109 – Shelley Hoover – Its all in the queen (in English)

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[00:00:00] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:00:00] From the Oregon State University Extension Service, this is PolliNation a podcast that tells the stories of researchers, land managers and concerned citizens making bold strides to improve the health of pollinators. I'm your host, Dr. Andony Melathopoulos, Assistant Professor in Pollinator Health in the Department of Horticulture

[00:00:32] On past episodes you've heard about some of the factors that are impacting honeybee colonies, such as mite parasites, pesticides and lack of forage. But one aspect that is often overlooked is the quality of the queen. Honeybee queens really determine the genetics of the colony its behavior - and if they're not bred well, it can really impact the colony negatively. And that's why I am so thrilled to have Dr. Shelley Hoover my former [00:01:00] postdoc supervisor and good friend.

[00:01:02] Dr. Hoover is the Apiculture Unit Lead for the Alberta Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in Lethbridge, Alberta, which is just North of the Montana border. She's also the current president of the Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists. And the thing about Dr. Hoover's work, is that it's really practical. So in this episode, you're going to hear about the actual variation that you see in commercial queen stocks, the causes for that variation. And an innovative strategy Dr. Hoover is developing in partnership with Southern Alberta beekeepers to create their own queens during pollination. I just love talking to Shelley, any chance I get, I know you're going to love this episode. So without further ado, Dr. Shelley Hoover on PolliNation

[00:01:54] Okay. I am very excited to be in California with [00:02:00] a fellow Alberton and very good friend, Dr. Shelley Hoover. Welcome to PolliNation!

[00:02:04] Shelley Hoover: [00:02:04] Thank you. I'm excited to be here.

[00:02:07] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:02:07] It's a lot warmer than Alberta.

[00:02:09] Shelley Hoover: [00:02:09] Oh God. I'm dying.

[00:02:12] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:02:12] So you were at the International Pollinator Conference and you gave a presentation talking about queens and Alberta beekeeping. Just to set this up - Alberta is not a place where queens are produced, they are typically produced elsewhere.

[00:02:38] Shelley Hoover: [00:02:38] Yeah, that's true. I mean, to a large extent. We do have a number of queen breeders that are very skilled and do breed their own queens primarily for their own use. Although there is a small amount of sales of Alberta queens. By and large, most Alberta operations, especially the large ones import their queens. And primarily that's because we can't breed queens early in the year when we [00:03:00] need to be requeening. If we don't have spring until March or April - and when beekeepers want to be requeening their colonies, but they can't breed queens until, you know, June or July. So for that reason, they import large numbers from California, Hawaii, New Zealand, Australia, Chile, those places.

[00:03:20] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:03:20] Where they're just ending their summer or they're just starting - their spring is earlier. 

[00:03:25] Shelley Hoover: [00:03:25] It's either contraseason or it's an intraseasonal environment, which is much more tropical than where we live.

[00:03:31] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:03:31] Okay. So just for people who aren't beekeepers, who are listening why are these early queens so important? You were talking about requeening. Why can't you do that any time of the year? And tell us a little bit about that.

[00:03:44] Shelley Hoover: [00:03:44] So it's in terms of colony health and productivity, it's very important to have a good productive queen and younger queens tend to be more productive. But also when beekeepers are checking their colonies in the spring, after overwintering, whether that's indoors and [00:04:00] outdoors, there's always a subset that have lost their queen. So you need queens either to replace the queens in those colonies that don't have one, or two replace queens that are failing. And then beekeepers also like to just replace queens, to keep a young vigorous queen in there.

[00:04:15] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:04:15] I guess the other thing is making splits and stuff like that. There's a kind of seasonality to dividing the colonies and things like that. You don't want them to swarm, I suppose.

[00:04:22] Shelley Hoover: [00:04:22] Right? Exactly. Whether you're making splits or colony divisions, either for swarm management or to increase the number of colonies you have. If you make a split, you're going to need a second queen to put in to that split.

[00:04:34] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:04:34] Okay. All right. So these queens are coming from all over the world because, Alberta's a big place for beekeeping. There's like 200,000 colonies in the province.

