The queens I produce at Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey, as well as the ones that my bees produce without my help, are all open mated. Happily, the bee yards near me are filled with my own hives. So I can select for bees that can fly in damp weather, survive without chemicals and antibiotics, over-winter in snow and rain for 4 months or more, and produce a good crop in our relatively short honey season To help choose for these traits and to combat inbreeding, I try to introduce some new queens each year that have those qualities.
This year I was lucky to be able to purchase queens from Mark at Northwest Queens (northwestqueen.com). His apiary is located in a very isolated area near Arlington, Washington (about an hour and a half south of my farm). Mark has been working for twelve years to create “a more mite resistance line of queens well suited for the Northwest climate,” and to help beekeepers “spread mite resistant genetics into the general population from Northwest surviving colonies.” Can’t ask for better than that around here.
His queens come from a closed population breeding program. Both open mated queens and artificially inseminated queens are available. Mark draws from VHS bees, Survivor Stock, Semen from the Baton Rouge program, and New World Carniolans. The queens are bred for hybrid vigor.
Northwest queens has a simple requirement : people who buy these reasonably priced queens are asked to evaluate the queen(s) performance as to mite resistance, over wintering abilities, build-up and any other factor they would like to assess.
The queens were well received by my girls. (I had a photo of this, but I brought the wrong camera to the library: land of WiFi. The photo here is of one of Mark’s breeder queens, pretty, isn’t she?). Three of the queens I received laid right away, filling their boxes in the first week. One of the queens was a bit slower off the mark, but once she got going she showed a clear commitment to laying. Only one queen failed to produce. Those are good results in my book. Not every animal one produces is a winner.
When I reported into Mark about their activity, he offered me a replacement queen, which I’ve yet to pick up. This shows his commitment to both producing good queens and to working with his customers.
It’s still too early to judge mite resistance or over-wintering – after all we’re in our summer now. Which means days of sun interspersed with short bursts of rain. Ah well, weather like this keeps the plants growing and gives me the opportunity to break out the short-sleeved shirts…
That’s the news from the, momentarily, sunny bee yards at Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey, in Maple Falls, WA.