Wooten's Golden Queens

A PROFESSIONAL BEEKEEPING BUSINESS SINCE 1974


History
Wooten's Golden Queens 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.

Location
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.
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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 1940’s.

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.

Pollination

About 4,000 hives are moved to Chico, California, around February first for almond pollination.

Nuc Production

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 weather conditions.
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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.
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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 acceptance.

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 Production

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 operation.

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.
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Contact

Wooten’s Golden Queens, Inc.
Shannon and Glenda Wooten
11189 Deschutes Road
Palo Cedro, CA 96073
Phone 530-549-3555 or 888-565-8439
Fax 530-549-3624
E-mail us at glendaw@shasta.com