Estimated availability (updated January 26, 2022): February - April. 1800 queens (total) grafted from Hilo Bee breeders and mated to a mixture of Hilo and non-Hilo drones. May - October. 1200 queens per month, grafted from Hilo Bee breeders and mated to Hilo drones. Hilo Queens are all marked and clipped. Minimum order 10 queens. 100+ Queens are $28 each, shipping included. 50-99 queens, queens are $30 plus shipping costs. 10-49 queens are $32 plus shipping costs. Prices include $1 per queen for PAm to develop a website and materials to support this program. If you are interested in receiving queens, complete this form.
What are the traits and performance of Hilo Bees?
Hilo Queens are primarily Italian background bees, although cordovan and carniolan colors may be observed. They are gentle, not quick to swarm, and do not propolize heavily. Compared to typical bees from commercially based sources during field trials, Hilo colonies tended to be slightly smaller in the summer and at least as large during almond pollination.
Data from side by side field trials show that Hilo Bees:
Mite levels during the critical treatment period in late summer were much lower in Hilo Bees. Only 9% of Hilo colonies vs. 46% of control colonies were at or above the threshold for treatment of 3 mites per 100 bees. (graph)
Survival of original queens was similar for Hilo and control bees in summer and autumn, and greater for Hilo queens by February. (graph)
Hilo bees had slightly smaller bee populations in summer and slightly larger populations in February. (graph)
Hilo Bee colonies produced 29% smaller honey crops than control colonies. (graph)
In February, after nearly one year under commercial conditions, 32% of Hilo colonies vs. 23% of control colonies had original queens and had at least 6 frames of bees. Hilo Bees had 37% more rentable colonies for almond pollination, despite being untreated against Varroa (while control colonies were treated as usual). (graph)
Economic Analysis using field trial data shows an improved bottom line for beekeepers (economic model)
How can I test for Varroa resistance, and how is resistance tested in the Hilo program?
Over decades, carefully observed lower mite levels have been indicators of colonies with Varroa resistance. As the traits must be both maternal and paternal to confer a high degree of mite resistance, the genetic variation of multiple matings makes it rare and difficult to find highly resistant colonies without selection efforts. The most accurate way to evaluate mite resistance is to observe mite reproduction in late-stage pupae. Hilo bees have been developed by using selected grafting stock, and drone stock, known to have high Varroa resistance.
When evaluating any bees in your own operation, Varroa mite washes over a year can help identify individual colonies which express high Varroa resistance. Marking queens to ensure no turnover is also important.
Are Hilo Bees the same as other VSH bees?
No. Hilo Bees are the product of the third phase of breeding bees with VSH-based mite resistance. The mission of the program is to produce high quality, Varroa-resistant bees suitable for use in commercial beekeeping. The historical relatedness of bees with VSH-based mite resistance can be found in the History section.
Does the Hilo program sell breeder queens?
The Hilo program currently does not distribute breeder queens, but may in the future.
Can I raise my own resistant Bees from the Hilo queens I have?
Several studies and field trials have shown that reliable Varroa resistance requires colonies to have more than 50% VSH genetics. This means that even the best grafting stock will not be enough; the drones a queen mates with must also carry the resistance genes. Using large numbers of selected drone source colonies to “flood” isolated mating areas with mite-resistant drones is the best way to produce resistant open-mated stock.
The Hilo material is intended to eventually be provided to breeders who commit to the conditions we expect will maintain it successfully. Ideally, more queen producers will eventually produce and provide Varroa-resistant bees, using strict production protocols to maintain genetic integrity. Contact us if you would like to be a candidate to raise Hilo Bees.
What does the Field Trial Data Tell Us about the Economics of Using Hilo Bees?