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  1. #1
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    Default Beginning in Queen Rearing: How to get from here to a genetic goal?

    I am just finishing my third season, and will go into winter with 13 colonies. Next season, I plan to continue expansion and my focus for learning will be on queen rearing. My goal for that is to work toward a stock of bees who do well in this region, but perhaps that is obvious.

    My question is about how best to go from no knowledge or experience to selective breeding in the future.

    What is the straightest route - without using instrumental insemination?

    What is the book(s) to get me grounded and on a solid base of working understanding this winter?

    What are some approaches you have used with some success?

    How do I get from knowing nothing to being able to raise queens with a purpose? - more than just hit-and-miss.

    Thanks,

    Adam

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Beginning in Queen Rearing: How to get from here to a genetic goal?

    I would read Larrys Connors increase essentials and his other book about raising queens Both book are an easy read and very informative especaully
    the queen rearing book.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Beginning in Queen Rearing: How to get from here to a genetic goal?

    Brother Adam's books are recommended by most guys in cold country, but you will benefit by reading Laidlaw & Eckert's Queen Rearing, and Jay Smith's Better Queens, Laidlaw & Page's book published in 1976 (title?), G.M. Doolittle's Scientific Queen Rearing. All the books and university papers listed in bibliographies of any of these books, including Larry Connor's, are reads that will help. Michael Bush has a good list of queen rearing books, and you might want to ask Michael Palmer. There are lots of great books on queen rearing, several are difficult to obtain.

    Watch Beesource for when these guys and rrussell6870, Oldtimer, Ted Kretchman, Fusion Power, Bees4U, LSPender, Barry, and others who've been doing it a while contribute to the threads. Great guidance.

    Like most of these guys say, read the books, then get out of the books and into the hives and get your hands dirty! Experience is the toughest grader, but the best teacher. All bees, locations, beekeepers, and neighboring farms are different.

    Get email for professors at Cornell, U.C. Davis, other universities with apiculture programs - they can give you EXCELLENT advice and hints!

    Make use of the Bee Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland for your problem hives. 10300 Baltimore Blvd., Bldg. 476 room 100 BARC-EAST, Beltsville MD 20705.

    Also, it helps to have your equipment built before you need it, and a good shelf of supplies.

    If you can, join a club, take a college class, or even go to work for a commercial beekeeper! Find an older, very experienced queen breeder nearest you, and go help him out all you can!

    Read Oldtimer's thread on Cut-Cell Method here in Beesource!

    Being goal-oriented in you queen breeding involves tracking individual traits of colonies. Learn the tests for these traits, develop a consistent form of measurement and keep careful records and calendars from year to year. Read Introducing Genetics.

    Good luck!
    Last edited by kilocharlie; 08-20-2012 at 10:19 PM.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Beginning in Queen Rearing: How to get from here to a genetic goal?

    All good input. Thank you!

    One thing to note is that I'm pretty solid on methods of raising queens. I have read a lot on the subject here, and on other sites. I have read Jay Smith's Better Queens. My question is rooted more in methods of selection than it is in methods of rearing, if that makes sense.

    Adam

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Beginning in Queen Rearing: How to get from here to a genetic goal?

    You first need to increase your apiary to over 50 colonies, better like 150 or more.

    Selection of breeder queens would involve tracking of queens whose daughter colonies display individual traits that differ from colony to colony. You need to identify the traits that are most important to your area of Nova Scotia and come up with grading criteria for the quantifiable traits and determinants of qualitative traits, so now they are defined. You then need to develop a regimen of standard tests to identify / quantify these traits, and implement record keeping for colonies in each apiary yard.

    Now that you have tested and tracked a generation, you select those which have traits that you wish to promote - and raise LOTS of queens - and in the following generation, "de-select" (re-queen and kill the drones of) those colonies not displaying or weakly displaying the traits you are trying to promote. It is a tedious, slow process, sped up considerably by instrumental insemination. Open mating is "hit-and-miss", or often "miss-and-miss-and-miss-and..."

    At some point you will want to import some bees with desirable qualities to cross into your mix. The earlier, the better.

