I'd like to discuss selection techniques for small cell bees and queens. How would YOU select for consistent sizing, comb drawing, create sphere of influence for drones, matings, ect.
I will just ramble tonight since there are so many possibilities and you never know what the end result of your queens will be.
Would it be possbible to select some bees that are both small cell to begin with and also carry a large number of the other characteristics that you desire? In other words, if you were to pick a breeder that is on small cell you might want to consider how gentle,productive, calm on combs, winter ability.
I personally prefer to see a breeder with most of the qualities that I desire. However, you can try to pick a breeder that is just ordinary in most features but has a specific trait that you want passed along such as small cell ability. In my way of thinking if you did that, it would necessitate having a decent number of drone sources colonies that do have other good qualities. Otherwise you can end up with small cell bees which are like pure SMR type bees.....have one good trait but perhaps nothing else special....just ordinary.
I tend to find that the results are more of a mixed bag when using a breeder that lacks in many of the outstanding qualities but that doesnt mean that there wont be some offspring that you really like....just that you may end up tossing out alot of them in the process. Perfect world would give me the very best colony which has numerous great traits and nothing that stands out as horrible as a breeder and have enough drone sources colonies to saturate the area.
Then there are the questions of how many colonies are really needed to find worthy breeders and how many drones are needed. I find mating control to be the hardest aspect. If there arent enough colonies at first with the desirable traits, you could just use the ordinary queen on small cell to raise daughters who would then be drone source colonies and rely on her daughters' drones to pass that along.
Well thats enough rambling for now.
I am trying to develop the most adapted bee for my area, using different stock. I live in northeastern PA, and wintering is a factor. The short season is a factor. I am foryunate to live on a farm, that is primarily for dairy cows, meaning mostly hay. Alfalfa and clover about every other field. Surrounding the farm, are locals with produce stands, that grow a little bit of everything. This mean, I have pollen and nector flowing almost constantly. The flows vary of course, but there is always something for the bees to do! Now, my choice of small cell queen breeding.
Now, my choice of small cell queen breeding. I started with SMRs first. I am quite happy with the mite resistance, even with daughters, and sub daughters. I added carnolians to the mix, for the quick buildup. Both produce honey around here, so that is not an issue right now. I have bees in two locations, with feral black bees, and survivor italians to mix. I recently added a Michigan mix to the stock.
Enough for queens right now, the first thing I find is getting regression down to 4.9 or smaller. I am very close with 80% of my hives. Lots of drones in the beginning, so I figure I had some control in the mating. Alot of culling comb too. I used the mediocre comb for nucs, and I'm slowly replacing those as well.
What I hope to achieve:
1. Good brood patterns on 4.9. Was a problem in the beginning, but the daughers are getting much better.
2. Workable bees, that are not runners. I hate bees that run.
3. Gentleness is nice, but not a neccesity. I don't want bees that chase you down though!
4. Hardy bees that winter well.
I guess, I want alot of little things, but those are the major ones. I think the brood pattern is the most important thing though. I have 2 colonies that really struggled thru regession, but made it, and are exploding now. Our weather has helped this year though, so that must be taken into consideration as well. Lots of rain, produces lots of protiens in the pollen, which produces healthy bees. Time, that 4 letter dirty word! Time, time, time!
Just my opinion.
With only a couple of colonies, the main thing is to get bees adapted to the new cell size; I'll worry about improving the stock later. I lost my original strain last winter, due to poor mating as far as I can see. This spring I bought two nucs; both attempted to swarm, lost the queens, which were clipped, and raised new ones. One seems to be established at last, the other is raising another queen cell and producing very little brood. Its frustrating, but I'll get there! One colony established on 4.9 is a start.
Let me add another question.
For a queen to raise bees that will draw 4.9 cell size without small cell foundation, wouldn't the queen have to have this trait through breeding from maybe feral bees that
were already drawing 4.9 in the wild?
I think there's a genetic component in this somewhere; it would explain why some colonies never manage the size change. If I'm right, you need a colony which is genetically compatible with small cell, but not necessarily one that's already on it.