Prof Dr. Jovan Kulinčević
Dipl.ing. Predrag Stojanović
Dipl.ing. Dražen Delić
Vojvode Stepe 57
Apicentar’s Bee Breeding and Reproduction of Honey Bee Queens
Apicentar“ is specialized enterprise aimed for selection and reproduction of honey bee queens. As an independent organization it is in existence from 1995. Before that time it was a part of Agricultural Research Institute „Agroekonomik“ Beograd.
Apicentar’s apiaries are located 20 km on south-west of Belgrade and where we maintain 300 honey bee colonies and 1100 mating nuclei. The selection apiary contains from 90 to 100 honey bee colonies.
Our breeding programme is based exclusively on autochthonous race of honey bees Apis mellifera var. carnica. No other race of honey bees is legally used in Serbia.
In our selection procedure, we apply the method of open line breeding longer than a quarter of a century intended to get more honey productive and more disease tolerant stock of honey bees. Some of the lines are in 17-th and 18-th generation of selection.
Our selection program is containing eight lines of honey bees. In each line there are ten to twelve colonies with the queens which are originated from the chosen mother queen from the previous generation of selection for honey productivity. In each year four lines have been in the first and four in the second year of testing.
New generation of selection of each line has been bred at different apiaries in distant locations and from the same mother queens which were later used to produce queens commercially. Testing for honey productivity, disease tolerance and other characteristics are provided at the Apicentar’s selection apiary.
Also, careful look for any kind of abnormality or disease it is taken. We regularly check samples of worker bees for nosema spores. Varroa mites are counted in time of fall treatments under screened bottom boards. Before that, in August, we provide varroa density in breeding line colonies using 300 worker bees detergent wash (Lee and coworkers, 2010.). At the same time testing for hygienic behavior is performed applying pin-killed test.
“Apicentar” is licensed by Serbian government (Ministry of Agriculture) to do the research on honey bee breeding and reproduction of honey bee queens.
During beekeeping season at Apicentar’s and four cooperative beekeepers mating stations round ten thousand mated queens are produced and distributed to domestic and foreign beekeepers. The mated queens are exported to Jordan, Greece and during most recent two years to Russian Federation. It is reported by Russian beekeepers about very successful adaptation and overwintering of honey bee colonies with Apicentar’s queens. During the last several years our export of selected mated queens has been cca 2500.
Short review of selection procedure
At the start of our breeding program 1982 an apiary of autochthonous genetics material from different parts of Serbia was established. At that time it was decided to apply the line selection of open type. The reason for such decision was because of impracticability to secure an isolated honey bee queens mating conditions. Additional reason for this was some of our earlier positive experience with selected free mated stock of honey bees, what has been later confirmed by Calderone and Fondrik (1991.) in U.S.A. In this way honey productivity was significantly improved. Of course, this process has been slower than under controlled conditions. Unlimited presence of our own and other drone sources has been contributing genetics diversity and make it possible to avoid inbreeding.
Established lines are maintained according usual beekeeping practice in the same way for all the colonies. There were no preferential treatments for any of the line’s colonies.
During the beekeeping seasons three control inspections are performed, two during spring and one at the end of summer. By these inspections data concerning amount of worker bees, brood, honey and pollen stores are collected. This is estimated in tenth of a frame. Also, quality of brood is observed and temper of bees is estimated. At the same time the original numbered queens are identified. Also, careful look for any kind of abnormality or disease signs it is taken. We regularly check samples of worker bees for nosema spores. Varroa mites are counted during fall treatments under screened bottom board.
Honey productivity testing is performed in time of black locust nectar flow. All the line selection colonies are weighted at the start and after three days of nectar proceeds. The three days gain is a measure of success of the individual colony in both, first and second year of testing. Also, we are taking account of wintering ability and survival of original line queens.
To produce large number of high quality queens we utilize Doolittle’s method of transferring larvae old 12-18 hours from worker comb cells into queen cell cups. The breeder queen is confined on three combs in the partitioned part of hive body by a queen excluder.
We use the same colonies to start and finish queen cells. For that purpose strong colonies are temporarily divided and in the queenless part grafted larvae are started. No more than twenty two per starter colony. After twenty four hours the part with queen is returned to the original position and the hive body with the started queen cells is put over queen excluder.
In our mating yard we apply divided standard LR bodies partitioned in two and three divisions. Each nucleus is receiving a comb of caped brood and a comb of honey.
As a result of our long breeding undertaking we attained a successes as follow:
We have been able to reproduce commercially more honey productive and more disease tolerant bees. Providing two year testing process our reproduced queens have been able to last longer than usual and to have exceptionally good winter survival. Estimated increase of honey yield, depending of natural conditions, could be as high as 25-30% as average per yard related to unselected stock of honey bees. Also, varroa mite tolerance has been significantly improved. Only fall treatment is necessary. In a few colonies of our breeding lines the varroa count surpasses a thousand.
Since 1998 there has been cyclic six years up and down infestation rates. However, the last three seasons the infestation is rather low and the average number of varroa mites has been under 250 per honey bee colony. Through the years at Apicentar apiaries there has not been any fall-winter losses except for some queenlessness and supersedure cases. We never had any symptoms of viral disease like CCD. In our future selection work we intend to do everything to provide additional improvements of Apis mellifera var. carnica stock.
Apicentar is a specialized company for the selection and production of honey bee queens. It has been founded as an independent organization in 1995. Previously, starting from 1982, this work was realized by the Beekeeping Conglomerate, Faculty of Biology and Agro Economic Institute in Belgrade.
Our breeding program is based on an autochthonous subspecies of the honey bee Аpis mellifera carnica.
In the selection procedure we apply open type line selection with free mating and lasting for more than 30 years. The purpose is to increase honey productivity and Varroa destructor tolerance. Some of the lines are now in the 18th and 19th generation of selection.
Our selection program contains eight lines of honey bees. For each line there are approximately ten colonies with queens descending from a selected mother queen from the previous generation of selection. Each season, four lines are in the first and four in the second year of performance testing. By this approach queen longevity is stimulated.
The new generation of each line is bred at different, mutually distant apiaries and from the same mother queens that are later used to produce queens commercially. Performance testing for honey productivity, tolerance to Varroa and other diseases, as well as other important qualities, is exclusively conducted at the Apicentar’s selection apiary. Control inspections performed in late summer and in spring are the base for data collection. Since 1991 our genetic material is used in the US by Honey Bee Genetics under the name ARS Yugoslavians.
Post Script: The so-called “yugo” line of bees has been more or less discontinued in favor of Russian honey bees from the Primorsky area. Both lines appear to be variations of Carniolan bees. An additional line is the “New World Carniolan,” developed and maintained by Sue Cobey.