Three years ago I started raising my own queens, and have not bought new bees since (it is a tremendous money saver). Everywhere I read, it always says “Raise you own queens, you’ll get good after a while, and it saves money.” I have also read “Get your queens from a local producer with a Good Stock of bees.” But I always wanted to try and develop my own Good Stock. Being part of the solution, as well as save money.
Assuming that I am able to raise quality queens after a few years of practice, I came to the realization this winter that I may never be able to raise this Good Stock because I have too few hives to work with. My apiary ranges from 4 to 8 colonies (full hives plus nucs) on any year, which gives me 3 to 6 new queens to be raised and tested each year. However, to keep a line pure, and viable, it seems like you need a minimum population of 20 to 25. Also, to get good tests, and comparisons, it would seem like you would need at least 8-10 full hives on any given year to compare between.
With this in mind, is there any way of achieving the fabled Good Stock, with my small apiary? Or would I be better off buying the Good Stock every two or three years, and breeding off them?
--Thanks, Jon D.
There are many things to consider in producing good stock, with many of these items requiring for the most part, a larger number of hives than what you are working with.
Things like hybrid vigor, alleles, controlling stock, drone saturation, selection from large numbers, inbreeding, and a vast number of issues can be discussed.
In Bee Culture Jan, 2008 see page 17 by M.T. Sanford. Entitled "Better Stock for Beekeepers" Some of these issues are discussed.
Jon, I wouldnt be scared away from using queens from some of those commercial breeders. I have always had great luck with ordered in queens.
These guys are absoulute professionals. They take the best of pride in their work and it shows in the queens they produce. The Good Stock of bees your after is avaliable.
If you dont believe me, then go for your self and vusit a breeder. The knoledge and professionalism and pride these guys have for thier business and product will blow you away, and I bet you would nt ever consider comercial produced queens as beeing inferiour stock again.
But raising queens is soo cool, you got to try it!
I would have to respectfully disagree with you. When visiting Sue Cobey last year in mid spring, she took us to a big queen producer. We saw cells and all... on the way back she said that she was disapointed in how small the cells look and was surprised that they would keep such small cells.
I think that the smaller producers, some here on bee source like Bjorn, are the ones you want to buy from.
I read a post by Jim Fisher that mentioned the questions you should ask the queen producers when considering buying their stock. One of the questions was how long they keep the queen in the mating nucs for evaluation. This is important. The bigger producers need to pump them out like crazy to meet their orders where smaller guys can take the time to evaluate their stock before sending the queen out.
Just another thought.
Purvis Bros. do a nice evaluation of queens.
think of it this way jon d... in a normal distribution (and most things bioliogical are) the two extreme tails of the curve (the very good and the very bad) each represent about 5% of the total population. so to get to some reasonable expectation of identifing one really exceptional individual you have to have a minimum of 20 individual in a group to evaluate.
plus (as a minimum) you need one each of these exceptional to represent both sides of the mating. that's 40... minimum.
of course I could just be havin' a bad math day????? (insert funny face here)
off the cuff I would have taken your numbers and multiplied by a factor of 10.
I have thought that even the best breeders in the world still have to ship their queens and it is a matter of some luck that they are not overheated, chilled, banged around, overstressed or at the very least subjected to a questionable ride to your door. I once waited for the UPS truck to deliver about 50 queens I knew had to arrive soon. The guy hops out of his truck carrying my valuable queens upon whose success much of my year was dependent. When he realized he held a bunch of bees he didn't just drop the package but threw it as if he had just discovered it contained a bomb.
The next year I took Susan Coby's course and started raising my own. Some were good but many were agressive and not as productive as I had hoped. ONe thing for sure they were huge cells that produced great looking queens. While I had good genetics to start with and a large enough drone population, I believe the queens became less than great over time. This year I hope change my operation to russian queens since I think they have had plenty of time to improve the stock from which they started. 30 bucks is only 5 bottles of honey and who knows, maybe UPS can get it right this time.
