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  1. #21
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    --What characteristics do you judge and cull swarms?" It depends on what the beekeeper values as important. If its a cyclical year and half his bees are dying from mites, his focus might be mites.--(Jeff)

    Hello Jeff!

    When I assess my feral swarms, I am starting from square one. So varroa resistance I don’t consider that just yet, because this needs assessed as the colony matures, and there is no way to really assess this during the early years anyways. I focus on assessing the basic traits that will reveal the fastest which colonies have the most potential. I start basically with assessing fecundity and traits of economic value first during the growth stage of approximately 18 weeks. This is very effective in rapidly determining the best performers, allowing me to get culling sooner (BTW, averages about 50% culling in the first 18 weeks and makes me a bad beekeeper I guess).

    --If a beekeeper is smart he doesn't cull very often. For if he is a good beekeeper he realizes that every colony and queen has specific characteristics that are purposeful for a specific task--(Jeff)

    This is basically true, but I doubt with ‘every colony‘. If a good beekeeper splits from his best performers, why wouldn’t he also select the very worst to cull? If you do not cull the bottom, then you are in fact promoting these types of genetics simply by allowing them to survive.

    I am working to develop the best bee possible, and it is important I cull very heavy to rid the pool of less desirables. I also do not set the bar according to what the book says. I let my top performers set the bar for the rest, and go from there. For instance, my goal this season was to bring brood viability near to match a line of ferals exhibiting above 98% viability. Viability is IMO an extremely important characteristic for winter survival and productivity. I had to cull a few exceptional colonies due to poor viability, but it’s the price I must pay to bring up over all performance.

  2. #22
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
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    Southern Oregon
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    Pcolar, Well a lot to address once again. I will start with just a few.

    "I am asserting that I have not seen evidence that domestics are contributing to the feral recovery in my area, the pattern of recovery and some traits observed in the ferals suggest otherwise or at least, very little exchange. My opinion is that most of the contribution may be more harmful than good, by spreading genetics not fit to our northern environment, or spreading genetics that cannot survive without treatments and support from the beekeeper."

    The only way to prove this statement is with genetic analysis. I would suspect open mating and hybridization are more likely than not. Further, all honeybees are an introduced species! I agree that acclimatization is VERY important to developing bees that do well in one's local area. It would be informative to trace the lineage of your ferals to determine their ancestry. We might even be able to determine which boat the great great great great... grandmothers came over on before they became "feral". Your state is about the same latitude as ours, perhaps that is why our bees seem to be doing so well there. Pa is our best state on the East Coast for sales. I think Kirk Webster's views on Northern Queen breeders are valid and apply here to our situations.

    As far as the virulence of mites goes, all Varroa mites are not equal. Some populations harbor virus, some may not. I think there is 6 different haplotypes of Varroa, at least two of which are well documented in the states. I am sure we would find other differences in localized mite populations similar to what we see with bees if a large-scale genetic analysis were done.

    ”There will be an equilibrium, but I don’t see it stopping there. There is also the continuing competition between honeybee genetics to dominate. Some survivor colonies may “coexist” keeping high mite loads and not be productive, but others will thrive, reduce mites to a minimum, out compete and dominate the genetic pool."

    This is a well-documented ecological phenomenon. I agree survival of the fittest is what Nature moves toward when unfettered by mans interventions. The point you are referring to here is on that same equilibrium continuum, just further to one extreme. Populations tend to fluxgate between the two extremes of the continuum as selection pressures fluctuate with environmental changes.

    I would say the honeybees survived as a result of being more virulent honeybees! All the ferals must have been exposed because when I place them in my apiaries, most remote ferals maintain very low mite populations, so they must have evolved resistant traits. I don’t by the “less virulent mite” loophole, I mean ‘hypothesis‘.

    Are you actually suggesting there are no genetic differences (resulting in degrees in virulence) in populations of Varroa mites? That would surely be an anomaly in nature. We are just beginning to understand Varroa biology and genetics. Dr Dianna Sammataro has a soon to be published paper on mites which she referenced at our annual OSBA Fall Conference which had some very surprising information on mites. You can rest assured that there are genetic differences in populations of Varroa mites. I am not suggesting that your bees are not resistant, but just being feral does not guarantee a broad spectrum of resistance to a wider Varroa genome and set of environmental conditions. That said I would love to try some of your bees.

