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Queen Honey Bee Fertility Research ft Alison McAfee

Queen Honey Bee Fertility Research ft Alison McAfee

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Show Notes

Queen Honey Bee Fertility Research is our topic for this episode of Backyard Bounty podcast as we join Nicole and Alison McAfee.

What You’ll Learn

  • How temperature fluctuations can affect queen honey bee fertility
  • What research is currently being conducted in the Queen Honey Bee Fertility area
  • The best place to source your Queen Bees

Our Guest

Alison has a Bachelor’s in biochemistry and did her PhD in genome science and technology at UBC. For that, she studied hygienic behavior which is where honey bees sacrifice their diseased babies to keep them from getting everyone else sick.

She is currently appointed at both UBC and NCSU, studying queen health and reproduction.

Alison is also a science writer and writes a monthly column for American Bee Journal and has had freelance pieces appear in Scientific American.

Ali McAfee in bee suit

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Announcer: 0:01

Welcome to the backyard bounty podcast from, where we aim to educate and inspire you by sharing practical information to help your homestead thrive. And now, here's your host, Nicole.

Nicole 0:17

Hello, everyone. And thank you so much for joining me for another episode of Backyard Bounty. I'm your host Nicole, and today I'm joined by Alison McAfee. Today we are going to talk about queen bees. Really excited to have Allison with us on the show today. She recently did an amazing talk on NPR, which is how we learned about her. And she's incredible and very well experienced in honeybee research. So excited to learn from her today. And Alison, actually is currently studying hygienic behavior and Queen health and reproduction. She also currently writes for the American Bee Journal and has some pieces in the Scientific American. So with all of that being said, Allison, thank you so much for joining me today.

Alison 1:06

Yeah, thank you for having me.

Nicole 1:08

Of course, it's great to have you. I'm excited to talk to you. You know, as much as people love bees in general, I feel like people like the queen bee the most. So lots of questions I've come to find along the way people always want to know about the queen. But before we get into that, can you give us a little bit more background on what exactly you were studying and some of the things that you learned along the way with your honeybee research?

Alison 1:36

For sure. Yeah, so I actually started out by studying hygenic behavior. That was for my PhD research, which has been given more attention recently than ever actually was during my PhD because all of a sudden, were very interested to learn about how insect societies deal with disease outbreaks, given what is going on in human societies currently, but I have since transitioned to studying Queen health. And I'm studying mainly factors that affect her reproductive quality. So like things that can interfere with her fertility, Queen health has been anecdotally declining. So something that I hear a lot from beekeepers is that queens just don't last as long as they used to. So my research is really about trying to figure out why that is what's happening to the Queens to kind of cause their early decline.

Nicole 2:32

And so what are some things that you've found so far?

Alison 2:35

Yeah, so first, I started studying temperature stress, because that is a maybe a surprising way that queens can become stressed if you've been in a bee colony or not yourself. But if you've been sort of playing around with a bee colony, then you know that inside that colony, the workers do a really good job of regulating the temperature normally, so temperature, stress might not be something that you think of as something that the Queen could be exposed to. But we humans really like to stuffed Queens in tiny little cages and then ship them halfway around the world. There's an international Queen distribution industry that some countries such as Canada, where I am, really depend on. So Canada imports around a quarter million queens every year from international sources, usually the US, but also as far away as Australia and New Zealand. So when queens are in these tiny little cages, they don't have that worker mass around them to really thermal regulate. And they're basically at the mercy of what the ambient temperature is in the plane or in the warehouse or in the van. So we've found that that actually that extreme temperatures happen in Queen shipments somewhere around 10% of the time, which I think it's enough to be worried about anyway. And the other reason why I started with temperature stress is because we know from work done in all kinds of different animals, from fish to birds to mammals that heat stress can kill sperm cells. And that's particularly important for Queen honeybees. Because, as you might know, Queens mate during one short period early in life, and they acquire all the sperm that they need for their entire lifetime supply of eggs that they'll ever lay. And they store it in the spermatheca, this specialized storage organ in their abdomen. So if the queen is exposed to something that kills sperm cells, that means that those sperm she's stored inside her could start to die. And if that happens, she can't go and meet again to acquire more. She only has that one chance to get all the sperm that she needs. So if something kills the sperm, she stores That's really bad news for her ability to maintain that colony keep being able to lay enough eggs.

