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Thread: SMR Bees

  1. #41
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    BjornBee, Aspera & Dave,
    First let me say I am a big fan of Dr. Harbo! I had a serious dispute with a close friend over the value of his work. We agreed to disagree in the end!

    I need to look at the SMR II queens being released today because the shotgun brood pattern seems not to be a problem ( BjornBee & Aspera 2005). I believe those reading will trust me enough to believe me when I say it was at the start. I was going to have to take the 2001/2002 SMR queens and do a couple outcrosses *myself* to get a production bee and then run a couple years of test yards to make sure what I created was the bee I wanted to requeen more than a 100 test hives with.
    The first reports on the new Russian bees looked good so I dropped the SMR project and started doing Russian testing. I am done with Russian testing now except for one Russian outcross.
    Myself and Dann Purvis were able to do what the Baton Rouge Bee Lab was unable to do a decade ago which was trying to find a varroa tolerant bee from survivor queens. Dann & I both know why Harbo and the lab were unsuccessful back then. The unsuccessful attempt led Harbo & Harris to look closely at the problem which led to the current SMR & PMIB research. Actually worked out for the best as Dann & I were in a better position to find the varroa tolerant bee by adding varroa pressure and using large numbers of colonies than available to the bee lab. Keeping hives crashing from varroa at the bee lab would not have been popular with the other researchers.
    You need those for adding varroa pressure!
    Bob Harrison

  2. #42
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    BjornBee, Aspera & Dave,
    BjornBee questions:
    >How many holes are you assuming there should bee?

    I still believe that those original SMR queens were inbreed to the highest degree through instrumental insemination ( II) by the master II expert Dr. Harbo.

    I had five in OB hives and saw no signs described by Harbo in 2005 (which I will post soon).

    To answer the above question the SMR II queens sent, F1 and f2 daugters all had what I would say was poor brood viability. None had a normal brood pattern which would to use Bjorn Bees words *few holes*.

    >You say none or one on a mite drop and then suggest a shotgun pattern, there is what? hundreds or thousands of mites within the comb being cleaned out by the bees???

    I follow the OB hive evidence:
    Empty cells in a shotgun pattern, I installed infested brood comb in the hives 8 weeks before, and the 24 hour varroa drop was zero to one mite after 8 weeks.

    Back then we were not sure what the cause for the lack of varroa was ( not sure we do today). The lab said the varroa were simply not reproducing in the SMR hives. mature females going in cells but not reproducing.The shotgun brood pattern was from inbreeding and the eating of diploid drone brood.

    Yes hundreds or more like thousands of varroa were cleaned out by the bees and due to the lack of reproduction the varroa load I introduced was reduced to almost zero BUT the shotgun pattern stayed which was what I was afraid it would do creating a hive which would never be of use to the commercial beekeeper.

    All of the baton Bee labs release papers were in accordance with my own findings until 2005 when Marla Spivak said the SMR trait was simply a form of hygienic behavior. In the final post I will quote Dr. harbo's (permission given) comments from a email from Dr. Harbo to Allen Dick.
    Bob Harrison

  3. #43
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    Dr. Harbo's reply:
    "Bees with the SMR trait will remove cells of worker pupae (starting about when the eyes begin to turn pink and usually completed by the purple eyed stage)"

    Bob Harrison's comments:
    This is not what I saw in my OB hives back then. At the bee lab web site it says the bees ate these pupae. Again not what I observed.
    I did not see cannibalism of the pupa nor did I see the pupa stacked up to be carried out.
    My observations:
    I saw the SMR queens laying in every cell available and I saw the shotgun brood pattern. I did see a few bees eating eggs outside the cell but mostly I observed a worker with a head in a cell which the queen had layed an egg in . I then circled the cell with a mark on the glass of the OB hive. when the worker backed out of the cell I took a 16 power jewelers glass and observed the egg was gone.

    I saw no pupa being removed or ate.

    Dr. Harbo (2005)
    "We were fooled into thinking that all the mites had become nonreproductive becauses we only found non reproducing mites"

    I can't explain the difference between the above & what I observed.
    Dr. Harbo word for word 2005:
    " Marla Spivak noticed that SMR bees were hygienic, and it seems that the entire mechanism of resistance of SMR bees is the disruption of reproductive mites via the removal of bee pupa by adult bees . Equally important is the fact that they do not disturb mites that produce no eggs. Bees with the SMR trait did remove freeze-killed brood very rapidly, but so did many of the bees that did not express the SMR trait."

    Bob Harrison:
    I do not believe the "entire mechanism of resistance of SMR bees is the disruption of reproductive mites via removal of pupa".

