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So I'm wondering what the difference is between a breeder queen and a production queen, and their use, other than a huge difference in cost?
 

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To me, production queens are any you keep in colonies for honey production. Breeder queens are the very best of those production queens...queens that you have production records for at least a couple years. They exhibit the qualities you want in your production colonies, and don't have negatives that would eliminate them from a breeder list...Bad temper, brood diseases, etc.
 

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If you are buying a "breeder queen", those have usually been instrumentally inseminated with known genetics and those queens are rarely used to run a full size hive for honey production. Usually if you drop $300 on one of these gals, they go in a smaller hive and you graft all your daughter queen stock from her, for those to be open mated. Those daughter queens will retain much of the breeder queen genetics. Beekeepers who graft from them, don't want them running out of stored semen the first year or two and hopefully get to keep them around for 2-3 year to provide grafting stock.
 
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