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Thread: SMR Bees

  1. #1
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    My 14 year old son plans to start a hive this Spring. We have read about bees with SMR trait and would like to start with bees with this trait. Where could we purchase SMR package bees with SMR Queens for delivery in the Spring?
    In the online Glenn Apiary catalog, it shows a chart with the characteristics of several Queens - Mn Hyg, Carniolan, Russian, SMR, and Cordovan, with the SMR having a high resistance to Varroa mites. However, on the order form it lists under variety Mn Hyg, Carniolan, Russian, and Cardovan (no SMR Queen). My question then is, was the SMR listed on catolog chart an actual Queen variety that is available or was the chart just showing a characteristic (they had pictures of each type Queen). I appreciate any help.

  2. #2
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    IMO, I think you'll be happier with the MN hygenics than the SMRs. I've had SMRs and they were prone to abscond and, runny (nervous on the comb) and not that productive.

    SMRs are from bees bred from feral survivors by Dr. Harbo for varroa resistance. A great idea, but they need more good traits than just that.

    They also need to be gentle and productive and calm.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  3. #3
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    Isn't the MN hygenics bred for AFB resistance as the primary selection when the line was first selected and processed? Unless you has a previous problem or are a commercial operation, AFB hengenic traits are not a high priority. Yes, they add that "some" v-mite resistance has been selected or seen, but this was not the primary concern in the selection process.

    For the average beekeeper, I would think SMR would be higher on a scale of choice. Dealing with mites for me is the main concern. Not AFB. I eliminate AFB if found, and will not wait for bees to clean it up or allow it to persist any longer than the time it takes to burn a hive.

    Each kind of bees have pro's and con's. Although MB has had bad luck with SMR's, I like them. If you choose not to get SMR's however, I would think that there are other bees to consider instead of MN. Of all the lines out there, MN would not rank high on my list.

    As for packages, there are several that advertise on the Glenn website under "Package bee and naturally mated quenn suppliers. These are breeders that start with Glenn AI stock and go from there. Several advertise SMR bees and ship packages.

  4. #4
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    >Isn't the MN hygenics bred for AFB resistance as the primary selection when the line was first selected and processed? Unless you has a previous problem or are a commercial operation, AFB hengenic traits are not a high priority. Yes, they add that "some" v-mite resistance has been selected or seen, but this was not the primary concern in the selection process.

    Dr. Marla Spivak says hygenic behavior will help with mites as well as any brood disease. She is not really measuring the bees response to any particular brood problem, just any problem happening in a capped cell.

    >Although MB has had bad luck with SMR's, I like them.

    You are right. Someone else may have better luck than I did with SMRs and I only got some from Weaver and have not tried any other supplier. But that was my experience, and I think it would be a bit dissapointing to a newbee. Other's I've talked to had similar dissapointments.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  5. #5
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    >"Dr. Marla Spivak says hygenic behavior will help with mites as well as any brood disease. She is not really measuring the bees response to any particular brood problem, just any problem happening in a capped cell."

    Taken from the Glenn website and was published in ABJ in 1999.
    >"My goal in breeding the hygienic line of bees was to demonstrate to the beekeeping industry that this behavior is a mechanism of resistance to American foulbrood and chalkbrood, and is one mode of defense against Varroa mites. I wanted to demonstrate how to select for the behavior so that queen producers could breed for it from among their own stocks. I think I have accomplished these goals. The most effective and genetically sustainable way to propagate the hygienic trait in US bees is to have many queen producers selecting for it, and I think there are many out there that are now doing that. However, there is demand to have queens from the breeding program available now, so I have decided to have the Glenn's help make them more readily available to the industry.

    The breeder queens from the Minnesota Hygienic line demonstrate good resistance to AFB and chalkbrood, and some resistance to Varroa. I am defining resistance as the ability to defend themselves against these diseases and mite better than unselected colonies. Naturally mated daughters of the breeder queens will still require treatments for Varroa, however at less frequent intervals. If left untreated, especially when mite invasion pressure is high (when many colonies are located in one location for pollination or in migratory beekeeping) even the most hygienic colonies eventually will collapse. Don't be fooled by the word resistance!

