We've worked for 24 years running our breeding program. We've specialized on maintaining hardy and productive varroa mite resistant stock; no mite treatments have ever been used in our operation. We use artificial insemination to control matings, enabling us to make breeding decisions by making calculated and planned crosses.
To break it down, we use the BEST protocol for selective breeding. The Best colonies from Each location, Selected for productive qualities and lastly, Tested for mite resistance. In our completely untreated operation, we're able to find and cross a few great breeders each season, making daughter breeders to sell and to maintain our population.
To breed productive varroa mite resistant bees that are robust survivors. Using the BEST protocol, where we select for great build-up, superior honey production, excellent over-Wintering ability, excellent all-around handling and gentleness; we provide hardy and productive breeding stock to our customers.
Using artificial insemination/instrumental insemination to control matings, making carefully calculated crosses with proven units, the "BEST Winners", if you will, we produce breeding stock while maintaining our base breeding population. We are proud to have had a material transfer agreement for germplasm with the USDA Honey Bee Lab in Baton Rouge. Working with VSH and Pol-line stock from their breeding program, adding the best ones to our population using our BEST protocol, has to this day, produced excellent honey bee breeder queens.
We breed using extensive records, detailed observation and contemporary diagnostic technology to continue meeting our honey bee breeding goals, creating breeder queens that may be used to produce open-mated production queens heading strong colonies that can be managed without the use of mite treatments or in an IPM program if the client is currently treating. 2023 will be our 24th year.
Evaluating new stock's suitability as candidate breeding material is a "numbers game". The larger a block of stock that can be evaluated and tested, the greater the chance of finding queens that show desirable traits, to use in further testing (BEST protocol).
We work with queen producers and bee breeders throughout the U.S.A. By testing their stock and using any that's suitable in carefully planned crosses, we continue to have positive results producing bees with Varroa resistance, good honey production, good build-up, brood production and that are resilient under stress.
Our breeding program incorporates many of the fundamentals of the classic closed population breeding design for honey bees (Page-Laidlaw). Artificial insemination/instrumental insemination is used to cross our breeder queens: the closed population model depends on controlled matings to function properly. Closed population bee breeding allows for steady improvement toward the ideal, without risking the perils that inbreeding and loss of genetic diversity pose to honey bees. However, although using the closed population model may stave off population homogeneity somewhat, we see loss of diversity (via bioinformatic analysis) anyway. Sadly, the closer a bee breeder gets to their goals, the less diverse the population is genetically. Effort must be made to reach breeding goals while maintaining genetic diversity. We call it the breeder's "three step". We take two steps closer to our breeding goals and one step back for diversity. Needless to say, patience is a virtue, breeding!
To ensure diversity, we test queens from many different sources. If they are productive, survive two Winters, build up well during our short, intense Spring and still manage to remain thrifty for the rest of our season, we consider them as program candidates. If they survive and are desirable, we incorporate them into our population following BEST protocol. We run similar tests for all our strains, and for the breeder queens we receive from our BEST collaborators, selecting the best from the BEST.