Genetically, our bees include VSH from several sources, Sue Cobey's lines of New World Carniolan, Mike Palmer, and mixed local bees. Carniolan bees are darker colored, and the local bees often are 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 about 80 production colonies and 80+ overwintered nucs to select from. In 2022 we are still trying to reduce our overwintered nuc numbers to about 60 to 70. It will take a couple more 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. 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 25 drones in the 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.