Acclimating Queen Bees to New Hampshire's North Country
Updated: Mar 11, 2020
As interest in beekeeping spreads throughout New England, sound practices for hive health and regional adaptation remain a top priority. Many northern New Hampshire beekeepers have purchased queen bees from much warmer climates, making colonies more vulnerable to cold weather temperatures and other factors of climate, pests and diseases specific to the Northeast.
To help address these concerns, the New Hampshire SARE Professional Development Program, coordinated by Olivia Saunders of UNH Cooperative Extension, piloted a queen rearing program in accordance with the New Hampshire Honey Bee Diagnostic Network. There was a need in this network to train advanced beekeepers to raise and sell their own queen bees adapted to the North Country region. These New Hampshire beekeepers, with at least five years of experience beekeeping, convened at a workshop held at the Dyce Bee Laboratory of Cornell University.
Training local beekeepers how to raise and sell their own queens that are born and bread in the North Country may lead to greater resiliency in the hive. A more sustainable apiary can also make a positive impact economically and have improvements on pollinator health. The hive depends on the queen’s position to be a strong egg layer and which affects honey production. It is important to ensure good overwintering survival rate and selecting bees who are good at this for breeding is one approach to honey bee success. It is a similar concept to saving seeds from season to season and how they adopt traits they need to turn on and off for greatest chance of adaptability and survival in their specific environment.
With instruction from Cornell University, including expert Craig Olds from New Zealand, the group of six participants learned about the biology and reproductive qualities of honey bees before exploring queen rearing practices, cell starter and finishers, as well as the process of grafting new queens. Regardless of their prior experiences, everyone reported something new that they had learned and want to implement into their beekeeping practice.
Janice Mercieri of White Mountain Apiary in Littleton, NH, said the most impressionable take away from the weekend was that it “proved to me that queen rearing local is extremely important to the sustainability of our bee colonies in New Hampshire.” Janice reflected on how it also helped her realize additional equipment she needed in order to raise healthy queens and assisted in planning how she sets up her bee yards. Overall, it advanced her level of expertise in many different elements of running her apiary.
Janice has been beekeeping for eight years. Constantly studying and practicing, she has sold about a few dozen queens this year already and has 14 more in queen banks. This year she has also started giving hive tours, suiting up the public and taking them into the hives. As the president of the North Country Beekeeping Association, she is involved in various beekeeping classes and trainings for people looking to learn more about beekeeping and sharpen their skills working with the hives.