Advanced Beeginners - Week 3 Introduction to Queen RearingFriday, 11 January 13
Agenda Why bother with Queen Rearing? Basic Bee Genetics Breeding Bees the Easy Way Getting Back to Black...Friday, 11 January 13
Queen Rearing Don’t be put off by the books Its easy to do and very rewarding You get the type of bees you want Its important for the local environment It’s a vital skill for everyone in our AssociationFriday, 11 January 13Raising your own Queens is rewarding and fun. It’s also a key skill that all beekeepers should learn as you will require a replacement Queen at some point and its far better for your, yourbees and the environment if you do it yourself rather than buying them in from overseas.
Queen Rearing Don’t be put off by the books Its easy to do and very rewarding You get the type of bees you want Its important for the local environment It’s a vital skill for everyone in our Association It makes you a Beekeeper rather than just a keeper of bees...Friday, 11 January 13Raising your own Queens is rewarding and fun. It’s also a key skill that all beekeepers should learn as you will require a replacement Queen at some point and its far better for your, yourbees and the environment if you do it yourself rather than buying them in from overseas.
What sort of Bees do you have now? Italian style BeesFriday, 11 January 13Italian bees, having been conditioned to the warmer climate of the central Mediterranean, are less able to cope with the "hard" winters and cool, wet springs that we usually have in theSouthern UK. They do not form such tight winter clusters and therefore more food has to be consumed to compensate for the greater heat loss from the loose cluster. The tendency to raisebrood late in autumn also increases food consumption.Northern Black Bees are more suitable for our cooler climate in Northern Europe and are the “native” species in the UK right up until the 20th Century when beekeepers started importingEuropean Queens to replace native bees killed by the “Isle of Wight” Disease (probably Acarine). This is still being carried on now and is the source of a lot of our problems with badlybehaved bees and possibly poor Queen mating.
What sort of Bees do you have now? Italian style Bees Native British Black BeesFriday, 11 January 13Italian bees, having been conditioned to the warmer climate of the central Mediterranean, are less able to cope with the "hard" winters and cool, wet springs that we usually have in theSouthern UK. They do not form such tight winter clusters and therefore more food has to be consumed to compensate for the greater heat loss from the loose cluster. The tendency to raisebrood late in autumn also increases food consumption.Northern Black Bees are more suitable for our cooler climate in Northern Europe and are the “native” species in the UK right up until the 20th Century when beekeepers started importingEuropean Queens to replace native bees killed by the “Isle of Wight” Disease (probably Acarine). This is still being carried on now and is the source of a lot of our problems with badlybehaved bees and possibly poor Queen mating.
Genetics of Different Races of Bees Look for paper from Whitﬁeld - Thrice out of AfricaFriday, 11 January 13Honey bees probably started out in Eastern Africa like humans did and just like us, they migrated out of Africa into Asia and Europe several times. The individual races evolved over time tosuit local climates and conditions.Note how our own Apis mellifera mellifera is more closely related to African bees than its European neighbours like the Apis mellifera lingustica (Italian bee) or Apis mellifera carnica (CariolanBee) which themselves evolved from Asian bees.
Local Bees are best... Apis mellifera mellifera = “British Black Bee” used to be the local variety Very docile (apparently!) Winters well Shorter breeding season Reduced swarming Appropriately productiveFriday, 11 January 13The native black honeybee has evolved thick black hair and a larger body to help keep it warm in a cooler climate, and has a shorter breeding season to reﬂect the shorter UK summer. Ithas a reduced tendency to swarm multiple times in a season reﬂecting the fact that it’s better to swarm once and rapidly build a new colony to cope with the longer winter than in otherspecies in warmer climes that swarm several times in the longer summers.This also means that it consumes less stores at the critical period in early spring when the weather is variable (like now!) It’s also able to forage at lower temperatures than other races.
Recent Bee History Apis mellifera mellifera - British black bees used to be the native species in the UK Badly affected by “Isle of Wight disease” (Probably Acarine) Large numbers of Apis mellifera ligustica (Italian) and Apis mellifera carnica (Carniolan) imported in late 19th Century onwards Now we have a real hotch-potch of bees that have many unwanted characteristics...Friday, 11 January 13The ongoing importation of non-native bees is creating a lot of problems as we end up with bees with characteristics that are not suited to our local environment.These hybrids are also quite aggressive and now require UK beekeepers to wear full suits where elsewhere in Europe where standards are much tighter, beekeepers rarely need suchprotection as the bees are far more docile.
