Go Green with a Hybrid Queen



Go Green with a Hybrid Queen (sm)


 Quality Hygienic Hybrid Survivor Queens for Hobbyists, Breeders, Honey Production, and Practical-Sustainable- Pesticide Free-Organic Beekeeping

Raw Unfiltered Tulip Poplar, Blackberry, Sourwood, and other Varietal Honeys

 Beeswax and Propolis Products

Pollination Services

Bee Supplies




 Quality Hygienic Hybrid Survivor Queens for Hobbyists, Breeders, Honey Production, and Practical-Sustainable- Pesticide Free-Organic Beekeeping

Raw Unfiltered Tulip Poplar, Blackberry, Sourwood, and other Varietal Honeys

 Beeswax and Propolis Products

Pollination Services

Bee Supplies



Now taking orders for 2015 with 2014 prices until December 30 2014 or when the new 2015 website is published

Proven Hybrid Survivor Queens & Nucs 



Hybrid Survivor Queens  Deep & Medium Nucs   Package Bees from Georgia


Honey  Bees Wax   Pollination Services

Norton's Honey Farm, My Bee Business, sourwood farms,  Used Bee Stuff, Carolina Honey, North Carolina Honey, 1-800-honey, blackberry honey, black locust honey, fall honey, poplar honey, really local honey, sourwood-honey, sourwood honey, spring honey, tulip poplar honey








Norton's Honey Farm

330 Irvin Street

Reidsville, NC 27320-3648

Tel: 336 520 1097

Email: Carolinabeeman@hotmail.com  & Carolinabeeman@bellsouth.net

Email: Carolinabeeman@gmail.com & Carolinabeeman@bellsouth.net

Email: Carolinabeeman@hotmail.com & Carolinabeeman@gmail.com


Please send your correspondence to at least one of the three combined email addresses (above) and include 'Hybrid Survivor Queens' etc. within the Subject Heading in order to help bypass any spam or junk mail filters etc.


 How to


Ordering Information

Shipping & Handling

Ordering Information

   2014 Queen Marking  Diagram




Basics of Our Operations & Quality Controls





We will have our own Five Frame Nucs ready in late April and May, exact dates TBD:


2014 Deep (9 & 5/8") NUC with marked Tier-1 Queen: $120.00 each

2014 Deep (9 & 5/8") NUC with marked Tier-2 Queen: $135.00 each


2014 Medium (6 & 5/8") NUC with marked Tier-1 Queen: $100.00 each

2014 Medium (6 & 5/8") NUC with marked Tier-2 Queen: $115.00 each



Package Bees:


We will have Russian and Italian Package Bees from Georgia for resale in Early April and Early May of 2014 with pick-up in Reidsville, NC, Exact Dates TBD:


                             3# Italians    3# Russians     

Prices:  (1-10)            $   95.00                      $ 102.00                      

            (11-UP)          $   92.00                        $ 99.00                          





Spring & Summer 2014 Queens


Pricing for our Proven 42 Day Hybrid Queens, Tier-1: (laying with her worker brood capped)

Tier-1  Hybrid Queens    (14Q-1).........................................$ 25.00 each


Pricing for our Proven and "Tested" 56 Day Hybrid Queens (Tier-2)

Tier-2 Hybrid Queens      (14Q-2)........................................$ 40.00 each

Fall 2014 Queens Prices Effective July 20, 2014 to September 14, 2014

Pricing for our Proven 42 Day Hybrid Queens, Tier-1: (laying with her worker brood capped)

Tier-1  Hybrid Queens    (14FQ-1)......................................$ 23.00 each


Shipping & Handling Information: Queens Only


Shipping & Handling Charges (2014):


Quantity:  1-8 USPS Priority Mail $11.50;  Quantity:  9-20 USPS Priority Mail $16.95

USPS Express (R) Mail 1-20 $40.00

UPS NEXT DAY 1-20, $50.00 

FEDX Next Day 1-20, $65.00


  1. We do not ship queens via USPS, FEDX, UPS Air Shipments  when daytime temperatures rise above or are forecasted at or above 90 degrees at point of shipment and/or at point of destination.       

  2. We do not ship queens via USPS, FEDX, UPS Ground Shipments  when daytime temperatures rise above or are forecasted at or above 90 degrees at point of shipment and/or at point of destination orwhile in transit.

