About Our Queens
Our Queens are raised and bred in Montgomery County and Howard County, Maryland. We want to provide our Mid-Atlantic beekeepers with healthy queens raised locally from selected survivor stock that will be better accommodated to local conditions than queens raised for national distribution in other geographic areas.
Beekeepers in our area have experienced a high rate of failure from queens provided from the south. In our experience, queens provided with packages are nearly all replaced, and the rate of failure of packages is unacceptably high. We are amazed to read about queens in the old days surviving for four or five years. The commercial beekeepers we have talked to replace all of their queens every year, and some have gone to twice yearly. No one can definitively answer the question, “Why are queens so bad these days?” We want to give our beekeepers a chance by providing queens which have been well started and then provided fresh to the beekeeper.
They are raised by the Doolittle method as taught by Marla Spivak in her course at the University of Minnesota. Eggs are grafted, then started in a “swarm box” with several pounds of nurse bees. (See About Queens for more details) After 24 hours the queen cells are transferred to a specially managed finishing colony.
The mother queens have been selected from productive successfully overwintered queens in Montgomery and Howard Counties, Maryland. Others are artificially inseminated breeder queens custom bred to our specifications by VP Queen bees in nearby Frederick, Maryland. The selected overwintered queens are a mixture of stocks and in appearance can have a Carniolan or Italian look.
When the adult queens are about to emerge, the cells are evaluated and culled, and each selected cell is put in its own mating colony. Mating yards are distributed in Montgomery and Howard Counties to make use of the vast reservoir of drones in colonies maintained by our hundreds of beekeepers.
We live in a combination of urban, suburban, and rural areas here, and with high population density, gentle bees are a must. We have found that queens brought in from other places can be testy, because gentleness isn’t necessarily the most important characteristic they’re breeding for. Open mating the queens in our area both guarantees genetic diversity, which is necessary to the health of the colony, and makes it likely that the drones are from gentle stock.
Once the queen has emerged, taken her mating flight, and is verified to be laying she is left in the mating nuc until offered for sale. Often a queen sold today has been caged today and is in the beekeepers hands immediately. The process of introduction can begin right away, leaving the shortest down time before she is out and laying again.
You can order online and have the queens sent to you, or get them when I bring them to meetings or events. An innovation is over-the-counter pickup. You can look at the Queen Cage Webcam to assure availability, go to Heyser Farms in Colesville, Maryland, select the queens, and put them in your hives that day.
For more information about queens in general, go to About Queens.
# # #