Nicole 5:06

I know that the Queen has an ability to lay fertilize and unfertilized. But I'm assuming she probably doesn't have any way of knowing whether that sperm's viable or not. She just lays the fertilized egg without knowing one way or the other.

Alison 5:21

Yeah, that's a really good question. So the way that it works when she lays an egg, you're right, they she can like decide whether she's going to try to fertilize an egg or not. And the actual mechanism of what happens is, like when the egg is physically traveling down the oviduct, it'll hit this kind of fold in the tube and press it against this little sperm pump. And that's a little tiny, muscular pump that can force fluid from the spermatheca, where the sperm are stored into the oviduct. And so that is how she can fertilize the egg is by releasing this set amount of fluid. So because she's just releasing like a volume, you're right, she can't control whether that volume contains a viable sperm or non viable sperm. So some really cool research done by Boris Bear who is in California, showed that on average, a queen a well mated Queen will release about two sperm. So in that volume, there's usually about two sperm cells. And if everybody's alive, then it's kind of like one sperm cell is to fertilize the egg and then the other one is for good luck. But as you can imagine, once the sperm start to either die or run out, just as she gets older and uses them up, then chances become higher and higher that she'll lay an unfertilized egg by accident.

Nicole 6:53

Okay, interesting. So then at some point in time, the workers just realize that she's laying unfertilized eggs and work on superseding her.

Alison 7:00

Yeah, that's kind of one of the going ideas for how workers might be able to recognize that a queen is declining, is by this increase frequency of laying unfertilized eggs. The way this wasn't my work. This was done before I started studying this topic. But the way the authors described it was that this could be like an honest signal of fertility decline that's perceptible by the workers.

Nicole 7:28

Sure. Interesting. And I had read about the temperature. I'm not sure where it might have been in my Master Beekeeping program with Cornell. But I thought that was really interesting, because so many people do rely on packages, like you said, and I mean, everybody, I think, would probably assume pesticides or something like that. But I don't know that temperature really, is what anybody would think of. So how did you even come up with the possibility of of temperatures with queen bees? Just, I mean, I know that you mentioned earlier that, you know, it's known another species. But is it just something that you noticed that they were getting overheated in transport, or how did you even think of it?

Alison 8:08

That's a really good question, too. So this actually originated by work that one of my advisors started doing. So again, before I was brought on to the project, it seems like everything in science is like a legacy project. You know, it's never just one person like doing something by themselves. I'm sort of following in the footsteps of a lot of people who've really laid some good foundations here. But Jeff Pettis, who used to work for the USDA, he published a paper in 2016, where he was looking at what the differences were between queens that were rated as failed and healthy by beekeepers in different locations. And he found that consistently, the failed queens had low sperm viability. So that kind of clued him into sperm viability, maybe being one of the things that was causing the Queens to fail. And then the next question is okay, what can cause firm to die. So observation that this temperature stress can kill sperm and other animals, which made it a natural thing to look at. And something that both he and I and a few other people by now actually have done is include temperature loggers in actual Queen shipments to see what the temperature variation is, that actually happens in just regular, like the way that you would normally ship a queen and the same kind of package with the same careers or whatever, and just see what they get exposed to. And almost every time we do that, at least one of the packages will end up getting a temperature spike. So the sort of smoking gun though was when he sent queens off. He had two packages of Queens that he sent off one by ups and one by USPS. high temperature loggers and both of them, these were queens from the same place from like the same batch. So they should have very similar sperm viability in the beginning. And then he sent them off. And one of them actually happened to have an extreme temperature event happened during the shipping, and the other one didn't. And then when they looked at the sperm viability of the Queens in those two packages, they found that the one that had the temperature, Spike had lower sperm viability. So then it's like, okay, it's all coming together. This is a real risk. And it could potentially, really, like have an impact for the end user, the people who received the Queen's too.

