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Thread: Feral bees

  1. #1
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    Feb 2003
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    lewisberry, Pa, usa
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    Question

    I have read several people's comment on wanting to catch a feral swarm. Based on thinking about this I post the follwing questions in the hope for some direction.
    Is there merit/research on feral survivor swarms in the hopes to combat the v-mite problem?
    How do tell the difference between true feral bees versus a swarm from some other beekeeper?
    Why do we not hear of more genetic/feral bee survivor research within the industry? (Compared to chemical treatments and FGMO.)
    This last question is based on my thought that I don't want to even think that fogging will be forever.
    Is there anyone out there with success stories with Russians or was this overblown?

    I read a story years ago about the destruction/death of the American Elm that had been wiped out with a uncontrolled desease. None could be found. Then 3 survivor trees were found that had a genetic resistance to the desease and now from those few survivors we can again purchase the elm tree that graced the streets of many towns years ago. I remember the story but may have the wrong tree. Its the story line thats important.
    Thank-you.

  2. #2
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    Aug 2002
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    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    I'm not sure about the Elms, but there are now some American Chestnuts and they were considered extinct.

    The whole concept of the Russian bees is that they are survivor populations of feral bees. We haven't had another oubreak of bubonic plauge since all of the Europeans without natural resistance died.

    I think the best way to tell true feral bees from domestic swarms is the size of the bees. Feral bees build smaller brood cells yeilding smaller bees. They are noticeably smaller to the eye.

    But if you catch a domestic swarm, it's still free bees. But I'd raise my queens from the swarms you caught that are smaller bees.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
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    Surrey, B.C., Canada
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    The main difference between feral bees and a swarm from another beekeeper is the length of time that they have been "feral." This morning I caught a feral hive that had been out for about two years. The overuse of comb in feral colonies is what leads to the smaller bees, this is why most beekeepers cull brood comb after a few years. Either swarm or feral, you will face problems when you catch them. By hiving a swarm you may perpetuate a swarming trait in your colony, and there are few feral colonies that are not disease ridden. As a beekeeper it is your responsibility to treat any hive you capture to prevent disease transmission, and to keep your hives from swarming. That said, catching a colony, and nursing it back to health is an enjoyable way to increase colony numbers.

  4. #4
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    Jun 2002
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    Drums, PA, USA
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    have read several people's comment on wanting to catch a feral swarm. Based on thinking about this I post the follwing questions in the hope for some direction.
    Is there merit/research on feral survivor swarms in the hopes to combat the v-mite problem?
    How do tell the difference between true feral bees versus a swarm from some other beekeeper?

    I am very interested in catching a feral swarm. In my area, there are not to many beekeepers, so the odds are against catching somebody elses swarm. With the harsh winter we have experienced so far, the swarm would have to be adapted to the area, and somewhat resistant. I am a believer in the fact, that too many genes in the gene pool has helped the mite problem to increase. My theory is based on nothing! I am no expert and not doing any research, (except for myself), but if bees are adapted, and somebody "imports" another strain, common sense tells be, that the adaptation process is interupted, or tainted. Most bees "imported" are from the south, and from a climate much warmer than northeastern PA, so they may do very well there, but actually cause more harm here. They are more susceptable to disease, weakening them, hence robbing takes place, and mass varroa problems spread. Dr. Rodriguez talks about that increased level of mites in the fall, because of robbing. With "wild" bees, at least they have a chance of surviving, having some type of instinctual driving force behind them. Who knows? I really just want some larvae, and I'll produce my own queens. Bees are just bodies, queens are what makes the hive.

    ------------------
    Dale Richards
    Dal-Col Apiaries
    Drums, PA

  5. #5
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    One of Murphy's laws:

    "Nothing succeeds like success."

  6. #6
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    Feb 2003
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    brown county,indiana,usa
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    my emphasis in trying to control varroa has been in trying to find a resistant bee, last year i bought 5 queens each from what i guessed were the 6 best queen breeders/sellers(in the $15-20 range),each were supposed to be hygenic,smr or varroa/disease resistant.i did not treat with chemicals,or fgmo.i've got 8 out of 27 left,i was initally bummed, but i'm gonna try to expand with the survivors.for no treatment maybe that's a decent start to my trials, most of the survivors look good.

  7. #7
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    Kiel WI, USA
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    Which ones survived? Were the queens the only difference between the hives?

  8. #8
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    I'll throw out my theory on genetics here. Feel free to disagree, but I've seen this in other animals and I have read similar opinions on bees.

    If you get too broad of a genetic pool results are very unreliable and sometimes not very good. Meaning one generation may have the characteristics you desire and the next may not. In the natural environment there is some genetic variety, but quite a bit less than we tend to have importing all these different breeds of bees (or cattle or chickens or horses). You need some genetic variety to prevent too much inbreeding. But if you look at the squirrels and the rabbits in the wild, they all look pretty homogenous. They are all about the same color and about the same size. The survivors tend to breed in a small area and the animals in that area tend to be similar.

    If you are breeding for a characteristic, be it mite resistance or gentleness, my experience is that you have better luck staying in the same general gene pool, without getting too shallow of a gene pool. In other words, pick your breed and try to stick with it. I'm not saying don't experiment, but if, for example, you've decided that the Russian queens are the way to go, then try to get a couple of different sources for Russian queens and do as you are doing and keep the survivors and try to breed them to Russian drones.

    One of the nice things about the feral bees is a lot of the work and disappointments of lost hives are done. A lot of the culling of blood lines that were not useful is already done and there is usually a certain amount of homogeneity.

    Just my opinion.


  9. #9
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    Feb 2003
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    brown county,indiana,usa
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    of course there were variables other than just the queens,but,of the remaining i have 1 buckfast,1 bweaver smr russian,1 minnesota hygenic-spivak,1 olympic wilderness russ/cauc. mix,1 new world carn-strachen,1 taber-russ/carn,1 russian i got accidentally that had been shaken into a package,1 harbo.no obvious winner. any new genetic additions will be made in the fall,and left untreated,but i'm optmistic about the survivors.

  10. #10
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    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    I've had some buckfasts survive heavy mite infestations in the past also. It wiped out three of my four hives at the time and the survivor one was infested, but survived quite strong.

    I always wonder how they can survive with a heavy infestation. They usually don't, but that fact that sometimes they do is baffling.

  11. #11
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    Feb 2003
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    brown county,indiana,usa
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    i think buckfast have been underestimated at times,i reckon their restistance to tracheal mites and to some degree nosema leaves them in better health to fight off varroa.

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