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  1. #81
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    > Are there other explanations for the continuing
    > spread of AHB while feral bee colonies are dying
    > from Varroa or diseases?

    Sure - the basic "game plan" for AHB has less
    of a concept of "overwintering", so the colony
    is focused on building up to swarm, and more
    swarms result, in some cases a dozen swarms a
    year. With more swarms, some of them HAVE to
    survive, no matter what happens.

    AHB also have the nasty habit of simply moving
    in and taking over EHB hives, so we have to
    assume that this is happening "in the wild" just
    as often as (perhaps more often than) it happens
    in managed hives.

    Even if survival rates were identical when AHB
    and EHB are subjected to the same conditions
    (which I feel to be a fair assessment), AHB
    get "more rolls of the dice" than EHB due to
    the swarms themselves.

  2. #82
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    I have to confess, I like this! Now we're discussing the advantages of swarming again! And now, I'm going to play devil's advocate just a bit:

    First, what's the difference between "wild" and "feral?" And, if you want to include domestication in your distinction between the two terms, are honey bees truly domesticated? (Really, this is a rhetorical question just to make everyone think about how these terms get used.)

    Second, if non-Africanized, feral swarms show similar rates of survival to the AHB swarms, why are so many people getting worked up over the lack of pollinators? Dr. Orley "Chip" Taylor at the University of Kansas claims that Varroa is responsible for virtually exterminating feral honey bees around Lawrence, Kansas. If the colonies are as plentiful as they were before, why are so many people claiming they're not? And, doesn't this simply go back to supporting the idea that swarming might be an effective tool to reduce disease/parasite loads?

    Third, does it matter whether the bees swarm to reduce mite loads or mite loads decline because bees swarm? Strictly speaking, as scientists we can't test an idea that a bunch of bees discussed the problem of Varroa and chose to swarm to reduce loads. From an evolutionary point of view, the reason for the behavior might be less important than the effect that the behavior produces. So, either by trying it or just through omniscience, is swarming a good tool to improve the health of bees?

    And finally, just to stir the pot a little more, the idea of swarms acting as vectors still may not change the effects of the action from an evolutionary perspective. Just remember, in evolution, as long as the organisms can successfully propagate, the rest of their lives are of little consequence. As humans we forget that; we seem to think that evolution would have a profound effect through some diseases, but the diseases destroy the infected creatures after the creatures have already reproduced. If a bee colony casts a swarm and survives for another two months, and a second one casts a swarm and dies from any disease immediately (assuming both swarms survive) which one had greater success from the perspective of evolution? If a bee colony casts a swarm, the colony dies from any disease but the swarm casts another swarm before the original swarm dies, and so on, why wouldn't the strategy prove successful evolutionarily?

    Sorry, this got longer than I intended. I just like to see the thought others have along these lines.

  3. #83
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    >First, what's the difference between "wild" and "feral?"

    Let's put it in the relm of another species. A bobcat is a wild cat. The breed was never domesticated and still is wild. A feral cat is, by breed, a house cat (domesticated) but when a particular house cat has reverted to being wild (born that way probably) then it is feral. The reason for the distinction is that, as far as we know, the bees here were escapees from domestic hives at one time. Had they been native and wild on this continent, we would simply call them wild bees.

    >And, if you want to include domestication in your distinction between the two terms, are honey bees truly domesticated?

    A good philosophical question, since they are not like a cow that lives in a pen, and they can leave anytime they wish and sometimes do.

    >Second, if non-Africanized, feral swarms show similar rates of survival to the AHB swarms, why are so many people getting worked up over the lack of pollinators? Dr. Orley "Chip" Taylor at the University of Kansas claims that Varroa is responsible for virtually exterminating feral honey bees around Lawrence, Kansas.

    Certainly some combination of tracheal mites, varroa mites and viruses have decreased the number of feral bees. I'm sure they have also dcreased the number of AHB colonies.

    >If the colonies are as plentiful as they were before, why are so many people claiming they're not?

    I don't think anyone is saying they are as plentiful as they were before. But they are also not extinct.

    >And, doesn't this simply go back to supporting the idea that swarming might be an effective tool to reduce disease/parasite loads?

    I hate to agree with Jim but I think one of the big advantages is simply the reproductive advantage. AHB cast more swarms and therefore have more "offspring". Some percent of those offspring survive. Some of that, IMO, is natural sized comb. But both the true feral EHBs (as opposed to recent escapees) and the AHB ferals have that advantage. The EHB, however are not reproducing at the same rate. And both are getting hit by hitchhikers from crashing domestic hives

    >Third, does it matter whether the bees swarm to reduce mite loads or mite loads decline because bees swarm?

