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  1. #1
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    Default Bees adapting....

    On another thread about mites adapting to hard treatments, there are some comments about bees ability to adapt also. So I thought I would comment about my own bees and the changes I see in them. A few observations....

    1)When I used fgmo with cords a few years back, I would notice over and over again three types of hives that responded to the cords. One hive would ignore the cords. The second would propoilze the cords. And the third would be to shred the cords and discard them out the front of the hives. There were very different responses between the hives. I select from the third example.

    2)For bees never having exposed to SHB, the bees have adapted very quickly. I see hives that ignore the SHB. I see hives that will propolize them into a corner. And I see hives that are ruthless in tracking down and eliminating SHB. I also do not see SHB populations directly related to hive strength or population. I see some hives very strong have the SHB and being stress or ready to crash meaning nothing. I see side by side hives, both strong, with one having SHB, and the next, without one beetle. So there must be traits that allow one hive to deal better with SHB.

    3)I see a difference between my hives when doing mite counts between hives with sticky boards. I will see many more alive mites with my more hygienic (grooming)hives. And I see more immature mites with my smr/vhs hives. You should know that there are differences in the kind of mites you are counting.

    4)I can see distinct differences by just observing the bottom board. Some hives allow debris to accumulate. Other hives keep a very clean bottom board.

    5) 5 years ago, I started keeping bees with no treatments. The first year, my losses were near 60%. Since then, my losses have steadily decreased to less than 30% last year. And I must say, that up till this year, my hives were very neglected from working for the state till the end of October every year. Some went into winter light on stores and some with no queens. So some of those killed had nothing to do with mites. This year, my bees are in much better shape to go into winter.

    6) I used to see high mite counts and DWV as the season progressed. In the past 5 years, I have slowly culled out most of my Italians and have been selecting and breeding Russians and carni's. On 9/18/07, the state inspected my main yard and inspected over 100 hives. Not one hive OR BEE was found to have DWV. Certainly by mid September you should see DWV in problem hives. Overall, I see many less mites and associated problems.

    7) I can see my SMR/VHS bees (comb) being cleaned out much more than my non SMR/VHS bees. And although I see a lot of hype and over marketing, I also see very distinct traits that are worth pursuing.

    I am sure other people could add to the list.

    I don't treat my bees. My overwintered colonies number from 180 to 420 in the past 5 years. So its not "Just a couple". And although I don't in any way claim to have super bees or the answer to any bee problem, I can say that I have seen a lot of positive traits over the past 5 years.

    I find it interesting that some think that resistance will take "more than a lifetime". I think bees can be selected for built in abilities and resistance to mites and other associated problems. Resistance does not mean having bees with the ability of never getting bit by a mite, it means being able to exist on some level. Resistance does not mean never being affected by a virus. It may mean controlling the trigger mechanism to begin with. I won't get caught up in the definition of "resistant" is.

    I am at a loss as to why some think that resistance to mites is some way off in the future goal. If we would quit throwing a new pest on top of the pile every ten years or so, I think our genetics can be improved a lot faster than that. Selection speeds up what mother nature does more slowly. Of course, she would never of done what we did to bees to begin with.

    Comments?
    Last edited by BjornBee; 10-16-2007 at 08:19 AM.

  2. #2
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    >>7) I can see my SMR/VHS bees (comb) being cleaned out much more than my non SMR/VHS bees. And although I see a lot of hype and over marketing, I also see very distinct traits that are worth pursuing.

    Question. I am going to get an SMR/VSH breeder next spring to incorporate into my stock.

    In what ways do you see alot of hype and over marketing?

    Also... do you see SMR/VSH bees in general handling SHB better than the others? I don't have SHB (yet) but others around me do. So I know I will be dealing with it at some point.
    Dan Williamson
    B&C Honey Farm http://www.flickr.com/photos/9848229@N05/

  3. #3
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    Dan,
    I think my comment is from an industry "hype". Not necessarily from a particular breeder. Perhaps a "false hope" would be more proper. I think we as an industry think that if we put this marketed product or that product....that results will magically appear before us.

    I think hygienic bees work off of several factors. A good solid overall IPM and management strategy is also key. As example...hygienic bees work best when they can maximize their efforts for longer periods of time in any given day. A hive in shade or a poorly selected damp site, will no doubt be at a disadvantage over a hive in the sun. Everyday tasks such as nectar collection, housecleaning, and grooming is maximized when the bees can get on with those daily tasks for longer periods of time. A hive that has morning sun will break cluster earlier and get on with using those traits we all want them to take advantage of. But for many bad beekeepers, getting any type of bee will result in less than ideal returns.

    I also think SBB work well with more hygienic lines of bees. For some to suggest they see little difference when non-hygienic bees are being used, seems a little off to me.

    So I see this hype really as just expecting way too much from just having your bees one type or another. But I also don't agree with some of the marketing hype with individual marketing ads. I won't go further in naming names.

    I see a lot of crossover traits, but its not standard. The thing is, that's its hard to select for everything we need to be selecting for nowadays. I have seen some great hives with low mite counts and are healthy but have shb. And I have seen hives that go after SHB, but have mite issues. I think the best thing to do is have all your hives smr/vsh and then once you have shb, then select the ones that handle them the best.

  4. #4
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    Forgot to ask some other of my questions.

    You mention that your smr/vsh hives show more immature mites on the sticky board as I would expect.

    However, are you showing overall improved mite counts in smr/vsh hives vs non-smr/vsh hives?

    Also how do your Russians compare in hygenic traits, mite counts, and SHB in comparison to the SMR/VSH hives? I understand these can be hive specific but have you noticed any overall trends yet?

