Research Paper Results
Honey bee queens mate naturally in mid air with 10-20 drones. Unless you have an isolated mating apiary on an island or mountain valley it is not possible to fully control the drones available for mating. This study shows that daughter queens reared from breeder colonies with high levels of hygienic behaviour (removal of freeze killed brood, FKB) that were allowed to mate naturally headed colonies with similar high levels of hygienic behaviour. Instrumental insemination gave even higher levels of hygienic behaviour.
The study was carried out in Sussex, UK, in 2013. Colonies were screened 4 times using the freeze killed brood test using liquid nitrogen. Of these, 4 were selected as breeder colonies. They had an average FKB removal of 90.5% (86, 88, 92, 96%). Daughter queens were reared from these colonies using standard queen rearing methods (“grafting” of larvae), and were either allowed to mate naturally or were instrumentally inseminated with pooled semen taken from several drones from each of the other 3 breeder colonies.
Once the queens started laying, they were transferred from their mating hives into standard hives with 1 medium depth Langstroth box containing 10 frames. After 6 weeks, from 25 August to 10 September the colonies were tested 3 times for FKB removal. At this time, the colonies were actively rearing brood and the hives were 50-75% full of bees.
The 9 colonies headed by instrumentally inseminated queens had an average FKB removal of 99.8%, and all were fully hygienic (FKB removal more than 95%). The 11 colonies headed by open mated queens had an average FKB removal of 95.5%. Of these, 5 had average FKB removal levels of 100% and 4 more were above 97% but below 100%. The two that were not considered fully hygienic still had high FKB removal levels, 83% and 74%.
Bigio, G., Al Toufailia, H., Hughes, W. O. H., Ratnieks, F. L. W. 2014. The effect of one generation of controlled mating on the expression of hygienic behaviour in honey bees. Journal of Apicultural Research 53: 563-568.
F. Ratnieks, April 2016