    Is there any evidence of either? Maybe they do delcine. Maybe they don't. I haven't seen any studies on the subject.

    >is swarming a good tool to improve the health of bees?

    I have no idea. But it certainly doesn't improve productivity. [img]smile.gif[/img] I have seen no evidence that it improves the health of the bees. either.

    >And finally, just to stir the pot a little more, the idea of swarms acting as vectors still may not change the effects of the action from an evolutionary perspective.

    >Just remember, in evolution, as long as the organisms can successfully propagate, the rest of their lives are of little consequence.

    Exactly Jim's point above. But not necessarily from an evolutionary point of view, just a survival and proliferation of the AHB genes point of view.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  4. #84
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    It seems to me that if treac. mites are IN the bees, and v. mites are ON the bees, and if foul brood can be passed by feeding tainted honey, and the last thing bees do before they swarm is fill up on honey.....then you would have a swarm, full of foulbrood spores, covered with v. mites, coughing up treac.mites, stressed out by trying to build a new hive.

    Buckbee, thanks for answering my question. I would like to continue that conversation. But since this thread is about swarming, I will save this thread and swarm over and start a new one.
    Sorry folks, didnt know that was the protocal, was just following the conversation as it evolved.

    (please note, all the above was said with a twinkle in my eye, not a snarl on my lips)

  5. #85
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    Thanks guys for bringing this conversation full circle, back to my original post about swarming. And thanks BEW for taking the GM thread off to another place!

    There has been some interesting thinking tossed into the pot, and - let's be honest - it's all theory until we test it out for real.

    So here's a suggestion.

    Supposing - those who are interested - set aside a couple of hives next season for an experiment along these lines:

    1. For as many hives as you want to commit to this, do nothing but observe the bees up to the point where they show signs of preparing to swarm.

    2. Do a mite check of some sort (roll some bees in powdered sugar, for example) just before they are due to swarm.

    3. Set out some bait hives, containing nice smells, within range of the test hives.

    4. Unless your test apiary has plenty of conveniently placed low branches, make a simple 'gallows' or two, on the horizontal bar of which rub some old wax and propolis to attract the swarm, incase they don't take an instant fancy to your bait hives.

    5. Catch any swarms that do not re-house themselves and hive in the usual way.

    6. Once they are settled in, do another mite check and compare with results from 2.

    7. Observe their build-up and do comparative tests against the original colonies before bedding-down time.

    8. Repeat in the spring of the following year.

    If a decent number of people take part, we should have some data to discuss next year, against which we can judge our theories.

    Anyone up for it?
    The Barefoot Beekeeper http://www.biobees.com

  6. #86
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    As for me, I am still building my hive count, so I will be splitting and dividing, and catching swarms this year, and probably next. Would a split fit into your theory?

  7. #87
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    If you mean taking some frames to another hive, complete with bees and brood, then this wouldn't be equivalent to swarming, as you will simply be dividing the mites between two colonies.

    The point is to allow a swarm to emerge and see if their mite load is significantly lower than the mother colony.
    The Barefoot Beekeeper http://www.biobees.com

  8. #88
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    >It seems to me that if treac. mites are IN the bees, and v. mites are ON the bees, and if foul brood can be passed by feeding tainted honey, and the last thing bees do before they swarm is fill up on honey.....then you would have a swarm, full of foulbrood spores, covered with v. mites, coughing up treac.mites, stressed out by trying to build a new hive.

    Exactly. Except for the SHB larvae and the wax worm larvae and the mites IN the cells, the rest they take with them and, from what I've heard, even the SHB adults will follow them.

    So what pests will they leave behind?
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  9. #89
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    Swarms (shook or natural) certainly should
    have a reduced incidence of brood diseases,
    based upon what we know of the epidemiology
    of these diseases. Leaving the comb behind
    is simply an extreme case of regular comb
    recycling.

    But if swarming was an effective solution to
    any OTHER disease/pest problem of bees, we
    would find swarms with lower incidence of
    pests/diseases, and hence, better survival
    prospects (on a statistical basis) than
    managed hives.

  10. #90
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    I don't know. This is all theory until tested in the field.

    However, I think we can reasonably assume that AFB spores and tracheal mites are everywhere and only bees that are vulnerable, through having their immune system compromised by whatever means, will actually show symptoms. Similarly in humans, viruses are everywhere and only people who have lowered immunity show symptoms.

