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David A. Cushman logo
Good honey croppers
are NOT
good breeding material

Bees don't have to be bad tempered

For many years the textbooks and speakers have been preaching that we should consider the yield of a colony when selecting breeder queens.

I personally believe this is a major cause of the extreme "Mongrelisation" of our current bee stocks.

The selection of breeder queens based on honey crop size as a big mistake. Honey production is linked to many genes, rather than one or two and is a feature that is enhanced by hybridisation, in particular the F1 hybrid. It should not feature as a primary selection criteria in a breeding program.

The honey crop that a colony collects is governed by many factors, but one of the major ones is 'hybrid vigour' that is exhibited by F1 hybrid bees. By utilising such bees for breeding we are actually propagating "variability" in our stocks.

I propose that the major consideration should first of all be temper, then calmness on the comb.

If you have reasonably pure bees perhaps the next in line would be "Wing Morphometry" and other biometric measurements of the worker bees, to give some indicatation of the race of bee that you are dealing with.

Only after these characteristics are fixed should we turn our attention to further selection for size of crop.

A further thought on this theme... A more efficient and longer lived bee that only requires one B.S. size brood chamber may produce slightly less surplus honey, but because they are easier to work with and require much less labour in management, it is a simple matter to run a few extra colonies to make up any difference. Indeed it may be the case that an individual beekeeper may be able to produce a much larger total honey crop, simply because he or she is able to manage many more colonies than would have been the case with their 'mongrel' stocks.