Bee Breeding in the Field: Part 5

The Way Back to Biological Beekeeping, Part 20

Projecting Breeding Cycles

Beekeepers should remember when projecting breeding cycles that the color of the exoskeleton is only of significance as a distinguishing character for the purpose of racial analysis where there is the possibility of darker (brown/black) races/strains of honeybees crossing with yellow races/strains of honeybees. In these instances, because the yellow rings of the tergits are so conspicuous, they can be quickly eliminated one from the other. It is because of this that beekeepers from time immemorial have given significance to the coloration of the tergits of the abdomens of honeybees.

Only when more than one race/strain of bees are in a given area do beekeepers need to project breeding cycles to find the best times the drones of their bees have the breeding advantage to maintain racially segregated stock. To project the number of breeding cycle graphs required, beekeepers should first survey colonies in their area that are both domestic and feral (Note – Colonies on oversized artificial brood foundations do not fully correlate with naturally occurring breeding cycles (sometimes by more than 30 days), necessitating that differences be taken into account or excluded from survey.)


  1. The number and type of race/strain bees perceived present in the area.
  2. Being specific, the approximate dates the worker bees first begin to either raise or eliminate drones from their colonies.
  3. Being specific, the weeks/months drones are totally absent from all colonies. (Note – If a few drones are present so note, and under what circumstances i.e. laying worker, extra strong hive, etc.)

To plot breeding cycles, beekeepers need to chart month by month, both the actual “mean monthly temperature” and the “long-term average mean monthly temperature”. Beekeepers also need to additionally chart month by month the “mean weekly temperature”, noting the approximate dates the worker bees first begin to either raise or eliminate drones from their colonies. Lastly, beekeepers need to chart the week(s)/month(s) the drones are totally absent from all colonies. (Note – “Mean” temperatures are used because Nature does not breed by utilization of daily temperature extremes. Honey combs are Nature’s regulator for constant breeding transition, as stored honey/pollen combs each equal stored insulation capacity against extreme heat and cold, that when combined (layered) side by side, help honeybees thermoregulate internal brood nest temperatures thus mimicking warm blooded animals.)

The dominate breeding cycle for the area will be determined by the majority of mean monthly temperature days favoring either right (darker black/brown bees and lower temperatures) or left (yellow/orange and higher temperatures) of 75 degrees F on the your now made-up “Open Mating Breeding Chart” from your charted survey on “Queen Rearing Cycles” made-up from your survey of drone flight patterns based on projected mean monthly temperatures.

Beekeepers should then look for either open windows-of-opportunity showing drone breeding advantage, and/or majority-of-temperature dates, to either the cold-weather (dark black/brown) or hot-weather (yellow/orange) breeding side of the Open-mating Breeding Chart. Consequently, for raising dark (Black/brown) bees, the closer the breeder can come to the maximum mean monthly temperature, for the warmest month never exceeding 75 degrees F, the better the results will advantage dark (black/brown) drones. Further, the closer the breeder approaches 57 degrees F, the darker the results will be.

Beekeepers desiring to raise yellow caste bees should follow the same process, only, the closer the breeder approaches 93 degrees F the higher the odds will be for that type of mating.

In areas of complex mongrelization where several races/strains of bees are determined to be present, retrogressive breeding should be a multi-step process. It should start with the separation of yellow races/strains from dark (black/brown) races/strains.

Next, beekeepers should separate color by caste size, to be lastly followed by separation of remaining bees by physical characteristics other than size. (Note – We are talking about honeybees upon a natural biological system only. Nothing mentioned relates to oversized artificially mutated bigger is better honeybees.)

By being able to select how to breed bees, either progressive or retrogressive, beekeepers can initiate methods to return beekeeping back to a sound foundation of natural biological beekeeping without the use of chemicals, antibiotics, and essential oils and a future in the now coming 21st century.

To go forward, beekeepers must learn they sometimes have to go backwards to rectify today’s modern bee breeding theories and field management suppositions, that do not stand the test of time eternal as being sound in principle and field application. Beekeeping in the future can only survive and thrive with uniform, well adapted natural biological honeybees on a beekeeping field management system paralleling the feral, thus allowing for the maintenance of a clean sustainable beekeeping agricultural system. It’s not an easy road to follow, but it must be accomplished if our industry is to survive. One by one we must all take the long way back to biological beekeeping.

Selecting Breeder Colonies Based on a Whole-bee Theory of Field Characteristics:

What characteristics should we look for as conscientious beekeepers to keep our colonies both profitable and manageable in the field without the use of chemicals, antibiotics, and essential oils, for the control of acarapis mites (all species) and their accompanying secondary diseases?

Color is of paramount importance in the breeding of honeybees. What price has industry paid for down-playing the importance of color in bee breeding to the detriment of our colonies, for color delineates hot-weather (yellow) bees from cold-weather (black/brown) bees or put in other words, – Tropical Zone bees from Temperate Zone bees. This is a major natural biological division within nature and therefore must be observed in bee breeding. (Note: Now refer back to Saga #8 picturing in your mind the world as a basic map of honeybee thermal/cell size zones based on composites of hot and cold land area masses. Read and recap here, then proceed on.)

This is important because it denotes out-breeding associated with open mating in the field. What beekeepers should be looking for is wall-to-wall solid brood patterns during good flows of nectar and pollen.

These two characteristics must always be linked together because you cannot have one without the other in the natural feral in nature. When body size is correct for the area the honeybees are located in, nature is in “Harmony” in a perfect balanced mix of inter-relationships one element to another. It is only when the basic elements of life change, that created stress begins and problems soon follow.