[00:04:43] Shelley Hoover: [00:04:43] 312,000!

[00:04:45] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:04:45] A hundred thousand more! It's like 30%.

[00:04:47] Shelley Hoover: [00:04:47] It's been a while since you've lived there.

[00:04:49] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:04:49] Yeah, what's going on?! No, yeah, that's right. Okay. So there's a 300,000 colonies, a lot of queens that are needed. And they're coming from different sources and suppliers - I imagine one of the [00:05:00] things that comes up is where to get the queen's from. I always hear this from people like they say, "oh, I got him from this person." Tell us a little bit about that issue.

[00:05:08] Shelley Hoover: [00:05:08] Yeah. So there's a few issues surrounding that, one is where is supply available? Because you know, things happen, bad weather, or, you know, things happen with businesses. Things happen with borders can be closed because we are importing we have to deal with international import regulations. And then there's also, you know, which suppliers of beekeepers had good experience with, which ones are they able to get queens with? So all of those things impact beekeepers decisions on where they're gonna get queens as well as of course, cost.

[00:05:41] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:05:41] And given that there's, you know, different sources and different kind of restrictions. Quality, in addition to cost - the quality of the queens, what determines the quality of a queen?

[00:05:53] Shelley Hoover: [00:05:53] There's a number of different things that can go into determining queen quality. And actually, we just did a project looking at [00:06:00] whether in these queen shipments that are being imported. Whether there's measures we can look at on these shipments that are going to be predictive of their performance if we put these queens in a colony. And of course, when you're talking about quality control in queens, you're talking most often about destructive sampling. You can evaluate a subset of the queens that would be going into those colonies, but you can't actually evaluate the queen that is in that specific colony because you're destructively sampling her. So we tend to measure things like the size of the queen, the weight of the queen, how much sperm is in her spermatheca, which is the sperm storage organ in a queen, as well as the viability of that sperm.

[00:06:42] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:06:42] Oh, okay. Spermatheca? It's a funny word.

[00:06:45] Shelley Hoover: [00:06:45] Right? So the spermatheca is the organ, it's like a little tiny ball and if the queen has no sperm it will be crystal clear. And a little known fact bee sperm is actually pink. So if you dissect out a [00:07:00] spermatheca and it's cloudy with this kind of iridescent pink color, then that's the sign of a well mated queen. And you can take the sperm out of that spermatheca if you dissect and look at it under a microscope and tell whether or not the sperm in her spermatheca is viable or not.

[00:07:16] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:07:16] Oh, I see. It could be that it's full, but the sperm are all dead. Okay. So you did this experiment or this kind of survey where you brought the queens that were coming in from these various sources into the Alberta market and you destructively sampled some of them. You weighed them and looked at them and you looked at the sperm viability. Was there any difference in quality?

[00:07:43] Shelley Hoover: [00:07:43] Right. So we collaborated with Agriculture and AgriFood Canada and the National Bee Diagnostic Center for this experiment. And so they did all the queen analysis and then we put some of the stock in our colonies and some of the stocks in the colonies at Agriculture Canada in [00:08:00] Beaverlodge. And we compared their performance in these two different sites. And then the National Bee Diagnostic Center did the diagnostics on the queens.

[00:08:07] And so we measured for the stocks that we were importing and two were international stocks and one was a Canadian stock from British Columbia. And we evaluated, you know, a number of these physical characteristics of the queen, but also the viability of the sperm and the number of sperm in these queens that we were importing. And what we found was well, on average, all of the stocks were fairly well mated, but there were differences where some stocks had more viable sperm than others. And more importantly, I think some stocks had a greater proportion of queens, which even, you know, irrespective of the average sperm count of these stocks, there were some that were just not viable.

[00:08:49] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:08:49] Oh, that's disturbing. So the queens come in and they need all this - because I guess, unlike a cow or something where you just need a couple of good sperms to make a calf, here you need to make a lot of [00:09:00] little workers. And so if half of them are not viable then that must really have an impact on the colony. Did you notice that? So you said you took some of the same queens in the same batch and actually put them in colony. What would that even manifest? Like, what would happen? What would it look like?