    I do not know the exact genetic makeup of the Varroa that we are dealing with here either. I do know that when we go to the almonds we are mixing bees and mites from far and wide so it is demanding on the bees and their keepers. The migratory nature of beekeeping almost guarantees the spread of genes that are beneficial and some that are not. I suppose its all relative. I think we would do well to understand our common enemy more thoroughly.
    JBJ
    John B Jacob www.oldsolbees.com

  3. #23
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    Jan 2005
    Location
    Hamilton, Alabama
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    Ferals in this area were non-existent just 6 years ago. Today, there is a small but significant population that is swarming and expanding. The interesting thing about the few swarms I have caught is that they show extremely low levels of varroa. I also have one colony derived from a Carniolan line that is in its third year untreated though they do have a measurable varroa population.

    What is significant about this? The ferals all show signs of being smaller than managed colonies on large cell foundation. The first real success I had with getting properly drawn small cell (4.9) was with a feral swarm. The differences are also behavioral. These bees react rapidly to introduction of mites taken from infested colonies. I haven't observed closely enough to be sure exactly what happens, but I know that the mites disappear within 24 hours.

    Fusion

  4. #24
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    Fusion, what do mean by smaller? Body size or colony size? Are they easy to get along with?
    JBJ
    John B Jacob www.oldsolbees.com

  5. #25
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    Dec 2004
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    Hello JBJ!

    IMO, an experienced beekeeper needs no genetic analysis to make a reasonable assessment of the linage of a line of bees. My woodland ferals are of ’wild Italian’ ancestry with unique ‘wild Italian’ body markings, bit heavier propolis characteristics and brooding characteristics that when taken together all but eliminate any substantial degree of genetic influence from any Carnolian, Commercial Italian, Caucasian and Russian bee of the types produced today. And that these bees were first noticed to recover in remote areas and now moving towards domestic beekeeping areas doe not suggest a recovery of ferals at the bee yards and expanding outwards as one would expect, if commercial bees were able to survive long term in the wild expanding outwards. Again, I’m not saying that your bees aren’t contributing genetics to the feral population here in PA, I am saying that I just do not see evidence that suggests this is happening in my area.

    --Are you actually suggesting there are no genetic differences (resulting in degrees in virulence) in populations of Varroa mites?--(JBJ)

    Not at all. It’s just that I have seen this explanation used many times by beekeepers to explain away success of other beekeepers. Bees have been shipped all over the country, and so have the virulent mites. I doubt there is a beekeeper in western PA or anywhere the north east that will let anyone get away with the statement that the varroa here aren’t that virulent.

    --You can rest assured that there are genetic differences in populations of Varroa mites. I am not suggesting that your bees are not resistant, but just being feral does not guarantee a broad spectrum of resistance to a wider Varroa genome and set of environmental conditions. That said I would love to try some of your bees.--(JBJ)

    I am eager to get some of these bees out some bee experts specializing in behavioral characteristics to evaluate the allogrooming trait being exhibited by them. I first thought allogrooming was common in all ferals to some degree, but strangely enough, I am only seeing it in a single linage of feral bees that I have, others do not exhibit the behavior at all.

    I have described this trait many times on the lists with no response from breeders. And stated that occasionally during down times, hundreds of bees will be seen engaged in vigerous allogrooming on the entrance board. My suspicions are that it is playing a large role in the colonies resistance to varroa. I have also attempted several times to prompt breeders on Bee-L to describe allogrooming in their bees without response. So I am concluding that the degree of allogrooming I am seeing is rare, or maybe does not exist in other breeding opperations. So I want to get the trait documented by experts in my bees first, before shipping out these genetics.

    Best Wishes,

  6. #26
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    Apr 2005
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    College Station, Texas
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    very interesting comment pcolar about allogrooming. the term sounds a bit technical.... is this similar to social grooming?


    in regards to the feral in your area pcolar I would think there would be a good proportion of german black bees (danish) in your area... since this was a fairly dominant breed used by hobbist (or at least it was the most common breed that I encounted during my very early bee keeping days in the western applachian mountains).

  7. #27
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    JBJ,

    Physical size of the bees is smaller than commercial stocks. Overall traits and adaptations are similar to Italian but with modifications. I will describe averages but please remember that some colonies are significantly different. I only have 3 colonies of these bees at present so there is not much of a basis to draw conclusions.

    Behavior is very calm. There is little to no running on the comb. I routinely open these bees with no more than 2 or 3 puffs of smoke.

    Honey gathering is excellent and honey color is light. Its routine for an early swarm to make 2 shallow supers of light colored honey. This area has lots of plants that produce dark honey or honeydew so its very important to have bees that produce light colored honey.

