Very nice and informative discussion - thank you!
Very nice and informative discussion - thank you!
ON the issue of lines and the ill effects of them.this is basically the results of hybridization. the problems with hybridization are well known. the only reason that main stream knows anything about it is that it is so common to be supplied. But why? It serves a supplier to offer something that cannot reproduce itself. So breeders that want to stay in business intentionally produce and supply hybrids. right along with all the flaws they posses.
In the pure interest of developing the healthier bee. you would cross those lines. breeding out the hybridization and fixing the trait. Bees that do breed true. To stop at the separate lines and say this accomplished nothing is like planing a trip to the grand canyon and then stopping half way there and saying this looks nothing like I expected it to. Well no kidding you are looking at the great plains.
Everybody has their idea of what a better bee will look like. and then when a bee doesn't look like that they say it is not better. What if the better bee (for keeping) is a queen you buy in the spring. it builds a colony in record time. produces $250 worth of honey and the entire colony is dead by fall. You get every drop of honey and no winter keeping of bees. You also get a 10 fold increase in your cash flow.
The above is just one example of. If you are not doing the breeding. you are probably not going to have much say in what that better bee ends up being. If you want your better bee, you will probably have to breed it yourself.
Keep in mind there is a distinction between a queen breeder and a queen rearer or producer as I like to call it. A breeder has a lot of very weak colonies that are specialized in only one or two very enhanced traits. these various hives should then be crossed so that you end up with one bee with all the good. That is the theory anyway but it does not work that simply. A breeder has a lot of bees that woudl be nowhere near suitable for keeping. Once that do have that exceptional bee they then produce a hand full maybe only a couple thousand queens from it. and those are sent to producers. at relatively high cost. to then produce the tens of thousands of queens that will be supplied to beekeepers.
So what can the beekeeper do to help increase the effect of breeding. Allow your hives to produce drones. this is the only way a queen can expend her genetics beyond her own colony. If you keep that queen and practice drone production methods that discourage the production of drones. you are limiting the impact that queen has on the environment.
I believe there is far to much bee management that is focused on what you will get here and now. this year. and no concern for what will happen tomorrow.and then when tomorrow shows up and it does not look so good we wonder what is wrong with the bee.
Here is another factor concerning drones. since they are fully half of the equation they are a significant consideration. In bee breeding we have almsot complete control of the queen. we can not only observe her traits through her daughters and by looking at her.WE know where she is and what she is doing.so much so that almost every decisions in managing a hive is connected to her in some way.
Instrumental Insemination can give us that same control over the drone. But not without obsticals. and big ones.
Susan Colby who has a dual appointment with both UC Davis (2 hours drive from me) and WSU. I don't' know about you but being employed by two Universities at once is saying something. Has a course in II. The problems is I think it is restricted to researchers, laboratory technicians and breeders. So that means I have to become a breeder before I even qualify. I am trying to get in contact with Susan because I hope to take this course next spring.
Now I personally am the sole support of three children. my wife and three grandchildren.take a thousand dollars or more to go take a class on how to inject semen in a bee is a pretty big decision.
On top of that you can only take the course if you supply your own instrument. and so far that is no small task either. I have found far more information on how to make them yourself than I have on buying one.and the only place I found to buy them you simply send an e-mail about what you want. and hope for the best. There are some simplified methods that are being developed or have been developed for those that are not scientists.
But II is the surest way to be able to breed good hives with good hives. it is just not their for there for most beekeepers yet.
I was thinking the other day about how it might work that you could ship a queen and a bunch of drones that you desired her to be bred to to a lab to have them inseminated. It woudl make for an expensive queen but you would be getting a known cross. Then I came across issue with producing good drones. Basically you have to do it right. And it is not necessarily easy. IN fact producing drones can become the most difficult part of queen breeding and II.
Sorry, there is no way to describe what has just been posted other than rather ignorant misinformation being presented as fact by the uninformed.
Inbred lines are used for hybrid crosses (like the starline and midnight programs...I posted a video of Randy Quinn talking about these programs a few days ago). I don't know of anyone doing this kind of hybrid breeding today (doesn't mean it isn't happening, I just don't know about it if it is). This is _one_ way to approach breeding, and is not what is commonly practiced today. Not having inbred bees that need to be constantly propped up with frames of food and capped brood does not mean you are not a breeder.
II has it's uses (research, breeding programs), but it is not how one produces a good quality queen for production. II queens are generally used to raise production (open mated) queens. No one uses II queens for production...they are too expensive, and they do not perform as well as open mated queens.
Much of beekeeping technology and practice is geared towards preventing the bees from raising drones...during most of the active season, it isn't difficult to produce drones, and during the rest of the season, it is easy to keep a virgin caged for a month or 6 weeks and then release her...she will only lay drones.