[00:09:20] Shelley Hoover: [00:09:20] Well, I think one point that's important with your cow analogy is if you have a cow, she can go out and mate again. Whereas the queen honeybee doesn't go out and mate again. So all the sperm she has for her life is stored in that spermatheca when she's taken her couple of mating flights when she's young. So the sperm she has, it's the sperm she gets. And if something happens to it, it's damaged, then she doesn't get any more.

[00:09:41] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:09:41] Oh, that's a good point. Okay, great.

[00:09:42] Shelley Hoover: [00:09:42] And so what we saw in these colonies that we put the subset of the queens in was that actually the performance of the colonies wasn't linked to sperm viability, like we thought it would be. What we found instead was that brood pathogens were actually what was limiting the population growth in these colonies.

[00:09:57] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:09:57] Okay. So the [00:10:00] diseases the bees got, what does that have to do with the queen?

[00:10:03] Shelley Hoover: [00:10:03] So one of the things that the queen does in addition to just producing eggs is passing on her genetics through these eggs, into the worker population. And what we think is going on, and we need to collect more evidence for this. But what we think is going on is that, that particular stock that we saw, even though it had high viability, it had very patchy brood patterns. And we think that there's some kind of either an inherent sort of physiological susceptibility to certain brood diseases, or it's possible that there's also reduced hygienic behavior in that stock.

[00:10:36] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:10:36] Oh, wait, let me get this straight. So when a queen lays -  I know this as I've kept bees before, they don't just scatter eggs around.

[00:10:46] Shelley Hoover: [00:10:46] Right. There's a contiguous section of comb, that's filled with eggs before she moves on. And so there's should be a patch of same aged worker larvae turning into the same aged worker pupae.

[00:10:59] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:10:59] So when [00:11:00] a bee pupates, the honey bees put a little wax capping on top of it. And what you're saying is, one way to measure her quality is you look at how many of those caps might be missing.

[00:11:16] Shelley Hoover: [00:11:16] Right, is it a continuous lovely selection of capped brood or are there spots missing? And they could be empty, they could be filled with honey, they could be pollen. But something has happened to that egg that queen has laid. It might've died as a larva, it might've died as a pupa. We don't know, but it's gone.

[00:11:33] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:11:33] So it could be, just a string of logic, right - it could be an egg that's unfertilized and that's a problem and so it dies. The other possibility is that she's got high viability, it's a fertilized larva but at somewhere along her development she catches the disease and dies and it leads to patchiness. And what you're saying is what really seemed to be the [00:12:00] predominant really kind of main factor in that patchiness was you had queens that had really good viability, but those larva were just not adapted to that disease.

[00:12:10] Shelley Hoover: [00:12:10] Right? So the queen was laying fertilized eggs because unfertilized eggs develop into drones. So the two possibilities really are that it could be a diploid drone if she's mated to drones that have the same sex alleles as her, maybe she's from an inbred population or something - that can be called shotgun brew. But the other time we see that kind of a brood pattern where it's really spotty and patchy is when there's brood diseases present.

[00:12:38] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:12:38] Okay. So we've got these varying quality and queens coming into the province. Let's take a break and I want to come back to you and ask you about some of the ways to get around this problem through making your own queens.

[00:12:52] Shelley Hoover: [00:12:52] Sounds good.

[00:12:52] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:12:52] All right.

[00:13:04] [00:13:00] And we're back. That was a very short interlude, because I think I knew exactly what I want to ask you next. The next question I want to ask you is, so if bringing queens in has these kinds of limitations like sperm being inviable for whatever reason or they're not adapted. How can you get around this problem? If the market won't supply what you need then what else can you do?

