Queen Rearing and Bee Breeding

A typical queen cell cup used in queen rearing. Credit: Courtesy The Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), Crown Copyright


     Queen rearing is the process of inducing a colony to produce new queens by manipulating various colony attributes. This can be accomplished by any experienced beekeeper, though most beekeepers purchase new queens from well established producers. Bee breeding is the selection of desirable traits over generations of queens and is only feasible by those with long-term commitment and significant expertise. Honey bee breeding programs in the U.S. are carried out by the USDA and university researchers who then distribute their unique strains of honey bee queens to bee producers, who integrate those traits into their breeding program. 
      Because queens mate with up to 15 drones, the distribution of genes in a honey bee hive is fairly diverse. This diversity translates into desirable features like pest and disease resistance and optimal foraging strategies, however, it also makes the process of selecting desirable traits more complicated. Below are resources to help the beekeeper understand various attributes of queen rearing and bee breeding, especially emerging research on improving domestic honey bee stock.