We are using bees that have been selected for hygienic behavior and mite tolerance. We raise queens to head new colonies and nucs from the most mite tolerant, productive, and easy to work colonies that we have. Our bees are derived from VSH Carniolan, New World Carniolan, Russian, and local stock. In addition, there are many Italian type queens in the local population. The end result is that our bees are mutts. Virgin queens will mate with approximately 10 to 20 drones in our local area. Because of this, each colony has a combination of many traits that are derived from the drones' and the queen's heritage. All of our locally raised queens are open mated at our mating yards in the Blacksburg, VA area. As a way to add diversity, we occasionally bring in queens from beekeepers who breed for traits that we would like to have in our colonies.
Honey production is an important part of sustaining our beekeeping operation. Colonies that can not produce large enough populations to produce excess honey do not survive in the wild. Because of this critical characteristic of the honey bee, we strive to keep strong productive colonies. The best of these will be included in our breeding program.
Genetically, our bees include VSH Carniolans from several sources (including Mike Palmer, VP Queens, New World Carniolan, John Harbo, and Jeff Harris), several sources of Russian and hybrid Russian (Sam Comfort, Charles Walter, and Chris Hewitt), and several families of local bees. Carniolan, and some of the Russian queens, tend to be darker colored, and the locals tend to be more yellow. In the spring of 2016 we had 18 different sources of bees represented in our production colonies and nucs. We raise queens from the colonies that show the best characteristics of mite tolerance, honey production, and gentle temperament. Most years we have 75 to 90 production colonies and 130 to 180 overwintered nucs to select from. In 2021 we are trying to reduce our overwintered nuc numbers to about 75. It will take a couple years to achieve this. In 2019 we started adding New World Carniolan queens to our program. These bees are prolific during the season, easy to work, and thrifty when there is no nectar flow. They are a great compliment to the lines we have.