colonies to southern states for the winter. In early spring, divides are made and new queens are reared and introduced into the divides. The colonies with new queens are returned to the North for the summer. An estimated 500,000 colonies are transported every spring into the upper Midwest.
There are many variations on these management systems. The point is that the majority of package and queen rearing companies and southern wintering locations are located in areas where Africanized bees are expected to survive. Migratory beekeepers and queen rearing industries are now facing the challenge of avoiding the inadvertent sale and transport of Africanized bees to the North.
In response to this challenge, the USDA, APHIS, beekeepers and bee researchers developed a Model Honey Bee Certification Plan in 1991 which outlines steps that can be implemented to ensure queen breeders and package industries in the South continue rearing and selling European queens and bees.
Basically, beekeepers who rear queens in areas where Africanized bees are found and sell or transport those queens out of the state must use certified European breeder queens. A certified breeder queen is any queen in which the progeny can be certified as being European in origin by a USDA approved morphometric identification procedure. The procedure involves taking precise measurements of the size and shape of a sample of worker bees. The probability that the sample is statistical analysis. The morphometric tests have been used and improved for many years and are now quite reliable.
Any queen produced and mated in areas free of Africanized honey bees will not require certification. All certified breeder queens must be clipped and marked. Certified breeder queens can be used to produce other certified breeder queens and also used for drone producing colonies. The plan describes how to control mating in Africanized areas to ensure that European queens mate with European drones over 90% of the time.
The model certification plan is realistic and should be approved and adopted in many states. Nevertheless, many beekeepers are seeking alternative sources of queens, and migratory beekeepers are seeking more northern locations to winter their colonies. It is extremely unlikely that Africanized bees will establish permanent populations in the North. The primary goal of this course, therefore, is to teach northern beekeepers methods of rearing their own queens so they have alternative sources of European queens. The objective is to augment queen sources, not to replace southern queen sources.
There are advantages and disadvantages to rearing queens in northern locations. The advantages are that breeder queens can be selected that are adapted to northern conditions: long, cold winters, and short, intense nectar flows. Also, queens can be "custom selected" to perform the best under a particular beekeepers management style and system. The main disadvantage is that it is virtually impossible to rear queens and get adequate mating in April and May. There are ways around this problem which involve changes in timing and adoption of innovative methods.
Beekeepers are creative and independent people. Encouraging queen rearing in northern states will undoubtedly inspire new management systems and beekeeping technologies. The authors' goal in teaching this course is to learn improved queen rearing techniques from students after they have modified these basic techniques to fit their needs.
The only difficulty rearing queens in Minnesota and the upper Midwest is deciding when to rear them. The weather must be favorable to ensure there will be ample nectar and pollen, and therefore, ample drones for mating. The next difficulty is deciding when to introduce the new queen into colonies.
Although generally considered very inconvenient, queens can be introduced after the honey supers have been removed from the colony in late summer or early fall. This can be an ideal time to introduce a new queen into a colony because she will rapidly lay a batch of brood which will provide new, young workers to survive the long period of confinement during the winter months. However, in the fall colonies are very large, irritable, and likely to rob each other. It is necessary to find and remove the old queen in order to introduce a new queen, which is often a difficult task in a populous colony. Also, most beekeepers are busy extracting honey and there simply isn't time to requeen colonies at this time of year.
The Canadians have been rearing their own queens for many years now, particularly since the borders were closed to the US. for queen importation in 1988. Many beekeepers have developed innovative methods for rearing and introducing queens at different times of year. For example, some beekeepers rear new queens when the weather allows in May or June, and introduce them into divides. The divides are wintered as singles (one brood box) either in indoor wintering sheds, or wrapped with insulation in groups of 4 or more and wintered outside. The divide becomes the honey producing colony the next year. Another method is to introduce a new queen into a divide in early summer as above, and then combine the entire divide with a large colony which has been dequeened after the honey flow. It is easier and more successful to introduce new queens into large colonies if they are introduced with frames of their own brood.
Again, beekeepers are innovative, creative people. Each beekeeper develops the most efficient techniques for his/her own operation and area. We encourage all beekeepers interested in rearing their own queens in the North to experiment with different methods and then share these methods with others. There is no "perfect" time to rear and introduce queens. The best way is the one that works best for you.
|Pollen collection apparatus||absent||present|
|Glandular secretion to feed larvae||absent||present|
See the related program: Honey Bees in Northern Climates
In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, this material is available in alternative formats upon request. Please contact your University of Minnesota Extension office or the Extension Store at (800) 876-8636.