[00:13:36] Shelley Hoover: [00:13:36] Before we go there, I want to take one step back and sort of just talk about the issues that we can see that can contribute to that sperm viability loss in these stocks we're bringing in. And recent research has shown that shipping is a really dangerous point in time for a queen's life. Especially if they're being shipped from, you know, the [00:14:00] Southern Hemisphere to the Northern Hemisphere - there's a lot of opportunity during that transit for them to get too hot or too cold or not fed well. And so that's a very dangerous time for a queen. And so that's when we can see, you know, with temperature extremes, for example, that will have reduced sperm viability in these queens. That's one way it can happen.

[00:14:18] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:14:18] The queens they're getting shipped - I think we saw a paper earlier, there's some optimal temperatures, Alison McAfee had a really nice talk about this. Oh, actually, you know, we had Danielle Downey talk about this Project Apis m., how they, you know, were educating the post office people when the shipments come in to make sure it wasn't too hot or too cold. But it comes from Chile or Australia or New Zealand and it hits a little bit of hot temperature. And even though the queen breeder did everything right, the queen producer...

[00:14:52] Shelley Hoover: [00:14:52] And people are quick to blame the queen producers, but often it's not their fault at all. It's something that's happened during shipment, they can do everything [00:15:00] right and you can still end up receiving a queen that's maybe not as ideal as you would like.

[00:15:05] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:15:05] Okay. That was a good backup step. So just to clarify this with some of these inviability issues. Likely post production kind of issues.

[00:15:15] Shelley Hoover: [00:15:15] Right. But I mean, there's other things that can contribute. You could have drones that were perhaps exposed to pesticide and they were still able to mate, but maybe their sperm is not viable.

[00:15:24] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:15:24] Okay, alright. So we've got this and we've got the problem of a lack of adaptation. So what? Are we just stuck?

[00:15:35] Shelley Hoover: [00:15:35] Right. So that brings us to rearing your own queens, which is what we're advocating now for beekeepers. And I think this is nothing new. This idea has been around a lot and there are Alberta beekeepers who do this very well already. But what we're trying to do is work it into our canola pollination system - so we have a lot of beekeepers that pollinate hybrid canola seed production. And what we have as a result is this [00:16:00] time period where we have really high densities of really good strong double colonies with lots of brood and no queen excluders, so the drones aren't trapped, they can get out.

[00:16:10] And so we have really high density of bees at a time when we have really good mating weather. So it's warm, it's not too windy, which can be a problem in our area. And so it's really an ideal situation for mating queens. And so what we found is that the queens that we've mated ourselves under these conditions, are in fact really good, they have high sperm viability, we get really good overwintering success when we make our splits with these queens.

[00:16:37] And what I like about this management style is that these queens because we're making splits and introducing a queen cell to that split, these queens are never caged, they're never shipped, they're never banked. They're just kept with their workers that have been taking care of them, those nurse bees their whole life. So you don't lose any queens at introduction you don't, you know, have their [00:17:00] tarsal pads chewed when they're in the queen bank. So all of these things that are a problem with queens are suddenly not an issue.

[00:17:07] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:17:07] Because in this situation, you make your own queens. And we had this episode with Heather Higo who has mentored both of us.

[00:17:16] Shelley Hoover: [00:17:16] She's the godmother of queen rearing.

[00:17:19] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:17:19] So, Heather has this great episode back. You can hear about the queen rearing, but you end up with this waxy queen cell. And you're saying what happens, when beekeepers in pollination, they can take some of the excess brood and bees off their colonies. Well, I guess I have to move it to another location, but they've got probably a bunch of different locations.

[00:17:38] Shelley Hoover: [00:17:38] We've had beekeepers do it both ways. We've had beekeepers just make splits and then move them into these pollination fields. And we've had beekeepers just literally pull a frame out of colonies that were big and in pollination and stick them in that same field.

[00:17:52] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:17:52] Really! Okay. So for those of you who are not beekeepers, we're going to go deep and [00:18:00] hard here. Now, it's going to be a little confusing for you. Because if the issue is, you can actually divide colonies by taking bees and brood out of it. And adding either a mated queen or a queen cell, but sometimes the bees will fly back to their house. But there must be something about just the intensity of that pollination, so many bees. So much young brood.

