Project Genesis is a longitudinal study to establish colony norms in Western North Carolina, USA. It has run continuously since April 2012. Commercial and hobby beekeepers manipulate their colonies, using various strategies to equalize and increase production, while natural beekeepers generally do not record data. There is no objective information on the size, production, or longevity honey bee colonies can achieve on their own. This study also compares the survival of colonies treated for mites with those which are not.
Inspection protocols have been established and a collection data-sheet developed. Every two weeks the colonies are weighed and mites counted. Each team inspects every frame in all 20 double-deep Langstroth hives and records how many frames have active worker brood, how many just contain pollen, nectar, or honey, how many frames are drawn but empty and how many remain undrawn. The super and frame on which the queen is found, her mark and whether it is the same as last inspection are also recorded. How many queens a colony creates through the course of a season is also tracked. The number of queen cells started or hatched are recorded. With few exceptions replacement Queens are generated within Project Genesis. Any signs of pests or disease, anything out of the ordinary in the hive, what is in bloom, what colors of pollen are coming in and any unusual environment factors (e.g. torrential rain, wind, cold, heat or drought) are also documented.
Twenty colonies inhabit identical equipment in two yards of ten each. The yards are separated by 200 meters on a gently sloping grade. All hives face South.
The Upper Yard may be considered a control as it remains treatment-free. We have included this difference to investigate the correlation between mite populations and colony survival.
The Lower Yard is maintained in accordance with currently recommended best management practices. This refers to the majority of academia and industry experts who view Varroa destructor as the biggest threat to colony survival and consider the insertion of miticides within colonies as a lesser evil. In contrast, the Upper Yard is not treated for any disease or parasite.