  3. There are times when the US Postal Service for whatever reason will not accept nor ship live animals Priority Mail and the only alternative other than waiting is to USPS Express Mail or ship UPS if UPS will accept shipment and they often have the same restrictions for shipping LIVE ANIMALS as the US Postal Service.

  4. We will not pull queens in the rain. We will ship our queens on Tuesdays and Wednesdays with special shipments on Thursdays: however we will not ship a queen if we suspect that she may not be delivered by Saturday evening.

  5. All queen shipments are transported to the designated carrier on the same day as when pulled unless when special circumstances, usually weather related, prevail and only when the customer requests or approves pulling the shipment the evening before actual shipping.

  6. Shipping costs include postage, containers, labels, packing, packaging, transportation, logistics, and handling.  

  7. Each shipment will have a assigned tracking number by the carrier activated by the acceptance of the carrier and recorded into the carrier's tracking system with the customer notified of same via email.

  8. Please inspect your shipment immediately upon receipt and notify first the shipper/carrier then this office of any dead queens.

  9. Insurance is extra and the customer is responsible for collection of any claims.

  10. Availability is always on a first come first serve basis.

  11. ALL Shipping is designated FOB Reidsville, NC 27320  



Deposits for Packages, Queen and Nuc Orders:



Package Bees



Our Marking Scheme for 2014:


The need for beekeepers to be assured that the queen found six months down the road in their hive is the same queen that they paid for and installed in that hive is imperative!


It is important to know that your queen is indeed the queen that you paid for and installed because if your colony swarmed while you were on vacation and/or a new queen carrying unknown genetics in her sper--matheca is now laying in your hive you are not getting the genetics that you wanted and you paid for. In fact you really don't know where that rogue queen was before she walked into your hive. You can have a superseded queen, a 2 or even a 3 queen hive (mother-daughters), or you can find a dead queen on the bottom board and if it is properly marked then you positively know that it was your queen and the one walking around inside your hive and maybe laying either came from somewhere else or was one of the above. And for the folks that live in regions where Africanized honey bees are known to have spread you just may have an Africanized honey bee queen now laying her lovely hot tempered daughters in your hive.


With a marked queen you are also assured of the Tier level that you are buying.


Our Marking scheme for 2014 is as follows:


Left Side of Thorax:  YEAR                        Right Side of Thorax:  Tier- Level                 

2014 is marked:     Green                                        Tier-1 is marked:  Yellow

                                                               Tier-2 is marked:     Red



All queens are marked per their Tier and their year.


Ordering: Queens and Nucs

  1. Clipping on one side is available at $ 5.00 per queen.
  2. Queens are currently shipped in 3-hole wooden cages unless a battery box with plastic cages is requested.
  3. You can upgrade to a battery box with the queens in JZsBZs cages with loose attendants, queen candy, sponges with water, all  for an additional $ 10.00. (Max is 18 queens per battery box) .
  4. I am a small outfit with a limited number of mating nucs therefore I must limit orders to 35 queens per customer per week.
  5. I ship only on a schedule that allows receipt of your queens on a Wednesday through Saturday only if the USPS or if UPS will guarantee delivery no later than Saturday. Note: The USPS now gives 2 or 3 days for it's Priority Mail Service and 1 or 2 days for its Express Mail Service.
  6. I do not ship unmarked queens unless specifically requested.


BOOKING your queens and nucs:


Tel: 336 520-1097 Monday through Friday Please leave a message and advise when it would be best for me to call you back.

When Ordering Queens: We request a 25% deposit when ordering with the balance due at least 2 weeks prior to your scheduled queen shipment.

When Ordering Nucs: We request a 25% deposit when ordering with the balance due paid by check or cash upon pick-up of your Nucs.

You may request that I send you my "PayPal button" with all particulars to your email address or  go to http://www.paypal.com/ and credit my PayPal account, Carolinabeeman@hotmail.com, with one payment, in full, with your credit card or electronic checking. 

Please Note: All orders require specific delivery dates and require confirmation (call me or email me) prior to mailing your check or paying online with .

If you want to know when your queens either shipped or will ship please ask. If there has been no communications between us please either write via e-mail or send me a letter in the mail. I am hard to contact; there is no one else here except for me. Emails and letters in the mail work best.


Thank you for your business.