[00:18:21] Shelley Hoover: [00:18:21] Right. And I should clarify a little bit. So the frames that the beekeepers are taking out, if they're not moving them when they make the split, are frames of nurse bees, right. So they're not foragers. So they haven't yet taken the orientation flights and oriented to that particular colony. So when we take them out, their age related task will sort of advance because we've removed the foragers from their new colony. We've actually taken them out and made them form a new colony. So those older nurse bees will start to forge and then they'll orient to the new position that they're in. Rather than, you know, reorienting and going home to their previous home.

[00:18:58] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:18:58] Okay. So that's a lot of work, you're [00:19:00] in your bee yard you've started pollination the colony is nice and strong. You've put all the bees out, which is an exhausting time. You've got to get all these bees where they are supposed to go.

[00:19:10] Shelley Hoover: [00:19:10] Right? So hopefully, you've got a couple of days sleep, then you're ready to go.

[00:19:14] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:19:14] So you got a couple of days sleep. And then I guess somebody has been rearing the queen somewhere in the operation for you, and then you go through those colonies. And you find the ones that are really strong and the grower is not losing anything because you're not removing any bees from the field. You're just taking some of the brood, you're putting it into another colony, another box and you're putting a queen cell there. And then a queen emerges and then she flies up into an area that's just saturated because there's so many bee colonies - it must be the highest amount of drones in the world.

[00:19:50] Shelley Hoover: [00:19:50] Really high, high density of drones. And I think that's good because it's going to encourage competition for mating. The other way that we've worked with beekeepers in doing this is we make [00:20:00] queen cells and they'll just simply take the queen cell and put it in a honey super and let that queen emerge. And then, the hope is that she'll take over that colony naturally and the old queen will be the one that they knock off.

[00:20:13] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:20:13] So wait a second. So here it is, you've got this big colony. You've got the queen cell and the queen goes into like the top super, very far from where the resident queen is.

[00:20:22] Shelley Hoover: [00:20:22] Right. And so hopefully she'll emerge into bees that have sort of accepted her because they're very far away physically from the other queen.

[00:20:29] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:20:29] Okay. And so she kinda like then starts nosing around, I guess, finds that queen.

[00:20:34] Shelley Hoover: [00:20:34] Well, she'll probably mate first and then come back and, you know, they'll sort it out. But what we don't know at this point is how often does the old, the first queen win when versus how often does this new young queen win?

[00:20:48] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:20:48] So I guess you're accomplishing this thing that we started the episode with. You want to requeen a colony and here you've done it without $40 or so for a queen.

[00:20:58] Shelley Hoover: [00:20:58] Which is the cost of an imported [00:21:00] queen.

[00:21:02] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:21:02] You produce these queens, which are not that difficult. You can listen to the episode with Heather Higo and you'll see how to get at least the gist of it. And then you put it in there and then they requeen just before winter, I guess. You know, late summer they're going to requeen and that queen's gonna lay some eggs and then you've accomplished the same thing with less effort.

[00:21:21] Shelley Hoover: [00:21:21] Right. I think that is critical that what you're accomplishing is that they're going into winter with a young vigorous, strong laying queen. And I think that's gonna really help with overwintering success. And there are some, you know, there's is a few costs, this is not free. You have to have labor and you have to devote labor at a time when beekeepers are already busy. And most importantly, I think is just the organization it takes in queen rearing is sort of like foreign to some beekeepers who aren't used to it. Because you have to really be strict if you're, as you know, if you are late by a day and all your queens emerge - it's [00:22:00] chaos and you've lost everything. So you really have to be on top of it and do it according to the schedule.

[00:22:05] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:22:05] I guess the one thing I remember you saying you sort of looked at the cost of producing the queens and it, you know, maybe it turns out to be a dollar versus $40.

[00:22:15] Shelley Hoover: [00:22:15] For a queen cell. Yeah, I mean we're working with Marion Bixby who's an economist at University of British Columbia on the cost of importing queens, which we know, versus the cost of getting our own mated queens versus the cost of a queen cell. And the queen cells come out very, very cheap. So even if you, you know, have to try again in terms of putting another queen cell in, I think it's well worth it.