Deknow has some very good points. Diversity in a population is a good thing, not because it is inherently good, but because it offers many opportunities. When giving a talk, I sometimes joke that I collect bees like others collect stamps, coins, cars or whatever it is you may like to collect. Different stocks or lineages have different characteristics to contribute to a population, we just do not know when they will be of the most benefit or value to the population. I like Tom Seeley’s explanation for the feral population he has studied for the past 30 some years. I am paraphrasing, but it was along the lines that individual colonies will come and go, but the population has remained relatively stable, even with the introduction of Varroa mites. Apiaries may be viewed in a similar way, individual colonies may come and go over time, but the apiary may live on.
Another point Deknow mentioned, and I think we may have discussed this in a previous post, is knowing what is best for the bees, VSH and hygienic behavior being two that were mentioned. Both behaviors occur at very low frequencies in an unselected population. Perhaps there is a reason for this. Both behaviors are energetically expensive. In other words, they are not behaviors that would naturally increase in frequency. In the broad scheme of things, they are more costly than they are worth, even in populations with heavy Varroa infestations.
thanks dean and joe. all that really makes good sense.
dan, just a friendly suggestion, but maybe beginners like you and i should be asking more questions rather than presenting 'information'. :)
So, if I am a beekeeper, trying to make the best start in moving toward the best bees for my part of the world, would it be a good idea to bring in a selection from a number of different breeders to begin with, as well as to collect swarms and cut-outs, and then select from there?
Or would you recommend just getting just one "kind" of bee from a reputable breeder, as well as collecting swarms and doing cut-outs and selecting from there?
Or some other route?
Everything takes time. So in my own efforts, I just want to do my best to head down the best path I can. Asking questions here is my effort to benefit from people more experienced than I am. I hope to avoid some time-wasting efforts on poor ideas.
Joe says "...knowing what is best for the bees, VSH and hygienic behavior being two that were mentioned. Both behaviors occur at very low frequencies in an unselected population. Perhaps there is a reason for this."
This is what concerns me personally, and part of my questions surrounding diversity. Our interests are not always in the best interest of the bees, and sometimes we don't know it. So is it best to begin with stock with a wide range of genetic backgrounds, so that the bees of my apiary have the most "material" to work with as the "regional selection process" begins?
No Jim...that is not the point.
You do a number of things to prevent swarming. You don't do everything possible (inspect each frame every day or every week), why? Because the expense of losing a few swarms is low compared to the cost of labor to inspect every frame every week, and the cost to the colony that such a disruption causes. This doesn't mean that "a swarm is better than an inspection", it just means that some methods of inspection are worth your while, but other methods are not.
In theory, traits like VSH are a good idea, in practice, not so much. Varroa Sensitive Hygiene is misleading. SENSITIVE is the key word here. It turns out bees with high “VSH” expression are Sensitive about a lot of things. They uncap and remove not only Varroa infested brood, but seemingly healthy and viable brood too. The cost of sacrificing healthy brood is very high to a colony. The cost of making “mistakes” really decreases the value of trait like VSH.
Hygienic behavior is another behavioral trait, although not as intense as VSH that requires bees to correctly identify diseased brood. If you go back and read the original research published by Spivak, their highly expressive lines did not always clean up/prevent AFB. Keep in mind this was with the highly selected and inseminated test colonies. What happens in the real world?
Dean also commented about people advertising a trait, but seldom doing the selection and evaluation for the trait. This is a big challenge for beekeepers to sort through. Testing for hygienic behavior is not too bad, but screening for VSH is time consuming!
So where does that leave people trying to work toward treatment free bees? If VSH isn't really a good thing, and if queen sellers aren't even necessarily selecting and evaluating for it anyway...
Where does that leave one, in terms of picking a direction to go? How does one make the best-guided attempt? What does work in practice?
how can anyone know all the gene combinations that could express hygienic behavior are recessive?
I probably (if not already) will be labeled as a heretic after this post. This very useful discussion supports my personal feelings (as a biologist,not beekeeper) regarding bees genetic specifics. This is what I would do to accommodate Adam's initial request for bee-diversity :
Scenario 1 (remote area, enough space, no established bee-colonies around).
I would create 5-6 small isolated bee-yards at the distance 2-3 miles, so they are overlap, but not too much. I would place one established beehive with pure (as much as you wish) queen in each bee-yard and let them bee for couple of years. I would let them swarm and become feral if they wish. Each bee-yard should have a different initial genetics (pure queen). Eventually, some hives will die and would be replaced on bees with different genetics. Colonies, hopefully, will grow (some) and bees from different bee-yards will overlap and mix. Note that this is most difficult scenario because commercially it is completely non-sound.