    I would argue that, far from being stressful, the act of swarming and building new comb is a healthy and necessary experience for the bees. It is stopping them swarming that causes them stress, IMO.
    The Barefoot Beekeeper http://www.biobees.com

  11. #91
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    I have never had any problems nor seen any eveidence of stress in preventing swarming. You just fool them into thinking it's not a good time to swarm. A few empty frames in the brood nest at the right time has always worked pretty well for me. How is that stressful?

    If you mean the people who search the hive everyday for swarm cells and destroy these, yes, I think that is very stressful AND a waste of time.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  12. #92
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    >> the act of swarming and building new comb is a healthy and necessary experience for the bees. It is stopping them swarming that causes them stress'

    I agree, that swarming places the bees into a fresh new house, which holds less bacterial diseased and accumulated residues. But I dont agree that swarming is any less stressfull onthe bees than the manipulation I perform to reduce thier swarming tendencies.

    >>It is stopping them swarming that causes them stress'

    How do you measure stress in the colony? You cant associate high v-mite counts in a hive to not swarming, and therefore by not swarming, causing the hive more stress,.?
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  13. #93
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    I agree with all of the aforemention vitues of swarming and "shook swarming" methods. In temperate climates, bees highly prone to late season swarms fair poorly. By some estimates, 70% of all swarms die. It could be mites, or it might be starvation. In any case, swarming has some pretty clear drawbacks.

  14. #94
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    Buckbee:

    Your suggestion is exactly what this topic needs: let's try it, try to generate some actual data, and compare the results. The only way we will ever really know if it might be a useful idea is to test this hypothesis. I intend to try some of this during the coming spring, and I'll let you know what I find with my bees. Right now, I doubt I'll have good numbers, so I hope others will try this idea and post numbers as well. My hives are isolated, and my disease and parasite levels (at least of the big ones: Varroa, tracheal mites, AFB, etc.) are zero. Not low; zero.

    I've had a couple other thoughts and come up with a couple questions on the topic as well.

    1) As far as Varroa levels are concerned, remember that Varroa is a parasite, and the relationships between host populations and parasties populations change with respect to host population levels. For example, if the population of a host doubles, the population of its parasite will almost always increase exponentially. Twice as many bees might have ten times as many mites. Larger, concentrated host populations mean that parasites don't spend as much time searching for their next host. The same principle applies to agricultural crops and the insects that feed on those crops.

    2) Swarms don't carry brood with them, and Varroa reproduces on the brood. This means, as far as Varroa is concerned, that swarms should take fewer mites with them when they leave. Some of the bacterial diseases, like AFD, can travel with them, but even the relative concentrations of these diseases might be diluted by the move.

    3) Swarming, from an evolutionary perspective, is very successful. If 70 percent of swarms die before they become established, the success rate is relatively high. Compare 30 percent survival to the survival rates of bumblebees or yellowjackets (less than one percent). Or, to keep things more similar, most ants "swarm" by sending out virgin queens and males. Of these new queens, roughly one out of 1000 will successfully establish a colony. Among ants that create new colonies by "budding" (similar to honey bee swarms, a new queen takes a portion of the workers and establishes a colony), the success rate is roughly 20 percent.

    So, now my questions. Are bees in large colonies necessarily "healthier" than bees in small colonies? We manage for large colonies to produce greater quantities of honey, but couldn't a small colony that survives be "healthier" than a large colony that dies (from diseases or parasites)?

    Also, Jim Fischer mentioned AHB taking over EHB hives. I searched the scientific literature that I had at hand, and I couldn't find any example of AHB directly invaded and superceding an EHB colony. I did find solid information about Cape honey bees (Apis mellifera capensis) taking over African honey bee colonies, as well as information about Africanized traits appearing in EHB colonies after superceding queens mated with AHB drones, but no examples of AHB moving into an existing hive to take it over. If anyone knows of documented examples of AHB invading and taking over EHB hives directly, please let me know where to find them.

  15. #95
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    I've seen pictures and heard several bee scientists talk about (and show pictures of) AHB swarms taking over EHB colonies. I'm not sure where that information is available on line.

    It seems like some of those I saw were from the Tuscon lab.