    In all of my commercial stocks, I can remove brood frames and easily count varroa on the bees. I can also pull sealed drone brood and find numerous mites. With the feral bees, I have not found a single mite sealed in the brood. I have not been able to find a single mite on the adult bees, but I also have not done anything serious like an ether roll to find them so this is based only on visual observation. I have these bees in an apiary that is infested with varroa. The bees are derived from Buckfast and Carniolan stock. The ferals are not from that immediate area, they originate about 10 miles to the west. When I remove mites from other colonies and place them in the feral colonies, the bees respond with a great deal of agitation. I have not been able to find any mites 24 hours later. This does not mean they don't exist, just means that I can't observe any on the bees or in the brood.

    The ferals do not have a huge winter cluster like Italians. They are about midway between Buckfast (which usually have 2 or 3 frames of bees at this time of year) and Italian which typically cover 6 to 8 frames in December. I'm not sure if this is significant, just reporting what I see.

    I'll be busy raising queens and splitting the few feral colonies I have next spring. I hope to cross these ferals with drones from the Purvis queens I bought in July.

    Fusion

  8. #28
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    Jan 2005
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    Southern Oregon
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    Pcolar,

    "IMO, an experienced beekeeper needs no genetic analysis to make a reasonable assessment of the linage of a line of bees."

    The devil is in the details. Phenotype does not always reflect genotype. The only way to know for sure would be through genetic analysis. That is the precise reason I make no claims to the actual type or lineage of queens we market. The only thing I know for sure are the genetics of the breeders that were purchased initially, the locations the ferals that were caught, and that the queen mothers and daughters that have exhibited survivor abilities without acaricide since 2000. Open mating can be a crapshoot. I am sure there has been hybridization, but the phenotype of many of my favorites has not changed substantially. Sometimes there is a lot of uniformity in daughters and in other years there seems to be more variability. We just got an II set up which will make maintenance of separate lines easier. We are also going back to some isolated mating yards that we used to use in the late 90s, which may make drone saturation strategies more feasible.

    Dr Sheppard and Meixner at WSU have done some extensive analysis of honeybee genetics and are often willing to exchange breeders; perhaps they may be a good start for the documentation you are looking for. So am I to assume the queens available on your website are not daughters of these groomers? Why are you hesitant to produce them for sale?

    Allogrooming in bees is fairly well documented in studies of resistant lines of bees. The first studies where I have seen this term used was in reference to tracheal mites, but has been observed with some bees dealing with Varroa. It is essentially group grooming type of behavior where a bee with a phoretic mite (or other material) on it can solicit a grooming response from its cohorts. I believe allogrooming has been observed in Russians, Buckfasts and AHB.
    JBJ
    John B Jacob www.oldsolbees.com

  9. #29
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    Dec 2004
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    --very interesting comment pcolar about allogrooming. the term sounds a bit technical.... is this similar to social grooming?--(Tecumseh)

    Hello Tecumseh!

    Yes!
    Allogrooming is when one or several bees grooms another.
    And autogrooming is when a bee grooms her self.

    --in regards to the feral in your area pcolar I would think there would be a good proportion of german black bees (danish) in your area... since this was a fairly dominant breed used by hobbist (or at least it was the most common breed that I encounted during my very early bee keeping days in the western applachian mountains).--(Tecumseh)

    I suppose it is possible. The bees look like dark Italians, but there could be some mix in there some where.

    A friend offered to morph my bees for me a few years back. I may take him up on that offer.

  10. #30
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    --So am I to assume the queens available on your website are not daughters of these groomers? Why are you hesitant to produce them for sale?--(JBJ)

    Yes they are. But what made me hesitant to sell them out without documentation is that once in the hands of a breeder, it becomes a trait that “they” developed, and they never heard of “that guy” in Pennsylvania.

    Also:
    1, that the behavior is so very intense.
    2. the behavior simply does not match Seeleys description of an invitation dance prompting the allogrooming.
    3. An invitation dance is conspicuously absent in these bees.
    4. The groomers in their actions are without a doubt, on patrol seeking bees to groom, grooming one bee and leaving that bee to groom another, seeking and grooming.
    5. the location that the grooming seems to occur at the parameters of the nest and entrance area, not in the nest area as others have stated it occurs.
    6. By the absence of grooming in the nest interior and location of the grooming, I’m assuming this trait becomes prominent in these bees at the same time or around the age that they become guard bees.