Chuck Norton

Norton's Honey Farm

330 Irvin Street

Reidsville, NC 27320-3648

Tel: 336 520 1097

The Basics of Our Operation and Quality Control (the logic of our madness):


All queens for sale are the daughters of "Survivor Breeder queens" queens taken from a selected full frame of just hatched day old larvae; wet grafted into queen cups then placed 10 days after grafting into a queenless mating nuc and allowed to hatch, become sexually mature; and, bred in our mating yards surrounded with selected Italian and Russian drone-mother hives. These yards are isolated and have been in existence with Italian and Russian honey bees for well over 10 years; and yes, some of the hives with drone mothers have been allowed to swarm thus further populating the surrounding area with desired genetics. After each mating these queens will normally return to their own mating nucs and by the time that they are about 28 days old each new queenshould have begun laying.


That does not always happen so we do things a little differently than most large commercial queen operations; we  don't take a 28-Day Old Queen and pull it, cage it, and ship it!


Defining a Tier-1 and a Tier-2 Queen:


Instead of pulling and shipping each queen we raise on a strict 28 day schedule we keep her for another 2 weeks then classify her as a Tier-1 queen (42 days from being laid by her mother). This new queen after laying her brood for about two weeks has now begun to establish her laying pattern and the viability of this new queen is just now readily becoming established. At 42 days there are some older capped brood to determine an early proof of mating (see below) as well as a visual inspection for external physical defects when pulling, caging, and shipping.  At this stage of her life her pheromones are extremely prominent and she has been laying for about two weeks; this queen is now a laying machine.  Most of our sales are Tier-1 Queens.


We also offer a Tier-2 Queen. A Tier-2 Queen is at least a full 2 weeks older than a Tier-1 Queen. At 56 days a further evaluation of the queen and her daughter's attributes can be ascertained. Here we are able to perform gut examination of marked hatched workers for Nosema, evaluate her brood patterns, identify and reject queens having  worker imago hatching with Deformed Wing Virus, and identify other disease as well.


By the way, I am not the only one that raises and sells queens this way and I encourage you to search for others who are trying hard to raise better quality proven queens.


Determining the Viability of a Queen: Inspections, Brood, Brood Patterns, and Proof of Mating


At 42 days the queen has now been laying for about 14 days and much can be determined about the quality and viability of the queen by inspections and evaluations of the queen's performance and by the inspection and evaluation of her brood, and her brood pattern during each stage of brood development from her egg laying pattern to her larva's health and growth, the pattern, and viability of her capped brood, and finally to her hatched imagoes. 


A normal queen will usually begin to lay a limited amount of haploid, unfertilized, eggs only after her hive population has expanded and her daughters have drawn out the drone cells for her to lay. We all know that drones are the males and have the big eyes while worker eyes are smaller and are different in shape than the drones. Because we can identify drone and worker pupae we can usually determine if a new queen has truly mated and is laying female worker brood by looking at her capped worker pupa. At 14 days old the new worker larvae is capped and metamorphosis of the pupa has begun. The pigmentation of the eye goes from none (white) to light pink, then pink to purple, and then even darker in a well defined manner as the pupa develops into an imago. The shape and thus the color of the pigmentation of the eye can be easily resolved by the 14th day thus also determining the age and sex of the pupa. This is done by cutting open the sealed capping of a capped worker cell and observing the size, color, and morphology of the eyes. By looking at the shape and definition, one can determine if the pupae is a drone or a worker. This can be done with pupae in worker cells and pupae in drone cells; but, it is the worker cells that we are most interested in observing. This procedure quickly and easily defines the actual sex of the still developing pupae as often the top of the capping of worker sized cells alone can sometimes be difficult to determine if indeed worker sized drone are developing.  Worker sized drone are exactly that, little sized male bees with wide abdomens and big drone sized eyes; they are the result of haploid eggs laid by a laying worker or several laying workers. Mating nucs used by most commercial queen rearing outfits have usually smaller nucs than normal nucs, some having extremely small populations and use only a couple of half frames (or less) sized foundation, or mini nucs. When the queen is pulled and a queen cell is installed the queen cell may not produce a queen leaving the nuc without any queen pheromones thus the normal queen pheromones that inhibit ovary growth in workers is absent and laying workers develop and begin to lay worker sized drones (Both hives and nucs with developed laying workers present serious problems to the beekeeper). Sometimes a queen that has hatched from a queen cell will never matesor she can be injured and for what ever reason never begins to lay. Usually an unmated queen will never lay at all but instead march about aimlessly around her hive hardly ever stopping to inspect a prepared cell for an egg that will never be laid. Other queens can be mated but only lay unfertilized eggs due to injury or dysfunction of her valve fold which allows the queen to draw a minute amount of sperm from her spermatheca and thus fertilize each passing egg from her oviduct that is destined for a female in a worker sized cell. Such an injury will never allow the valve fold to properly open and pass a small amount of sperm or even worse it can be partially dysfunctional allowing some eggs to become fertilized and others not!


