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, 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 is stronger than the parents. As proof, today over 90% of seeds planted in the United States are hybrids, and not pure strains. Cattle ranchers commonly cross breeds of cattle creating hybrids such as Angus x Hereford or Angus x Brahman, as well as many other combinations to create more robust offspring. For the same reason, most broiler chickens that are raised for meat production are also hybrids. And so on . . .
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 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.