Bee Genetics - Apis Mellifera Beekeeping Course

Apis Mellifera
Beekeeping Course
by Amazing Bees
Apis Mellifera
Beekeeping Course
by Amazing Bees
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Bee Genetics

Session 5
Queen Bee Replacement

Bee Genetics

The Queen bee is the mother of all bees in the colony.

For raising a new queen, selecting a mother queen from good stock is important for producing good new queens.

Also important is the selection of drones from good stock - and that is the trickier part of the match.

The virgin queen mates with multiple (6-12) drones outside the hive, therefore hard to control.

Following traditional breeding techniques, the best queen breeders can do is keeping a sufficient number of hives with large quantities of drones from good stock nearby when raising new queens - increasing the chances that the mating queens fall for the best drones.

Artificial insemination of bee queens is practised to achieve best results (at least from the breeders' point of view).


Female bees have 32 chromosomes, male bees only 16.
Most animals normally have two sets of chromosomes. One set comes from the mother and one from the father.

Humans have 46 chromosomes; 23 from our mother's egg and 23 from our fathers sperm.

Bees have a different number of chromosomes. Workers and queens have 32; 16 are contributed by the queen's eggs and 16 come from the drones sperm.

Since drones hatch from unfertilised eggs, they only have the 16 chromosomes that were in the queen’s unfertilised egg. This fact makes breeding bees different than breeding any other animal.

The egg can only carry half of the queen’s 32 chromosomes, so she can only pass on half of her genes to her offspring. Each egg contains a unique collection of her genes, so each egg is different.

Drones only have 16 chromosomes, so each sperm must contain all the genes of the drone. It means that each sperm from a drone is identical, they are clones.

The effect of the queen mating with multiple drones is that the colony is composed of different subfamilies. Each subfamily has the same mother but different fathers.

Workers inherit 50% of the queen’s genes, but 100% of the drones genes.


Selective Breeding:
Yes, it is easy to raise a new queen – but leave selective breeding to the expert – the expert with the knowledge.

Should we really encourage Selective Breeding?
Selective breeding also has its downside. Relying on the same breeding stock limits the source of variation – the effect of inbreeding.

Exploring this subject is beyond the scope of this course – Breeding Bee Queens with expertise is a discipline on its own.

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