  11. #31
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    Jun 2005
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    Crown Point , (NW) Indiana
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    [BTW, averages about 50% culling in the first 18 weeks and makes me a bad beekeeper I guess.]

    Bad? Um maybe not, aggressive might be the more polite way we might say it among friends [smile].
    {ambitious? - yeah that works too.)

    Joe you have had such a significant contributions to this and other forums that I'd be nothing short of disrespectful to knock your methods. I respect you do what you believe is correct, and whether I agree or not is solely my problem to sort out in during my beekeeping career.

    The concept I was trying to convey is that there are different focus between beekeepers and that there are different focus between bee colonies. A lot of this plays on genetics and until we have an absolute solid grasp on what characteristics are dominant or recessive, know how genes interact, and strickly AI our queens, every mating is a craps shot toss of the dice. (though less so the more we learn and explore the better our odds.)

    Sometimes I think folks cull because their primary goal isn't met (not gentle enough) and I think there is often an secondary impact(s) (too gentle could equal less vigor) an unrecognized idea.
    Every cull and cross has its trade off(s).
    I know, I don't know enough, to be culling anything (yet).

    At this point I'm just borrowing God's bee's and he's not given me any authority to dispose of any yet. (Doesn't mean I haven't needed to repent for some bad splits I lost - ouch.) Live and learn.

    Whats enjoyable is none of us are intentionally malice (there might be a few trouble makers - ya know who you are!) All-in-all we can have this deeper conversation without a 'tail-gater fight'.
    Thats how we bring value to this forum.

    [...can solicit a grooming response from its cohorts.] -JBJ

    Some have also documented better self-grooming with the middle set of legs which dislodges mites. Both amount to better mite drops. This grooming response is an acculative genetic trait (queens with it mated with drones with it intensify the probability that offspring will also have it.) However cross breeding can quickly diminish it. I could be hesitant to sell SMR or hygenic titled bees just because your image as a queen rearer could be harmed by other beekeepers practices of open mating (resulting in less hygenic/smr bees).
    People always have inflated expecations (and beekeepers are even worse!)

    -jeff
    There is always more than one way to skin a cat, that's of course if you're into eating cats.

  12. #32
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    It is truly a pleasure to engage in such apicultural discussions. This forum is an incredible asset to the bee community. A great place to share opinions and exchange facts. Beekeeping will be the better for it all. Sometimes there will be differences of opinion and "facts" may be debatable, but what better place to have the discussion? Could this possibly be a great place for peer review of scientific work?

    Joe, I think it would be a great service to the industry if you were to follow up with deeper analysis of the genetics of these groomer bees. This information would be handy for helping identify other stocks of bees that may be beneficial to bees and their keepers (sometimes I wonder who is keeping who).
    JBJ
    John B Jacob www.oldsolbees.com

  13. #33
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    NW sezs:
    At this point I'm just borrowing God's bee's and he's not given me any authority to dispose of any yet. (Doesn't mean I haven't needed to repent for some bad splits I lost - ouch.) Live and learn.

    tecumseh responds:
    exactly

  14. #34
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    Jul 2006
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    <At this point I'm just borrowing God's bee's and he's not given me any authority to dispose of any yet.>

    If we ever get past this point, we should be able to really mess up the beekeeping industry forever and even possably destroy the honeybee as a species. People have shown the ability to do that in a lot of other areas.
    doug

  15. #35
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    Feb 2003
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    lewisberry, Pa, usa
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    This discussion is another reason why any beekeeper serious about breeding bees and selecting for certain traits should install Observation hives. At the moment I have two. I will be putting in more. The knowledge obtained is vastly superior to monitoring bees within standard hives.

    The details that Joe explains can be seen in observation hives, and harder to observe in disturbed/opened hives. The first time you see a bee beg for grooming, or a bee seeking out mites to groom off other bees really makes you think that there is hope against the mites in a natural way.

  16. #36
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Wimauma, Florida
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    Hey fellows,
    JW:
    Would you please define "Allogrooming".

    Thanks,
    Albert

    PS: Gosh, I really have to brush up on my biology and and genetics. Its been over twenty years and I'm loving the discussion!
    September 8th 2007 is National Beekeeping Day
    American Agriculture, its as close as the nearest Honeybee!

  17. #37
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    Dec 2004
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    Western Pennsylvania
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    Allogrooming - is when one or several bees grooms another.

    Autogrooming - is when a bee grooms her self.

    [size="1"][ December 06, 2006, 05:43 AM: Message edited by: Pcolar ][/size]

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