We began rearing queens in 2002, when I "on a lark" decided to withhold mite treatment from one of my stronger hives. After she went a year without diminishing in strength, I grafted off of her and began putting her offspring in various yards. I began heavily re-queening with stock that showed resistance.
In about 2004 I was at the point where I wasn't treating about half of my hives. I didn't see significant difference in survivability for treated vs. non-treated. Early spring of 2006 was the last year I treated any of my bees in any way for varroa mites. I have sold a few hundred queens from this stock and have gotten almost uniformly positive reports for honey production, gentleness, and varroa mite resistance. According to the report from our bee inspector, my hives have compared favorably against the other "treated" hives in this area for honey production.
If you are looking for good honey production with an eye to getting off the chemical treadmill, I recommend you try our queens to see how they do in your area. I highly value gentleness and, along with honey production and varroa resistance, it is a top criteria for queen selection. Secondary qualities to these three mentioned above are zeal in pulling comb and fecundity. Fecundity of course is usually related to high honey production, so it is generally a by-product of selecting for high honey production. As far as use of winter stores, it seems as if these bees are generally frugal but show a fair amount of variation.
From my heart I will tell you it is tremendously encouraging to me to know these bees will survive in the wild in the swarms that invariably issue from any beehive. I remember the clover in our yards being abuzz with honeybees as a kid. I have seen this in our surrounding pastures recently. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see this happen again in your pastures and yards and woodlands?
PRICING Each queen is $28.00 for both marked and unmarked queens (please specify preference upon ordering). A few notes on the way I raise queens. This might give you a warm fuzzy on what you are getting.
My bottom line indicator on varroa resistance is simple: Will it survive and thrive without mite treatments?
I am a fan of Brother Adams. Utilizing his observations we have managed to maintain a high rate of acceptance of introduced queens.
My means of ensuring against inbreeding primarily involves looking for spotty brood patterns that could be an indicator of a loss of sex alleles. This is followed by keeping an eye on major diseases cropping up that could be a result of inbreeding. We haven’t used any outside stock in our queen rearing in several years. I do explore other stocks but I like what I see in the bees we have.
My best guess is that my bees are mostly Italian origin. I specifically stayed away from Russian bees because I found that - in my operation - the daughters showed wide variation from the mothers. The stock I have now generally breeds “true”- that is the daughters tend to reflect the characteristics of their mother.
We breed for varroa resistance, good honey production, and gentleness. Gentleness in a bee is very important to me and when I am queen catching I rarely wear a veil and rarely get stung. I don’t recall putting on a pair of gloves in years in working any of my bees and work a significant amount of time without a veil. Most bees however gentle, will get cranky at times.
According to the numbers given to me by our bee inspector, my hives compared favorably with other hives in honey production in 2009, compared to bees in the surrounding area. How much of this is due to specific "micro-location" of the hives I don’t know, nevertheless this was encouraging especially in the light of the fact that most of the other hives were treated for mites.