Nicole 10:38

How interesting. So is that kind of the majority of your work right now? Or are you looking at other causes as well?

Alison 10:46

Yeah, so I have looked at pesticide stress as well, you mentioned that as being like one of the things that people might immediately kind of think of, and that's for good reason, because there's a lot of data out there showing that pesticide exposure is linked to Queen events or declines in Queen quality and a number of different studies. And so I was interested to see if pesticides stress in kind of a realistic dose could actually also kill sperm cells. Because we know there's only really one pesticide that has yet actually been shown to kill sperm. And it's not one of the ones that is most often found inside beehives, where a queen may actually come in contact with it. So I looked at the effect of a mixture of the nine most abundant agrochemicals, which includes everything from fungicides herbicides, insecticides, herbicides, and in some cases, their degradation products. I looked for an effect of if I essentially like, dabbed this mixture onto a queen does that do anything to her sperm, that would be kind of like a worst case scenario. And then I haven't found any effect whatsoever. So what that tells me is that this really strong relationship that we know exists between pesticide abundance and Queen failure is probably due to indirect impacts on the workers. So pesticides, stress, like workers are the ones that are most exposed to pesticides, because they contact it in their environment. And they're the ones who are like doing the wax and preparing the bee bread and all that kind of stuff. Whereas the Queen's just fed the gland, the workers, glandular secretions, so the workers are, you'd really expect them to be the most impacted. And it looks like what is happening is probably the pesticides are causing the workers to either produce different secretions that they feed the queen. So maybe it's like, not as nutritious or something like that. Or it could be interfering with their ability to perceive the queen and like give her adequate care that way, but whatever it is, it doesn't seem to be a direct effect on the Queen herself.

Nicole 13:15

Well, yes, that's a good thing. But how interesting. My mind is kind of swimming with the questions like, I kind of had a topic kind of that I wanted to stick with. And I could, I could very easily ask so many other questions. But that's interesting.

Alison 13:32

That's my constant state.

Nicole 13:36

Is there anything that you found along the way than your research that was maybe surprising or more unexpected than not?

Alison 13:46

Hmm, so something that was both surprising and disappointing, I guess, was that one of my projects is to try to come up with a panel of molecular markers for different forms of Queen stress, essentially, that I can measure in the lab, and then which indicate if a queen had been exposed to a particular stressor or not. So the idea is that if a queen sputtered out, and she's no good anymore to beekeeper, instead of squishing her and replacing her with a new queen, like you would need to do if you're running an operation and need to keep the hive going, they could send that queen to me, and then I can run these tests and try to tell them what might have happened to her. So that's one of my ongoing projects. And I started out by temperature, stress and Queen so either exposing them to temperatures that were too hot, or too cold, or a pesticide exposure, and then comparing those two queens that weren't exposed to any stress, to see what proteins become, like more abundant or more activated. In the Queen that may indicate, you know, that are unique to each stress. And so I was pleased with the initial results because I heat shocked the queens and then saw some specific and predictable proteins that became very highly elevated. So I thought, This is great. This can be a maybe a good indicator for heat stress in Queens from the field. And then I looked at Queens that I sampled from throughout BC, and this was a lot of Queens. This was like over 50, failed queens. And I also had over 50, healthy queens. And I looked at these two markers that I was hoping would work. And I was really surprised when I found that over half of the failed queens had elevated levels of these two heat stress markers. And at first, I was like, That's crazy. How could all these queens be heat stressed, it just doesn't make sense, because I also had temperature loggers in the shipments that like sent them to the lab. And I knew they didn't get too hot during transit there. So it was just very puzzling. And then it wasn't until another student in the lab, who actually was interested in looking at viral abundances in the Queens, she did some analyses to check if the Queens had virus infections. And they did the failed queens were definitely sicker, they had higher levels of viruses. And actually, these two markers for heat stress are also elevated when the queens are sick. So essentially like this, this whole concept of being able to look for markers for particular stressors is much more difficult than I initially thought it would be. Because there's actually some problematic overlap between different stressors for the Queens. So it's complicated things a lot. It's both really interesting, because now I'm getting all these crazy ideas of well, maybe if I heat stress, a virgin Queen, then that can help protect her against viruses that she may acquire in the future. Things like that. But that was very surprising. I didn't expect that.