Sometimes a queen returning from her mating flight can enter the wrong hive or nuc, a nuc containing another queen; and, if one of these two queens was not properly mated or injured either in flight or in fighting then it is possible that the "bad" queen may be pulled and shipped. Also when more than one queen cell is installed into a queenless nuc more than one queen may hatch and mate or not mate. We mark our queens when they begin laying (2014 Red) and when we see an unmarked queen in the same nuc where there is supposed to be a marked laying queen then we know we may have a problem.  So we simply divide the nuc into a side-by-side split and then wait an additional two weeks to find out which of the two queens, or both, are laying good viable brood and therefore were properly mated. We also keep track of the status of each nuc and each of our hives by individually numbered tags, logs, and tracking methods.  


If solid healthy capped worker cells are present with these worker cells being in a normal distribution pattern without  abnormalities then one can be safe in saying the queen was properly mated, had not been injured during her mating flight, and is acceptable to ship provided she has all her 6 legs, both antenna, and normal laying habits.


There are many problems that can and may affect the viability and the quality of a queen. This is the main reason we wait to ship our queens when they are 42 days old. The extra two weeks of development and inspections allows us to provide you with a better quality queen. We call these queens Tier-1 queens because they go through a series or "tiers" levels of inspections and procedures.  Queens that fail any inspection at any time or have daughters that fail for reason of the queen's viability and/or quality are 'dispatched'. Also we will not ship a queen with marking paint on either of her eyes, legs or her antennae.


A queen at 56 days enables a further evaluation of the queen and allows examination of her hybrid daughter's attributes.  Since we now can look at and observe her hatched imago we can perform testing for Nosema and also reject any queen having her worker imago hatching with Deformed Wing or other noticeable viruses. Once again a Tier-2 queen is at least 56 days old from the day that she was laid.

Is she worth it? We think so!



Varroa Resistance


The Russian Honey Bee

In the 19th Century beekeepers, settlers and pioneers brought their Apis mellifera honeybees from different regions of Europe, the Caucasians, and Asia Minor to the  on the Pacific Coast via the newly laid track of the Trans-Siberian Railway (1891 to 1916). Here at last was a conduit from west to east across Siberia to the eastern Pacific Coast connecting Europe to the Pacific much in the same manner that the First Transcontinental Railroad brought America’s settlers in droves from lands east of the Mississippi to California, Washington and Oregon. Today the crossing of the Trans-Siberian Railway from Moscow to Vladivostok takes a little over 6 and 3/4 days and covers about 9289 kilometers (5753 miles). Here in the Primorsky Territory of Far-Eastern Russia also the crossing of the Varroa mite, Varroa jacobsoni from Apis cerana, the native Asian honey bee to Apis mellifera, the European honey bee most likely occurred and over a subsequent 100 year period a melting pot developed and genetic resistance to the Varroa mite grew through the interbreeding and the consequential  survival of the various intermixed feral races of A. mellifera: Italians, German, Carniolan, Caucasian, and other races all the while under the attack of the Varroa mite.


The current Russian honey bee is really a happenstance mutt and is not of any particular race or breed that for over 100 years was improved with Survivor Queens whose daughters exhibited natural behavioral survival methods of resistance to the Varroa mite and having no singular identity as to race that we normally define of honey bees.


Thus A. mellifera honeybees from the “West” interbred and intermixed all the while being parasitized by Varroa jacobsoni in the isolated Primorsky Territory of Far-Eastern Russia and the result is a honeybee now called the Russian Honey Bee by the USDA-ARS and the Russian Honey Bee Breeders Association that has survived over 100 years in existence with the Varroa mite in the wild.