How our Bees used to behave...Friday, 11 January 13This newsreel from 1941-2 shows just how docile our bees were in the past. Neither seem to need veils or suits and this would be virtually unthinkable for any of our hives today.There are plenty of newsreels from the 1940‘s to the 1960’s available at sites such as www.britishpathe.com showing how UK amateur beekeepers were able to manage their colonieswithout any protective clothing.How in 60 years did we come to tolerate such badly behaved bees??? I would love to have colonies like this.
Friday, 11 January 13This newsreel from 1941-2 shows just how docile our bees were in the past. Neither seem to need veils or suits and this would be virtually unthinkable for any of our hives today.There are plenty of newsreels from the 1940‘s to the 1960’s available at sites such as www.britishpathe.com showing how UK amateur beekeepers were able to manage their colonieswithout any protective clothing.How in 60 years did we come to tolerate such badly behaved bees??? I would love to have colonies like this.
So, what went so wrong? Our bees used to be very docile and did not require bee-suits, gloves and veils People imported Queens especially from E.Europe These can be proliﬁc but don’t over-winter well Any crosses with local bees are usually very badly behaved...Friday, 11 January 13Bringing in imported Queens is probably the main reason why many colonies are far too aggressive nowadays. We should not tolerate bad behaviour and any competentbeekeeper should be able to raise their own Queens from locally selected docile stock.So there is no need to buy expensive bees from outside the UK.As an association we should be able to provide Queens at minimal cost to our own members...
Basic Bee Genetics All workers in a hive are typically half-sisters Each Queen mates with 15-20 drones so for each worker; 50% genetics known (Q) 50% very mixed (dependent on drone) Thousands of potential variationsFriday, 11 January 13The Honey Bees Genome has been mapped extensively but Honey Bee genetics remains a very complex subject. As each Queen mates with up to 15-20 drones each with their owngenetics, the ability to select and promote particular genes into the workers within a colony is extremely difﬁcult.For example, it’s thought that the traits that create “Hygienic” bees is exhibited by the interaction of a groups of seven individual genes. Ensuring that these genes can be passed intactthrough a number of generations of Queens and workers even inside a laboratory is very challenging.
Bee Chromosomes All eggs & sperm have 16 Chromosomes each Drones arise from unfertilised eggs - Sperm is all identical Drones have 16 Chromosomes Queens and workers (female) have 32 chromosomes Workers are 75% related rather than 50% if they laid their own eggs Probably why bees form social coloniesFriday, 11 January 13Don’t forget that genetically, the Queen bee is just like any other worker bee in the colony. The only difference is that she is uniquely allowed to pass her genes on to the next generation.The apparently random nature in the way that a particular worker egg is selected to become a Queen is yet another genetic shake of the dice that makes these social insects unique.Drones are unusual in that unlike other animals, all their sperms are clones of each other. In other words they can only pass on a single set of genes and characteristics. This is not aproblem as they can only mate once and then die anyway. Therefore the genetic variation in the next generation of bees comes from the numbers of different individual males the Queenmates with. Access to good quality drones from several hives within a given area is critical to raising excellent Queens.
Mating can be tricky Queen mates away from hive over 1-3 days with up to 20 drones Drones can also ﬂy several miles You have no control over whom your Queens mate with BUT - Artiﬁcial insemination is possible for expertsFriday, 11 January 13Because Queens and drones can ﬂy several miles to meet each other, the beekeeper normally has no control over the mating process.Therefore the only way one can control the genetics of a particular Queen is to use artiﬁcial insemination, a rather brutal procedure done under a microscope with special equipment. In thisprocess the Queen vagina is held open with hooks as shown above and the sperm sacs from know drones are removed from their owners and inserted into the Queen.This is used by professional bee breeders and some researchers and is usually outside the remit of most of us hobbyist beekeepers.
