Steve Repasky introducing virgin queens into queenless nucs

Last Saturday the we attended the Queen Improvement Field Day hosted by Burgh’s Bees in Pittsburgh. The day was lined with speakers that are participating in the PA Queen Improvement Program. The topics included how to conduct mite grooming assays to detect “mite-biting behavior”, quantify winter survival, queen rearing techniques, and installation of virgin queens. Most beekeepers attending this event had previously participated in educational sessions earlier in the month regarding how to prepare queenless nucs. So early Saturday morning, each participant arrived with a queenless nuc ready to receive a virgin queen. The queens that were given to participants are of the Purdue improved genetic stock, also known as ‘Leg Chewers’ or ‘Ankle-biters’ because of their characteristic mite-biting behavior (MMB). The virgin queens are to be open mated by drones from Russian, NWC, VSH and survivor drones from colonies in the immediate area.

Varroa mite

The ‘Ankle-biters’ genetic stock was produced by Dr. Greg Hunt at Purdue University. The development of this stock was based upon evidence that some colonies showed a high proportion of dropped mites that were chewed or physically damaged (also known as MMB), and that these colonies showed a reduction in mite populations. Throughout recent years, honey bees that displayed the MMB behavior were selected to be part of the Purdue improved genetic stock which is available for purchase.

The workshop was in cooperation with the Pennsylvania Queen Improvement program which aims to improve the quality of bee stocks in PA by introducing honey bee genetic stocks that can better tolerate mites. This was one of the several queen rearing and queen improvement workshops being hosted throughout the state. The most important take home message of these workshops is to encourage beekeepers to become backyard scientists and to conduct their own experiments regarding different genetic stocks, evaluating their own stock, mite management methods and incorporate more IPM tactics into their seasonal management plan. There are ample resources available in Pennsylvania and we encourage beekeepers to take advantage of them. Participation in these events and conducting your own backyard experiments is a significant step forward in the development of a more sustainable beekeeping industry in PA.

Participants of the Queen Bee Improvement Field Day

Written by Katy Evans, Field Technician in the López-Uribe Lab.