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  1. #1
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    I asked essentially the same questions in another thread (http://www.beesource.com/cgi-bin/ubb...c;f=3;t=000925), where those questions really don't belong.

    So, I'll ask 'em here:

    I know several beekeepers keep, and even sell, bees from "feral" stock. It's always raised lots of questions in my mind.

    1) How do you know the bees are "feral?" What makes them any different than bees that swarmed from a managed colony one week ago, for example? Do you monitor them for years before "harvesting" them?

    2) Do they really show distinct differences from "managed stock?" What I mean is, if you take the "feral" stock and put it into a managed situation alongside some "managed" stock in a similar, managed situation, could you still tell a difference? If you could, what's the difference?

    3) What prevents any genes in that "feral" stock from mixing with genes in "managed" stock? At the same time, as soon as that "feral" stock is recaptured, what prevents the genes in "managed" stock nearby from mixing with the genes in the "feral" stock?

    Without using II, is a breeding program really possible? Or, is it simply a selection of the best colonies at any given time without any aim to fix certain traits in these stocks of bees?

  2. #2
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    >1) How do you know the bees are "feral?" What makes them any different than bees that swarmed from a managed colony one week ago, for example?

    The ones that swarmed a week ago have not had to survive on their own.

    >Do you monitor them for years before "harvesting" them?

    No, I don't. They are noticeably smaller if they have been wild for very long.

    >2) Do they really show distinct differences from "managed stock?"

    Yes.

    > What I mean is, if you take the "feral" stock and put it into a managed situation alongside some "managed" stock in a similar, managed situation, could you still tell a difference? If you could, what's the difference?

    Usually, more propolis, usually more frugal, usually more runny on the combs. You can breed some of this in and out easily, but that's how they usually are. The winter clusters are so small they are scary.

    >3) What prevents any genes in that "feral" stock from mixing with genes in "managed" stock?

    http://www.beesource.com/pov/ahb/jee1995.htm

    Perhaps it's the size difference that affects mating preference. But I'm sure there is SOME mixing.

    > At the same time, as soon as that "feral" stock is recaptured, what prevents the genes in "managed" stock nearby from mixing with the genes in the "feral" stock?

    See the study above.

    >Without using II, is a breeding program really possible?

    It's not like the domestic stock has some horrible traits you're trying to breed out. If some of them breed with the feral survivors it's not going to destroy your breeding program, it is, after all, where they came from in the first place.

    >Or, is it simply a selection of the best colonies at any given time without any aim to fix certain traits in these stocks of bees?

    I pick what I think are the best for what I want, but my priority of traits may not match what a commercial breeder is looking for. I'd rather have them not runny, but I would tolerate it if they had enough other good traits. I don't care if they proplize a lot or not. I do care if they are healthy and prosperous. Gentleness is essential. Producing honey is essential. [img]smile.gif[/img]
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  3. #3
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    Thanks for your response, Michael.

    I read again the link you provided. The manuscript provokes some thoughts, but I'm not sure I'm convinced that a real barrier to gene flow exists.

    The first thing that jumps out at me in reading this publication is that no Apis mellifera scutellata haplotypes were found, despite sampling in southern states. The authors mention scutellata, meaning that they knew scutellata were present in the U.S. at the time sampling took place, yet no scutellata haplotypes appeared. Why do you suppose that might be?

    Secondly, the forms of haplotypes (with the exception of the A. mellifera lamarckii haplotype) were the same between the commercial and feral samples. The proportion changed, but the forms of haplotypes were the same. To my way of thinking, selection by queen breeders could easily account for the change in proportions of haplotypes in the two populations. For example, if the mitochondrial haplotype for A. mellifera mellifera were linked to traits found undesireable by queen breeders, I would expect to find far fewer bees with A. mellifera mellifera mtDNA haplotypes among commerical colonies than would be found in feral colonies.

    In the long run, it still seems like the genes are present in both populations, although in different proportions, perhaps.

  4. #4
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    "The first thing that jumps out at me in reading this publication is that no Apis mellifera scutellata haplotypes were found, despite sampling in southern states. The authors mention scutellata, meaning that they knew scutellata were present in the U.S. at the time sampling took place, yet no scutellata haplotypes appeared. Why do you suppose that might be?"

