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Capacity Building

Our second stop on the Varroa Tolerance tour brought us to Western Washington, the land of islands, rivers, mountains, and IPAs. At a friends house, we were directed to the beer fridge in the garage with the disclaimer that “there are several different beers to choose from”. In Washington, it turns out, that this translates to “there are several different IPAs to choose from.” Good luck finding a lager, or worse yet, an amber! Nothing remotely similar to our beloved Toohey’s OLD!

Just south of the town of Coupeville, located on Whidbey Island, we visited with Sue Cobey. Sue is a queen bee breeder specialising in instrumental insemination and contributed greatly to the development of the New World Carniolian.

A map of the United States highlighting Coupeville WA
Coupeville Washington

Sue is one of the world’s experts on Instrumental Insemination (II) /Artificial Insemination (AI) of queen bees. Her courses are highly sought after and participants carefully vetted. We arrived at the tail end of a three day II course attended by people from all over the United States and a few international participants.Instrumental Insemination class participants

Class participants finishing up an Instrumental Insemination course held by Sue Cobey

Courses like this one are essential for teaching skills fundamental to queen bee breeding. These skills are honed in by A LOT of practice. Participants here applied for the course and were chosen based on the likelihood that they will continue using and building upon the skills learned here.

During these travels, I have realised that there are two essential components to breeding for Varroa tolerance (or any other set of traits). One part is the selection criteria and techniques used to identify, measure, quantify, and weigh desired traits. The other aspect is the framework of the breeding program. An important part of program framework is capacity.

In my next post, I’ll lay out some thoughts about these two pillars of breeding programs important to get right in order to play “the long game” of bee breeding.

Lavender flowers with beehives in the distance

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