    You won't be "de-selecting" for your first 4 generations - you need to grow your apiary to greater colony numbers, besides, nature will probably do plenty of that for you that far north!. Just select from your best colonies at first, getting rid of the poor performers will come later, when your hive production can't keep up with your [successful queen production minus queen sales].

    Great numbers of mating nucs are of great use, as are many beehives and frames. The more you have, the better from which to select (most likely, according to the law of averages).

    Another point to remind - recessive and quasi-recessive traits require more than one generation to show and promote. This is where it gets complex, another reason to not kill any queens the first few generations. By then, you may have a grip on which traits are male-passed, which are female-passed, which are dominant, and which are recessive. This is where I am now - increasing my apiaries, learning tests for traits, preparing for I.I. of queens, learning male- vs. female-passed traits, learning dominant from recessive traits, building LOTS of bee equipment and queen rearing equipment.

    Oh, and another book to mention is by Ernesto Guzman-Nojoa. You might wish to send off a pm to Michael Palmer about it - Elemental Genetics of Honeybee Breeding (or something like that). Michael mentioned it and said it is available through a Canadian source - University of Guelph, if I recall correctly.
    Last edited by kilocharlie; 08-20-2012 at 10:15 PM.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Beginning in Queen Rearing: How to get from here to a genetic goal?

    He can't use the Beltsville lab... He would be violating International law shipping samples into the USA

    Adam. As far as selection goes, if you are up to a really dull read on Honeybee genetics and trait selection Brother Adams book (s) "Breeding the Honeybee" is about the best publication out there... "In search of the best strains of Bees" is a companion book that talks a lot about traits and how he selected for them... what can be selected for and what cannot. Has a nice chapter that lays out his priorities in order of importance.
    I would start there and then progress into the actual queen rearing books... It sounds like your first goal is selection so start with that.
    Always question Conventional Wisdom.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Beginning in Queen Rearing: How to get from here to a genetic goal?

    Kilo and Bluegrass, thanks for those responses. Kilocharlie's recommendation of 50-150 colonies is in keeping with Mike Palmer's suggestion that one really needs at least 100 colonies to become self-sufficient and sustainable.

    Do others agree with that?

    Is say, 100 colonies a proper goal for being able to selectively breed and sustain one's own population?

    Adam

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Beginning in Queen Rearing: How to get from here to a genetic goal?

    As far as self-sufficiency is concerned your results are going to be dependent on your location. I can't speak for the Halifax area, but I would bet your winters are a lot harsher than most of us here are experienced with. You will also need to figure out what your carry capacity is in your region. If you can't sustain more than 5-6 hives per location, than 100-150 would not be feasible. If you can sustain 20-30 per yard then sustainability might be an achievable goal.

    From what I know of Canada's Commercial Bee operations most are located in the western Crop regions. Their location isn't by accident.
    Best thing you can do is talk with other beekeepers in your area and find out how many hives they have per yard, what kind of losses they experience etc.
    Always question Conventional Wisdom.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Beginning in Queen Rearing: How to get from here to a genetic goal?

    You're right to think about selection early in your queen rearing. At first, keep it simple. Learn how to grow quality queen cells. While you're figuring out that system, look for colonies in your apiary, and others' apiaries, that winter well, are among the most productive in their apiary, are gentle, free of chalkbrood, and haven't needed to be requeened in years. Obviously, you need some good, long term records on production colonies in Nova Scotia. Anyone around with good stocks that you can get a frame of eggs/larvae?

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Beginning in Queen Rearing: How to get from here to a genetic goal?

    Adam- You can start producing some queens ASAP. You will not be able to produce, store, market, and ship significant numbers of queens until you have more bee resources. I'm in the same boat - producing enough for my own increase colonies and re-queening needs, building up my apiary in anticipation of queen / O-W Nuc sales. Full-blown selective breeding program to market queens and OWNs is still 2 consecutive very good seasons (or more poor ones) away, with preparations ongoing whenever I get the chance.

