Susan Cobey: Queen Rearing and Instrumental Insemination

Feb 18, 2014

We know when spring approaches by the number of information requests we receive for bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey's popular queen bee-rearing and instrumental insemination classes.

Cobey, former manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, University of California, Davis, and now with Washington State University (WSU),  is an international authority on instrumental insemination. She's perfected and taught the specialized technique of instrumental insemination for more than three decades. 

Based on Whidbey Island, Wash., Cobey maintains the New World Carniolan Closed Population Breeding Program, now in its 32rd generation. Her  independent research program focuses on the post-insemination maintenance of queens and the selection of behavioral traits at the colony level. 

Cobey currently coordinates the WSU collaborative stock improvement and  maintenance program, partnering with California queen producers.  A focus is the incorporation of germplasm (sperm) collected from Old World European honey bees into domestic breeding stocks to enhance U.S. honey bees. Much has been written about the germplasm repository established at WSU.

The recipient  of numerous honors and awards, Cobey presents her work nationally and internationally at numerous conferences and seminars, and publishes extensively in trade journals and professional peer-reviewed publications. Her credentials include the former management of several bee research labs, including those at UC Davis and Ohio State University.  She has also worked at the USDA Honey Bee Lab, Baton Rouge, and in commercial queen production in Florida and  California.  Cobey studied with Harry H. Laidlaw Jr., for whom the UC Davis research facility is named. She founded and operated a queen production business, Vaca Valley Apiaries, in northern California (Vacaville, Solano County).

Queen Rearing. Cobey now offers queen rearing classes through WSU. See She teaches how to rear high-quality queens in workshops offered by the WSU Honey Bee Program.
Instrumental Insemination. Cobey is teaching insemination classes privately on Whidbey Island.  See Currently she's scheduling small classes, of one to three people, in July and August. These intensive classes provide individual attention designed to address specific needs at all levels, including advanced classes,  to increase efficiency and trouble-shoot. Cobey manages an onsite breeding apiary, which she uses to demonstrate queen and drone management.  Her classes draw people all over the world. Among them: researchers and beekeepers operating a breeding program or research project requiring controlled mating. A strong background in beekeeping and queen rearing  is required to enroll in these classes.  Participants are asked to bring their own instrument. Instrument rental and purchase are available with prior arrangement. "There is no instrument standardization," she said, "so  please inquire for an evaluation and/or upgrade on equipment to suit your needs."  She will provide microscopes and lights  and supply virgin  queens and drones.  For further information, prospective students may contact Cobey at or message her at (530) 554-2527.