As we progress through the NatBIP programme to improve our bee stocks it pays to give some thought to how we are going to consolidate any improvements we may have gained through our efforts to establish our selected strain.
We have been monitoring our colonies and keeping accurate records to enable us to see at a glance our progress (see using NatBIP record card). We can then select and cull the queens that we consider don’t display the chosen traits and replace them with ones that do.
We then have our colonies headed by queens we have selected. From these we can produce daughter queens through our queen breeding programme….…. this is an ongoing process which is repeated each season.
The daughter queens play a key part in bee improvement and establishing our selected strain in an area because irrespective of her open mating with its mixed mating possibilities the drones she produces will carry only her mother’s genes. This is because drones have only half of the chromosomes which come from their mother’s side. So, if we can produce enough drones from our daughter queens eventually we increase the possibility of future virgin queens mating with drones of the same strain. This approach is called “Drone Flooding”.
To gain a modicum of success with drone flooding there is a need to have a reasonably high number of colonies.
If you only have a few hives then the desired outcome may be difficult to achieve. This short fall in colonies can be overcome by beekeepers coming together to pool their resources. The more daughter queens that produce drones with the desired genetics, distributed throughout an area, the greater the chance of establishing a selected strain.
The native /near native strain tend to fly and it is believed mate at lower temperatures to the exotic strains. Therefore, a small amount of warm syrup given as a 1/1 mix in a contact feeder or an upside-down honey jar with a few small holes in the lid can help with drone production. This is termed stimulative feeding and is particularly useful at the start of the season.
The drones take around thirty-eight days to go from egg to sexually mature adult. Whereas the queen takes about twenty-one days. This means there is a difference of seventeen days. So, it is suggested that feeding is started three weeks prior to the start of your first round of queen rearing.
Also, a frame of drone comb or foundation can be inserted in the breeder colonies. Once it has been laid up it can be removed and replaced with another frame of drone comb or foundation. The laid up frame is then placed in one of your less desirable colonies to be brought on and finished . This could reduce the number of undesirable drones produced by the adoptive colony.
Finally, this is not a quick process but improvement in small increments will start to happen if you are diligent, avoid importation of exotic stocks and work to a plan.
Edited by Brian Holdcroft, BIBBA GROUP SECRETARY