Each race/strain has its own body characteristics that set it apart to be so recognized. Beekeepers must learn to recognize this besides looking at the usual characteristics i.e. formation of legs, wings, thorax, tergits, head, etc.

Honeybees in harmony with their natural biological surroundings have extremely little cross-brace, if any, and then only for structural support in adhering to places where they build their feral nests/combs.

While all honeybees swarm that are healthy, it is normally within a natural rhythmic pattern as colonies build throughout the season for perpetuation of species. This rhythmic pattern is to be accepted, but swarming outside of the natural rhythmic pattern in off-season (no honey/no pollen gathering) is not to be tolerated without undue provocation.

Beekeepers need to remember here that on a natural system of beekeeping, which normally entails the field management of unlimited broodnests, the honey gathered from the third super/box down belongs to the bees themselves, unless the beekeeper in field management is having to open-up center congestion for continued brood laying during the course of a main flow of honey. What beekeepers should be looking for here is individual colonies capable of drawing-out and filling-up supers up through the 5th deep super in a uniform manner, relative to other desired characteristics. (Note: this characteristic is closely linked with size.)

Beekeepers need to remember here that on a natural system of beekeeping, which normally entails the field management of unlimited broodnests, pollen can be placed by the bees alongside honey anyplace within the hive. Beekeepers should also note that this characteristic is closely linked with size. Beekeepers with their honeybees acclimatized to their own geographical local area should find that their bees will gather enormous amounts of pollen naturally. To not see gathered pollen is to have bees out-of-tune with natural surroundings and this should therefore be a trigger to look for lack of other characteristics.

This is not a bad trait to have, just not to extremes. So let’s put hive defense more into a proper perspective. Beekeepers want natural hives to defend against honeybee robbers from other species; and including their own. This is important during off-season when honey is scarce and needed for winter and/or dry summer carryover. Beekeepers also need natural hives to defend against small scavengers i.e. mice, lizards, ants, moths, etc. Equally important is natural defense against larger scavengers i.e. skunks, coti-mondi, etc. It is important that hives defend when hit or eaten upon. This is natural. It is unnatural for a hive to defend when approached without being touched. It is unnatural for a hive to defend if being opened with smoke (not to say 1 or 2 stings might not ensue due to beekeeper clumsiness) to the extend the beekeeper is sent running for the bushes.

Beekeepers should check their lines of bee stock for colonies that fly earlier in the morning and later at night. With longer hours of flight activity these colonies will many times be better foragers bringing in greater stores of pollen and honey.

Let’s equate this with being able to observe, when opened and frames taken out with use of smoke, natural bee movement upon combs. This means, no runny bees, no bees boiling over the sides of the supers either right or left, or bees boiling over both sides at the same time. It also means no absconding simply because the hive was opened.

This is technically a good trait to have because poor robbers are poor honey gathers. It is also ideal to have linked with other whole-bee field characteristics like good hive defense and hours of flight where colonies are bred for earlier and later flight times. An example would be where one bee colony is still in cluster, while an early breaking cluster colony with earlier flight times, could send field workers in to strip honey from around the sides of the cluster within, but still out of reach of it to alert defense. Beekeepers would be amazed at how many feral colonies actually do this to artificially oversized domesticated colonies, thus shortening their stores of pollen and honey in times of dearth, whether dry summer or winter.

Honeybees that turn their 1st brood cycle earlier anticipating honey flows and seeking them out are good to have. Mostly this trait is found with the darker races/strains (black/brown) of bees. The objective being to have as much brood ready when the main flow starts, then the queen shuts off and all attention is giving to the gathering of stores. Many times this trait is erroneously looked upon, causing good queens to be killed by beekeepers not knowing that this is a natural characteristic of such black races like caucasian. Then when ample stores of pollen and honey are assured for winter carry-over, the queen restarts laying again. It is a trait of temperate zone honeybees. It is not a trait of tropical zone honeybees, that perpetually build brood with no queen shut off until the flow is actually over, and then these natural bees naturally swarm to another site and start again. Linked with other whole-bee field characteristics such as honey and pollen gathering, high quality production stock can be obtained.

Beekeepers need to look for honeybees that can move the cluster in winter consuming pollen and honey stores as needed, for those that can not, do not carry-over through severe winters. The same is true concerning fanning ability. Beekeepers need to look for honeybees that can cool the colony during hot summers. This is a trait that is linked closely with body size and lack of disease, early/pre-flow build-up of brood, and largeness of brood pattern. This is because small natural sized bees within a given area in a cluster cover more brood cells per square inch, thus giving greater return on each brood turn made. This can be critical in short flow years. Further, naturally sized honeybees have denser flight muscle, allowing for better generation of heat by shivering over artificially enlarged domesticated honeybees, allowing for better clustering and fanning ability for greater colony survivability. These traits when linked with body uniformity help bees to have less parasitic mite problems, because denser flight muscle from greater use, makes for a tighter thorax with less air pockets and reduced cavity for tracheal mites to attempt to live in.

This is a trait that should be sought by beekeepers because honeybees that cannot gather and use propolis can not maintain the sterility of the broodnest against disease. Further they cannot coat the inside walls of the comb cavity against intrusion by weather, scavengers, fungi, molds, bacteria, etc.

Beekeepers will find that when they try to identify colonies to graft and breed from that contain as many characteristics above as possible they will perpetuate better honeybees more naturally adapted to their surroundings.

Signed: Dee A. Lusby, Amado, Arizona, USA