Hilo bees are a work in progress; as our capacity grows so will availability. Limited numbers of queens are available to beekeepers who agree to monitor batches of 100 queens or more, and give feedback. If you are interested in participating in a limited release, complete this form.
What are the traits and performance of Hilo Bees?
Hilo Bees 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 Italian bees 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 usually remain below threshold without treatment (graph)
original Hilo queens survival is higher than controls each year(graph)
Hilo bees have comparable adult bee populations, and larger in fall(graph)
Hilo Bees produce smaller honey crops than controls (graph)
After one year, original queens in colonies with > 6 frames of bees at almonds: Hilo bees 37% vs. controls 26%. Hilo bees had 42% more rentable colonies for almond pollination after one year, untreated.
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?