    Wait, I found a refernce to the "cape bee" trait:

    "Africanized Bees (AHB) Showing
    New Traits
    Dr. Gloria DeGrande-Hoffman of the Tuscon Bee Lab reported a disturbing phenomenon about invasion of European colonies by AHB. Shiny black AHB bees, which look like workers, enter European colonies. They are accepted because they have nectar and pollen loads. They are intercastes (capable of laying AHB eggs) and look like virgin queens. Slowly the hives become africanized. Also a small AHB swarm will settle on European colony (usually a weaker one) and gradually the workers, intercastes and virgin queens will enter and take over the colony. The presence of these intercastes are indicative of the cape bee from South Africa where workers can lay viable eggs that develop into females. This is a trait that beekeepers “do not want” in our domestic population of European bees. It can be devastating to the queen-breeding program. This invasion can happen at any time during the bee-flying season."
    http://www.msstate.edu/Entomology/be...enews0202.html

    But I've also seen pictures and discussions of AHB swarms moving into EHB hives.

    I think it was Diana Sammataro who presented some of that at HAS and I've also seen some of that presented at a "master beekeepers" workshop put on by University of Nebraska at Lincoln. Seems like that was presented by Larry Connor.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  16. #96
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    Thanks for the information, Michael! I've heard a lot of people claim AHB will "take over" EHB colonies, but very little evidence exists, even yet. By the way, even though this claim comes from a researcher, it's still a sort of hearsay. I still haven't found an example in a refereed, scientific journal. While it may be happening (and seems to be, based on this report), I'm surprized no one in research has published it if they can verify it. Scientists want to publish as much as possible.

    Even their report says the trait is "...indicative of the cape bee from South Africa..." which, as far as I know, has never been imported into this hemisphere. Stating that the trait is "indicative," to me, means that these people are saying that cape bees are here.

    I'd like to point out that among bumblebees, kleptoparasitic traits (stealing an established colony) have been used to separate genera, Bombus and Psithyrus, but it seems that we have both hive-building and kleptoparasitic traits in a single species of honey bee. Does anyone know of an EHB colony taking over another honey bee colony?

  17. #97
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    Ian,
    >How do you measure stress in the colony?

    Now there's a good question. Of course, we have no 'scientific' way to do this, but I think we as beekeepers have ways of knowing when the bees are 'happy' and when they are not.

    I am fairly confident that the 'smarm-prevention' technique that many still use - despite the obvious and observable fact that it usually fails - of repeatedly cutting out queen cells, does cause the bees stress. Artificial swarming, if carried out at the right time, may cause them less stress, but it often doesn't work either - at least, not consistently.

    If we take as a baseline that bees are stressed least when they can get all the food they need, are disease-free and have few parasites, do not have to deal with chemicals not found in nature, do not have to compete with a hundred other colonies packed into a space where nature would have two or three and are not forced to build comb on artificially even-sized (and possibly over-sized) foundation or even (yuk) plastic, we should be able to get some clues as to what stresses we can avoid.

    Jon,
    Thanks for your insights - I shall ponder them.
    The Barefoot Beekeeper http://www.biobees.com

  18. #98
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    Jim,
    >But if swarming was an effective solution to
    any OTHER disease/pest problem of bees, we
    would find swarms with lower incidence of
    pests/diseases, and hence, better survival
    prospects (on a statistical basis) than
    managed hives.

    Good point, but my guess is - and it's only a guess - that this would have been the case 100-150 years ago and back, because it was through swarming and collecting swarms that colonies were perpetuated.
    The Barefoot Beekeeper http://www.biobees.com

  19. #99
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    Jon K,
    >So, now my questions. Are bees in large colonies necessarily "healthier" than bees in small colonies? We manage for large colonies to produce greater quantities of honey, but couldn't a small colony that survives be "healthier" than a large colony that dies (from diseases or parasites)?

    Another good Q - two, even. Bro. Adam had to introduce big modified Dadant hives to cope with the productivity of his Buckfast queens, yet 20 years earlier, he and most other UK beekeepers were using the much smaller WBC hive and British Black bees. The Blacks were well adapted to the unpredictable British climate and overwintered well with smaller colonies.

    Could it be that the advent of 'over-sized' colonies for increased honey production has indeed contributed to creating better conditions for both diseases and parasites?
    The Barefoot Beekeeper http://www.biobees.com

  20. #100
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    If I recall correctly, Brother Adam encountered much skepicism from many more experienced beekeepers at the time. Now, decades later, Minnesota has "discovered" unlimited brood nest management, which makes for very healthy hives (at least in Minnesota). others have similar comments about the productivty of 2 queen hives. Personally, I really like a populus hive, except that I'm not a very good queen finder.

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