Wooten's Golden Queens|
A PROFESSIONAL BEEKEEPING BUSINESS SINCE 1974
In 1966 Shannon Wooten went to work for Homer Park, near Palo Cedro in Northern
California. Thus was his introduction to beekeeping.
Homer was an excellent teacher, strict on how to do things the right way, and a
knowledgeable beebreeder. Without realizing it, Shannon became a beekeeper. And
of course there was the boss’s daughter, Glenda, already a beekeeper, grafter
and superb organizer.
In 1974 Shannon and Glenda moved on to their own business, taking what they had
learned from Homer and Lois, and what they’d learned on their own, and Wooten’s
Golden Queens came to be.
Today, the business has ten full time and four part time employees, produces 25,000
queens, 4,000 three-frame nucs, and rents about 3,500 colonies for almond pollination.
The truck fleet consists of one-ton flatbeds with booms, a Baby Freightliner, a
Peterbuilt, 5-wheel trailers and crew cab pickups. Most hives are relocated over
five times a year.
They are in the business of producing bees – bees for nuc production, bees for
pollination, bees for honey production and specialized queen bees. Each is examined
here as a separate entity, but certainly not run that way, since each interacts with,
affects and is affected by the other.
Wooten’s Golden Queens is located in Palo Cedro, California, east of Redding, right at
the north end of the valley. On the ranch they own they keep a few cattle and some
horses, and their business complex. Large enclosed warehouses dominate the scene.
Back to Top
Wootens Golden Queens
Each spring our beekeeping family, Shannon &
Glenda Wooten, Jim & Jackie Park-Burris, Pat &
Bonnie Stayer, Steve & Sharon Park gather together
to produce and ship a line of queens we call “Homer
Park Italians.” We are all involved in our state and
national beekeeping organizations for the “continued
education”, each of us having served our terms
as President, Directors or Committee Members.
Believing in keeping our business’s up to date with
the latest and most informative materials available to
beekeepers and queen breeders.
We also proudly support the University of
California, Davis Bee Biology facility and the Harry
Laidlaw Honey Bee Research Endowed Fund
as a permanent bee research funding source to
insure healthy bee hives for pollination and honey
production for years to come. Like the queens we
produce, we were taught by Homer or descendants
of the Park family whose queen rearing began in the
Queens are reared in the farthest north section of Northern California’s central valley for the purest
mating grounds. Drones are equally important. Many of our hives are selected to rear drones
to supply the virgin queens with ample semen for a life time. “Drone Mother” colonies are
placed near the mating apiaries located in isolated valley areas. Breeder queen’s bees are
dissected and tested for tracheal mites with the priority to use only non infested stock, then
grafting from these selected queens creating a tracheal mite resistant line. Varroa mite tolerant
queen stock is selected from monitored non treated hives. Top quality gentle queens are
perfected that perform well in all areas and have large clusters of bees for almond pollination.
From years of close relationships with researchers, Dr. Harry Laidlaw and Dr. Eric Mussen,
we have learned the health of the drone is just as important as the health of our queens. For
every queen we have raised, we have raised 20-40 times as many drones. We plan to continue
working with researchers in an ongoing effort to stay educated with the latest discoveries.
About 4,000 hives are moved to Chico, California, around February first for almond
Wooten’s Golden Queens, produce 3 frame nucs,
with no frame exchange building 15,000 new frames
every year, these nucs are kept in a 4 frame unit
from June until offered for sale in March. These nucs
produce honey in the summer and pollinate almonds
in the spring to prove themselves. The nucs when
sold, have their queen and 3 frames of established
hatching brood. When an ample food supply is
provided either by natural gathering or syrup and
pollen substitute added, population growth increases
rapidly. Honey production has been reported to be
very substantial the first year. When placing these
nucs into the customer’s boxes and by working
indoors, truck load lots can be made under any
Back to Top
Breeder Queen Selection
From the standpoint of industry visibility, the queen production side of the business is
by far the best known. Both Shannon and Glenda play an active role in this, from breeder
selection to shipping. Wooten’s ship about 60,000 to 80,000 queens every season. Most are
sold directly, plus many more go to requeening their own colonies.
Shannon is the breeder selector, a task he relishes. “Its fun, I’ve gotten pretty good at
it, and can almost tell a queen mother just by looking at her.” That, and over thirty years
experience, results in good selections. Breeder stock are selected queens that are top
quality producers and proven Varroa and Tracheal mite resistant.
In the last eight years, our breeder queen’s bees were dissected and tested for mites with
the priority to use only non-infested stock, which created a tracheal mite resistant line.
To enhance our Italian stock, with the influence and guideline of Dr. Tom Rinderer, a
program was developed, setting aside known Varroa mite infested untreated apiaries, we
have chosen “survivor” queens as breeders. As a result, we now have Varroa mite tolerant
bee that are healthy and strong.
For a brand new breeder queen, special care is taken to insure her offspring meet the
standards of the operation. Some are kept as breeders themselves if they prove worthy.
“Looks” is the first test from a new breeder which includes color (very important) and
size. A virgin queen should be as long as a quarter is wide, or bigger.
During the main honey production time, queens are evaluated for the traits important to
the line they produce – honey production, brood production (both amount and rate) and
gentleness. Promising colonies are marked for further evaluation. After a year’s
observation her progeny will prove themselves, or not, relative to production, build-up,
gentleness, mite resistance, hygienics and overwintering ability.
Back to Top
Queen Cell Production
Wax cell cups are put into the incubator before grafting. This makes them less brittle,
warms them to near colony temperatures, insures they are dry and results in increased
Cell bars are put in queenless cell starter colonies that are fed every other day with
watered down HFCS55 (liquid sugar blend) with just a touch of bleach added to keep bacteria
under control. The cell bars are moved to queenright cell builders in the same yard.
Cell builders or finishers are two-deep colonies with the queen on nine frames below,
an excluder between and three frames of cells, two honey and the rest bees above. Young
bees and brood are added every five to ten days to support this many cells. A 90%
acceptance rate is the goal, and anything less than 75% is investigated.
Honey is extracted where it is produced in California. All honey goes to a bulk packer.
Wax cappings are used mostly for foundation trade since they sell between 15,000 frames a
year in nucs. Some wax is used as wax cell cups for the cell bars in the queen
Modern, commercial beekeeping is a complicated business. It requires the skills of a plant
and animal biologist, a mechanic, a tax expert, a woodworker, truck driver, salesperson,
bookkeeper, and personnel director. You can hire some of these skills, and most
operations do. Wooten’s however, are fortunate to have most of these skills bottled up
in Glenda and Shannon.
Back to Top
Wooten’s Golden Queens, Inc.
Shannon and Glenda Wooten
11189 Deschutes Road
Palo Cedro, CA 96073
Phone 530-549-3555 or 888-565-8439
E-mail us at email@example.com