[00:22:39] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:22:39] I guess the other part of it, as well, as you say, a lot of very talented beekeepers don't know how to rear queens - it hasn't been that important for their businesses. And I do recall the example in Northern Alberta with Fairview College, that it really does take a concerted training program to kind of get people to learn those skills.

[00:22:56] Shelley Hoover: [00:22:56] Right it does. But if you look at some of the beekeepers that came out of that training [00:23:00] program, they're very skilled and they continue to rear their own queens. And they're operations that have, you know, reliably had fairly good winter losses and they're still in business and they're very skilled beekeepers.

[00:23:13] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:23:13] Fantastic. Well, let's take one more break. And I got these questions to ask you. I ask all my guests these questions, curious what your answers are going to be.

[00:23:21] Shelley Hoover: [00:23:21] Well, I have another tool I thought of!

[00:23:24] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:23:24] Oh my God. Get ready for this guest the four tool episode of PolliNation. Okay.

[00:23:43] Okay. And we're back. Okay. So Dr. Hoover, tell us about a book recommendation you have.

[00:23:51] Shelley Hoover: [00:23:51] A book recommendation, I'm going to recommend the, "CAPA Disease and Pest Manual." I don't know if your listeners are familiar with it.

[00:24:01] [00:24:00] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:24:01] So Heather was the last person to recommend that publication, but tell us a little bit about it.

[00:24:06] Shelley Hoover: [00:24:06] So this publication is written from a Canadian perspective and it's published by the Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists. But it outlines all of the major bee pathogens and talks a bit about their biology and it has pictures of them. And I think most importantly, it's available in English and French and now Spanish edition as well. 

[00:24:26] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:24:26] Oh and it's a new Spanish edition.

[00:24:28] Shelley Hoover: [00:24:28] And this publication is only $10. So I really recommend it to beekeepers because they can have a few, they can put it in their truck and you can give it to your employees to read at the lunch table. So it's, it's a great sort of primer on bee diseases

[00:24:41] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:24:41] And I read the European foulbrood section. And so I can attest that each of these sections were written, they're not like regurgitated materials, like a subject area expert was recruited to write them. So they're like very rich and very kind of [00:25:00] contemporary accounts of these diseases and pests.

[00:25:02] Shelley Hoover: [00:25:02] Right? Exactly. So the editor, Steven Pernal and Heather Clay, they really went to like you say, subject matter experts for each of the sections on each of the diseases and pathogens.

[00:25:12] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:25:12] Fantastic recommendation, pick that up! You and I have had a bunch of conversations over the past week about elevation of brood diseases which may have not been there in the past. So this is a great way to get yourself prepared for some of these diseases.

[00:25:29] Shelley Hoover: [00:25:29] Right. And just familiarize yourself with them. So you know, the wafer, you see them, you know what you're seeing.

[00:25:35] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:25:35] Okay. So the next question I have is, before the break, you started proliferating tools. Tell us about some of your tools.

[00:25:44] Shelley Hoover: [00:25:44] Right? So I have a lot of favorite tools, mostly because my technician Linea is so great at coming up with these really innovative and functional ideas of how we can improve what we do. So we have a lot of little tips and tricks that we like to use. So I have a few favorite tools, I [00:26:00] think one of my favorites this year has been a queen wheel.

[00:26:03] So you're probably familiar with queen wheels, but I don't know if your audience is - you know, I have kids and so when you have kids, when you're first pregnant, you go to the doctor and they say, when was your last period? And I have this little wheel that they then figure out your due date. And this is what it's like for queen rearing. So you look at, you know, the egg was laid this day and then you spin the wheel. So that day lines up with what day of the month that the queen actually laid the eggs. And they'll tell you what day you can graft and what day you need to move those queen cells, what day the queen should be mated.

[00:26:34] And there's all kinds of useful information on there. And you just, you know, simply spin the wheel to figure out what day you need to do everything for queen rearing. So that's one of my favorites.