    I'll take a stab at this, but it is after all, only MO. The reason you don't see any haplotypes in wild scutellata is that the scutellata drones are smaller, and are more adept at mating with scutellata queens. They are faster and fly longer than our commercial breeds, and therefore are more apt to mate with scutellata queens. As far as not finding haplotypes in commercial hives, the beekeeps are constantly requeening their hives, so any open mated european queen will proably be replaced before there is a chance that it could be tested.
    "I reject your reality, and substitute my own." Adam Savage

  5. #5
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    --I know several beekeepers keep, and even sell, bees from "feral" stock. It's always raised lots of questions in my mind.--(Kieck)

    Hello Kieck!
    This is a great thread!

    In saying feral, I am stressing more that the bees are NOT purchased from commercial breeder lines, and that they captured them from the feral population.

    --1) How do you know the bees are "feral?" What makes them any different than bees that swarmed from a managed colony one week ago, for example? Do you monitor them for years before "harvesting" them?.--(Kieck)

    I would ask in return. How does a breeder know his bees are Italian? How do they verify this from generation to generation? And yet, thousands of queens later, many still sell them as Italians with no assurances by genetic evaluation that they actually are.

    --2) Do they really show distinct differences from "managed stock?" What I mean is, if you take the "feral" stock and put it into a managed situation alongside some "managed" stock in a similar, managed situation, could you still tell a difference? If you could, what's the difference?--(Kieck)

    When looking at other peoples bees, I find I generally do not care to know where the bees came from. The ONLY time I ask is when I see exceptional performance (here same good breeders seem to pop up time and time again during the times when I do ask). The only other time I asked was just this year. I said when looking at a few of a beekeepers 30 or so colonies, “these look like my ferals”, and my friend said “these are the bees I got from you last year“. I stated that another colony looked like my ferals also, and he said he bought them from a beekeeper in a nearby state that is said to promote his bees as ferals.

    Don’t ask me how I can tell, it’s just the assimilation of the overall visual evidence gathered from observing and collecting ferals for over 10 years I guess. At least I find this is the case with ‘remote, woodland or more wild type ferals’ from my area are the ones I can easily ID because I have much more experience and success with those, so I know them the most.

    The bees other beekeepers sometimes call Ferals that I find with paint on the queens, and other such strange oddities uncharacteristic of feral bees, are easily determined even without the queen markings to be non woodland ferals. And I have little experience with these because they generally do not make it thru my initial assessment period.

    --3) What prevents any genes in that "feral" stock from mixing with genes in "managed" stock? At the same time, as soon as that "feral" stock is recaptured, what prevents the genes in "managed" stock nearby from mixing with the genes in the "feral" stock??--(Kieck)

    Ain’t many managed commercial stocks near me. Most beekeepers that are near me have stock that I gave them anyways. My estimates of woodland ferals in my area from bee lining are at least 3 to 5 feral colonies per square woodland mile. Seeley for instance found 8 colonies several years ago in his survey of a 6 mile area of the Arnot forest. But Seeley states that he did not do a complete survey as was done in 1978, and mentions that there are many more, and at least as many feral colonies in the forest that existed during pre varroa times in 1978.

    Some estimates from pre varroa times placed the feral population at about 10 to 20 colonies per square mile. So what I am getting at, is that even with a conservative estimate of about 3 feral colonies per square woodland mile, a 5 mile diameter area of woodlands could harbor about 57 feral colonies! This far exceeds Pennsylvania’s current 0.5 registered domestic colonies per square mile (9.5 colones per 5 mile diameter area). A total of 30,000 in PA, soon to drop at least another estimated 5.000 domestic colonies from the recent bee kills, lowering this number of domestics per square mile even further. With numbers like these, the ferals likely would easily achieve genetic dominance and mitigate domestic influence to a great degree.

    [size="1"][ December 16, 2006, 11:43 AM: Message edited by: Pcolar ][/size]

  6. #6
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    The term feral relative to honeybees is sticky since honeybees are not usually considered fully domesticated. All honeybees are an introduced species to this continent, so looking at the mDNA is a great way to trace lineage and possibly determine whose hives they initially escaped from long ago. Personally I think there are some advantages of leaving bees to adapt on there own to the selection pressure of a given region (increased fitness) and then incorporating them into breeding programs to amplify desirable traits, I also am very confident that there is a two way gene flow between managed and unmanaged colonies. This topic was heavily debated on this thread: http://www.beesource.com/cgi-bin/ubb...693;p=2#000027

    I see "feral" populations as a gene pool that we can both draw on and contribute to. The only real barriers to gene flow that come to mind would be speciation or geographic isolation, the latter of which is temporary in this day and age.

