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Beekeeping Adventures in Nebraska

by Kirsten S. Traynor

My husband and I had a strong desire to learn how to raise our own queens. We had heard a lot about the benefits about breeding for locally adapted queens. Searching for a course online, we learned about the workshops run by Dr. Marion Ellis at the University of Nebraska . The queen rearing course was to be taught by Dr. Marla Spivak, whose Minnesota hygienic queens have received such positive reviews. We had just recently installed a few of the Minnesota hygienic queens in our apiary. To raise daughters come spring, we wanted to learn how to graft.

On the first morning of the Queen Rearing course, Dr. Spivak discussed queen biology and hygienic behavior. She spoke about selecting for the best breeder queens that met your specific needs. She talked at length about the importance of drones, which provide 50% of the genetic material to each worker, but are often overlooked in a breeding program. After an intense morning of discussion, we broke for lunch in the sunny courtyard. Four meals, refreshments and training materials were included in the $85 registration fee for the two-day queen rearing. Every participant received Dr. Spivak's excellent book "Successful Queen Rearing: A Short Course," which includes detailed equipment diagrams for building your own queen rearing supplies.

In the afternoon, Dr. Spivak and her technician Gary Reuter explained how they used the Doolittle method for successful queen rearing. They demonstrated how they placed the newly grafted larvae into a Swarm Box. Twenty-four hours later the grafted queen cups would be removed and you could tell if they had been accepted because the queen cups would be considerably drawn out and packed with royal jelly. Then the cells would be placed in a finishing colony for continued development.

Throughout the day conversations occurred between large well known beekeepers, sideliners, and hobbyists. We finished the day with a pleasant dinner at the field lab, a short drive from the main building. Filled with excitement and new information, the 20 course participants chatted eagerly about beekeeping over dinner. Around 7:30 p.m. most departed for a good night's rest.

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Article Contributed by:
Kirsten Traynor
Flickerwood Apiary
Middletown, MD 21769