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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Mansfield, OH

    Default Breeder expectations

    So my thought for the day, that the buyers view of queen breeders today is completely unrealistic.

    Why have I come to this conclusion? Because every locality influences how they keep bees, and the stressors that are put on the bees from that locality and beekeepers style is what will shape there behaviors. There is not enough time in the day, or knowledgeable beekeepers in the world to run the breeding programs to get everyone the queen they want.

    For example, say Ohio is mite and disease free, and my bees flourish because of that. Beekeepers in other areas by those bees, they don't perform, and the buyer is angry. In my opinion it is out of the breeders control.


    You breed bees in a desert, your management works wonderfully and you always have nice healthy bees, you ship them to Canada and they die during the winter, and the buyer is again angry.


    You run a stationary apiary in a nearly pesticide free area, you sell to a commercial beekeeper who pollinates 5 different things a year, and they don't fair well. The buyer again is now angry.

    There are a million ways to approach this and there are many excellent beekeepers making great progress towards better bees and genetics in the industry. However I am starting to come to the conclusion that a large portion of the market has some very unrealistic expectations of being able to buy any queen from anywhere and expecting perfection without taking into account all the variables.

    An example; someone buys a bee who's description says "great honey producers" they toss in the queens walk away come back in the fall say well they only made 60 pounds! That's only that state average, that's not a "great honey producer"! Is upset and blames the breeder.

    Or someone who buys a bee that has a description stating, overwinters with small populations and uses less honey than other bees. So they toss the queens in a 5 frame nuc leave them 10 pounds of honey, they starve overwinter and they blame the breeder.

    Maybe I'm being picky here, but one operation no matter who it is can only do so much. The best breeders can only make progress so fast, and I think the world we live in is changing faster than they can make progress. The best producers can only produce so fast, and I feel again, the world we live in is making them produce more than they can. Not to mention it is extremely hard both in the amount of time and money it takes to produce large amounts of queens and conduct the research to improve upon the thousands of behaviors people want in honeybees.

    I have had people come to my house, pick up 4-5+ queens that were pulled ten minutes before they got there, attendants all alive everything fine. They inspect the queens say something along of the lines of "I've got some running to do the rest of the day then I'm going to install them tomorrow morning" (keep in mind this is usually mid summer, it's kind of hot) only to get a call that night or the next morning with them asking for replacement queens because, every bee in every cage is now dead, less than 24 hours later and they don't know why, just they "died". Now at first I would replace these queens reluctantly, but lately I had told people no and they do get upset. Am I right or wrong? Maybe both I'm not sure. Don't get me wrong, if someone calls and says they got drone layers or high supercedure (Anything I feel was MY fault) I will replace them for free no questions asked and try to figure out how they got a bad queen, aka what I the breeder did wrong and what I can do to make sure it doesn't happen again.

    Even close to me, with what I would consider my locality, some beekeepers will use my stock, some will lose every hive, some will overwinter 100%, and everything in between. There must be more to this than the bees, right?

    I'm not exactly the best at having others view what I'm trying to say the way I mean it. So I hope you understand where I'm coming from. I think people are relying on the pedigree of the bees way to much, and simply not being realistic about expectations for there hives. Just because bees are VSH does not mean mites are now a non-factor in your apiary for example. Do genetics help? Absolutely, no questions asked, do you still need to work with the bees? Yes. To most people the way I keep bees is "different" I don't do most things that everyone else does, and I do some that no one does, so it's probably just me but I enjoy good wintering, healthy bees, and most importantly I enjoy beekeeping. I experiment a lot to find out what I can and can't do. Because many times my neighbor has been successful doing something I fail at, and vise versa. So I like to try everything for myself at least once, I "re-invent the wheel" the wheel quite a bit so to speak.

    What do you think? Do you buy a certain bee and maybe expect to much of one trait without giving the bees the proper tools to be successful? To me personally lately, it's starting to become a question of what's more important the bees or the beekeeper?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Spencer, MA, USA

    Default Re: Breeder expectations

    I buy all my queens. I do look for VSH or other mite fighting tendencies [grooming etc.] in their breeding. I have almost always found that my losses with these queens were due to PPBK. I have never blamed the breeder or asked for a refund or replacement. Back when I was a sheep breeder I sold several rams to an outfit. They claimed the rams were poor. When I went to inspect the rams had been starved, were full of burrs and had not been shorn for over a year. But it was my fault. Needless to say, I didn't feel obligated to do anything - [they didn't expect me to show up, it was a 4 hour drive]. I do believe that some queen breeders are better than others but it's up to the beekeeper to figure that out and only use the ones that produce for him.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Sacramento, CA, USA

    Default Re: Breeder expectations

    It's not your fault they carried queens around and they died, I wouldn't replace them 'free'.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Ojai, California

    Default Re: Breeder expectations

    My whole approach to buying bees from breeders is to obtain traits more than bees. My goal is to breed some locally-adapted (especially that trait of timing the buildup to the local bloom calendar) colonies of bees with imported bees with excellent traits. This will reduce the amount of labor I have to do, IT WILL NOT ELLIMINATE LABOR, NOR DILIGENCE. I expect the improvement to come from ME and my bees, not the breeder. The breeder supplies me with genetic material with which to work. I do a lot of "scorekeeping" to see who has benefited most from the best of those genetics, and may be selected for the next round.

    Good genetics are useless if the playing field is not level. Keep records for each colony in a location, average locally, and rank locally. Keep year-by-year records for each yard, and you can come up with a numerical method to scale one year to another for comparison. If I compared my bees in the Mojave Desert to my bees on the coast, they'd never measure up, but they are well-adapted to the Mojave. I love Mesquite honey.

    Do place bees of different bloodlines in each yard! One bloodline will often average a higher overall score than another bloodline, year-to-year. Try the lower-performing bees on a different site, they may be super-bees in different conditions. Beekeepers who keep lots of records, do a little bee math, and adjust to the bees and the locations tend to have more excess bees to sell and more excess honey to sell.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA

    Default Re: Breeder expectations

    I try to tell them that that cage with queen and her attendants is just like a puppy. Leave it in a hot car they will die. Leave it on the dash in the sun, they will die. Blast the air conditioner on them and they will suffer and maybe die...

    No, I would not replace her. If had mailed her, I'd feel a little more responsible.
    Michael Bush "Everything works if you let it." 40y 200h 37yTF


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