A Word About our Drones

 OWA maintains isolated mating yards in a very remote area of the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State. Our drone colonies are selected for hygienic behavior, disease, and mite resistance. They are fed high quality pollen supplements, and are provided with additional drone combs to insure abundant populations.

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Queen Introduction Checklist

OWA QUEENS HAVE DIFFERENT PHEREMONES, REQUIRING SPECIAL PRECAUTIONS

Our hardy feral Survivor Stock is present in all of the queen lines we offer.  Although we do consider “gentleness” in our selection process, our higher priority is for disease and mite resistance. While our wild bees may appear to be more defensive at times, most find them entirely manageable.  When working with our bees, we recommend you follow these simple precautions:

Before your Queens arrive:

  • Plan to place OWA queen colonies in a sunny location a minimum of 50 yards from frequent human and livestock traffic.
  • Use proper safety measures when working your colonies:
    • At a minimum, use head net.  It may be necessary to also use a bee suit, gloves, & smoke. (We work w / no gloves, in half suits using a fine mist spray of liquid smoke in water.)
    • Work your bees on sunny days when the field bees are out foraging whenever possible.
  • DO NOT remove your existing queens until you have your new ones in hand.
  • Set up your supplemental feeding prior to installing queens to minimize disturbance; AVOID using feed stimulants containing additives like lemongrass when introducing a queen during a dearth, this can contribute to robbing. If available provide the new queen w drawn comb.

When your Queens arrive:

  • If unable to install promptly, keep the Q cages out of the sun, at room temperature. Give one drop of water daily taking care NOT to wet the candy.
  • 4 – 24 hours PRIOR to introduction REMOVE: OLD QUEEN/ VIRGIN QUEENS; AND ALL QUEEN CELLS. (Throw the dead queen away from the hive).
  • DO NOT REMOVE OR POKE A HOLE IN THE TAPE ON WOODEN CAGES.
  • DO NOT REMOVE ATTENDANT BEES FROM CAGES
  • Wedge the queen cage, snugly between 2 frames in the center of the brood nest, candy plug UP, taking care to leave the screen accessible to the bees.
  • NOTE: in a 10 frame box it may be necessary to remove an outside frame then widen the gap between 2 center frames to be able to insert the wooden California cage below the top bars.
  • EXTREMELY important for successful introduction:  Return on the  5th Day
    • at this point bees should NOT  be balling the cage: (…acting aggressively; biting the screen etc.) if they are, you may have missed a queen cell or you may have a 2nd queen.
    • Remove and carefully set aside queen cage.
    • Remove one or two outer food frames & set aside. Vigorously shake bees off each BROOD frame back into the box. ELIMINATE ALL QUEEN CELLS! 
    • Reassemble hive; REMOVE TAPE, and replace queen cage (allowing the bees to chew through the candy plug in a day or two, quietly releasing the queen.
  • DO NOT DISTURB THE COLONY FOR AN ADDITIONAL 7 DAYS – EARLY DISTURBANCE WILL INCREASE THE RISK OF NON-ACCEPTANCE OR SUPERCEDURE!!!

A SPECIAL NOTE IF REQUEENING IN THE FALL OR DURING A DEARTH IN NECTAR FLOW: Provide a constant food source of protein patties and 1:1 sugar syrup to stimulate queens to continue to lay until they naturally shut down for the season.

A Brief History

In 1997, when feral colonies were thought to be near extinction due to varroa mites, we began capturing wild honeybee swarms from very remote wilderness locations on the North Olympic Peninsula of Washington State.

Reliable oral history of the area confirmed that these isolated bees had managed to survive for over 40 years without human intervention.  Believing they may have developed some natural resistance to varroa destructor, we began our Survivor Bee Breeding Program by:
  • continuing to capture wild swarms
  • including USDA Primorsky Russian and SMR/VSH breeder queens since 2000
  • utilizing instrumental insemination procedures
  • diligently protecting our isolated mating yards
  • routinely conducting laboratory testing
  • improving nutrition by supplying quality protein and herbal food supplements.
  • applying a rigorous sterilization routine
  • and remaining firmly committed to a chemical-free accelerated natural selection process
The early years of our success against varroa, met a devastating blow in the winter of 2007/2008 when a series of environmental stressors converged with the arrival of nosema ceranae in our apiary. Withholding chemicals to pursue accelerated natural selection in conditions of extreme exposure to this new fungus, with its possible associated viruses, was a high risk choice for us to make.
But armed with the knowledge that our bees had been thriving in Northwest Washington’s fungus-rich environment within the world’s largest temperate rainforest, we decided to gamble on the prospect that our bees could develop a tolerance to this new microsporidian as well.
Four disheartening years of 90% losses, followed that decision.
But, in January of 2012, when we came across a newly published report out of Denmark, which concluded:
…After decades of selective breeding for Nosema tolerance in the Danish strain, it appears these bees are tolerant to N. ceranae infections.
…our hopes were renewed.
So when spring arrived in 2012, and only 10% of our colonies had failed, we have been newly encouraged that achieving our goal of nosema tolerance is possible.
Those long years of heavy winter losses have resulted in hardy unmedicated bees that are now maintaining healthy populations in spite of USDA Beltsville laboratory results confirming the presence of staggering n. ceranae spore loads…over 50 million spores per bee!
Since recovering from those losses we have begun to identify another significant trait in our surviving colonies: they have naturally adapted themselves to become extreme pollen hoarders.  Because the importance of good nutrition cannot be overstated in the maintenance of healthy colonies, we see this adaptation as integral to the successful survivability of our stock.
By carefully selecting our breeder queens from this core group of survivors, we are confident that the regionally unique feral hybrid queen lines we are offering demonstrate genetics capable of withstanding many of the lethal pathogens that threaten honeybees everywhere.

Nosema Tolerance

Today’s microsporidian:  nosema is frequently misunderstood, even by experienced beekeepers. The confusion appears to stem from failure to recognize the difference between the 2 types of nosema, and the fact that they manifest themselves within the hive in entirely different ways.

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