I have periodically given talks and even classes last year on raising your own queens. Inevitably someone will come up and ask questions and seek advice beginning with ‘I don’t want to compete with you, but I’d like to know how you do x’. My response is always the same, ‘Please compete with me. Raise a few queens for yourself, then for your neighbor, and sell as many as you care to produce. The industry needs it.’ It may be just the view I see, but the demand seems to only increase each year with few new producers entering the market, large or small. In fact two large companies with a combined production of 75,000 queens retired this year according to Kim Flottum. At the same time the number of hobbyist does seem to be growing.
I’ve also heard plenty of complaints about supercedure, queen size and other problems from those who have purchased mass produced queens. I’m not saying all mass produced queens are bad, nor are all operations at fault. I just hear the complaints and know the pressure of getting queens out on time, disease, stress, financial concerns, and residue from mite treatments can affect the queens in a real operation. Many beekeepers want a queen at the lowest price possible, and they want it now. Quality and cheap just don’t play well together . But this is a topic for another post.
So there is a good market out there, and there are beekeepers not happy with the queens they are getting. They are looking for quality queens, the kind YOU can raise in small number at home. It really isn’t that difficult to do, even on a very small scale. So I’d encourage you, if you have even the slightest interest, and even if you only intend to raise queens for yourself, to take advantage of the queen rearing classes given though the Ohio State Beekeepers Association or your own local or state association.
[I’m happy to see both the American Bee Journal and Bee Culture have several articles on queen rearing and breeding in the latest issues (March 2008). Of particular interest to the beekeeper who hopes to make profit at it one day is Larry Connor’s article ‘Raising and Managing Your Own Queens and Drones’ in ABJ where he outlines a plan to start a small scale operation, and ‘Small-scale Queen Rearing’ by Roy Hendrickson that is a practical article on a small Ohio operation.’]