Thursday night, Monta and I were off to St. Paul so that I could take the queen rearing course taught by Marla Spivak and Gary Reuter at the University of Minnesota. (While I took the course, Monta wandered about St. Paul and also did art.)
The first morning of the first day of class was spent discussing bee biology and stock selection. Some of the highlights of this morning included our discussion of the importance of drone colonies in the queen mating equation, and the importance of creating a queen system that allows the bees to do what they are "hardwired" to do. Dr. Spivak also explained why she and Reuter will no longer maintain the Minnesota Hygienic line of bees. If I understood her correctly, her intention was never to create a hygienic super bee that all beekeepers would eventually use, but to develop a method of selecting and developing hygienic bees that all queen rearers could use on whatever type of bee they manage. Developing a dominant line of bees would be self-defeating in the long run, destroying what's left of the genetic diversity in the American bee population. The selection of hygienic behavior can and should be used on all lines of bees.
Dr. Spivak spent a good deal of time warning us about using chemicals in the hive to treat diseases and pests, although many of the no chemical purists would probably be disappointed with her not saying NEVER! As a top bar beekeeper, I appreciated her discussion on the taintededness of foundation. A three-year cycle of comb use was suggested.
Next, Gary Reuter described the types of equipment that they use to raise queens through their system. I never got the feeling that Spivak and Reuter were presenting their way as the only way or the right way. They recognized that we would adapt their methods to our own needs and locality.
Saturday was our time to get our hands dirty! After a short review of Friday's information, we got to actually work with the equipment, and do labs. Our morning was spent doing "beeless" run-throughs of the various steps of their system. We manipulated beeless finishing colonies, set up beeless swarm boxes, and learned to graft larvae into queen cups. In the afternoon, we actually did all of the above on the "real" colonies at the University. Class members grafted larvae into six queen cups, and placed them into a swarm hive we students also set up. We also learned how to test for nosema, and varroa. We watched a demonstration on the use liquid nitrogen to test for hygienic behavior.. We left the second day with a Chinese grafting tool, and a nalgene bottle.
The course ends tomorrow morning. Students will be able to exmine how well their grafts took in the swarm box. I will report my grade Monday.