    Many hives of SMR bees I tested failed hygienic behavior tests and kept dirty bottom boards.

    Dr. Harbo points out the difference between SMR bee and hygienic bees :

    " My opinion is that the SMR trait and hygienic behavior are not indentical , but they certainly have some commonality" I say this for three reasons;
    1. people were not able to produce bees with high levels of varroa resistance by selecting only for the removal of freeze killed brood

    Bingo! What I have been saying all along! Hope my friend which he and & I had the disagreement is reading!

    2. I could not find a correlation between the SMR trait and the removal of freeze -killed brood

    Bingo! My observations!

    3. Rothenbuhler's hygienic behavior was recessive. The SMR trait seems to be additive.

    Reason I am interested.

    Now you all will be cursed like I am of laying awake at night wondering about SMR bees! What is really going on? Is Marla right?

    "What we don't know is so vast it makes what we do know seem absurd" (Bob Harrison)

    Half a day shot but hope the postings will encourage a beekeeper or two to try and provide answers to the SMR question.
    Bob Harrison

  4. #44
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    There was quite a bit of “discussion” on Bee-L a few weeks back about SMR vs. HYG bees. Much of it focused on what Harbo said or did not say and what Spivak said or did not say, and if they said what they said they actually meant to say something else which the other person who is arguing against this point of view is taking out of context.

    Here are the last two sentences from the abstract of Abdullah Ibrahim’s and Marla Spivak’s paper:

    http://www.edpsciences.org/articles/...002/M6002.html

    “Our findings indicated that bees bred for SMR express hygienic behavior; adult bees selectively remove pupae infested with mites.”

    “In addition, there is an effect of SMR pupae that reduces mite reproductive success that requires further investigation.”

  5. #45
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    >“In addition, there is an effect of SMR pupae that reduces mite reproductive success that requires further investigation.”

    I wonder if it's an immune respose from the puapae. Maybe the pupae produce an antibody in response to the mites that affects the mites in some way.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  6. #46
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    Gentlemen,
    Thank you all for taking the time to respond to my initial question. I have read with interest all of the replies and you have motivated me to read further about SMR trait research.
    First let me say that I have never kept a colony of bees, so if that in your opinion invalidates my comments please stop reading now and don't "flame" me. I have, however read many scientific articles in my field. Please respond to the following:
    My understanding is that SMR refers to "suppression of mite reproduction" and that by definition bees who possess the "SMR trait" are by some method suppressing the normal or expected reproduction of the mite, that it, they are reducing the expected population of the mite. For now, lets just say that we don't know what is the method of suppression. Don't the Russian bees suppress mite reproduction as one of their methods of being "resistant" to the mites.
    Where I become confused is use of the term "tolerant of high mite loads". What exactly does that mean? Does it mean that they are somehow resistant to the detrimental effects of the varroa mites (such as decreased resistance to viruses, decreased longivity, increased physical defects) and that this "tolerance" is independent of the effects of suppression of reproduction of the mites?
    Harris and Harbo in "The SMR trait explained by hygienic behavior of Adult Bee" May 2005 ABJ "found 91% fewer pupae with reproductive mites in combs given to SMR colonies than in combs given to control colonies." Also " combs from SMR colonies had 58 % fewer pupae with mites that had nonviable offspring (i.e. female offspring that cannot become adults before the host bee emerges from the brood cell). There was no difference in the number of pupae with mites that did not lay eggs between the two types of recipients." They concluded "SMR bees selectively removed mites that produced offspring from capped brood cells."
    So, it appears to me that the SMR bees are somehow able to detect and remove mites that are producing offspring.
    If I understand Mr. Harrison's point in his last post, selecting for removal of freeze dried brood does not equal selection of SMR trait. Makes sense to me. Freeze dried brood and living brood infected with productive mites are not the same. Perhaps the SMR bees are detecting a smell in the infected brood that is not present in freeze dried brood.
    Again, thanks for your responses and for allowing a novice the opportunity to benefit from your years of experiences.

    [size="1"][ December 14, 2005, 03:44 PM: Message edited by: NoviceBee ][/size]

  7. #47
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    Here is the complete abstract. How can we read the entire article? Very interesting... MB I hope you are right. I especially like the finding that the trait is additive.