    Bluegrass - Are you sure about the international law? Beltsville's website, under products and services, says it can only accept samples from US and Canada, not from other countries. No enmity, here, just wondering if he can indeed make use of the Lab...It is of great benefit, and no charge.

    Also, an update on the Guzman book mentioned in post #5, the publisher is the Ontario Beekeepers' Association. MP said he bought it at a meeting of theirs. I have not yet tracked that one down.
    Last edited by kilocharlie; 08-21-2012 at 09:49 PM.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Beginning in Queen Rearing: How to get from here to a genetic goal?

    The Guzman book can be ordered here . . .

    http://techtransfer.ontariobee.com/i...y&cat=61&v=177
    Raising Vermont Bees one mistake at a time.
    USDA Zone 5A

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Beginning in Queen Rearing: How to get from here to a genetic goal?

    Big THANK YOU, Keth!

    Adam - bluegrass has the right idea about the bee-carrying capacity of your area. If it cannot handle 100 colonies, you may still be able to operate a small-scale selective breeding program on perhaps 50 colonies. I would suggest obtaining some prize-winning stock to begin with, and get into I.I. as soon as you can. I rather emphatically repeat, you MUST develop testing for individual traits and implement solid record keeping. You can make up for the slowness of a smaller program with a good jump start and controlled matings earlier in the process and still make significant improvement in acceptable number of years.

    Still, more colonies is better. You may develop relationships with other beekeepers in your area to select the best from enough hives, a great bee club project....
    Last edited by kilocharlie; 08-22-2012 at 02:00 PM.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Beginning in Queen Rearing: How to get from here to a genetic goal?

    Yes I am sure. They process samples from Canada, but only from Government appointed inspectors through USDA aphis. Basically we provide the Canadian Gov with diagnostic services so they don't have to operate their own lab.

    I buy queens from Canada and the paperwork is quite extensive...(Name Address, phone # SSN etc) an APHIS agent has to inspect and sign off on it and it can only be the queens.. no attendants and no comb of any sort.
    Always question Conventional Wisdom.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Beginning in Queen Rearing: How to get from here to a genetic goal?

    Mike Palmer, when you talk of having "some good, long term records on production colonies in Nova Scotia", do you mean obtaining them from others, or building them myself? (I suppose getting them from someone else only speeds up the process).

    Nova Scotia has had a closed border for many years, and we've been importing queens from places that match our pest profile (we don't have shb or tracheal mites I guess). We've been getting a lot of queens from Hawaii. But there are some people that have been working on their stock for a long time as well, and I have access to those bees. I think we've got some strong producers, with good wintering ability around. But I think Nova Scotia has a long way to go in the areas of mite resistance. There are also not a ton of people wintering nucs with any great success. I'm guessing to a certain degree, but it is near impossible to get bees or queens here before June - so that doesn't seem like a ton of strong wintered nucs around, or someone would be edging the competition and selling earlier. Seems like it all gets going when the queen shipments arrive from Hawaii.

    Bluegrass asks about the capacity of the region. There's a lot more capacity than there are bees presently. Nova Scotia has about a million people, and it only has about 200 beekeepers. I think less than 50 have 50 hives or more. On the other hand, Nova Scotia is a major fruit producing region, producing 2.35 million bushels of apples and over 40 million pounds of blueberries annually. Oxford Foods is based here, and they maintain 10,000 colonies alone - yet there is still an annual shortage of enough bees to pollinate, and a special permit had to be issued this year to import 4,000 more.

    I put out an ad about yard space, and got more replies than I could handle. There's plenty of room, and plenty of forage. I just have to get organized, and build to the numbers.

    Kilo, you also mention I.I. I wonder if you have a set-up that you'd recommend. I'm not sure about that route yet, but I like to learn enough ahead to consider my options.

    At this point, I'm trying to get a business framework in mind that I like and want to work toward. Is it honey, or bees, or both? A friend once said, "Are you in it for the honey or the money?" From what I read here, the accuracy of that statement depends on who you are and where you are.

    So far, I'm way more interested in bees than honey. It's not like honey doesn't matter, but only so much as I see it as a reflection of the quality and health of the bees.