[00:26:43] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:26:43] Well, especially as we've talked about queen rearing, oftentimes you have to fit it in between things. And so, and you're very busy at times we have a queen wheel, you could say...

[00:26:51] Shelley Hoover: [00:26:51] You could say, "this is when I can't do anything."

[00:26:53] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:26:53] Or, "this Friday I have some time and this means that a week Monday, I'm going to have to be out there."

[00:27:00] [00:26:59] Shelley Hoover: [00:26:59] Exactly. It allows you to fit it in where you need it to.

[00:27:03] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:27:03] Fantastic. Okay. So what else?

[00:27:04] Shelley Hoover: [00:27:04] Well, you and I were just talking about the calf sled, which was one of Linae’s ideas. So we have a calf sled which are used by farmers to literally pull baby cows around, but we use it all kinds of ways in our operation. So we use it when we have to weigh colonies, we'll put the scale on the calf sled and then we'll get it all balanced so that it's level. And then we can just slide that around the yard instead of having to pick it up and carrying it and relevel it every time. We also use it to just, if we pick up a colony and put it on it and we want to carry it to the other end of the yard or something, not that I recommend beekeepers do this, but we do weird stuff in research all the time. So you can just slide the colony around.

[00:27:46] Another tool I have that I like is a hive lifter, which is like sort of a ovular shaped metal tube that you slide over the top of a colony and then you, it bends in the middle. And [00:28:00] so with two people, they can lift like as any boxes as they want, it sort of sticks in the handle.

[00:28:05] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:28:05] It gets in the handles and you kind of like open it up and it goes over the colony easily and fits there. And it kind of like jams against it.

[00:28:14] Shelley Hoover: [00:28:14] And you can carry the colonies this way.

[00:28:18] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:28:18] I've carried one or two colonies with the Linae. Although she may say it was only one or two colonies.

[00:28:24] Shelley Hoover: [00:28:24] She may say she carried them herself - you didn't really help.

[00:28:29] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:28:29] It may be true.

[00:28:30] Shelley Hoover: [00:28:30] The other tool I have that I used this year a lot for the first time is I don't know if you've ever seen Paul Kelly's bee belt.

[00:28:38] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:28:38] Oh, you know, if you're in Oregon you'll see that all the OSU apiculture staff have these really beautifully built bee belts. Tell us a little bit about them.

[00:28:50] Shelley Hoover: [00:28:50] Right? So they're leather belts and they come in different sizes and different orientations. You can get a, left-handed bee belt or a right-handed bee belt. And what it has is a little [00:29:00] pouch where you can put any tools you want. There's a spot for a queen cage, a spot for markers, a spot for scissors. And then there's a really powerful magnet for those people who lose their hive tools a lot. So you can like just magnet your hive tool - just slap it on your belt.

[00:29:15] And then I usually stick like through the belt, I'll put masking tape or whatever I happen to be using at that time. And it's really good when you're going through and you're checking all of your splits for queens because you can just, you know, you can mark her, you can cage her, you could do whatever you want. It's all just on your belt and you don't have to like pick up a bunch of stuff and move it from pallet to pallet because it's all attached to you.

[00:29:35] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:29:35] It's worth noting. Paul Kelly is brilliant. I think there's a number of tools in your lab and in the Segiully lab that have been built by Paul. He's a real craftsperson.

[00:29:45] Shelley Hoover: [00:29:45] He is absolutely. We've got a frame holder that tilts it. You can put a frame on it and it'll hold it for grafting and you can move it back and forth. So it's just the right angle to see in and see the brood that Paul Kelly made us. And we've also got a [00:30:00] observation hive that he made us that's just beautiful.

[00:30:02] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:30:02] And you know, the one thing it just reminds me of, for those of you who haven't seen it, the University of Guelph has this wonderful YouTube page. Paul who's done years of beekeeping education, and it covers things like queen rearing really well, actually. So if you want to learn some of these skills the University of Guelph apiculture YouTube channel is really worth it.