  6. #6
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    That may well have been her basic goal in 1999. I'm refering to what she said at a queen rearing workshop in June of 2005. I did not get the impression that her main focus was AFB. She talked about AFB, chaulkbrood and Varroa mites as issues that hygenic traits in bees would help with.

    >Don't be fooled by the word resistance!

    I totatlly agree.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  7. #7
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    The key point that you folks are missing is that we are talking about a 14 year old kid who wants to start in beekeeping. The single largest drawback for recruitment of new beekeepers is fear. Seems to me that the most important trait to pursue would be gentleness. This trait can also be combined w/ some mite tolerance as well as showing good production. Other traits such as hygienic behavior, SMR etc can be introduced once the lad is "hooked". I would suggest a gentle Italian line or the New World Carnolian depending on which area of the state you are located in. Either way have your queen marked.

  8. #8
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    BeeSur

    I agree with you.

    But thanks for this discussion. I am considering buying an II queen. ONe I have been seriously considering is the Minnesota SMR.

    The Peabody article in the Dec. ABJ (reprint from USDA Ag. Research Mag.) gives credit to the SMR (Suppress Mite Reproduction) trait id to Harbo and Harris, but does credit Spivak and Ibrahim with the hygenic impulse identification. So it seems that the trait was identified as SMR first, before it was understood that it was based on "hygenic" impulses.

    I would appreciate advice on best queen to buy to use as breeder queen in the north.

    I think the answer to the question asked is that Minnesota Hygenics would have SMR traits. Am I right?

    [size="1"][ December 11, 2005, 02:24 PM: Message edited by: BerkeyDavid ][/size]

  9. #9
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    MB, I was not talking about a "general" discussion she had in 2005. I was talking about the selection process and her research in her words with regards to the MN hygenics.

    Who's missing what??? A discussion on SMR and MN hygenic queens and bees is failing who???

    Yes, the SMR is a trait that can be bred into or from any race of bees. It is selection process. Dr. Spivak was doing something that breeders had done years earlier in my opinion, its just they did not see the understanding and perhaps didn't see the puzzle at hand with all the pieces in front of them. Charlie Mraz, and others, had selected for AFB resistance and other traits years earlier. I am in no way diminishing Dr. Spivak, as she has taken it to a new level and perhaps shed light onto a missing science that beekeepers need to take hold of. She was really trying to show that any breeder can and should select for hygenic traits and perpetuate better lines of bees. This was originally done for AFB and other deseases but the carry over benefits to v-mites is evident.

    She actually started her MN hygenics from standard Italian stock. Imagine if she had russian or some other stock to start from.

    As for the 14 year old boy. I for one know nothing more demoralizing to new beekeepers as dead hives. I have Russians and can attest that they are no harder to handle than any other bee. They are doing the correct thing in asking questions, considering options, hearing the debates, and then deciding the options they want to go with. Telling a new beekeeper to get the most docile line of bees may or may not be good. Thats for nobody to decide but them. I for one am glad that instead of like so many new beekeepers they are not simply ordering from the same old package providers that are doing nothing more than passing off mass produced crappy bees.
    As for the comment on "fear", I never heard that as a consideration coming from the original comments. Maybe someone needs to consider thier own comments and how it may be "read". Get him crapy bees and then change him over to something they obviously want now??? Not sure if thats the best path in my opinion.

  10. #10
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    Thanks to all for the very helpful comments and I hope that the discussion will continue.
    I have read many of the topics here and my son and I have read several of the Beekeeping books (Beekeeping for Dummies, First Lessons in Beekeeping, The Classroom). It seems to us that one of the big problems with beekeeping recently is the problems with bee pests (particularly tracheal and varroa mites) and diseases. I was also impressed with the tendency of the mites to become resistant to one or more of the chemical treatments. My thinking is this: "If there are certain varieties of bees that have been developed that have some inbreed resistance to the mites, why not start with one of these varieties?"
    We plan to start with only 2 hives, so if the resistant bees and/or queen cost more, it is not a big concern for us.
    If I had to rank the characteristics of the bees that we would like to start with it would be 1)resistance to pests especially pests that could easily kill the colony such as the mites 2)ease of handling the bees which would include gentleness, tendency not to swarm or behave in other odd ways, tendency not to produce excessive propolis and 3)my least concern would be the amount of honey produced. There may be other considerations that others could add.
    I consider this primarily the beginning of an educational rather than a commercial adventure, that is, I don't expect a monetary return on our investment.
    I would be helping my son with the hives and don't think that he would have any more fear of the bees than any other beginning beekeeper.
    Given these circumstances, how would you rank the varieties of bees that would meet our needs. We live in the Sandhills region of NC. Thank you all for your insights.

