Thursday, April 28, 2016

Quality of Commercial Queens -- Dr. David Tarpy

Lately, I keep having that feeling that my bread is getting bigger, but I'm not getting anymore butter. It's a shame really because I've been wanting to look up some of Dr. Tarpy's work, and just haven't had the chance. However, while washing dishes last night, I did get to watch some of this talk on YouTube. It's about his research trying to figure out what makes a good queen and why commercial queens fail so often.

Anyway, I found it extremely interesting. One point that caught my interest is a note around 22:00 where he says that if you're grafting, bees won't even use larvae more than 3.5 days old. (He can force the bees to use them because he's in a lab, but the resulting specimen is an intercaste creature that is neither queen nor worker.) However, inferring from other remarks in the presentation, the bees preference seems to be for larvae no more than 2 days old. 

It's common knowledge that the best queens are made from 0-day old larvae. The older the larvae, the lower the quality queen. Swarm queens are raised from 0-day old larvae that are swimming in royal jelly from the moment of birth. Emergency queens are usually made from older larvae. However, I love this passage from Jay Smith's book Better Queens that explains how important that early feeding is:

The importance of food for the young applies especially to the queen larva as it grow at such an amazing speed. It grows as much in proportion to its size in one day as a calf does in a year. At this rate if we keep the young larva away from food while grafting for 20 minutes it is the equivalent to keeping a calf away from its mother for a week.

Although this passage is about the interruption of food supply caused by the grafting process, the same can be applied to 1-2 day old larvae that are used for queens. Though they might never leave the hive, they don't get the same amount of royal jelly, so in that sense, their food supply is interrupted as well. I like Jay's analogy because it really helps me envision just how much food a developing queen needs.

Anyway, I found the talk extremely interesting, particularly the section on the practical application of his research. Hope you enjoy it, too.


  1. I saw Dr. Tarpy speak last fall at a state meeting here in Virginia. Very engaging speaker and his research is fascinating. Thanks for the link and summary.


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