We have that Russian honeybee here in the USA at our disposal because Bob Danka, Tom Rinderer, and others at the USDA-ARS in Baton Rouge set up a 5 year research agreement and in 1997 imported the first Russian honey bees from the Primorsky Territory of Far-Eastern Russia to an isolated barrier island in Louisiana for research. Although the USDA-ARS Baton Rouge research continues with the selection of additional desirable traits and evaluations of the Russian honeybee as well as testing and monitoring the Russian honeybee for genetic purity it has transferred the Russian program out of the hands of the USDA to a private entity. In 2008 the Russian Honey Bee Breeders Association, a private corporation, took over the responsibility of protection and propagation of the Russian honeybee breeding and selection program and continues to do so to this day. These folks that are members of the Russian Honey Bee Breeders Association are the only source of the Russian honey bee, other sources are either re-sales of same or are Russian hybrids.  


Please see: (DANKA, R. G., RINDERER, T. E., KUZNETSOV, V. N., DELATTE, G. T. 1995. A USDA-ARS project to evaluate resistance to Varroa jacobsoni by honey bees of Far-Eastern Russia. American Bee Journal 135: 746-748.)


Additional Quality Procedures, Records,  & Shipping Inspections



The Queens for Sale at Norton's Honey Farm


A Summary of our Operation


Quality Assurance:

Having started my career first as a technician and later as an engineer, supervisor and manager with Hughes Aircraft Company and Ford Aerospace in the California Aerospace Industry after serving in the US Navy during the Viet Nam era QUALITY was and continues to be a paramount and integral part of my thinking and my business. I want to produce well mated varroa resistant queens that are also tracheal mite resistant while also being cognizant of the small hive beetle, Deformed Wing Virus (DWV), Nosema, American and European Foulbrood, Chalkbrood, and Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV). I want to produce queens that are readily accepted and less frequently superseded; and, because of the genetics that these honeybees carry they must also have resistant traits to tracheal and varroa mites and exhibit hygienic behavior. 

I believe that the queen must continue to mature in her own colony after she mates and then begins laying. I believe that her brood should be inspected as they cycle through metamorphosis and to continue on with inspection after emergence. In my opinion there are two ideal times to pull queens. The first time is when she is laying well and has given you a frame of at least 60% capped brood; the second time is about a week after her daughters have begun hatching out of pupation and are readily available for inspection.

Quality Assurance procedures are inherent to our queen rearing operations. The selection criteria of all queens are performed in a systematic manner with established quality parameters resulting in inspection and rejection at all stages of development. From the purchase, receipt, and installation of breeder queens from selected queen breeders; our own grafting and queen rearing operations; selection, pulling and shipping of mature queens all the way to a satisfied customer we believe a conscientious endeavor to maintain quality throughout our production and operations is paramount to successful queen rearing.  

Once Breeder Queens and Drone Mothers are selected and set up in dedicated mating yards many steps are taken along the way from grafting to imago to a mature laying queen in order to assure quality: We cull inferior queen cells; and we inspect and cull inferior queens throughout our production process and each queen has a history from the day she is grafted until the day she is shipped or dies because each queen raised has her own mating nuc box with an identifying tag and number that we now ship with our queens and nucs. We mark queens trice: by year, race and Tier. We also have shipping, packaging, and mailing standards in order to obtain and maintain our quality queens.  We ship only under conditions that are conducive to the health and viability of our queens, your queen.

Breeder Queens and Drone Mothers

I have been mentioning "breeder queens" and "drone mothers" without realizing that a lot of new beekeepers really don't know what I am talking about unless they have taken an advanced beekeeping class or have been curious enough to take the time to learn about genetics, queen rearing and queen breeding. It is really not very complicated; the young sexually mature virgin queen goes on a mating flight; the big eyed drone finds and mates with the queen, the drone dies in instant ecstasy; and the queen goes on to  mate with several additional drones before tiring and returning to her mating nuc. The next day the queen goes out on another mating flight and the same thing happens; and then the day after finally she has one last mating flight successfully mating with up to about 40 drones over a very short period. Sometimes it rains and the queen stays in her mating nuc; and then the day after it is too cold or too windy for her to go out and mate; and sometimes the virgin queen will never go out and successfully mate; then she can after several weeks without mating become a drone layer or even worse go about each day inspecting and walking over readied and awaiting empty cells never to lay even a single egg. Some times a queen will go out on a mating flight never to return having been carried back to a nest by a swallow; it should be noted that this is a part of the talk about the birds and the bees that you never learned from one of your parents. The result of all this is that a virgin queen mated once will probably mate with many drones on several mating flights.