  11. #11
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    I was at the same workshop as Michael. I have got respect for Marla and her work but the final proof is always in the bee.

    Darrel Rufer ( seller of Marla's line) is in Texas right now recovering from the huge varroa losses he had this year I have been told (Nebraska beekeeper wintering in Texas).

    I perhaps should not be talking about my friend Darrel without talking to Darrel first but my source has ALWAYS been reliable before.

    The truth in the Minnesota hygienic is not very varroa tolerant and neither is the NWC. Tested both!

    You can not find a true varroa tolerant bee without added varroa pressure. The reason in my opinion why Harbo & Harris failed to find a survivor in their original survivor search and went on to discover the SMR trait.

    Dr. Harbo explained to me in person the method of finding the SMR trait. Hard, back breaking tedious work. Reason I have bought two Glenn Apiairies instrumental inseminated SMR breeder queens! (red & yellow lines).

    I did find a SMR breeder queen in one of my lines but much easier to simply order a queen to get the trait.

    I really like both Marla's line and Sue's NWC line but I would not consider both varroa tolerant ( or able to survive varroa untreated)

    The statment by BjornBee about what if Marla had started her research with a Russian or another line rings true with me.

    From what I have been told both Marla & Sue are dedicated to finding the varroa tolerant bee within their stock and I don't doubt they will ( just not sure when).

    Getting a queen from a commercial beekeeper like myself to improve their stock would be too easy! Right?

    Can you see both getting up at a national meeting and saying they owe their varroa tolerant success to a breeder queen they received from Bob Harrison, Dann Purvis, Charlie Harper or the Baton Rouge Bee lab? Not going to happen!

    Actually I am most likely the only person above which will take a varroa tolerant queen from any source and test and use! The smartest dog I ever had was a mongrel and the most varroa tolerant bee I ever had is a mongrel bee!
    Bob Harrison

  12. #12
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    You could always try splitting the difference. I think that WG bee farm sells SMR/hygenic queens derived from Glenn Apiary stock. Some of the Georgia production queens are also very gentle and excellent comb builders. Its alway nice to have really good comb builders when you start out.

  13. #13
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    novice b states:
    f I had to rank the characteristics of the bees that we would like to start with it would be 1)resistance to pests especially pests that could easily kill the colony such as the mites 2)ease of handling the bees which would include gentleness, tendency not to swarm or behave in other odd ways, tendency not to produce excessive propolis and 3)my least concern would be the amount of honey produced. There may be other considerations that others could add.

    tecumseh replies:
    most certainly I would like to inquire with mr harrison in regards to the statement of beliefs that follows...

    I see that one of your (novice bee) concern is a hives tendency to produce excessive propolis. it is my feeling that this requirement and the requirement noted as #1 may in fact be contrary. it is my opinion (based on some current casual observation) the the capacity to propolise is in fact essential for the defense of the hives resourses. for some of us who kept bees 3 or 4 decades back, you only had to read a little to realize that queen rearing at that time was monopolized by the twin concepts that 'the itilian breed' was the 'only' breed for the then modern day beekeeper and that the big concern was finding a bee stain that produced a very minimum of propolis. even then some beekeepers thought that this mode of thinking was error prone.

  14. #14
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    Rob, congratulations on your effort and insight. I also get breeders from Glenn. Although I order from many outfits to test and use in my operation, pure breeder queens are ordered to test and add to the line. Over-wintered breeders from hives that have had no treatment are also selected.

    There are others out there making the sacrifices to find good queens. In the past four years including this year I have let a good number go without treatment. This includes hives numbering 100, 185, 285 and 420 the past four years.

