I’ve joined in with the EFBKA’s (Epping Forest Beekeepers Association) ‘Queen Rearing Study Group’ which held its initial meeting last night.
Organised by our divisional Chairman, Ted Gradosielski, and held at his impressive bee shed at Nazeing (an understatement if ever I’ve made one), the purpose of the group is to practice and measure the success of a range of different queen bee rearing methods.
Queen bees will live for up to 5-years and shortly after hatching will mate with a number of male bees (drones) during what is called their mating flight. The mating process is fatal to the drones who fall to earth dead having had their reproductive parts detached from them during the mate (ouch!). The queen retains his store of sperm (and that of the other 5 to 10 or so drones she mates with) and releases the them gradually throughout her life to fertilise her female worker bee eggs. She also lays unfertilised eggs which develop into drones.
Anyway, being the mother of every newborn bee in a colony (and at her peak she’ll be laying up to about 2,000 eggs a day) all the bees will take on her characteristics (as well as the drones she mates with). Apart from the replacement of old or dead queens, beekeepers breed and select queens to help develop particular “good” characteristics in their bees. Each beekeeper would place a different value on each characteristic, but the list might include having a good temperament, be prolific foragers, being a consistent and rapid egg layer, having a high disease resistance, be particularly hygienic and a low producer of propolis. There are probably other characteristics too, and I’ve no doubt that each beekeeper would order them differently according to their beekeeping involvement.
My role in the group is to record some of the activities and processes on video and to take stills. This will be used to create some literature and other resources to help educate other beekeepers in the division – plus you’ll also be able to see some of the outcomes of our labour here on Beemovies.net