Nicole 17:14

Yeah. Do you find that many queens have viruses? Do you look at that side of things as well?

Alison 17:19

Yeah. So since that test, I have become very interested in viruses. Now, I haven't yet found a queen that actually is symptomatic of virus infection. But we've tested Oh, I guess we've probably tested around 150 queens now. And a lot of them do have infections, it tends to be mostly Deformed Wing virus, as you might expect, because Deformed Wing virus is everywhere. But they also carry a Sack Brood virus and Black Queen cell virus, even as adults, they can carry black Queen cell virus, which was pretty surprising to me. Now, with this knowledge that these queens have all kinds of sublethal virus infections. Now I'm wondering what kind of impact those infections are having on their ability to reproduce. And we've found some really interesting relationships where queens that are more infected with viruses tend to have smaller ovaries. And as you can imagine that, you know, that's kind of now impacting the other side of reproduction, which is egg laying. So we were looking at sperm viability at first. And now the path has kind of led us to look at impacts on egg laying, too.

Nicole 18:34

So the viruses are those transmitted mostly through varaa, or something where they're getting them from the workers? Or do you know how those are being transmitted?

Alison 18:45

We don't have a way of sort of repainting the transmission route for those particular queens because we just sampled them when we had the opportunity to sample them. But some work has been done on potential virus transmission routes, just in general. And one of the ways that queens can get infected is through meeting so viruses can actually be considered sexually transmitted diseases for queens. I am not very familiar with other routes, but surely there are other routes of infection, just this sexual transmission is something that's obviously unique to Queens, and is pretty intriguing for that reason.

Nicole 19:29

Yeah, that's not the route I would have assumed at all. I think what you're doing is is really intriguing and how neat.

Alison 19:37

Yeah, another neat thing is that so I do a lot of this technique called proteomics, which is, you know, a lot of people are familiar with genomics now, which is like studying all the genes in an organism. proteomics is like studying all the proteins in in your sample. So, I will often do things where I like take a tissue sample, save the spermathaca fluid, and then look at all the proteins that are there and whether abundances are and then try to link that to something else to do with the Queen such as the sperm viability. Maybe. And when I just look at what proteins are present in the sperm with equal fluid, there are actually a lot of virus proteins in there. So that is like further evidence that viruses can be transmitted sexually, because how the heck could virus polyprotein get inside the sperm?

Nicole 20:31

Right? Wow. So obviously, you know, we've talked a lot about the things that can go wrong with queens, but to maybe kind of look at a different angle, can you kind of elaborate on what the Queens role is in the colony and why these are so important. I mean, obviously, laying fertile eggs is important for the colony, but just kind of a little bit more on the Queen's role.

Alison 20:57

The name queen is kind of almost a misnomer, because to be queen is actually really to be a slave, your slave to laying eggs all day, every day, as many as you can. And there's virtually no time to do anything else. So the workers feed the queen, they groom the queen, they will like carry her poop away. When she has to poop, they do everything for her so that she can just focus on laying eggs. She's the only individual in a colony normally that is producing eggs. So when something happens that causes her fertility to decline, then as you can imagine, the colony population starts to dwindle and get smaller and smaller and less productive. Which is both a problem for beekeepers who need these bustling productive colonies to make enough splits to put them into pollination, or to have a big enough colony that can gather honey, that you're going to sell for your income. So when the colony population dwindles, even if you can rescue it later on by, say, Re queening, it's still a pretty big problem for your bottom line as a beekeeper.