    Adam

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Beginning in Queen Rearing: How to get from here to a genetic goal?

    Long term records of yours or of others. You say there are folks working on stock improvement. Look into getting queens from them. Also look at the best of your colonies. First learn how to winter nucleus colonies...successfully. Keep good records on their performance over 2 seasons. Then grow some queens from the best stocks and use them to stock nucleus colonies. Keep good records on those, and repeat the process. Don't be afraid to buy in stock from others...II queens if you want...as an ongoing management plan. Flood your mating area with your best stocks and requeen the rest as their faults appear. Let the bees do the mating and leave II to the designers of boutique bees. I guess it's going to take you 5 years to get to a place you want to be with your bees.

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    Mike Palmer, when you talk of having "some good, long term records on production colonies in Nova Scotia", do you mean obtaining them from others, or building them myself? (I suppose getting them from someone else only speeds up the process).

    Nova Scotia has had a closed border for many years, and we've been importing queens from places that match our pest profile (we don't have shb or tracheal mites I guess). We've been getting a lot of queens from Hawaii. But there are some people that have been working on their stock for a long time as well, and I have access to those bees. I think we've got some strong producers, with good wintering ability around. But I think Nova Scotia has a long way to go in the areas of mite resistance. There are also not a ton of people wintering nucs with any great success.

    Adam

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Beginning in Queen Rearing: How to get from here to a genetic goal?

    Thanks Mike. Sounds right to me. I was thinking 5 years myself, and have been on the fence about I.I. In the grand scheme of things, there are probably lots of areas near me that have low enough bee numbers as to be fairly easy to 'flood' with the genetics of my own bees.

    Within your post, you mention record-keeping three times. So clearly that is important. Could you (and others) expand a bit on the kinds of records you keep?

    Thanks again,

    Adam

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Beginning in Queen Rearing: How to get from here to a genetic goal?

    For me, I think the title of this thread is a little bit mixed-up in terminology. Queen Rearing, for me, is not queen breeding, queen rearing is where I take young larvae from a 'mother queen' (from any source), and graft daughter queens from her. I personally use breeder queens obtained from sources that I consider reliable and proficient at accomplishing the actual breeding (I may get into actually breeding someday, but for now, I'm happy to let experts in breeding do most of that work for me). The only breeding that I do, is to flood the area with my selection of drones, so when my daughter queens are open mated, the deck is stacked towards them mating with drones of my choice.

    -----------------------
    I keep a group of 'drone colonies' in the rear of my acre property, and my cell building and mating nucs are in the front of my property. Since I primarily raise queens with the Cordovan trait, and my drone colonies are producing Cordovan drones, I can easily determine that many of my queens matings are with Cordovan drones, either from my 'drone colonies' or other Cordovan drones that may be in the area. Possibly even from feral escaped swarms from my own colonies.

    ----------------
    Once you start rearing queens, then become proficient at it, others are going to start asking to buy queens from you. It seems that there is almost always a large need for good queens. You may soon become a queen producer.

    I just wanted to give you a bit of a warning.
    Last edited by Joseph Clemens; 08-23-2012 at 12:06 PM.
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Beginning in Queen Rearing: How to get from here to a genetic goal?

    No offense to anyone, I understand there is a lot of resistance to I.I. At your stage of the game, 13 colonies won't have much "drone flood" effect, you will just get open mating with feral survivors and a few of your own.

    If you open mate near other, larger scale bee yards that have better stock than yours, then your average should improve some, but it will take longer than with close attention to drone colony traits and I.I.

    My preference at this stage of the game is to send the queens and drones off to Dr. Cobey's I.I. service in Washington. It is not cheap, but you have a huge advantage with controlled mating if your drone stock has highly desirable male-passed traits, and your queens have desirable female-passed traits. Don't bother until you identify such desirable drone and queen colonies.