    This is the first year I have had NWC going through winter in any numbers worth mentioning. They were somewhat hard to introduce but they also were some of my best honey producers. I ordered them from strachans. I had good success with them but this was with a small number in years past.

    In allowing such numbers to over-winter without treatment, you really do see patterns of some lines doing better than others. I have committed myself to russians, NWC, SMR lines and queens from breeders that are upfront and obviously trying to do whats best in selecting and improving their own stock. In the end I am sure my bees are some "mongrel" form or another. I just want alive ones come spring......

  15. #15
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    [size="1"][ December 12, 2005, 06:44 AM: Message edited by: BjornBee ][/size]

  16. #16
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    IMO
    As Bob has mentioned, the Minn. Hyg. Italian as promoted,(by itself)are not very varroa tolerant.
    Marla mentioned in the American Bee Journal, Jan.'99 "Minnesota Hygienic line demonstrate good resistance to AFB and chalkbrood, and some resistance to Varroa" and "naturally mated daughters of the breeder queens will still require treatments for Varroa, however at less frequent intervals".

    There is a opporunity to increase varroa tolerance by having SMR traits added to Hygienic queens. I have been purchasing my II Minn. Hyg. breeder queens from Glenn Ap. and having them inseminated with SMR drones for the last 3 years.
    The open mated daughters show hygienic behavior and appear to have lower mite counts. This does not mean that they can survive without treatment.
    I feel that they can reduce the number of treatments annually, and use softer methods. But you must do mite counts to determine the levels of mites that you are working with in the hives.

    Everything I have read states that incorporating SMR into a line of bees can reduce the amount of honey collected by 10-20 %. I have not noticed this myself. But, if true, it seems to be a small trade off for increasing some survivablity into the bees.
    The queens that I have produced from these queen mothers have shown good brood patterns and build up.
    There is no silver bullet out there, yet; but IMO there are some very promising alternatives where we can get away from blanket, calendar treatments for varroa wheather the bees need it or not.
    Frank Wyatt
    WG Bee Farm
    Eden, NC

  17. #17
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    I spent a couple days this year with Marla Spivak( queen rearing class in June) and Sue Cobey( Kansas Honey Producers meeting in Oct.).
    Both said they are stepping up the effort to make their lines more varroa tolerant. From the converstations you quickly see they are very precise about their queen selection and move slowly and carefully.
    Two completely different methods than mine and Dann Purvis ( American Bee Journal Jan. 2005 article I wrote).
    Our method (sounds similar to BjornBee) is to find the varroa tolerant bee and then fine tune the final bee. We take the "live and let die" method to the extreme by trying to kill off 50% of *test hives* a year with added varroa pressure. To my knowledge Dann Purvis & I are the only two using such extreme methods( added varroa pressure).
    The difference between my method and Dann Purvis is I use inbred stock to isolate the trait and then outcross to bring back brood viability.
    I found that one reason small beekeepers were coming up with varroa tolerant bees is they were isolated, the non varroa tolerant hives were crashing from varroa and then they were raising queens by walk away splits letting the bees inbreed. Does not work all the time but I have seen yards small beekeepers have came up with which had very varroa tolerant bees. Those beekeepers are always willing to trade an old queen for a new queen! They are always wondering why I would want to trade an old queen for a young queen.

    Example:
    An older beekeeper ( I buy his specialty honey crop each year)did exactly as above but he thought *PMS was foulbrood* for the last 12 years. I was the first person to tell him what he was looking at ( he lives in a very remote area and I am the only beekeeper he sees and then only once a year to pick up his small crop at his location). Everytime he saw PMS from varroa he killed the bees and burned all his equipment! He kept raising queens by walkaway splits from the survivors. Because he had been a sideline and now a small sideline he had plenty of equipment to continue. Good thing I came along as he has a big pile of wood ash and about out of extra bee equipment.
    When I checked his bees ( Yugo at the start) 3 years ago he had bees producing honey but inbred. Clean brood wax (but old)as he has not used chemicals (but he has used Terramycin *trying to rid himself of AFB which I do not believe he ever had*)
    The old beekeeper is in his eighties and was too proud to ask for help from a young wipper snapper (my age compared to his) until 3 years ago. He kept telling me about all the AFB problems he was having and the burning he was doing. He kept saying the AFB was different than he has ever seen and did not respond to terramycin. I wonder how many beekeepers which say they are seeing AFB resistant to terra are really seeing PMS. I never thought you could get the two mistaken but the old beekeeper did.
    Last spring we introduced new varroa tolerant genetics (queens into his drone source) and he reported a month ego he had double the honey of last year for me and no signs of PMS ( was foulbrood to him).
    Next trip I will check his brood patterns but sure his brood viability has returned.
    Busy week for me as I am heading south soon so will be hard to answer questions.
    The above is a thought provoking post which all on the list can learn from .

