Strachan Apiaries Inc., founded in 1954 by Don Strachan, is the world’s largest producer of The New World Carniolan Queen Bee. Established in the northern region of the Sacramento Valley between the Feather and Sacramento Rivers, and at the base of the world’s smallest mountain range, the Sutter Buttes. This highly productive and fertile region offers a dynamic interplay between beekeeping and agriculture.
Valeri Severson, Don Strachan’s daughter, is the President and manages the 10,000-hive operation. Valeri has been active in the family business more than 25 years. John Russell is Strachan Apiaries bee operations manager and Tami Stone-Hearne is the office manager.
The New World Carniolan was originally established in 1982 by Susan Cobey and Tim Lawrence in California. Carniolan stock from across the U.S. and Canada was collected, back crossed, and evaluated to establish the foundation population. Instrumental insemination and a strict annual evaluation protocol are followed to maintain the NWC breeding program. In 1990 the NWC breeding program was moved to Ohio State University. A cooperative effort between OSU and Strachan Apiaries currently maintains and propagates the stock.
The New World Carniolan population is vigorously evaluated. Working with a diverse gene pool, our goal is to maintain careful selection protocols on our population of New World Carniolan Queens by using the Page-Laidlaw Closed Population Breeding Program. Annually, a new generation of breeders is instrumentally inseminated, established in full size colonies, and evaluated in the field. From these the top performing colonies are selected to establish the next generation. Selection is a continuous process and essential to maintaining and improving the desired traits of this population. All of our breeding stock is hygienically tested. The reliability of the New World Carniolan program is time tested and industry proven. (Information regarding the NWC provided by Susan Cobey, Ohio State University)
Strachan Apiaries History
In 1954 Don Strachan founded Strachan Apiaries Inc. While in high school Don started what was to become one of America’s largest and most successful Beekeeping and Queen breeding operations. In his youth, Don worked bees for his cousin, George Smith, and also kept livestock through Future Farmers of America. After duty in the Navy during WW II he resumed working for George and in 1948 married Alice Echols of Sutter with whom, before her death in May 2002, he celebrated more than 53 years of marriage.
In 1953 Don purchased 600 hives from a retiring beekeeper in Chico, California. In the early days he worked three jobs and long hours to support the family and pay his long time friend and foreman, Don Strother. In 1954 Don Strachan bought “Caucasian Unlimited”, a queen raising business, from Tom Davis.
In 1961 Strachan Apiaries moved to their present location in the beautiful Sacramento Valley of California. Don invested in a 5.5 acre almond orchard with a small house in which he and Alice raised their three daughters. Debbie Strachan formerly worked as office manager and is now retired; Valeri Severson is President of Strachan Apiaries, Inc., and Donna Haile works with her husband in his Ag Chemical supply company in Dixon, California. As the bee business expanded so did the office space, warehouses, and fleet of trucks and forklifts. A huge change came in the 1967-68 season when the business converted to pallets, forklifts and Bobcats. Prior to that time hives were hand carried or boom loaded.
In 1980, Don began a new venture with Everett Hastings of Canada and started breeding the Carniolan line of queens and bees. This breed of bees continues to be the backbone of Strachan Apiaries, Inc. As the years passed the queen breeding stock changed to the New World Closed Breeding Program in cooperation with Susan Cobey of Ohio State University. “Time Tested, Industry Proven,” is the motto of Strachan Apiaries, Inc. when it comes to queen and package bee production.
The centennial year of the California State Beekeepers Association was 1989. Don enjoyed the Presidency of the CSBA during this special year. In 1992 Don became an Honorary Life Time Member of the association. He was also a member of the American Beekeepers Federation and the American Honey Producers Association. Strachan Apiaries, Inc. faced new challenges in the 1990’s. Exportation of bees to Canada ended in 1987 but that changed in June of 2004 and we were the first to ship queens again across the border. Lower honey prices and weather related tragedies continued to cause concern. A flood in 1997 reduced Strachan Apiaries by 1300 colonies. However, these things did not dampen the company enthusiasm about Beekeeping in the new century.
Don Strachan (Dad) always placed his faith in God and lived a lifetime of hard work. On August 29, 2003 Don passed away due to complications following surgery. He was 78 years young and considered a giant in the beekeeping industry. All who knew him miss him. His good ethics, honesty, hard work, and desire to do the job right continue to be the standard at Strachan Apiaries.