Scenario 2 (urban area, small number of colonies).
Simple - adopt a local feral bees! Let them grow their own queens. Do not re-queen since it will break a reproduction cycle and introduce unwanted genetics.
Scenario 3 (near commercial bee-estate).
Do not waste your time - move away! Commercial bee-estate would be a constant source of numerous problems AND mono-everything (bees, nectar source, treatments etc). I would imagine, that commercial people would think the same way about you: that you do something wrong with bees (do not treat, for instance) and it affects their business.
It would be great if more experienced people would point on obvious flaws in my model and please, keep in mind,it is just my thoughts, which may be different from yours. Sergey
Ok....by now you should realize that this isn't a simple answer, and it's certainly not _the_ simple answer that we are told (buy VSH breeders). I'm really glad that Joe has chimed in....these are important topics, and frankly, I've not found anyone willing to discuss them seriously. Most of the local, club run breeding programs I'm aware of start with VSH breeders open mated to the "locals"....and this is a losing proposition. There is a lot to discuss here.
First, Daniel is correct about one thing....producing queens isn't the same as breeding queens. I'd define things rather loosely, a producer is buying in genetics for every generation or two, a breeder is keeping stock from year to year, selecting and improving it (or at least trying to).
The best thing that could happen to beekeeping is that breeding becomes baseline practice. But somehow baseline amateur breeding seems to be to buy the VSH breeders.
So...I'll try to talk about where to start.
The first illusion is "the queen is always greener". Let's face it, you've heard about all these great bees...not just the VSH that we've been discussing, but Michael Bush's feral derived stock, Mike Palmer's northern queens, Weavers buckfasts, wild AMM, Kirk Webster's russian derived treatment free stock, Russians....you aren't looking for diversity when you look to combine these, you are looking for an all star team of genetics....the best genes from the four corners of the earth.
The truth is that any robust population has a rather diverse gene pool....otherwise it could not be stable (inbreeding). I suppose you could come up with some numbers of queens required to carry 85% of the traits of the population...but we'd probably be wrong, and with multiple matings and haploid drones, some traits are bound to stick around for many generations without obvious expression...so it would be hard to actually measure.
When you decide, especially on a small scale, how many diverse sources you are going to use, you are also limiting the "depth" of the parent population...as you have some kind of limitation on the number of source queens in total you are going to use.
Once you 've combined whatever sources you are going to use, now you have a hard task of sorting things out. People are often surprised when they hear me say that the goal of any breeding program is some kind of uniformity. Consider the following conversation:
"Can I offer you a free queen"?
"Do your bees handle mites well"?
"Some of them do".
...so, we want uniform mite resistance in our population of bees. That uniformity is not likely to come directly from a mishmash of 5 different sources. Each of these sources have their own combination and balance of traits that work within that particular population. Make some of these traits dilute in the mix, and they may not perform the same functions. Traits from different populations may well be at cross purposes.
In most natural situations, you have 2 populations (rarely 3) interfacing where the environment changes (as one travels down a large mountain range to a river valley below, one might encounter a few distinct populations that interface in these transitional zones). In the mishmash of a transitional zone, traits from one population that may be beneficial to the other are passed along through the zone and into the population at large.
The more lines you bring together, the more generations it will take you to approach some kind of uniformity, and the less diversity within each population you are working with. ...perhaps the genetic equivalent of "jack of all trades, master of none". In a very real sense, the strength of the parent lines you are considering _is_ the diversity within it....by starting with only a small sampling of the genetics, and by diluting it with other small samples of other genetics, you may well be throwing out the baby instead of the bathwater.
Have you noticed that I still haven't told you what you should do :)
Goodness...write alot to say very little. No real opinion yet as to how Adam can get his foot in the door to get the type
of bees he wants.
rumor has it ramona pulled him away just as he was about to tell.... :)
If you are looking for a recipe, or paint by numbers for breeding bees, I will have to disappoint you.
No matter what you do there are trade offs. I can't really offer any more than to help you understand the tradeoffs so that you can make your own decisions. You are also free to make your own decisions without understanding the tradeoffs.
I know few (if any) beekeepers who are really happy with their queens....except for those that breed their own...and they all understand that breeding is a process...they are both happy with them, and are always trying to improve them. The type of bee that Adam wants is not a mystery....productive, mite resistant, gentle to work....this doesn't make me a mind reader, this is what virtually everyone wants. Have you noticed that no one is selling them? Have you noticed that there are no credible easy answers? Do you think that perhaps a deeper understanding of the issues might help Adam make decisions that will get him where he wants to be?