would you believe that some of these concepts are actually covered in an evil book?
deknow (I don't have a digital copy of the final text...this was pasted from the final submission, and is very close (if not exactly) what is printed in "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Beekeeping"....I hold the copyright, so there are no issues posting this here)
"Queens sometimes mate in or near their yards, and an obvious concern is that the queen will mate with one of her own drones. a few things make this unlikely. For one thing, there are drones from multiple colonies around a DCA, many from several miles away.
Drones drift freely from hive to hive and seem to congregate in colonies where there is a virgin queen or capped queen cell. Most of the drones in a hive are drifting visitors, not raised there, so even if the mating happens close to the hive, the risk of inbreeding is minimal.
"Mating habits and reproductive schemes of plants and animals tend to reflect their reproductive needs. Lobsters have millions of offspring with few expected to survive, while elephants rarely have more than one calf at a time. a lobster that had only one microscopic offspring at a time would go extinct very quickly, and if elephants bred like lobsters, there would be a lot to clean up!
When an animal has an unusual reproductive method, it’s best to pay attention, as there are usually reasons why the system works, and there are consequences to “improving” things.
In order to understand the importance of genetics in breeding, we must take a closer look at the role of drones and queens in the mating process:
[lb] Drones are produced in abundance when the colony can afford to raise them. Drone production usually indicates a strong colony, as they use up a lot of resources.
Drones drift freely between colonies over an area of several miles. Since the queen of a colony will mate with up to 30 or more drones, odds are against a queen mating with more than 1 or 2 drones from any one colony. Each drone the queen mates with will only have genetic influence on a small percentage of the queen’s offspring. This is a wide but shallow dispersion of genetics. It means that many colonies are influenced by the drones’ genetic material (from any given colony), none to a huge extent.
[lb] Queens are produced in very small numbers. At most, a hive will experience a few swarms and one or two new supercedure queens within a really active season. All successful queens will head up colonies, and all the offspring from each colony will have half the genetic material of their queen. Through rearing queens, bees in a natural system produce a few queens with a very narrow but deep dispersion of genetics. Few colonies are influenced by the queen’s genetic material, but there is a strong influence in each of these colonies.
You must consider genetic influence when thinking about what kind of queens to use in your own apiary. a common beekeeping practice is to graft new queens from your best queen(s). In this way, you end up with a number of queen “daughters” from your best stock.
But grafted queens change the natural genetic dispersion. You now have the genetic influence of one queen spreading both wide (to many colonies) and deep (to all bees in all those colonies) from the queen side alone. Without a good deal of attention to the genetic history of the drones that the sister queens are mating with, such a scheme will very quickly lead to inbreeding. Care should also be exercised when purchasing mated queens. Deal with a queen breeder who is small enough to talk to you personally and be able to assure you of the diversity of their stock.
Grafting can be useful when used judiciously and carefully, but simple line breeding is preferable, as it much more closely resembles what the bees do in nature.
Remember, every time you re-queen with a mated queen from somewhere else, you are replacing the genetics of the hive completely. Always consider this when re-queening. Do you really want to replace the genetics of that hive, or do you want to build on them?"
"Queens raised by you, or another small beekeeper you know, can be excellent. These queens might be grafted, produced with a “graftless” system (which forces the queen to lay in specially designed plastic cells for easy handling), raised from queen cells found by the beekeeper, or by any number of methods whereby the queen is removed and “emergency queen cells” are raised by the bees.
One caution is that queens raised in an emergency queen or grafting situation must be raised with abundant resources. This means plenty of pollen, plenty of honey, and abundant nurse bees. If you (or the person you are getting the queen from) aren’t proactive in these regards, queens may very well be substandard. Nutrition is just as important as genetics for a great queen, and should not be left to chance.
Emergency queens will be open mated, and the genetic makeup of their offspring will likely be influenced by other bees in the area, be they ferals living in the wild, large commercial apiaries or anything in between.
Queens may of course be raised as part of making splits, or any time maturing queen cells are found (for swarming or superseding). Just remember that if the bees are making queen cells, they probably have a reason. Take some measures to relieve the urge to swarm, or let them supersede.
(d) Small Breeder
The small breeder is someone likely to have a reputation in your area for producing queens, and may or may not ship them. It’s rare that someone with a limited production and good queens will have to advertise to sell out their supply.
Since a breeder with a good reputation isn’t likely to neglect any of the obvious nutritional and nursing needs of raising queens, the questions you must ask revolve around genetics.
The first question to ask is where the breeding stock comes from. Ideally you will find someone who breeds from their own stock that they maintain themselves, only judiciously bringing in small amounts of new genetics at any one time.
Some smaller breeders simply purchase “breeder queens” from other breeders. Usually these breeder queens are artificially inseminated (which controls the variables that otherwise would be determined by uncontrolled outmating), and they are expensive (hundreds of dollars each).
When the breeder grafts from these “breeder queens”, he or she is producing queens with a predetermined genetic makeup. The queen that you would purchase will be mated with whatever drones are in the vicinity of the breeder, and hopefully some effort has been made to supply an overabundance of desirable drones.
The value of such queens really depends on the source of the breeder queen mother, and the source of the drones the daughter queens mate with. a good breeder will have satisfying answers to questions about their stock regarding origin, breeding, etc.
(d) Commercial breeder
Larger breeders often advertise in beekeeping journals. The resources required to produce hundreds of queens a week are staggering. Each queen requires her own small hive (mating nuc), crowded with worker bees, to inhabit while she is maturing and mating. The best breeders will leave the queen in the mating nuc for long enough to prove her ability to lay and that the resulting workers are healthy. That means that a mating nuc, once established, can only produce 1 mated queen a month. In most of the U.S., the number of months when queens can be raised is limited.
There are some shortcuts that can be taken, and often queens are sold before the brood emerges. You can be sure that suppliers that provide packages and queens to the bulk of beginning beekeepers are not “proving” each queen before she ships out.
In a survey done by the Barnstable County Beekeepers Association on Cape Cod, about 10% of packages had “drone layers” (queens that are not properly mated or inbred can lay drones and not workers), and 25% produced spotty (incomplete) brood patterns. Just under 50% had full brood patterns in 6 weeks. This is the nature of package bees, and not the fault of the beekeepers.
With this in mind, we recommend that if you start with package bees, you find a local, quality queen breeder to re-queen with before the end of your first season. Queens provided by large package producers are bound to be substandard."