The Wintered Queen Program is a part of the Alaska Bee Initiative. The program is designed to raise queens from colonies that survived the winter in 2014-15. We would like to distribute these queens to beekeepers around Alaska to beekeepers who will winter them over. From the survivors, we want to create a pool of breeding stock for our future plans to create a reliably hardy strain of honeybees.
We are recruiting beekeepers that have surviving hives from 2014 (or earlier) to allow us to graft queens from their hive, and other beekeepers to volunteer their hives this summer to re-queen with Alaskan raised queens.
In 2015, the program will work like this:
- Beekeepers will donate larvae from wintered-over colonies so that we can create new Alaskan-bred queens from lines that have demonstrated the ability to survive the winter in Alaska. This will occur in June.
- In July, we will distribute queen cells or virgin queens to volunteer beekeepers who agree to re-queen their colonies with our Alaskan queens. We will time this distribution to coincide with the beginning of the mid-summer flow, which will allow the volunteers to create a “brood break” in their colonies at the peak of the flow. This can increase honey production, and allows for the new queen to emerge and mate.
- These volunteer beekeepers will manage their colonies with an intent to winter over the colony. The Alaska Bee Initiative will offer information and guidance to any beekeeper that wants or needs help and suggestions for strategies to successfully over-winter their bees.
- In 2016, those Alaskan-bred queens whose colonies survive the 2015-16 winter will be asked to supply the Alaska Bee Initiative with larvae for next generation grafting, and/or contribute to our drone stock by donating to a drone bank or temporarily moving your surviving colony to one of several isolated mating ranges, so that we can cross daughters of surviving queens with drones from other surviving colonies.
If you have surviving colonies from 2014 or before, we are very interested in grafting queens from your colony this summer. This is a minimally intrusive process, where we extract 24hr old larva (third day after egg laying) from your hive and place them in cells to be raised as queens. This typically requires that only one frame from each hive be disturbed.
If you are interested in hosting an Alaskan queen, we will be happy to provide you with one or more queens free of charge, provided you allow us to graft next-generation queens from your surviving hives in 2016. We will also be looking to temporarily relocate surviving hives to an isolated mating area so that we can cross next-generation surviving queens exclusively to drones from surviving hives. The sterile breeding areas will be in forage-rich locations away from other beekeepers, so ideally this move will also be good for your honey production.