Now think about those poor dead drones. They are haploids, they have a single set of chromosomes, they have a mother but no father. As a result they reflect the genetics only of their mother. If their mother is a pure Russian they will be pure Russian; if they are pure Italian they will be pure Italian. They will also carry the genetic traits of their mother; if their mother has a hygienic trait they will carry that same hygienic trait. Now think about that queen that just mated with 39 drones over a period of 6 or 7 days. Inside that queen there is a "bladder like" sac called a spermatheca which will harbor for the rest of her life as a laying queen in a homogenous manner the sperm from the most or all of the 39 lucky drones that were successful in making the trip up from the vagina and into the spermatheca. When the successfully mated queen starts laying the queen will open the duct to her spermatheca to allow just one sperm from one single drone to fertilize a passing unfertilized egg from her oviduct. That egg once fertilized with one sperm from that single drone will create a female from two complete sets of chromosomes, a diploid that will develop from a fertilized egg into a female worker honeybee or even capable of becoming a queen honeybee. The queen's spermatheca will contain several  million sperm cells! Each of the drones that successfully mated with that queen had ejaculated over a million sperm carrying the genetics of the individual drone and the individual drone's mother, the Drone Mother. Now if all 39 of those successful drones had the same mother then all the workers would be sisters and all those workers would carry the same genetics. That is very rare for drones conjugate in what are called Drone Conjugation Areas and this multiple mating  helps assure genetic diversity by the mixing of sperm from many genetically different drones from many different surrounding hives.  By defining and providing enough Drone Mother hives with the desired genetic races, lines, and traits that will produce enough drones  thus having a high statistical probability of mating with a single virgin queen that you grafted from a selected Breeder Queen well, BINGO!  You got a queen with the genetics that you desire!

 Italian Hybrid Queens*

Our Italian Hybrid Queens are daughters of selected Italian Breeder Queens mated in our mating yards  with drones from drone mother breeder hives which give raise about 50% of the raised grafted queen's daughter's genetics. It is the genetics of all the daughters of the queens that we raise and sell, the workers, that  determine the desirable traits that we are looking for. The "sires" of these daughters, the drones, are from selected lines of Russian, Italian, and our own Survivor Stock queens.

Russian Hybrid Queens*

Our Russian Hybrid Queens are daughters of selected Russian Breeder Queens mated in our mating yards  with drones from drone mother breeder hives which give raise to the other 50% of the raised grafted queen's daughter's genetics. It is the genetics of the daughters of the queens that we raise and sell, the workers, that  determine the desirable traits that we are looking for. The "sires" of these daughters, the drones, are from selected lines of Russian, Italian, and our own Survivor Stock queens.

Survivor Queens*

Our Survivor Queens are the daughters of selected Russian Breeder Queens mated in our mating yards  with drones from drone mother breeder hives which give raise to the other 50% of the raised grafted queen's daughter's genetics. It is the genetics of the daughters of the queens that we raise and sell, the workers, that  determine the desirable traits that we are looking for. The "sires" of these daughters, the drones, are from selected lines of Russian, Italian, and our own Survivor Stock queens.

Our Own Survivor Stock

There are several inherent beneficial traits that allow the honey bee, Apis mellifera, to reduce - even cease - brood production in periods of drought as well as during other periods of little or no incoming pollen or nectar to the Russian honey bee. In addition there are other behavioral traits that having developed over a 100 year period also contribute to the Russian Honey bee's resistance to Varroa mites.


This unfortunately presents a double edged sword:

For many years prior to having been solicited for membership in the Russian Honeybee Breeders Association I had purchased Russian breeder queens from either Charlie Harper or Glenn Apiaries or both. I had also purchased through Glenn Apiaries both Marla Spivac's Minnesota Hygienic and SMR (Suppressed Mite Reproduction) breeder queens developed by Harbo and Harris at the USDA-ARS Lab in Baton Rouge.

SMR was found to be an established mite-resistance trait that suppressed mite reproduction; later in 2005 after further study the USDA folks in Baton Rouge appropriately renamed the SMR trait as VSH or Varroa Sensitive Hygiene.  The Minnesota Hygienic queens developed by Marla Spivak and Gary S. Reuter were first used as breeder queens because Italian queens with hygienic traits were also determined to have a higher varroa resistance than non-hygienic Italians. I also wanted to have the natural inherent traits carried by the Italians such as gentleness and having a natural resistance to American Foulbrood, European Foulbrood, and Chalkbrood as well as larger overwintering clusters able to cover brood while obtaining stored honey under the coldest of temperatures;  and, of course honey production.

