John Gates on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

John Gates has been a beekeeper for 43 years. He served as the Apiculture Specialist British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture, Apiculture Program 1975-2002. He was a full-time commercial beekeeper from 2002-2015, specializing in bee breeding, stock production and pollination. He has lectured widely in Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and the Caribbean. Today, John joined us to talk about how you can build your own stock and offset colony losses by making nucleus colonies (nucs).

Listen in to learn about how John got started with nucleus colonies, how he has influenced other beekeepers, and what he saw change in his bees over time.

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“I started with Dr. Laidlaw’s book in one hand and a grafting needle in the other, trying to figure out what the heck I was doing. It took a while until I was successful grafting those first few larvae.“ – John Gates

Show Notes:

  • What a “nuc” or nucleus colony is
  • What got John into making nucs
  • Reflection on John’s time working with British Columbia beekeeping legend John Corner
  • Why John’s operation of developing nucs brought in even more income than expected
  • The timeline of a nuc-making operation
  • How queen rearing fits into nuc production
  • John’s work with the British Columbia government revealed the importance of nuc-making to a profitable business
  • How stock improvement integrates into John’s beekeeping system
  • The importance of queen rearing workshops in getting the ball rolling

“I guess there had been some people producing queens in the past, but we didn’t really know much about it, so we just wanted to see if it was possible here. Can we produce good quality queens that will winter well, will be productive and gentle?“ – John Gates

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Dr. Meghan Milbrath began working bees with her father as a child over 20 years ago, and now owns and manages The Sand Hill Apiary, a small livestock and queen rearing operation in Munith, Michigan.

She studied biology at St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, and received degrees in public health from Tulane University and the University of Michigan, where she focused on environmental and disease transmission risk. Meghan worked as a postdoctoral research associate under Zachary Huang at Michigan State University, studying nosema disease, and is currently an academic specialist at MSU, where she does honey bee and pollinator research and extension and is the coordinator of the Michigan Pollinator Initiative.

Meghan is active in multiple beekeeping organizations, writes for multiple beekeeping journals, and speaks about bees all over the country. She currently runs the Northern Bee Network, a directory and resource site dedicated to supporting queen producers, and she is passionate about keeping and promoting healthy bees.

Today, we discuss queen rearing, keeping healthy bees, and how to make the best use of the Northern Bee Network.

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And be sure to leave us a Rating and Review!

“We need this national system of bees because we need to eat food. My little backyard operation doesn’t necessarily need to be a part of that national system.” – Dr. Meghan Milbrath

Show Notes:

  • Why genetics is such an important part of how a colony performs
  • What queen breeding involves
  • How people go about trying to make bees that can better handle different diseases
  • Why demand for queens is unbelievably high
  • What the Northern Bee Network is and how they provide access for bees in their area
  • Why Northern backyard beekeepers don’t need bees from the South
  • How to get involved in the network
  • What to do if you want to sell local queens
  • Other things you can do on the Northern Bee Network website
  • How bees are bred to develop resistance to diseases
  • Resources for small scale queen-rearing operations
  • How the trading and exchange portion of the network functions
  • What they are going to do with the Northern Bee Network in the future
  • Why it’s important when you’re starting out to find people who are raising bees really well

“The most important thing is to talk to people and work with someone who is already keeping bees really well.” – Dr. Meghan Milbrath

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