Clean Queens

PVC pipes pushed into brood frame of pupa with white to purple eyes

Our local provincial bee inspector recently held a workshop on field assessment methods for choosing breeder queens as part of her research with the BC Bee Breeders Association. This group is working to develop the capacity to breed quality local honey bees so we can reduce our reliance on imported queens which are generally not well suited to our conditions.

Honey bees are an integral part of our agroforestry project. Developing the skills to assess our queens’ hygienic traits is not only informative as we battle the vicious varroa mites, but will also be critical if we progress to breeding local, varroa resistant queens for ourselves and our community.

We assessed 21  hives for hygienic behaviour and conducted a nitrogen freeze test. After the cells of brood were frozen, they were re-inserted into the hives and inspected after 24 hours. If the worker bees removed 85% of the dead brood in that time period, the queen is considered to have hygienic traits that help keep the varroa mite populations down. It was fascinating that only 3 of the hives tested resulted in queens displaying hygienic qualities to warrant them being considered resistant to diseases and varroa mite infestations! Lots of work to do in our collective quest for the cleanest queen bees!

Liquid nitrogen being poured into the PVC pipes.

The frozen brood patches will either be cleaned out in 24 hours by the worker bees, or left in place – signifying the level of hygienic behaviour in the bees to combat varroa mites.