Thanks, but I did read that article in Bee Culture, that is what prompted the post.
To everyone else,
I am not saying that commercially produced queens are bad, I am just wondering how to reach that ephemeral point of saying "I have a Good Stock that is worth trying."
But it sounds like as Tecumseh's statistical math, and Bjorns helpful insight into variables points out, that it is beyond the operational capacity of my apiary.
So maybe I will content myself with buying some good queens from other producers, and just continue to raise queens for my own use.
As a secondary question, If I buy a few good queens, and raise queens from them, and their progeny, would I be able to get 2 or 3 generations down (daughters, and grand daughters) and still retain much of the admirable traits and qualities? Or is it a one step down, and the second is a doozey?
Thankyou for all your input everyone.
it is a 50/50 chance that the queens will have those admirable traits at their mother had granting you are counting on open mating.
"As a secondary question, If I buy a few good queens, and raise queens from them, and their progeny, would I be able to get 2 or 3 generations down (daughters, and grand daughters) and still retain much of the admirable traits and qualities? Or is it a one step down, and the second is a doozey?"
As with all things, it just depends. One thing you have to look at when trying to raise queens out of "good" stock, is that you have to also have equally good drones to mate those queens. If your doing it all in one yard, it gets difficult to do. It helps if you can set up another yard miles away from the home yard, in which to mate your queens.
You also need a line of drone mothers that are unrelated to the line that you are using to produce your queens. I see no reason why you couldn't produce, and continue to produce good, quality queens if you keep these things in mind when raising your queens.:)
Did you consider trying to find another beek or two in you area that wants to try raising queens with a small number of hives. I think most of us are pretty independant but if you could get a cooperative thing going it could have a lot of benifits.
Don't underestimate how many feral colonies there may be around you.
I didn't mean to really turn you off to the idea of raising queen jon d. You will (if you desire to produce a quality product) have to do things not so much like the big guys. which is to say that there are any number of methods that will produce a superior queen that is not doable by the really large commercial concern... work on those methods, focus on learning all you can and when possible sharpen your skills via doing.
selecting the last generation of 'good stock' is not anything like producing the next generation of 'good stock'. instead of working on identification first, simply work or the production problems first and then (if you are lucky and fortunate) worry about how to identify what you desire to use for foundation stock. if enough time has passed likely what comprises 'good stock' will be nothing like the description of 'good stock' when you began.
and good luck...
The breeders I buy from has given me great queens. They are big producers. Other breeders I buy from has given me great queens, They are small local producers.
Breeders work on reputation, quality and consistant product. It is what their costomers expect. If they cant deliver, they loose thier customers. This principle is the same large or small operators. Too many people here generalize against large operators.
I buy from KONA and now Stracten and Oliverez. I have been very happy with the queens sent from these breeders. And hear the same from others here. I have actually been cut back on my KONA order due to the demand of their queens. Good thing queens have been allowed to trade from those two breeders in California.
I heard Oliverez is starting up an operation in Hawaii
"I heard Oliverez is starting up an operation in Hawaii"
Yes, I think they have bought out Kona Queens, but not sure of that:).
I believe Oliverez they bought Big Island Queen, not Kona. I am not sure if they brought in their own stock or used Big Island....or a combination.
Would they be allowed to bring in thier own stock? Thought they were real tight on that control.
Originally Posted by Beemaninsa
Ya, I knew they bought somebody out:D.
I talked with someone @ Olivairez. I understood her to say that they are currently useing on hand stock (Big Island) and selecting for hygenic behavior. They plan to slowly switch to their Min Hyg line. I don't know how they plan to bring in their own breeder stock and didn't ask. Their Hawaiian queens were $14.25 for 100+. I think that is their CA spring price also.
They would be bringing in drone semen
14.25$ is a good price. Without shippment costs I presume.