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The Benefits of Instrumental Insemination

Instrumental Insemination to most people seems to be something that those “professional beekeepers use”. Having first been developed by Dr. Lloyd R Watson in 1926 who devised a micro manipulator and reached a success rate of some 55%.

After this there were many improvements made to this apparatus and many new ones produced. All with the aim of giving beekeepers a tool whereby they could have control over the progeny of the queens they produced. Thus enabling beekeepers to breed bees with desired characteristics and to preserve lines and strains that could or would be beneficial in the future. Or maybe produce that elusive “Super Bee”.

All this had to be affordable, easy to use and above all have a high success rate. The instrument that I use was produced by Dr. P. Schley and I believe is one of the easiest to use, gives an excellent success rate in the right hands (a bad carpenter always blames his tools), but definitely is not cheap.

So why bother with all this expensive equipment? Well over the past number of years using II has proved to be very successful in the group apiary.

When we first started to use II we had very varying results in both drone quality and inseminations. Firstly we tried insemination too early in May and found that the drones defecated a lot and were too young to produce any amount of semen. Those that did had only small quantities.

When you put both of these together you were certain to get high mortality from contamination / septicemia.

We also found that queens produced early were sometimes small and that apidea’s were robbed out or absconded. We now think that June is a better time to start queen rearing for II.

Our greatest problem in recent years was that of the buffer solution that we were using. This was ordinary saline solution which gave varying results. For instance last year our first batch of queens all died.

After which I purchased a bottle of saline solution for contact lenses this gave us a success rate of some 90% plus. This product gave us one of the best years II that we have had.

What to do with all this expertise? Over the past few years Michael has given II queens to members of the group to test their productivity under the groups five headings and to date the results have been very positive in most cases, with some not performing so well.

In my own case I have found that II queen have out performed their naturally mated sisters in all categories with special emphasis on docility and productivity.

I have also bred some queens from the best of my II queens and their daughters seem to retain most, if not all of the mother’s characteristics.

Some of the other benefits of II are that they do away with the need for isolated mating apiaries. Like the one that we had when we first set up the group, having to travel up into the mountains to achieve isolated matings. This involved considerable time and effort.

Now with II we can achieve controlled mating with little or no trouble however it still takes up a lot of our time.

With this controlled mating we are producing queens with the desirable characteristics, which in turn produce drones with the same characteristics thereby benefiting all beekeepers in our area.

We have tried a lot of different combinations of queen and drone lines. To achieve a bee suitable for our needs. But selection must be on going and the criteria for selection must be raised in order to maintain good stocks from which to breed from in the future, so keep records, raise some queens and select from your own best stocks.

Instrumental Insemination is an excellent tool and will be of benefit to members the group for the foreseeable future.

Redmond Williams