That was the basis for my first breeding program and it was quite successful having very efficient summer queen rearing, excellent winter survivability, a strong spring buildup, varroa and tracheal mite resistance, disease resistance, honey production, and gentleness. Folks in the Dakotas, Northern Michigan, New York and Vermont were happy with these queens and they ordered year after year. They were also quite adaptable and suited to our often long hot, humid and dry summers; but, I still treated and I still had higher varroa related winter losses than normal so when asked by Charlie Harper in 2006 I went 100% Russian.

In 2008 my breeding strategy was changed to have both Russian and Italian breeder queens. I also developed a Survivor Stock from isolated yards having diversified climates from 735 feet above sea level in the Central Piedmont of North Carolina to over 3100 feet above sea level in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina that are used for drone mother breeder queens, honey production, research, and pollination. My drone mothers are at this writing currently Russian, Italian, and Survivor Stock drone mothers; the entire area around all my production queen yards is saturated with Russian and Italian genetics along with my own "Survivor Stock" that I have been developing over the past 7 years. These "survivor hives" gave over 88% survival rates for the last two consecutive years at two different Research Stations here in North Carolina, one at 730 feet and the other at 3100 feet above sea level having a Northern US-Southern Canadian type climate classified as Dfa on the Kƶppen climate classification scale. 

I really believe that the hybrid queens that I sell will do you well no matter where you live. Read on and see for yourself how quality queens are still possible in today's time and age and why you should invest a few extra dollars today in order to save a lot more tomorrow while getting away from chemical treatments and using proven and tested  hybrid queens that have higher rates of acceptance and lower rates of supersedure.

Tier-1 and Tier-2  Queens

I have always believed that the length of time that the queen is allowed to establish her brood nest in her mating Nuc is inversely related to supersedure and is directly related to acceptance by her new "adopted" colony after she been introduced. A published scientific study has confirmed this theorem, please see: Rhodes, Somerville, Hardin. 2004 Queen Honeybee Introduction and Early Survival - Effects of Queen Age at Introduction. Apidologie, 35:383-388. This is the best reason for raising our Tier-1 and Tier-2 queens.

A Tier-1 Hybrid Queen*  

Once we have a mated and laying queen we want to know if she will be suitable for our customers and our own standards. About two weeks after she has begun her laying we will inspect her larvae and her capped brood for viability and pattern. An assessment of the first complete frame of brood (~70% capped brood) is inspected for brood pattern, health, and viability. If all looks assuring then this queen may be sold as a Tier-1 Queen. This defined Tier-1 queen is at least 42 days old from egg " to ship", that's 14 days older than a 28-day-old standard commercial queen¯.

A Tier-2 Hybrid Queen*3

During the next two weeks and longer a Tier-1 queen if not pulled as a Tier-1 queen will continue to lay and build up her colony. It is now possible for her to be at her peak of laying and pheromone production. Several days after her third week of laying, after her brood begins to hatch, her daughters are inspected as well. We inspect for Deformed Wing Virus, brood pattern, general health of the hive, and relative productivity. If things are not right she is culled! Only then after a long series of quality inspections will we sell that queen; that queen is now classified as a Tier-2 Queen. This queen is at least 56 days old from egg to "pull"; that's twice as old, 28 days older than a 28 day old commercial queen. This defined Tier-2 queen is now in her prime.

The Truth About Some Commercial Mail Order Queens and Why I believe That I Am Different Than Most by selling Tier Level Queens