Breeding Bees - The Easy WayFriday, 11 January 13These are some nice, healthy Queen cells I raised using the method described below.
General Concepts Most of us only need a few new Queens a year We want “Quality over Quantity” Use a simple process that mimics normal processes and does not “force” the bees in any way Suggest a process based on previously shown Demaree swarm control method Its simple and effective, requiring minimum of kit, and no loss of workforce Minimises impact on potential honey productionFriday, 11 January 13As always in beekeeping, there are a huge number of ways in which one can breed Queens and the books are full of different ideas. Geoff and I have discussed the various options at lengthand have come up with an extremely simple process that closely mimics the bees own natural methods and does not require much intervention on particular days or manipulation of eggs andlarvae.The intention here is to enable the beekeeper to raise 2-3 Queens at a time for either their own or their colleagues use and is not really suitable for raising large numbers of Queens at onetime. For this one would need to use something like a Jenter kit with removable cells and also be able to create a number of Nucs or mating hives with artiﬁcially high amounts of nurse bees.This is expensive in equipment and the time required to manage this process. Our method is a natural extension of the Swarm Management process outlined in the previous training sessionand simply requires an extra brood chamber with frames and a modiﬁed Queen Excluder or Cloake board.
A Demaree’d Hive Isolate Queen Frames with Place frames of eggs and Eggs & Brood brood in 2nd chamber on top of hive. Super Nurse bees will join brood and raise new Queens from Old Queen, fresh eggs new comb with honey & pollen Isolate old Queen below Queen ExcluderFriday, 11 January 13In our previous talk on Swarm Management, we showed how to use the Demaree method of swarm control where the frames of young brood and eggs (without any bees) are moved to thetop of the hive, above the honey super while the queen and all the bees are left in the lower brood box with empty comb or foundation. The nurse bees migrate to the brood at the top andthe older bees stay with the queen below the queen excluder, as if they had swarmed.Inspection of the top brood box seven to nine days later, will most likely reveal open queen cells in various stages as the Queenless bees in the top of the hive raise a replacement Queen.
Stage Two... Make sure no Queen cells left below or they could still swarm Feeder Lower hive unlikely to swarm as bees are busy building comb Frames with Can put feeder on top to encourage nurse bees to Eggs & Brood produce plenty of Royal Jelly Use anti-swarm board with entrance facing 180 the other way and leave entrance closed When you see sealed Queen cells... Super Isolate from hive below with a inner cover placed directly over the anti-swarm board and open top Old Queen, entrance new comb with New Queens & drones can leave to mate and return honey & pollen via own entranceFriday, 11 January 13Once you see active Queen cells you know the process has worked. If not, then you can simply get another frame of eggs and larvae from the bottom brood chamber (making sure theQueen remains below) and put it in the top until you see Queen cells.It can also be helpful to add two frame feeders (one on each side of the centre frames brought up from below) instead of a top feeder as these help pack out the hive space, especially if youhave had to use frames of foundation either side of your inserted frames of eggs and brood.Once you see good quality unsealed Queen cells, you then place a Cloake board or modiﬁed Queen Excluder under the top box with the entrance facing 180 degrees away from the mainentrance below. This enables the Queen to ﬂy out and mate and enables her retinue of matured nurse bees to become foragers. What you have done now is to create a second separatehive on top of the ﬁrst. Leave it in place for a couple of weeks until your new Queen has mated, returned and is now laying eggs.Congratulations! You are now a Bee Breeder!
