Golden West

Golden West

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Golden West Queens

Randy Oliver and his sons Eric and Ian run the successful migratory beekeeping operation Golden West Bees in the California foothills, taking their hives to almond pollination each year, and then selling a thousand nucs each spring. This is all without using any synthetic miticides since the year 2001.

While monitoring their hives for mite infestation in 2017, they discovered a colony that maintained mite counts of zero, without any treatments. Sensing an opportunity to free their bees from the plague of varroa, Randy decided to begin a serious selective breeding program, starting with daughters grafted from that “Queen Zero.”

Each year they split and requeen all their 1500 hives, solely with daughters of queens that headed the previous season’s most mite-resistant colonies.

Starting with only a single resistant colony out of 1500, over the years they’ve slowly increased the percentage of their hives that exhibit complete or partial mite resistance. In the first years, heritability was frustratingly low, but by the 2023 season, in some yards over half their colonies maintained infestation rates below 2% over the entire course of the season, right in the middle of crowded apiaries with plenty of mite drift – without the application of any miticides.

The Olivers don’t select for “looks” and use their queens’ variation in color patterns as an indicator that they are maintaining enough genetic diversity in their stock. But they do select for performance.

They breed only from queens whose colonies are very gentle and healthy, exhibited above average honey production, and proved strong for almond pollination.

 Randy Oliver and Olivarez Honey Bees are collaborating to produce production queens for sale. OHB has an isolated mating yard, which will allow the Olivers to better control their drone pool. This is a win-win for both of us, allowing OHB to sell open-mated Oliver queens mated to Oliver drones, while allowing the Olivers to focus upon their successful selective breeding program -- which involves performing thousands of mite washes throughout the year.

Keep in mind that there’s no such thing as a mite-resistant queen – it’s the workers produced by the queen and the drones that she mated with that confer resistance. That said, the Olivers want to make clear that they have not yet “fixed” the genetics for mite resistance into their bloodlines, so they do not yet make any claim that their stock is “mite resistant.” But it looks like you’ve currently got about a 50% chance that any of their queens might produce a resistant colony – a figure that we expect to improve each year. Keep in mind that even their “partially-resistant” colonies require fewer treatments.

The Olivers have put a heckuva lot of work over the years into their selective breeding program, and OHB is very impressed by their progress. By producing and selling their queens, we hope to support them in their efforts to free us all from the scourge of varroa!

To learn more about Randy and the development of the Golden West Queen, visit