Why should beekeepers select
their own queens for good brood hygiene?

Beekeeping now and in the future should require minimally invasive interventions in the bee colony to deal with parasites and diseases. Through targeted selection, we can restore the honeybee’s ability to heal itself. This leads to healthier bee colonies, less losses, and higher yields.
The central defence mechanism of a bee colony against brood diseases is the detection, opening and removal of diseased or damaged brood. This removal behaviour is described as positive hygienic behaviour (HYG+). This behaviour should be considered as a key attribute when selecting queens for breeding.
The genetic predisposition to immunocompetence is made visible with the help of the Weimar Needle Stamp. This is done by selectively killing individual pupae and assessing the reaction of the colony.
Read more about the selection tool here

Selection & Breeding for HYG+

After testing various colonies with the pinTest stamp for hygienic behaviour, the results show a pre-selection protocol trait in strong colonies for breeding programs.
Breeding for HYG+, as well as for VSH (Varroa Sensitive Hygiene), is based on recessive and quantitative inheritance. By selecting which queens will build up a colony in our hives, we also decide which drones will be available for mating in the next generation. The genetic pool of drones is just as important as the queens’. The drone is haploid, so his cells have 16 chromosomes. Every sperm produced by a drone contains exactly the same genetic material. The queen has 32 chromosomes – 16 from the queens’ eggs and 16 from the drones sperm. (SDI: Single Drone Insemination & MDI: multiple Drone Insemination)

Healthy bees with less medication

This gives beekeepers the opportunity to build up a bee population that is characterized by pronounced self-healing powers and already allows a certain tolerance for the start of treatments in the first step. Continued selection for HYG+ opens up the possibility of reduced drone cuttings and treatment independent of the calendar. Less treatment = Less costs! Also, a longer retention time of the honey on the colonies, leads to a natural reduction in the water content, this increases both the quality and the quantity yield.

One of the biggest challenges in beekeeping is dealing with the Varroa mite and the Varroa virus complex. The current solution to combat the varroa mite is drug treatment, which is also used as a preventative measure. Due to the increased medication, a bee colony’s own defences are no longer visible. In addition, medication affects the bee’s intestinal flora, thereby weakening the immune system and its defences.
In Europe, each hive is treated on average 3 to 7 times in one season!
However, discontinuing medication-based treatments without using an alternative can lead to a loss of 80% to 90% of bee colonies.

The idea of working with at least partially self-healing bees is quite obtainable and
these colonies are not only less aggressive – because they are not sick – but also do not show the same desire to swarm – due to less parasite pressure.

Made in Germany

The Weimar needle stamp is manufactured with precision and under high quality assurance in Germany. The tool is made from alcohol-resistant material, which is crucial for the sterilisation process, to avoid cross-contaminating other hives. Also, all parts can be replaced individually (in case a needle bends or breaks).

The Weimar Needle Stamp has won the bronze medal for “Innovation” at the Apimondia 2022 and is used by beekeepers all over the world.

The selection tool is available for different cell sizes:

The results of the test with the Weimar Needle Stamp can be entered into the European breeding value estimation program (www.beebreed.eu) by specifying the test tool – Weimar Needle Stamp (WNst).

Universally applicable

The selection tool can be used for every subspecies of Apis mellifera, as they all have the genetic predisposition for brood hygiene. It does not matter whether it is a Carnica, Buckfast or Mellifera, Ligustica.
Also, the application is possible in any hive size, e.g. Dadant, Zander, German Normal, Mini Plus, Apidea, Kieler or Langstroth or in natural hives.

NOTE: The test cannot be used for high-precision scientific recording, as it includes faulty cells!

The pinTest should be done twice a year in each hive to assure selection quality. Generally, you can test any time, as long as there is sufficient brood in the red-purple eye state. For practical reasons, we advise to test in spring, shortly before the start of foraging. Bees might prioritise foraging over hive hygiene. The second test should be carried out in late summer after the main honey harvest.