    Merry Christmas!
    Bob Harrison

  18. #18
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    BOb, Bjorn or others:

    what do you think of using a Smart Russian Queens (SMR x Russian) as a breeder queen? Offspring queens would be naturally mated with local survivors...

    according to Glenn Apiary Web site

    Smart Russian queens are SMR queens mated to Russian drones. Russian queens were recently imported and tested by the USDA ARS. They have been naturally selected for resistance to Varroa mites in Eastern Russia where they have had nearly a century exposure to varroa. They are similar in color to our Carniolan bees.


    thanks for comments.

    [size="1"][ December 12, 2005, 04:15 PM: Message edited by: BerkeyDavid ][/size]

  19. #19
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    Dave,
    I am thinking of trying another SMR breeder queen from Glenn Apiairies. We installed about 150 open mated F1 daughters of the pure SMR in production hives when they were first released. We had brood viability problems. I then took a F1 daughter and raised F2 queens from her. We still had a brood viability issue with her open mated daughters. Dr. Harbo told me the problem came from the inbreeding to isolate the SMR trait.

    A famous queen breeder and I had a discussion over the brood viability. His position was that what I was seeing was hygienic behavior and the shotgun pattern was from the behavior. I disagreed saying I had five SMR queens in observation hives and would have noted the behavior. He had purchased and used SMR breeder queens but had never had one in an observation hive. When finally agreed to disagree.

    Either way a shotgun brood pattern will hold up the most prolific queen.

    I liked the constant almost zero varroa count of the SMR but both the F1 and F2 would not work for the commercial beekeeper due to the shotgun pattern. Hives with shotgun brood patterns simply can not produce the bees needed to make a maximum honey crop!

    I have been asked to evaluate the now being released Glenn apiairies II SMR queens. I believe I might as I am looking for a new experiment requiring around 100 hives.
    I started four experiments last year which will last several years.

    I am not a big fan of the Russian/Russian bee after four years of testing four different lines. I am going to join the new Russian queen breeders assn. if they don't toss me out for trying to find the perfect hybrid. I have got plenty of the pure Russian/Russian so I can't see why they would deny me membership.

    I find it interesting that those selling the Russian bee never talk about the short comings. I see little winter clusters and the queen shuting down queen laying with every change of the weather as a real problem for the commercial beekeeper. I also see selling the Russian bee into almond pollination (if plenty of beekeepers were competing for the almond pollination rentals) as a problem. If the almond growers ever go to paying on number of frames of bees the Russian bees will bring the low dollar the first of february.
    I have sent Russian bees into California almond pollination and did have a converstation with the grower about the small Russian cluster size. He was not happy but he took the hives anyway. He liked the hives we had brought the year before sent from Texas. Wy wouldn't he as those hives were a month ahead of Midwestern hives.

    Russian queen/ NWC drones is the best cross I have had so far with the Russian. A close second or about the same would be the Russian queen/ Purvis Brothers gold line drones.

    We used Marla Spivak hygienic drones for the first SMR queen drone source and survivor drones for the F2. I talked about earlier.

    Back when I had SMR queens in OB hives the trait was simply called SMR. Now its a form of hygienic behavior acording to Marla & Harbo. I would like to get a few SMR queens in a few OB hives and take another look.
    Bob Harrison

  20. #20
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    David, I would not hesitate to order a SMR queen. I have several coming from Glenn this spring. I will also open mate with northern over-wintered chemical free bees.

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