[00:30:25] Shelley Hoover: [00:30:25] They're really, really well done. 

[00:30:27] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:30:27] Yeah. Okay. Oh, and it should be said, if people don't figure this out by now - I was your postdoc.

[00:30:39] Shelley Hoover: [00:30:39] Right? Yeah, well, I would say more of a facilitator for your postdoc than a supervisor. And it's also worth noting that I took over for you when you left your position at Beaverlodge.

[00:30:52] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:30:52] The funny thing is, is that Shelly and I also, we had a episode with Heather Higo, but also Mark Winston. But, I kept missing you, we were just one [00:31:00] step different. I just finished in the Winston lab and then you started, but that lab also included Danielle Downey, who was a guest. She was in that lab as well as Jeff Pettis.

[00:31:17] Shelley Hoover: [00:31:17] Yes, Jeff Pettis and Nathan Rice was a technician.

[00:31:20] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:31:20] It was a great lab!

[00:31:24] Shelley Hoover: [00:31:24] Rob Curry was a postdoc there, Steve Pernal.

[00:31:27] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:31:27] Oh, the golden days.

[00:31:29] Shelley Hoover: [00:31:29] Yeah. I don't know. Maybe you should go through that list and you have more people to interview for your podcast.

[00:31:34] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:31:34] That's true. Yeah. So, yeah, it's been great. So what is your favorite bee?

[00:31:44] Shelley Hoover: [00:31:44] My favorite bee is the honeybee, but especially I love queens and drones. I like workers too.

[00:31:52] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:31:52] I guess one thing just to mention is that back when you started, you started working on queen [00:32:00] questions early on - queen competition.

[00:32:03] Shelley Hoover: [00:32:03] My PhD was actually on worker reproduction.

[00:32:06] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:32:06] Oh, that's right. Workers that aspire to be queens.

[00:32:11] Shelley Hoover: [00:32:11] Right, I can sympathize with them I guess!

[00:32:16] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:32:16] Well, its been long overdue. I'm really glad to have had you as a guest and good luck with helping Alberta beekeepers get better quality queens in their colonies.

[00:32:25] Shelley Hoover: [00:32:25] My pleasure.

[00:32:36] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:32:36] Thanks so much for listening. Show notes with information discussed in each episode can be found at pollinationpodcast.oregonstate.edu. We'd also love to hear from you, and there are several ways to connect for one, you can visit our website to post an episode specific comments, suggest a future guest or topic, or ask a question that could be featured in a future episode. You can also email us at [00:33:00] [email protected]. Finally you can tweet questions or comments or join our Facebook or Instagram communities. Just look us up at OSU Pollinator Health. If you like the show, consider letting iTunes know by leaving us a review or rating, it makes us more visible, which helps others discover PolliNation. See you next week!


Honey bee queen quality is an often overlooked dimension of colony health. In this episode we catch up with Dr. Shelley Hoover who is the Apiculture Researcher with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development. She tells us about work to assess different commercial queen stocks and to fit queen production into crop pollination. Dr. Hoover is the Apiculture Unit Lead for the Alberta Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. She is the current President of the Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists and is a Past President of the Entomological Society of Alberta. Her current research focuses on honey bee health, breeding, management, pest management, and nutrition, as well as canola pollination. In addition, she has conducted research on other managed bees including bumble bees and leafcutter bees. Dr. Hoover completed her PhD on honey bee worker ovary development, nutrition, and behaviour at Simon Fraser University, British Columbia. Prior to her current position, she was a Research Scientist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, a Research Associate with the University of British Columbia and the AAFC Beaverlodge Research Farm, and an NSERC postdoctoral fellow at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.

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Links Mentioned:

Shelley’s book pick: Honey Bee Diseases and Pest Manual (3rd Edition, Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturalists)

Shelley’s go-to-tool: Queen rearing wheel, calf sled colony mover, hive lifter, Paul Kelly’s hive tool holder

Shelley’s favorite bee: Honey bee queen and drones (or workers that aspire to be queens)

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