Russian bees in USA and Canada

  Russian Queen raised on my bee yard

Dr. Thomas E. Rinderer, head researcher at the USDA's Agricultural Research Services, Honey Bee Breeding, Genetics and Physiology Lab in Baton Rouge, Dr. Robert Danaka, an entomologist, and Dr. Gary Delate, a technician initiated the research project to evaluate honey bees from the Primorsky region of eastern Russia for varroa mite resistance. The honey bees in the region had been living with varroa mites since at least 1952 and it was believed that they might be able to tolerate the varroa mite. In the fall of 1994, a preliminary fact finding mission determined that there was enough evidence and scientific support to initiate the project. In June of 1995, a test apiary was established in Primorsky. Queens from 16 separate beekeepers in Primorsky were collected and brought to the Honey Bee Quarantine Station at Grand Terre Island, Louisiana in 1997. In 1998, daughters were raised from the queens and mated to drones from the Russian queens. The evaluation continued in secure apiaries near Baton Rouge. Hubert D.Tubbs Apiaries in Webb, Mississippi in winter of 2000 had an opportunity to witness the Russian bees' durability thanks to a harsh winter. Of his1,500 domestic colonies, 1,200 to 1,400 were lost, whereas of his 2,000 Russian-bred colonies, only 2 didn't survive. Based on test-yard evaluations, Tubbs reports average honey yields of 130 to 150 pounds per hive. The usual yield is about 84 pounds per hive in his area. There are 40 different, elite genetic lines of Russian bees.
Russian Bees - USDA (16 Sections!)

"The more important aspects of the commercial management of ARS Russian honey bees are described. Requeening is more difficult with some Russian stocks and queens usually take longer to start laying. Russian colonies overwinter well but may have a small cluster size in early spring. They buildup rapidly after pollen is available and require adequate supering, but shut down brood rearing when resources disappear. Russian honey bees are resistant to both varroa and tracheal mites." (USDA ARS. Publication Date: October 1, 2003)
"Since Russian bees were first imported by Rinderer, they have continued to impress researchers. In fact, ARS entomologist Jose Villa recently discovered just how the bees fend off tracheal mites, which kill honey bees by invading and clogging their airways. Villa discovered that, much like other bees resistant to tracheal mites, Russian bees are fastidious and agile groomers, capable of using their middle pair of legs to brush mites away. Villa and fellow ARS entomologist Lilia De Guzman have also confirmed that Russian bees are excellent cold-weather survivors. After studying Russian bee colonies for five winters in northeast Iowa, Villa and De Guzman found that the bees are less likely than other bees to lose hive members during harsh, cold weather. Russian bees appear more frugal with their winter food stores." (USDA ARS)

"...There was a general discussion of specific commercial strains of honey bees that have an innate resistance to various parasitic mites, particularly the “Russian honey bee,” originating in Russia and imported by the Baton Rouge Agricultural Research Service lab. The consensus was that current commercial production of this strain (approximately 2,000 queens per year) was not likely to make a significant genetic impact on overall commercial production of queens in the United States (approximately 1 million queens annually)..." USDA, Report on the National Stakeholders Conference on Honey Bee Healt

Please keep in mind these Notes, related to the "Queen cells" section (Table #1 ) "..Russian bees do produce Queen cups and remove them without actually swarming. This can be confusing to beekeepers as it does not necessarily indicate a colony intends to swarm.. Supercedure did not occur in our test colonies. This was unexpected as beekeepers had stated supercedure was common with Russian Queens. Supercedure happens when workers sense a Queen is failing, is injured or is otherwise unable to continue egg laying. This may indicate a problem with specific breeding stock or methods of queen rearing by some commercial breeders."

In 1999 Ontario Beekeepers' Association (OBA), Eastern Apiculture Society, and later joined
by Saskatchewan Beekeepers' Association (SBA), and Canadian Honey Council in 2001,
decided to import the Russian bee stock for initial evaluation as a source of Varroa resistance.

Key Players

How many Russian bee colonies are in the USA

Beekeepers' comments

Comparative reproduction of Varroa destructor in different types of Russian and Italian honey bee combs

The Effects of Co-Mingled Russian and Italian Honey Bee Stocks and Sunny Or Shaded Apiaries on Varroa Mite Population Growth, Worker Bee Population and Honey Production

Flight Activity of USDA ARS Russian Honey Bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae) During Pollination of Lowbush Blueberries in Main

Overwintering of Russian Honey Bees in Northeastern Iowa

Commercial management of ARS Russian Honey Bees

Overwintering of Russian honey bees in northeastern Iowa

Russian Bees for Sale

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