Equipment:

  • the Weimar Needle Stamp
  • rubbing alcohol (min. 75%) to disinfect the tools after each use
  • sponges & rubber bands for cleaning and safe storage (optional: a box for transportation)
  • a water-based lacquer pen to mark the area and the frame
  • a pen and small paper notes 3 for each hive with

    a.) the hive name/or number &
    b.) the time: 0 hours; 6 hours; 24 hours

How to:

  1. A frame with a dense brood pattern in the middle-aged brood stage must be chosen. If possible, without missing cells. Lay the frame down.
  2. Position the Weimar needle stamp so the needles point at the middle of the cell.
  3. Gently push the stamp as far as possible and mark the test area & frame with a water-based lacquer pen.
  4. Place a note (stating hive name or number and time 0-6-24 hours) next to the marked area & take a picture before hanging the frame back into the same position.

NOTE: To avoid cross-contamination, press the needle stamp
into an alcohol-soaked sponge after every use and let the
alcohol evaporate for at least 3 minutes (use min. 75%. alcohol).

5. Take another picture of the same area & notepad after 6 hours and yet another time after 24 hours.

If a bee colony possesses the genetic trait of positive brood hygiene (recognizing, opening and cleaning out) to a high degree, the following should occur in the time immediately after the use of the needle stamp:

After the cell caps have been pierced, the bees close some cells again. After about 2-3 hours the bees recognize the dead brood and open the cells. As soon as a cell is open, it will be cleared out. 

After approx. 6-9 hours the cells are partially cleared and cleaned. 

After 20-24 hours at the latest, 80 – 100% of the cells are empty.        

When a pupa is punctured, a fluid consisting of haemolymph, body fat cells and other organic material emerges. However, the organic material, which may also reach the cell cap via the needle, has no falsifying influence on the result of the pin test. (See study by Gramacho, Gonçalves, Rosenkranz & De Jong, 1999).

Analysing the images from 6 hours to 24 hours after the application of the Weimar Needle Stamp will show results for each hive:

If there is little clearance (30%-40%) after 6 hours, there is a wait-and-see attitude, and no conclusions are drawn initially.

In the case of complete clearance (80%-100%) after 6 hours, the reason for the rapid clearance must be identified. Is it a pronounced genetic disposition or a trained colony suffering from increased disease pressure?

If there is little clearance (30%-40%) after 12 to 24 hours, it becomes apparent that the strain for brood hygiene is present but must be maintained and also added to in the next inheritance line.

With a complete clearance (80%-100%) after 24 hours at the latest, it can be assumed that there is a strong genetic disposition for brood hygiene.

The main trends of HYG+ are observed:

Nothing was cleared
It is not advisable to rebreed with this colony (F1), even if it is also possible in a lengthy process to add characteristics of brood hygiene with drone genetics.

Little was cleared
The hereditary trait for hygienic behaviour seems to be present in the population. Here it is important to find out which traits (recognizing, opening or cleaning out) are not or only slightly developed in order to be able to add the missing traits via drones.

A lot has been cleared 
HYG+ is present. The task here is to stabilize and maintain the properties.

Influencing factors

The result of a pin test is a snapshot, which is why it is advisable to repeat it under different conditions. In addition to the genetic factors influencing brood hygiene and the test result, there are other internal and external stress factors. The test result can be falsified by

  • extreme outside temperature (many bees are outside the hive & are reducing brood care).
  • Flowers in full bloom, e.g. oilseed rape (bees are foraging and reducing their care activities)
  • In the event of increased disease pressure (panic VSH, panic HYG+), shortly before the colony collapses
  • External disturbance of the bees, e.g. by humans or animals
  • Testing at the wrong brood stage (it should be Red or Purple Eye)
  • Wrong disinfectant

To prevent mold, virus infestation and bacterial infections,
it is essential to clean the needle stamp after each use.

Cleaning is carried out with a kitchen sponge and a disinfectant (at least 70% alcohol). Isopropanol should be diluted with 30% water to ensure solubility in the cells. The tool is immersed twice in the soaked sponge and must then be allowed to evaporate for 3 – 5 minutes before it can be used again.

Caution with methylated spirits & vinegar:

Denaturants are usually added to methylated spirits. These residues and fragrances could affect the result of the test. The same applies to acetic acid.

Do you have any questions or problems ordering?
Contact pinTest with this form or write an email to

info@pin-test.com

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