Most commercial queen producers raise queens by placement of a ripe 14-day-old queen cell in a mating NUC then removing the queen for shipment exactly 14 days later. This is done strictly on a 28 day schedule as it is the most efficient manner to raise and ship commercial queens. Technically the queen is 28 days old; old enough to have mated and to have begun laying; but, there are many pitfalls. The queen removed to be shipped may or may not have been mated and often very little is known about her matriarchal abilities. The Italian race of honeybees in the USA is not the same now as it was when the US closed its borders to the importation of honeybees after the outbreak of the Isle of Wright Disease at the turn of the last Century; the Italian gene pool is becoming shallower with less genetic diversity. We need genetic diversity with defined and desirable traits. Sometimes a queen will mate but never lay; she will spend her whole life parading around her colony without ever laying an egg. Sometimes when laying is interrupted she will not retain her laying ability. Even if a queen is not a drone layer she may be superseded; or, she may become nothing more than a mediocre layer and her daughters marginal honey producers. And yes, sometimes she will knock your socks off with her laying ability; and, often a thought back to a year or two ago to that one marvelous queen will entice you to return to that commercial queen producer even though most of her sisters were average producing queens. Then there are shipped 28 day old queens that did not have the opportunity to mate until after their arrival to your bee yard or perhaps she may not mate at all and become a drone layer. That is why I sell Tier Level queens. We wait until our queens have established their brood patterns and their daughters emerge because we want to assure that our customers will receive a quality queen that will be an asset in their apiary. We put in a lot of extra time and effort but I believe that the result is a better quality queen and a very enthusiastic and satisfied customer. You will make more money on these queens and you will also spend less money on replacements and chemicals in the long run. These are proven queens with a history and they carry the genetics that are desired by breeders, producers, and hobbyists.  All this takes extra manpower and additional production facilities which results in a much longer throughput than most queen rearing operations. I hope that I have opened your eyes to better beekeeping and better queens


Although I could not profitably raise Pure Russian Queens here in the Piedmont of North Carolina due to the distinct nature and behavior of the Russian honeybee. I believe that the pure Russian honeybee queens that I once raised and sold while a member of the Russian Honeybee Breeders Association were equal to or better for their Varroa and tracheal mite resistance than most of the commercial grade Russian queens that are sold on the market today. The trait that Russian honey bees will not lay in periods of drought, periods of little or no incoming pollen or nectar flow, common here during our summer and fall months results in either consumption of eggs and larvae by workers or almost complete shutdown of egg laying by the queen. This trait helps to make the Russian Honey bee resistant to varroa mites but makes it very difficult to raise queens here in the summer months without supplemental feeding of pollen, pollen substitutes, and syrup. I don't do that! I don't do that for many reasons. Another trait that gives resistance to both mainly varroa mites is specific hygienic trait. The trait is available outside pure Russian honeybee genetics; it is carried in some Italian stock as well as the VSH lines of honey bees. In fact the VSH lines of honey bees has demonstrated a higher varroa resistance to both the Russian and the Italian honey bee, (Ward, K., R. Danka, and R. Ward, 2008). To repeat myself I still believe that a certified pure Russian queen from one of the Certified members of the Russian Honeybee Breeders Association (http://www.russianbreeder.org/) continues to have excellent genetics for Varroa resistance as well as superior tracheal mite resistance. I believe that pure Certified Russian queens are some of the better queens that you can buy and you need some of this stock in your apiary if you want to raise mite resistant queens.

But, it is important to know that there are other honey bee races and bee-lines with different or enhanced traits available to the queen breeder. One type or line -not a race- of honeybees that has proven statistical superiority for varroa mite resistance is the Varroa Sensitive Hygiene or VSH line of honey bees developed by the USDA-ARS lab at Baton Rouge. The source of pure stock for this bee can only be purchased from the USDA CRADA holder, Glenn Apiaries. We ordered VSH queens last fall and beginning in mid-April of 2012 we will integrate pure VSH queens into our breeding program and accordingly we have scheduled June 19th as our first ship date for our own VSH Tier-1 queens. These queens will have mated with drones from our own Russian, Italian, and Survivor Stock drone mothers placed in an isolated mating yard. In other isolated mating yards we will have VSH drone mother hives raising pure VSH drones added to our current drone mother operations with our own Survivor Stock, Russian and Italian drone mothers. This addition will increase genetic diversity as well as provide within the Russian Hybrid and Italian Hybrid queens that we sell a percentage of workers carrying the inherited the VSH trait.

All this is why we are doing what we do: We are breeding quality queens that have defined genetic diversity, characteristics and parameters of resistance to disease and parasites from both parents, i.e. selected drone mother breeder queens and selected "queen mother" breeder queens; the control and placement of strategic multiple mating queen yards, and the utilization of quality minded procedures and inspections throughout the entire queen rearing process.

Copyright (c)  December 1, 2013 Charles J. Norton