    I have harvested many feral (at minimum 2-3+ years unmanaged) colonies that have fit in extremely well in a commercial beekeeping environment. Ultimately the best way to maintain distinct lines with fixed traits will be with II. I am looking forward to breaking in my Schley next season.
    JBJ
    John B Jacob www.oldsolbees.com

  7. #7

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    to me term ferrel is a hive be it in house barn ,tree. it have had no chem's by man or been looked after. this is how i determed it.
    I have got some great genes from these and crossed them by way of open mated with russian bees.
    in my ol'e country ways of selection have come up with a very nice bee and people on this board will attest too.
    I have no PHD's or anything to back up this idea.
    Don

  8. #8
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    Thanks for the responses! So far, I've gotten fewer responses than I had hoped for.

    Peggjam:

    I've read the studies about mixing between Apis mellifera [domestic mutts] and A. mellifera scutellata before. Some of that makes sense to me, some doesn't. What I was questioning in the link provided by Michael on this thread, though, was that NO scutellata haplotypes showed. This, to me, means that either, 1) no AHB colonies were found or tested during this study (and the study claims to have compared "feral" colonies, i. e., unmanaged colonies, with "managed" colonies), or 2) any AHB colonies that were tested were descendants of mothers with different (non-scutellata) lineages. Mitochondrial DNA is largely passed from mother to offspring.

    Perhaps scutellata does not have a distinct mtDNA haplotype? Or, maybe the lamarckii haplotypes is indistinguishable from the scutellata haplotype?

    Or, maybe the guys that did the study deliberately did not sample AHB colonies. They don't say that in their manuscript, though, and I would expect them to explain their reasons for not sampling AHB colonies. Honestly, I would also expect them to comment on the surprizing lack of scutellata haplotypes during the "discussion" or "conclusion" portion, if they had believed they might encounter AHB and yet found no evidence in their study.

    Kind of a surprizing twist, don't you think.

    PColar:

    Based on what you told me, I would expect the "feral" genes to dominate the gene pool already in your area. Unless beekeepers made deliberate efforts to keep those genes out of their bees (requeening with stock from other areas, with stock from known parentage), I would expect them to have many of the traits from those feral bees. How could you keep them out?

    What I was really hoping to hear in some of this was some information about the goals of some of you who are attempting to breed lines of bees from "feral" stock. To my way of thinking, breeders usually seek to "fix" certain traits in their stock. Those traits are desireable to the breeders, and "fixing" them, to my way of thinking, means that they could expect those traits to appear in almost all offspring.

    For example, if I saw an advantage in having white dogs, I'd start raising puppies only from white dogs. Both parents of every litter that I raised would be white. If they parents weren't white, I'd figure the chances of having white puppies would go down dramatically.

    So, most breeders work with controlled matings. But how in the world, without II, could you control matings among honey bees? Especially when the number of "feral" colonies in some of these areas might be relatively high? Obviously, not every "feral" colony is equal to every other "feral" colony. And then you mix in the managed colonies moving through any given area from around the country. . . .

    Well, what I'm really left wondering is, how can you every hope to "fix" the traits in the lines you're breeding without using II? Or do you care if your bees breed true?

  9. #9
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    Hello Keick!

    There are very few beekeepers in my area. When I count up my drone source colonies, which include an estimate of feral population and neighbors keeping my stock. I feel I am adequately flooding the area enough to keep domestic mating to a minimum. The lower varroa pressure I observe in these ferals as compared to domestics also gives them a distinct advantage in successful mating according to research by Dejong concerning the flight performance of varroa infested drones. Also, I there is assortative mating, which has been found to be a play an important role in separation of honeybee races(Kerr and Bueno, 1970; Koeniger et al., 1989). That I am on small cell, and with most ferals in my area of small cell sizes, this is also aiding in the separation of the feral population from the larger cell domestic breeds, “due to the need for matching cues, small drones may be better able to mate small queens.” (Taylor Coelho)

    As far as fixing traits, I just split up ferals that have desired traits and breed from those. My goal here is not for me to house the desired genetics, bit instead to infuse them into the local feral population by keeping numbers up in drone sources, and not being too heavy handed with swarm prevention. Not all ferals are created equal, but in a competitive breeding system only the best drones will win the queens, which is the goal of a feral bee breeder.

    [size="1"][ December 18, 2006, 04:55 PM: Message edited by: Pcolar ][/size]

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