Nicole 22:11

Sure. And I imagine that these issues with the Queen's though, not so much the temperature, but they're not isolated to manage colonies there, you assume that even the feral ones and, you know, backyard beekeepers, and everyone is impacted, obviously.

Alison 22:26

Yeah, you know, what, that's so such an interesting thought, we have very little idea of what's going on with the Queen's and feral colonies, because you just can't study them. Like you can't get into a feral colony most of the time, right? It's like in a wall of a house where it's inside of a tree or something. And you can't actually, you can't actually really study what's happening to those queens. But that is a really interesting question.

Nicole 22:53

Well, maybe maybe we'll learn more someday. You know, obviously, fertility is super important since that's, that's her main role. So that makes sense as to why her her fertility is so important. But without the queen, you're not going to have a colony. And I don't recall if you said this in the beginning, you know about how different their lifespan is now compared to I don't know, five or 10 years ago, or, or however long?

Alison 23:23

Yeah, this is the kind of thing that I really wish that we had solid data for. Because unfortunately, 10 years ago, people weren't thinking that this would be a problem in the future. And so there, there isn't really good documentation on how long queens used to live. But what we know now is that well, I guess, as far back as 2013, is, when this paper was published, Dennis van angle stork did a survey of beekeepers in the US. And in that data, one of the findings was that 50% of the time, queens are replaced when they're six months old or younger, which is very low. And I must like qualify this with that this was data for those particular operations. And I don't know exactly how representative those are of the nation. But regardless, even if he didn't, like, choose the operations that have the worst problems, you know, so it's somewhat representative, at least, and that's a pretty worrying stat. I think, because queens have the potential to live. The oldest reported Queen was like eight years old, which is crazy. That almost never happens. But they they do have the potential to live like five years. So if half of them are being replaced when they're six months old, or younger than that, like, it's suggesting they're really not like living up to their potential.

Nicole 24:57

Sure. I guess I just assumed that like in the commercial setting, it was just once a year, you know, every, every spring or whenever they chose to re queen. I didn't realize that it was that frequent.

Alison 25:08

Yeah, yeah. No, it's kind of worrying. The other thing is that makes it sort of hard for me to answer your original question is, because I think in commercial operations, they often do kind of like a mass reacquainting. We're just like, everybody gets three queens on a set schedule, because you don't have the time to go through each colony and see what each one needs. So for that reason, it's also like, we might have an idea of approximate recruiting rates, but it's really hard to tell if it was actually like, necessary for those colonies.

Nicole 25:42

Sure. Is your research mostly done on queens that were artificially inseminated? Or do you look at Queens that made it naturally?

Alison 25:51

I've actually never worked on artificially inseminated queens, I would really like to, because there are all kinds of neat experiments that I want to do. I first need to learn how to do it. But yeah, to answer your question, all the Queens that I've studied so far have made it in a natural setting.

Nicole 26:11

So when you look at these queens, are they coming from like test yard? So you know, more or less the the drones that they're meeting with? Or they just kind of random drones from wherever?

Alison 26:25

Yeah, so that is also a good question. I have not yet played with controlling the drone source. Although it is a direction that I am thinking of taking the research in the future, because I had some really strange results this past year, where I experimentally heat stressed a bunch of Queens and then didn't observe the characteristic decline in sperm viability that I was expecting to, which is weird, because we've seen this over and over and over again and other queens. And so it got me thinking what could potentially be different about these queens compared to other ones. And you know, something that we've never bothered controlling for is exactly what sperm these queens have stored inside them. And it's totally plausible that not all sperm is made equal. There's large variation in drone quality of the drones themselves. And there's also large variation in the viability of the drone sperm. So it wouldn't be crazy to think that there's variation in the tolerance of the sperm cells themselves to different temperatures. So something that I would like to do is to actually do some artificial insemination controlling drones sources, and then seeing if the sperm viability drop off in Queens with those different sources is the same. Or if it depends on where the sperm actually came from.

