Our Bees

Our mission is to produce strong, healthy, productive bees that can survive in northern climates with minimal intervention.  Our goal is to produce better bees that can handle current pests and pathogens, and respond to our climate in Michigan.  We raise queens from our own stock that we have collected over the years, and we introduce new genetics, especially those that exhibit traits that can handle varroa.  Our goal is to provide beekeepers access to better genetics. 

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Scroll down for information on our queens and how we select for the best bees.

God save the queen - Photo by Sarah B. Scott

God save the queen - Photo by Sarah B. Scott

Michigan Mutts The bulk of our stock are bees that we collected from swarms, cut outs, or were trades from other Michigan Beekeepers.   We evaluate colonies for two years before they can potentially become breeder stock.  In order to make the cut, the bees have to have good temper and temperament (they have to be nice and nice to manage), must produce sufficient honey, and must be able to handle varroa without chemical intervention.  The first year, the colony grows, and must survive the winter. The second year, it must operate as a full colony, have low levels of varroa without treatment, and survive a second winter.  

I practice heavy stock selection. This means that I monitor queens closely, and I raise daughters from the queens that are the best. Here is the document that I use to monitor queens. Each colony gets a numbered tag and a corresponding sheet in my binder. I can watch the queens, and see which ones I want daughters from next year. All of the queens that I sell are open mated in our home apiary in Munith, MI. I have drone yards surrounding the yard with big colonies with drone frames, and I provide queens to my neighbors, so I try to flood the area with good genetics. I buy breeder queens from individuals who are doing good work to find resistant bees. For 2017, the bulk of the drone yards had Mite Biter Daughters from 2016. In 2017, I added in VSH daughters. There is more info on these strains below.

I don’t keep enough bees for a classic breeding program. For 2018 - 2019 I’m focusing much more on my research at MSU, so I’ve dropped down in the number of colonies I manage to stay below 100. My goal isn’t to create and maintain the best bees ever, but to do my part into providing local beekeepers with good genetics - both from my own bees, and from breeding programs. The only way we get better bees is if we all select and keep good bees in our hives. Rusty Burlew, the host of the lovely “Honey Bee Suite” blog covers the importance of this in her post “Why is it so hard to breed better bees?”.

Purdue Mite Biters Developed by Greg Hunt and Krispn Given at Purdue University, these bees were selected to target phoretic mites (mites that are running loose in the hive).   They are more likely to recognize, attack, and damage mites when they are in the hive.  Breeder queens and drones for insemination are selected from colonies with over 40% mite drop showing damage.  Read more in the Bee Culture April 2016 article on the Purdue Breeding Program.   For the last 3 years I have gotten a breeder queen through this program.  I have grafted off of them directly for sale, and used a lot of their stock to fill my drone yards. 

VSH Varroa Sensitive Hygienic bees were bred to recognize mites that are underneath the cappings.  Worker bees will remove the damaged pupae, making the mites at risk for predation, and disrupting their reproduction cycle.  In 2017 I received a breeder queen from VP Queen Bees, and will be incorporating these genetics into my drone yards, as well as making daughters available for sale.