What is a Breeder Queen?
A breeder queen is selected to be the mother of multiple queens that will then head nucleus colonies “nucs” or other colonies made by splitting existing ones. Mated queens may also be sold to other beekeepers. A breeder queen’s genetics will be passed onto these new queens and, hopefully, her desirable characteristics will be as well. Every breeder queen should possess several general characteristics: solid brood pattern; gentleness; high brood viability; and Varroa/disease resistance.
Obtaining a Breeder Queen
Breeder queens can be obtained in a couple of different ways. The first is to choose a queen from your own operation. This option usually feels the most rewarding since it is a queen you know and have chosen based on your own preferred colony characteristics. Desirable breeder queen characteristics are based heavily on the goals of the beekeeper. So, as a beekeeper, you must ask yourself this question: “What are the goals for my beekeeping operation?” For instance, if your operation’s main goal is honey production, you will be on the lookout for a colony in your operation that exhibits higher honey production than the others. If you want large populations so that you can increase your operation size, make nucs/packages, or send bees out to pollination events, then you want to choose a queen from a colony with a monstrous population size and strong brood rearing tendencies.
Another option is to purchase a breeder queen from a breeder with a line of bees that has already been proven to exhibit the specific characteristics you are looking for. Although these queens can be costly, ranging from $200-$600, and will most likely have to be shipped to you, the reward of producing daughter queens from a breeder queen of a specific lineage can be valuable tool for marketing and improving the quality of your stock.
Pedigree and Lineage Tracking
If you are looking to market/ provide breeder queens to the public, you will need to do some pedigree and lineage tracking. This tracking is done more efficiently with Queens that have been Instrumentally Inseminated “II” with sperm from drones that have been selected from specific hives. Unlike with naturally mated queens, with II you know the lineage of both the male and female counterparts if their pedigrees have been documented successfully. Great record keeping is a must when raising queens, especially breeder queens. To sell these queens as proven breeders, they must be exactly that – proven! These are not just run of the mill queens. These are the queens to rival all other queens.