Nicole 27:51

Do you work? Or have you looked at a variety of different honeybee races? Or, or species or, or whatever you would like to call them? Or have you just kind of focused on one variety?

Alison 28:04

I have done heat stress experiments on queens from a variety of producers. So I haven't done genetic testing to like confirm exactly what genetic makeup they were. But I did, for example, heat stress, locally produced queens and a few stress queens from California, and ones from Hawaii. And with the exception of this weird group I had last summer, across all of them, we see the same stimulation of the same proteins and a very similar drop in sperm viability. So that does seem to be like something that affects almost everybody, though, apparently not this weird group that we still haven't figured out why it didn't have the expected effect for those particular queens.

Nicole 28:51

Always keeping you on your toes. I guess it's always gonna be something unique. I don't know about how, how, see, I was to do it again.

Alison 29:02

I leave you speechless.

Nicole 29:03

You didn't know you do because it's, it's so fascinating. And it, it makes me want to ask so many questions. And, and I, I what you're doing is just so neat. I think that just trying to just the things that you learn and the unknowns and the questions, and I've run out of the ability to make sensible statements, I guess.

Alison 29:26

Yeah, there's an endless number of things to follow up on researching.

Nicole 29:31

So what are some things I know that you've touched on a few of them, but what are some of your goals moving forward? And some questions that you'd like to answer and, and just kind of, you know, your general plan?

Alison 29:43

Yeah, man, I mean, the current state of the world is always changing my general plans going forward. You know, the universities shut down and it's not and then you're not supposed to go to work and then you can't go to work. So Things, as you can understand have been a little bit up in the air lately, but something that I would really like to do, or at least start working on this summer is to follow up on this idea that I might be able to protect virgin queens from virus infection before they go off and mate. Yeah, I'm going to start looking into that this summer by, for example, heat stressing the virgins when they're, you know, early in life, maybe,

Alison 30:31

let's say four days old or something like that. So when they're young, and they haven't yet gone out to mate, and then infecting them with with a virus in the lab, but you can like inject them with with virus or expose them in some less invasive way as well. So then I want to see if the heat stress queens end up doing better than non heat stress queens when they need to fight off that infection. So I haven't started working on this yet, there are so many kinks to work out really before the experiments fully get underway. But that's sort of the direction that I'm looking at, at taking this. And this other project of trying to come up with a diagnostic tool to figure out different causes of Queen failure is a little bit at a standstill because of this problem with overlapping markers for the viruses and the heat stress. So I, I still really want to be able to provide such a tool, though, because I think it would not only be cool scientifically, to be able to like actually figure out how many queens are failing because of stress or X, Y or Z. But it would also be really, I think, useful and interesting for beekeepers, too. So I'm trying to figure out a way forward with that. It just might take some much more complicated statistics than I originally thought,

Nicole 31:56

Sure, if you can figure that out. I think that'd be an amazing tool, not only for, again, backyard beekeepers, but the people on a larger scale. You know, if they can figure out, well, this is what's wrong, then this is how you can fix it. And but you have to be able to figure out what's wrong, we'll fix it the most.

Alison 32:11

Yeah, exactly. And in temperature stress, I think has been a really like shrouded problem. Like, we just haven't really thought too hard about that being a problem. Because it's not, it's not obvious, like it's a queen that has been heat shocked or cold shock looks exactly the same as a queen that hasn't. So there's no way visually to tell that something has happened. And then of course, if she ends up not performing very well, as anybody who has had any experience beekeeping knows, like, there are a whole slew of potential things that could have gone wrong, and you usually have very little capacity to actually narrow it down. So um, yeah, I think that this temperature stress thing has probably been impacting our industry for a long time, but it's just that it's been virtually impossible to diagnose, do you think that it would be something where just like a larger Queen cage or where they would need to maybe ship them in a larger container?

Nicole 33:17

Do you think it's something that could be relatively easily mitigated?

