About our Bees
Queen rearing in its most basic forms can be remarkably easy. However selectively breeding queens with the objective of improving the genetics of the bees you keep is somewhat harder. I have an honours degree in genetics but there is always more to learn about bee genetics.
The bees I keep are a highly productive, locally adapted strain which I have been selectively breeding in my Derbyshire apiaries for over 20 years. The aim is to produce bees which show the characteristics listed below:-
This is without doubt the most important characteristic of bees kept in the UK. We are not blessed with good weather (especially in the Peak District) and any bees kept here must be capable of surviving the worst that our climate can throw at them. The photo at the bottom of the page shows a fairly typical winter scene in one of my apiaries.
Many new beekeepers make the mistake of buying bees from suppliers who provide imported foreign queens. These queens can be provided early in the year (late April or early May) because they are bred in countries like Italy or Greece that have a much warmer climate. Such bees will often die out or be seriously weakened during a typical British winter and the new beekeeper will be left wondering what they did wrong. Expecting bees that are adapted to a warmer climate to thrive in the UK is as unrealistic as expecting plants that do well in the same climate like grape vines or olive trees to produce a good crop over here.
Unless you have a productive queen capable of laying a lot of eggs you won't have enough bees in the hive to produce a large honey crop.
Low inclination to swarm
When bees swarm you lose a large portion of your potential honey crop. A swarm can also annoy or frighten your neighbours. All honeybees will swarm under certain conditions but good bees that have a young queen and an abundance of space will show a reluctance to commence swarm cell production.
Low levels of aggression
Bees that show too much aggression are difficult to work with and unsuitable for keeping in a garden. My bees are good tempered and calm on the comb. Incidentally good temper is one of the easiest qualities to select for in bees. When you do your own queen rearing never breed from a queen in an aggressive hive and if you can, try to get rid of any such queens as soon as possible to prevent them producing drones that can mate with other queens you rear.
This is a rather hard thing to quantify and no bees are truly "disease resistant". Evolution and natural selection will tend to select bees that show good resistance to the parasites, bacteria, viruses and fungi that are prevalent in the area. However over the last few decades large numbers of bees have been transported around the world by beekeepers. As a result bees have been exposed to many diseases to which they have not had time to build up a good level of immunity. The reality in the UK is that all bees require at least one effective annual varroa treatment in order to thrive. Bees also benefit from good apiary hygiene, for instance you should always scrape and blowtorch floors and the inside of hives that die out over the winter. Never re-use brood combs from a dead hive, sterilise frames in a strong bleach and water solution or boil in a washing soda solution and replace brood combs every few years. All of our colonies are checked annually by the bee disease inspector to ensure they do not carry foulbrood. Only purchase bees from a source that regularly checks for foulbrood. It goes without saying that if you ever suspect you have a serious brood disease in your own apiary i.e. foulbrood then you must contact your local bee inspector and follow their instructions.
Package bees UK supplies high quality bees and queens reared in our Peak District apiaries.
We also supply assembled hives and other beekeeping equipment for collection by arrangement.
As much free beekeeping advice as you require.
Hill House, Birchover, Nr. Matlock, Derbyshire DE4 2BN. Tel: 01629 650457 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org