    If interested in learning I.I. for the long run, as you seem intent on starting a business, Dr. Cobey and Dr. Eric Mussen both said to get ahold of a copy of Laidlaw and Page's book on queen rearing. Also read Susan Cobey's article on the Cloake board method of queen rearing and queen banking. The devices they have recommended so far are 1) the least expensive unit is the Laidlaw-Goss apparatus made up from parts available through the Small Parts, Inc. catalog, or 2) the most current device was designed by Dr. Peter Schley, and has micro-adjusters. Sue also recommends using the Harbo syringe, which she can supply. I am preparing to make an improvement on the Schley I.I. instrument, and to go and take the courses at University of California at Davis.

    This is not an easy route. Drone flooding and open mating have many fans because it is easier, but by using I.I., Dr. Cobey developed the New World Carniolan line in just 10 years! Think of the obstacles you have up there in Halifax, the traits that are missing, the timing of those blasted, stinging Hawiian queens, the failure and winter kill rates, etc. How long do you think it will take until you have "good" bees? This is your call, not mine, not anyone else's.

    I'm leaning toward taking the challenging route of learning I.I. because I don't have 125 years to catch up with Robert Russell's family, or the Adees or any of the other long-established big outfits, to raise better queens than theirs. I need to start with excellent queens and get all the boost I can afford. I.I is the single biggest boost I can get until I can arrange an army of top-notch beekeepers with tons of bees running tests to identify desirable traits and willing to let me get my hands on their queens and drones.

    Meanwhile, I'm learning test procedures, recording results, buying excellent bees, increasing my apiary, and sending the best off to an I.I. service. Not too big a hassle.
    Last edited by kilocharlie; 08-23-2012 at 07:09 PM.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Beginning in Queen Rearing: How to get from here to a genetic goal?

    Joseph Clemens,

    I have always appreciated your input, as I respect you very much. Your work in queen rearing and hive design, and the effort you make to share it all is a great service to others. So I value your perspectives and thank you for offering them here.

    As you mention, the thread title is a poor blend of terminology, and likely somewhat misleading - a further reflection of my lack of clarity in this end of the pool. Of course, I will need to tackle the area of queen-rearing, and do plan to do so in the coming 2013 season. To that end, I will follow some of your methods as described by David LaFerney on his doorgarden.com site. He credits your methods there and does a good job of explaining how to use your "starter/finisher system". I'm looking forward to trying it.

    Getting breeder queens to work with in my apiary is a challenge. We have a closed border, and I need permits to bring in anything from outside of the province, and I can only bring in from other parts of Canada. That limits my options drastically. I have not been able to find clear evidence of great bee breeders in Canada, but did manage to bring in a handful of Buckfast queens from Bill Ferguson. I'm not sure how useful they'll be in the genetic pool, but it's a start. I continue to search for leads on good stock to bring in from within Canada.

    If I'm able to learn your system and get anywhere near your success with it, I'll be well on my way in the right direction.

    Kilocharlie,

    I'm not against I.I. myself at all, and find the whole realm pretty interesting. I got all Susan Cobey's videos, and quite honestly, I don't think it seems crazy hard to do. It is a pricey little adventure though, and at this point I could get a lot of boxes and frames for the price of I.I. tools.

    Mike's advice fits well with where I'm at in my development as a beekeeper, and also, my geographic location is fairly light on honeybees, (I'm in the city) so flooding an area with genetics is pretty feasible. Isolating populations is also pretty doable up here in my opinion.

    I'd love to learn more from you on how to get the parts and plans to build an I.I. set-up, as it is something I'm open to trying. It just can't break the bank at the expanse of more basic supplies at this early stage. I'm happy to listen to your perspectives, and glad you're contributing them to this thread.

    Adam

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Beginning in Queen Rearing: How to get from here to a genetic goal?

    Quote Originally Posted by kilocharlie View Post
    No offense to anyone, I understand there is a lot of resistance to I.I.

    No offense taken here. I just think Adam should let the bees do it. He's in the learning curve. Once he's at a place where he's comfortable running a queen rearing schedule, can grow good queen cells consistantly, and has some good stocks to select from, then perhaps II is more appropriate than now.

    The bees are the experts.

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