Alison 33:21

Yeah, actually, I do. So, at least in terms of cold stress, that would be pretty easy to protect them against some researchers in Quebec, have done some experiments where they shipped Queens in different types of containers. And they got the best results in terms of like the temperature remaining the most stable, even if they threw them in, like a basically a refrigerator. When they added a few 100 nurse bees into the box that the Queens were were kept in like just loose nurses. That is a potential option for domestic shipments. But as far as I know, for international shipments, the Queen's need to be like inspectable by whatever agency is in charge of the import inspections. So having loose nurses is problematic for that. But at least in terms of domestic shipments, that's one like pretty easy way, I think that the risk of cold stress could be mitigated. And for heat stress. Yeah, I think that people are pretty innovative. And I'm sure that there's some kind of material we can use that would both be friendly to the bees and the environment and protect against external heat. I haven't tried to figure that out yet. And I don't know anybody who yet has but it seems feasible for sure.

Nicole 34:44

Interesting. Yeah. I guess prior to talking to you, I didn't know that they shipped bees internationally. So that definitely adds to the challenge,

Alison 34:52

I think. Yeah, so in the US, the vast majority of queens are supplied by just a few like big producers, you know, I think there are definitely the ones in Hawaii and California, which are the ones that I deal with most often. But then there's also Florida, Georgia, I imagine that they probably being in the warmer region probably will produce queens for the North. But yeah, it may not be international movement, but there's still like a large dependence on like a few producers, dispersing them to nationwide.

Nicole 35:26

So obviously, there's a lot going on and a lot to learn as well. What's the best way for people to to follow your work and to see what you come up with in the future?

Alison 35:36

Well, you can follow me on Twitter, I am fairly active on Twitter, whether I like it or not. My Twitter handle is just Allie underscore McAfee. I also have a blog, Allison, where I post some of my recent articles from American Bee Journal or elsewhere, if I happen to have published something that isn't protected by copyright, that's probably the easiest way. I would like to add just one more thing though about the Queen shipping. If you are a backyard beekeeper and you're sort of like doing this for fun, and you don't necessarily depend on getting a huge number of Queens at a specific time of year, then I would highly recommend try and get a local Queen, because then you can just avoid the problem of shipping altogether. As well as support, you know, support local, more local businesses, that is definitely something that I would recommend.

Nicole 36:36

No, that's that's really great advice. I think that most people just assume right off the bat that they need to buy a cleaner or whatever. And I think in a lot of backyard beekeeper situations, they can have really good luck raising their own. But I also really liked the idea of supporting your local beekeeper too, because we all know that we're all poor beekeepers, there's not many rich beekeepers. So definitely, like your advice of supporting local producers.

Alison 37:07

And just to add one more thing to that, even if you get a queen from your local beauty supply, store or outlet, do still check to see where it came from. Because sometimes these stores will import them or bring them in domestically from somewhere far away. So the best would be to go like directly to a queen breeder that you know and trust or check to see that your local supply stores actually selling the locally produced queens.

Nicole 37:35

And I would assume that local and state beekeeping clubs could probably put people in touch with Queen breeders. Do you know of any other resources to find if you have local suppliers?

Alison 37:47

Yeah, that's probably the best one Bee clubs are so helpful to to beekeepers at all levels. And there's so much knowledge carried and passed on through them. So yeah, I agree. That's probably the best place.

Nicole 37:59

Well, Alison, thank you so much. in the show notes, I'll put your Twitter handle and your website so that people can find you there. Then I'm excited to see what you come up with in the future and your research.

Alison 38:10

Thank you.

Nicole 38:11

Yeah, thank you so much for joining me. I really appreciate your time.

Alison 38:14

You too. Have a good evening.

Nicole 38:16

Thanks, you too. And for those of you joining us, thank you so much for joining us for another episode of Backyard Bounty and we'll see you again next week.

Announcer: 38:25

For behind the scenes sneak peek, receive episode notifications, or leave a question or comment for the show. text the word "Podcast" to 719-292-3207 or visit

Edited by PodSugar Audio Production & Editing

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