    Apidologie 37 (2006) 31-40
    DOI: 10.1051/apido:2005052

    The relationship between hygienic behavior and suppression of mite reproduction as honey bee (Apis mellifera) mechanisms of resistance to Varroa destructor
    Abdullah Ibrahim and Marla Spivak

    Department of Entomology, University of Minnesota 219 Hodson Hall, 1980 Folwell Av., St. Paul, MN 55108, USA

    (Received 4 April 2005 - revised 3 June 2005 - accepted 22 June 2005 - published online 13 December 2005)

    Abstract - We compared the mechanisms of resistance to Varroa destructor displayed by bees bred for Suppression of Mite Reproduction (SMR) and hygienic behavior (HYG). Mites from SMR and HYG source colonies were introduced into recently sealed SMR and HYG worker brood, and the infested pupae were placed either into recipient colonies or into an incubator. SMR colonies removed significantly more mite-infested pupae than the HYG colonies. The reproductive success (fertility and number of viable female offspring) of mites from both sources on pupae not removed by bees was significantly lower in SMR colonies. Within the incubator, the reproductive success of mites was also lower on SMR worker pupae, and lowest when mites from SMR colonies were introduced on SMR brood. Our findings indicated that bees bred for SMR express hygienic behavior; adult bees selectively remove pupae infested with mites. In addition, there is an effect of SMR pupae that reduces mite reproductive success that requires further investigation.

  8. #48
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    "I wonder if it's an immune respose from the puapae. Maybe the pupae produce an antibody in response to the mites that affects the mites in some way." MB

    Given all the recent evidence about the role of varroa in PMS, it would not surprise me at all if its an immune response from the pupae plays a big role. I suspect that a viral or baterial immume response might be more likely. I geuss that still wouldn't explain why the mites can't reproduce well on SMR pupae.

  9. #49
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    NoviceBee,
    I can hardly believe how well you understand the issue not having a beekeeping background!

    "Tolerant of high mite loads" means the bees can tolerate mite loads which would crash other colonies. I have seen Russian crosses with a natural drop of 60-100 mites a day in fall with no PMS and doing great! Quick action is needed to save a non varroa tolerant hive with those kinds of varroa loads.
    Those same Russian crosses will come out of winter with a decent varroa load ( 10-20 varroa fall). Not sure what has happened.
    The NWC/Russian carries a 10-20 natural fall most of the time .
    Bob Harrison

  10. #50
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    Question, Opinion
    With the delicate balance that pheromones play in the cohesion of the hive. Does it not seem reasonable that reproducing mites located inside of capped brood could be changing the normal pheromone odor that the brood displays. Causing nurse bees from SMR hives to recongize a problem in the cell and stimulate them into a hygienic behavior.
    Frank Wyatt
    Eden, NC

  11. #51
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    According to a paper by Harbo the adults play a significant role in SMR (That is not to say the larvae don't also have a role). See http://www.ars.usda.gov/SP2UserFiles.../418-Harbo.pdf

    I think SMR is still a topic we don't know a great deal about and I suspect there are several factors at play.

    -Tim

  12. #52
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    >My understanding is that SMR refers to "suppression of mite reproduction" and that by definition bees who possess the "SMR trait" are by some method suppressing the normal or expected reproduction of the mite, that it, they are reducing the expected population of the mite.

    But more specifically the mature, mated female mite enters the cell and lays eggs but fails to produce viable offspring. This is a different trait from hygenic behavior where the bees chew out the mite infested brood or mite tolerance where the mites are at levels that normal hives crash but the tolerant hives don't.

    >For now, lets just say that we don't know what is the method of suppression.

    We don't. But we know where it occurs and it's not in the hygenics, although that is another trait that also helps reduce mites.

    > Don't the Russian bees suppress mite reproduction as one of their methods of being "resistant" to the mites.

    No. In my experience they just don't crash when they have a lot of mites. The mites still reproduce at the "normal" level (for "normal" oversized worker brood cells).

    >Where I become confused is use of the term "tolerant of high mite loads". What exactly does that mean?

    It means a hive of Italains with that mite load would get a virus and crash, but the Russians, with the same mite load, don't get sick. It's sort of like going to any 3rd world country and eating the food or drinking the water and you get sick but the locals don't. You just don't tolerate it.

    >Does it mean that they are somehow resistant to the detrimental effects of the varroa mites (such as decreased resistance to viruses, decreased longivity, increased physical defects) and that this "tolerance" is independent of the effects of suppression of reproduction of the mites?

    Correct.

    >Harris and Harbo in "The SMR trait explained by hygienic behavior of Adult Bee" May 2005 ABJ "found 91% fewer pupae with reproductive mites in combs given to SMR colonies than in combs given to control colonies." Also " combs from SMR colonies had 58 % fewer pupae with mites that had nonviable offspring (i.e. female offspring that cannot become adults before the host bee emerges from the brood cell). There was no difference in the number of pupae with mites that did not lay eggs between the two types of recipients." They concluded "SMR bees selectively removed mites that produced offspring from capped brood cells."