Stage Three... You know have a number of options; Create a single new colony Take off top box and place on new ﬂoor and stand etc elsewhere - keep feeding until well established Create several new colonies Take out several sealed Queen cells and raise in individual mating hives or Nucs Replace existing Queen Cull/replace old Queen once your new Queen is layingFriday, 11 January 13So, once you have your sealed Queen cells in the top box, you have several options;1/ If you want to create a new colony for either yourself or to sell or donate to another beekeeper, you can either move the frames of eggs, larvae and food into a Nuc and move elsewhere, or you can simply lift off the top boxand place it on a new ﬂoor and stand elsewhere as a new colony. You will need to add a full complement of frames with foundation and will probably need to feed them until they become fully established as a colony in their ownright.2/ If you want to create several new colonies, you can use the contents of the combined hive to make up a number of Nucs each with a frame feeder and their own sealed Queen cell. Place these in a ring around where theoriginal main hive stood with the entrances all facing inwards like the spokes of a wheel. Any returning foragers to where the main hive stood will distribute themselves around the nucs and each one should eventually have amated and laying Queen after which time you can move them to their ultimate destination.3/ If you simply want to keep the hive intact and maximise your honey production, you can cull the old Queen below and merge both hives using newspaper between the top and bottom colonies. You now have a “Super Hive”with a huge workforce and young Queen that can generate large amounts of honey from the available forage.Alternately, if space is tight in your apiary, you can simply carry on with your double hive and two Queens, making sure that you add supers as required to both sections. Don’t forget that its still possible (although unlikely) forone or both colonies to swarm if you don’t keep an eye on them throughout the season!
Back to Black Bees....Friday, 11 January 13So, now that you know how to breed bees, it makes sense to think about the types of bees you want in your apiary. Although its difﬁcult, it is possible to rate and select colonies with thecharacteristics that you value (such as docility) and actively breed from these so that you at least get a chance of getting the bees you want.Ideally we want to get back to something close to our native Black Bee, but whilst this is important, we should not sacriﬁce docile behaviour along the way. It will take a long time to graduallyremove the unwanted inﬂuence of almost a 100 years of introduced, foreign bees. However, anything we can do now will help future generations of beekeepers.
Measuring Wing Morphology Can use various means to measure “Britishness” of bees The best is to probably to use wing morphology Cubital Index = Take sample of 30 bees from a This Length hive and measure layout of wing veins Divided by This Length Can automate with scanner and computer Results give you a good indication of “Blackness”Friday, 11 January 13Morphology - or the study of form and structure - is one way to differentiate species and sub species of living organisms. This can be applied to honey bees to check the degree ofhybridization and select the potentially best breeding stock.Whilst British Black Bees have a number of identifying characteristics, the one that is the best indication of the bees race is the layout of the veins in the wings. Where honey bee wings areconcerned the challenge for most beekeepers is to measure two properties known as cubital index and discoidal shift.Cubital Index is the ratio of the lengths of two veins on edges of the cubital cells. Discoidal Shift is an angle showing how a vein junction (the discoidal point D above) is shifted towards oraway from the wingtip relative to other vein junctions. More information on this method is available at www.bibba.com.
Creating a Queen Rearing Programme Create an interest group with FBKA Approach BIBBA for advice and expertise Choose best bees to potentially breed from Need to focus on raising good quality drones These lead to better Queens and better bees for all....Friday, 11 January 13All beekeepers in the FBKA should be capable of raising their own Queens. It’s simple to do, requires minimal kit and is good for the environment rather than buying in suspect Queens fromoverseas.I would also like to take this a stage further and create a Bee Breeding group within the FBKA that would use the Wing morphology techniques to rate our colonies in regards to theircloseness to British Black Bee standards, and then breed from the best behaved colonies to create a source of high quality Queens and Nucs for our members....If you’ve read this and want to have a go, please contact Simon Cavill and lets get breeding!
Summary Breeding Queens is easy Everyone should have a go The methods we have shown work for both; Swarm Management and Queen Rearing Use wing morphology to identify suitable “Black Bee” colonies Lets create a Queen rearing program within the FBKA Talk to BIBBA Build a suitable Queen rearing apiaryFriday, 11 January 13It’s clear that something has changed hugely with our bees behaviour since the mid 20th Century. There are many newsreels and ﬁlms from the 1930‘s and 1940‘s showing how UK beeswere so docile that beekeepers rarely required veils, let alone the bee suits and gloves we take for granted now.I suspect that a lot of that bad behaviour has come from the continued importation of Queens from overseas unsuited to our conditions. But we as beekeepers are also very much to blameby tolerating aggressive colonies and wearing thick bee suits and gloves to protect ourselves when we should really be addressing the root causes by removing and re-queening with goodquality, locally raised bees with characteristics close to the native British Black Bee but are docile above all.If enough of our members are interested, I’ll contact BIBBA and investigate joining their Queen rearing program.