On another thread, there is some discussion about the distance a queen flies, etc. I did not want to hijack that thread, and wanted to expand a few thoughts.
Here are some things you hear about queens.....
"She flies a certain far off distance to mate (Some suggest up to 6 miles)...
I don't think so.
Before I go any further, a few things needs to be realized. And they come from the bees themselves and what they do in nature.
* Drones congregate in hives that are raising queens. They are allowed a free pass and are invited into the hives.
* In nature, the next nearest hive may be a couple hundred yards away, or a half mile.
* Drone congregation areas are based on the lay of the land, using easily found markers such as a river, ridge, etc.
a few unnatural things that beekeepers add to the mix is....
*Keeping many hives in one area.
*Buying many nucs or queens from one breeder and one genetic stock.
a few things that you should know about queens mating...
* a queen can determine her own drones in the mating process.
* Bees can actually identify an inbreed egg once laid.
In nature, the queen flies as far as she needs to to get mated. She does not fly past several DCA's on her way to some magical spot 6 miles out. She has been programmed over the eons to fly out to the nearest DCA, and mate with the drones available, which would be a collection of drones from the area colonies maybe numbering 5 to 10 within a several mile area.
Hopefullt you understand that inbreeding many times in NOT from a queen mating with her own drones. It has already been established that a queen recognizes her own drones and will reject her drones for mating.
Inbreeding is the mating with the same gentic stock, but from drones from other hives. Think of it this way....you can have 10 hives with the same genetic stock all sitting besides each other in a yard. Yet the bees know at the entrance what bees belong to that hive through pheromones. But they do not know that they are genetically from the same mother by all the queens coming from the breeder. (Yes, you could throw in the fact that each separate queen MAY have different genetic material since the sperm is from HOPEFULLY different drones. But many operations, and especially with a/I...you are mixing sperm from few sources with insemination from the same semen tank.)
So what you have with many beekeepers yards is not this vast mix of genetic material from 5 or 10 local colonies each contributing genetic stock for mating. Many times with beekeepers, you get a saturation of an area with genetic material by the beekeeper installing packages or buying large numbers of queens from the same area. You can also have this situation when a backyard queen producer raises queens all summer with the same beloved queen, saturating his yards with queens from his own narrow genetics stock.
So with that said.....think of the same 10 hives sitting next to each other with the same daughter queens sitting next to each other. The bees know one hive from another though individual pheromones. And they can recognize bees from their own colony. But they have no clue that they are all cousins from the same grandmother. So the queen flies out and mates with drones from these ten hives. She knows which drones came from her hive. That has been proven in studies. But what she does not know is that she is mating with drones from 9 hives with son's from her identical sister's hives.
We all assume that inbreeding happens when the queen mates with her own drones. And that can happen in drastic situations. And some suggest the queen sometimes just gets overwhelmed. (Keep in mind that bees know and clean out pure inbred eggs being paid.) But in a normal healthy DCA, she will not mate with her own drones. She will mate with other drones, but inbreeding happens when that genetic material is the same from the drones being all half-brothers.
Bees do have safeguards against inbreeding. Like the queen mating with many drones, etc. And that is another whole subject. But the queen flies as far as she needs to to find drones. She does not fly some programmed distance to just out distance her own drones. Her own drone are flying here and there, hanging out in other hives and may be in any nearby hive. You really think drones from other hives fly in hang out in the soon to be mated queen's hive, yet when referring to a queen going out and mating, her own drones aren't all over the countryside already? Somehow they all magically stay put and all the queen needs to do is fly some distance? No way.
Inbreeding in nature is probably non-exitant with some very basic controls. Beekeepers change the rules by overstaurating an area with the same genetic stock and making it impossible for the queen not to mate with like genetic material. Colonies usually cast off one or two swarms a year and those queens mate with a varied genetic supply. But the queen's own line that is passed is one colony per year on a line graph. Beekeeper raise 20-30 queens at a time, making a scenario not found in nature. And if a hive does raise 20 queens, 2 or 3 may be cast off in afterswarms, but the majority are killed off within the hive by the dominate queen.
Beekeepers should worry less about how far a queen flies. It means nothing in the scheme of things. But your own queen rearing protocol, and your saturation of large numbers of the same genetic material from packages or bulk orders of queens is the part you can control and which effect quality far more.
What we do is look at beekeeper painted pictures and scenarios and then try to justify (Some guy probably trying to write filler for his upcoming book) what bees do to overcome the unnatural situation that beekeeper place upon bees. But bees were programmed long before we started hitting them with these scenarios and problems
Queens do not fly 6 miles. And most inbreeding problems are not from her mating with her own drones, it is mating with same like genetic material.
Hope this helps.