    I'm not sure I agree with the conclusion. Maybe they do. Maybe the mites just don't reproduce as well because of some other factor. Maybe SMR is a combination of more than one trait.

    >So, it appears to me that the SMR bees are somehow able to detect and remove mites that are producing offspring.

    Maybe.

    >If I understand Mr. Harrison's point in his last post, selecting for removal of freeze dried brood does not equal selection of SMR trait.

    I agree. But it's a good way to measure the hygenic traits of uncapping and removing (two different traits).

    >Makes sense to me. Freeze dried brood and living brood infected with productive mites are not the same.

    As you say, they are not the same.

    > Perhaps the SMR bees are detecting a smell in the infected brood that is not present in freeze dried brood.

    But interestingly enough the small cell people have been observing the increase of chewing out of infested puapae for the last 18 years or so by simply changing the worker brood cell size. Again, the exact mechanism is a mystery but there seems to be a lot more of that behavior in natural sized bees. Dennis has a lot of pictures of mites with bite marks on them from the small cell bees. Most of the "organic" beekeepers on natural sized cell observe a lot more chewing out of purple eyed pupae.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  13. #53
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    Frank,
    your question,
    You might be right. We are not sure what the trigger is but the trigger seems to be the mite reproduction for opening the cell. Cells with non reproducing varroa are left alone.
    BUT
    The first few years of varroa research done around the world said mellifera only pulled varroa infested brood on rare occasions. Many, many researchers looked at the issue and published papers.

    Cerana does a similar removal but varroa mainly (95% and up)reproduces in the cerana drone brood and cerana leaves a small hole to observe through which mellifera does not.

    Many papers have been published on the subject.

    I must again say that the above is (as Frank says) without a doubt a form of hygienic behavior and NOT what I observed in my five observation hives four years ago.

    I was observing very closely. I am sure Harbo & Harris were to at the time. The amount of pupa needed to bee removed to make all those holes (as BjornBee says) would be a bunch. How could the rest of the world & the bee lab have missed the pulling of the pupa PLUS the cannibalism of both varroa mites & the pupa (what was posted at the Baton Rouge Bee Lab site in Oct.2005). The cannibalism is important because it would explain the missing varroa & pupa.
    The Baton Rouge Bee Lab web pages on SMR have been updated four times I believe since the start of summer. Not sure what is going on.
    I believe I have printed off at least two of the updates so will try to review later to see what part of the SMR information has been changed.
    Bob Harrison

  14. #54
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    Thanks Michael for your post. I agree!
    Bob Harrison

  15. #55
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    Of all SMR crosses by the USDA, Russian bees maintained the lowest mite drops (3/day I think), which was sinificantly better than the nearest competitor. Purebred SMR was not tested. My conclusion is that either Russian bees already have the SMR trait, or that they have another mechanism of resistance. The SMR/hygenics can not match this performance. While Russians definitely tolerate mites, they also seem to resist infestation. Maybe they don't allow foreign drones in the hive?

  16. #56
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    According to my understanding of the Russian bee there could be 4 mechanisms at work.
    1.)The bees are grooming mites from themselves and each other. 2.)there appears to be hygienic behavior in place. 3.)acceleration of brood developement and 4.) suppression of mite resistance (SMR).
    I gathered this information from articles I have read. I have no pratical experiance since I do not have any Russian queens.

  17. #57
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    Aspera:
    While Russians definitely tolerate mites, they also seem to resist infestation.
    Aspera: can you refer me to that article? I am trying to decide if I should buy a pure SMR breeder queen or one inseminated by a Russian drone.

    Thanks!

  18. #58
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    Here is interesting Russian research being done in Canada by BEEKEEPERS.

    http://www.igs.net/~pilgrimventures/...ee_Project.htm
    Bob Harrison

  19. #59
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    Bob
    thanks for the site reference, if you dig into that site there is some very good and detailed info, it looks like they are taking a truly scientific and disciplined approach.

    Test results, strategies and selection criteria

  20. #60
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    Caveat: I have only brief experience with a limited number of open mated Russian queens from only one breeder. It's quite possible that pure Russian queens may have different characteristics and there may be different strains of the open mated Russians out there that I have no experience in.

    But my experience is the same as Rob's (who has a lot of experience on this). The Russians did not appear to have any fewer mites than the other breeds (Buckfast, Carniolan, Italian). But they seemed to be hardy enough to survive more mites than would normally take out a hive. If the Russians originally had those other hygienic and SMR traits they must have gotten lost in some watered down version that I got.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

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