Pol-Line Queens

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Next Year’s Champions

During the height of the beekeeping season, while we are busy raising queens and shipping orders, another project takes place in the background.  Our breeding experts are assessing an assortment of bee stock obtained from around the country for the best of the best – the most mite resistant, the most gentle, the most hardy of all.  They then cross their best candidates with other desirable stock, typically pure VSH drones obtained from the USDA.  If all goes well, the results are outstanding breeder queens for the upcoming season – next year’s champions.

Around the end of each season, we look forward to receiving a new group of these hand-selected breeders to add to our existing proven stock.  This assures us a ready selection of quality queens from which to breed at the start of the next season.

We recently received our final set of this season’s breeder queens.  Number 63, pictured above inside a push-in cage, arrived with high accolades.  Her offspring is light and gentle, and contains both the Pol-Line and VSH traits.  She is precious, and we are taking all precautions for her well-being!

To introduce her into a new colony we used a homemade push-in cage.  This type of cage allows the queen to begin laying eggs in a safe and controlled area before the cage is removed and she is fully released into her new colony.  By laying eggs before she is released, she becomes more desirable and better accepted by her new colony, greatly increasing the odds of her successful introduction.

Pol_Line Queen

Pol-Line Queens

Besides the usual techniques available to commercial beekeepers for building colony strength in time for almond pollination, such as extensive fall and winter feeding, another way to encourage early season colony buildup is for the bees themselves to have their own predisposition to do so.

During the late 2000’s, researchers at the USDA Breeding Lab in Baton Rouge, LA took their stock of VSH bees and open mated them with the surrounding bees of the area.  They then tested these colonies nationwide to see which performed best.  The grading criteria that they used included early spring build up for pollination, maintaining large populations, gentle temperament, and resistance to varroa and tracheal mites and other brood diseases.

The tests did not stop there.  The USDA continues to test and release new Pol-Line stock each year to selected queen breeders in the United States.  Wildflower Meadows has access to this queen bee stock, and we often cross our best queen bee breeders with USDA Pol-Line queens, so that they can readily exhibit this prized trait of early season build up.

The queen pictured above is a pure Pol-Line breeder queen.  Of all the traits that make an ideal Pol-Line breeder note that none of the criteria includes color.  Pol-Line queens range an exceptionally wide span of colors, ranging from nearly black to golden.  You hardly can tell a Pol-Line bee by her color alone.  The best way to appreciate a Pol-Line queen is to see her in action.  When the other queens are still thinking about winter, the Pol-Line queen is thinking about summer.  She takes “getting an early start” very seriously.

 

Photo of pol-line breeder queen is courtesy of Glenn Apiaries, with permission.