Optimum Genetics

Wildflower Meadows’ mated queen bees are a hybrid of VSH and Italian queen genetic lines.  The VSH trait provides mite resistance and hygienic behavior that leads to improved disease resistance.  The Italian lineages provide gentleness and productivity.

VSH stands for Varroa Sensitive Hygiene, and is one of the keys to keeping healthy, mite-resistant colonies.  The VSH trait causes VSH hygienic behavior, which is the removal of mite-infested cells from the brood nest.  Bees exhibiting the VSH trait interfere with the reproduction of varroa mites by detecting and removing bee pupae that are infested with varroa mites.

This VSH activity slows the spread of varroa, and keeps mite populations below damaging thresholds for long stretches of time, thereby reducing or eliminating the need for chemical treatments.  Bees that are bred to have high VSH traits are not only vigilant in their resistance to varroa mites, but they are also super-hygienic in general, which gives them excellent natural resistance against American Foulbrood and Chalkbrood.

At Wildflower Meadows, our breeder queens contain 100% of the VSH alleles (an allele is a variation of a given gene), which we insure through instrumental insemination by crossing 100% VSH queens with 100% VSH drones.  The offspring of these breeders naturally mate with our most desirable and productive VSH-Italian drones, resulting in Wildflower Meadows’ VSH-Italian queen bees.

Our customers often ask us if the VSH (varroa sensitive hygiene) trait is so desirable then why doesn’t Wildflower Meadows sell pure VSH queens?  Or, why are Wildflower Meadows’ queen bees VSH-Italian hybrids instead of pure VSH queens?  After all, if it takes a great deal of selective breeding to produce a high level of VSH behavior in bee stock and VSH behavior is so valuable, then why dilute the pure VSH stock by crossing it with Italian stock that is not purely VSH?  The answer to this question is in the concept of “hybrid vigor,” otherwise known by its scientific name, heterosis.

Hybrid vigor is a scientifically proven concept that states when two relatively inbred populations are crossed, the performance of the hybrid offspring – in terms of size, fitness, growth rate, fertility, etc. – is improved over the two parental groups when taken individually.  For this reason, hybridization has long been practiced in agriculture.  Plant and animal breeders often take advantage of this concept by crossing two pure bred lines, each with desirable traits, to create offspring that maintain those traits, but in turn are stronger than the parents.  As proof, today over 90% of seeds planted in the United States are hybrids, and not pure strains.

Hybrid vigor is usually best noted in the first generation of purebred offspring, which is known as an F1 Hybrid.  Later generations of hybrids, which are crosses of the hybrids themselves, known as F2 Hybrids, F3 Hybrids, etc., can vary greatly from one another, and usually express less hybrid vigor than the first generation.  Therefore, the majority of hybrids that are utilized in agriculture are F1 Hybrids, or first generation hybrids.

At Wildflower Meadows, our queen bees for sale are the first generation of offspring of pure 100% VSH stock (which contains the genetic advantage of mite resistance) crossed with Italian stock (which contains the genetic advantage of gentleness and robust brood production).  This gives Wildflower Meadows’ queens, when compared to other queen breeders’ queens (many who specialize in only purebred lines) the proven benefit and advantages of F1 Hybrid vigor.

VSH-Italian Breeder Queen

Varroa Sensitive Hygiene and Mite Reproduction