    Thanks.
    Dan Williamson
    B&C Honey Farm http://www.flickr.com/photos/9848229@N05/

  5. #5
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    Dan,
    Sure wish I could answer those for ya...

    This was the third year that I added smr/vsh breeders to my yards. My nuc yards are hard to guage due to the make-up and change over of the nucs. This presents good mite counts and but really does not paint a clear picture.

    My main yards, used for pollination, comb building, and honey are a mixture of overproduction of what I breed to sell, but also many other queens from such places as Olivarez, strachans, etc. I don't keep records to actually say what is what, although I usually requeen by the yard.

    The nuc yards I can tell you the history and where a queen was grafted from, etc. I just don't have my program to keep track of every hive out in the outyards. I will say that I have culled most of my italians out. But the queens that are in those hives are from my breeding efforts or from a very select few breeders. I would like to change them all over to a few queen sources, but it seems year after year, it never gets done.

    When I do mite counts, or even sugar shakes, I usually randomly select hives. Maybe a couple from each apiary. I don't keep track of which. I'm looking for trends, etc.

    When I do spring evaluations on my nucs, I know what the queen line is. But mites are usually not a problem at that time. I actually failed more queen/hives this past spring due to a wax moth larvae going unchecked, rather than mite issues.

    Ps. And Dan...this is not the time to call anyone out I was waiting for you to start that ball.

  6. #6
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    This is a great post, Bjornbee. You have made some keen observations.

    I have only had two queens so far and I already notice behavioral differences, like washboarding. Bees from my first queen didn't do it at all. Not one bit! The bees from my second queen just love to sway and swob the deck.

    Keep up the good work!
    ~May your hive thrive
    Aisha

  7. #7
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    Default

    bjorn sezs:
    I find it interesting that some think that resistance will take "more than a lifetime".

    tecumseh replies:
    there 'should' be different time projection in regards to a 'natural' setting vs selection. in regards to either... how long it takes is how long it takes.

    it would seem to me that some of your observation is in regards to individual hives 'behaviors' that are displayed at various intensities.

  8. #8
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    well I have never treated a hive in anyway or ever taken mite counts, I am going on 5th year with my bee's and this is the behavior I have seen, never heard of any others ever talking about this behavior so here goes....

    in early spring I have seen this the last 2 years, I walk out to my hives and seems it last for 2-3 days, the landing boards will be covered with bee's, seems the first drones have hatched and what I see is that any bee with a mite on it is dragged out of the hive and dropped, even bee's with messed up wings, the ground will have seems like 100-300 bee's on the ground and every one will have a mite on it or something wrong with it like bad wings (only seen about 5 with messed up wings), seems my girls don't uncap larva and haul them out, they let them hatch then drag them out, out of 24 hives about 10 does this, never seen the others do this, these are my feral hives that do this, 2 of the 10 are mother hives and the other 8 hives I raised from these 2, but when I first seen this I thought it was robbing at first then I got to thinking why are they kicking out the drones and then seen drones walking in and out the hive not being bothers, then I watched for awhile and then inspected a bunch that was on the ground I seen they had mites on them, count about 20 that was dragged from the hive and dropped that never touched the ground and they had mites so I guest this is the way they clean the hive in the first of the year, this is the only time of year I have seen this behavior....
    Ted

  9. #9
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    I now have three Russian X SMR breeder queens in my apiary. These colonies had a significant mite burden at the time of requeening (>25 in 72 hours). Mite falls are now about 6 per a week with a larger number of bees present in the colonies. While these colonies are not the best honey producers, I would submit that they are supremely well adapted to varroa. They exhibit signs of hygienic behavior similar to what Bjorn described and are exceptionally gentle.

  10. #10
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    > any bee with a mite on it is dragged out of the hive and dropped...
    > my girls don't uncap larva and haul them out, they let them hatch
    > then drag them out...

    This would be interesting to film.
    When can one see this behavior?

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Fischer View Post
    >
    This would be interesting to film.
    When can one see this behavior?

    Jim, I have been asked to film it this coming year by a bunch of people, I am going to try to film it this coming spring (I have only seen this in early spring during first drone hatching), the thing is I have to catch it when it happens so I will have to walk by the hive's every day this coming spring, I want to film it and show the film to UGA and maybe donate a couple of these queens to them to study, I would also like to post a video online so everyone can see this....
    Ted

  12. #12
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    I realize a lot of people up North have no or very little problem with the SHB, but they are the biggest problem I have here in FL.

    I too have seen the differences in the ways some hives treat the SHB some ignore them and some corral them into one spot and some hives have none at all.

    It's the none at all group that puzzles me the most. Do they have none because they drove them out. Do the beetles not like them because the others smell different or what is it that makes one hive more attractive than another.

    The SHB is my biggest problem because every weak hive is likely to get overrun by SHB from June thru Oct. Now that the rains have tapered off it gets better, but as long as we are in the summer rain pattern the SHB are a huge threat. One cannot split a hive or leave them at all weak or the SHB will take it over. Sometimes even a break in brooding in order to requeen will weaken a hive enough to allow the SHB a foothold.

    I would welcome any discussion or theories as to how and why some bees are better able to cope than others. One theory I've heard is that the AHB is just plain meaner and drives the SHB off. I have captured some swarms that could have been Africanized and saw some evidence of this, but I requeen these swarms ASAP so I don't really know if this is the case or not.

    I don't really want to be keeping African bees in order to study this. Are they studying this at the Phoenix Bee lab?
    Troy

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by BjornBee View Post
    Ps. And Dan...this is not the time to call anyone out I was waiting for you to start that ball.
    My bad! Just trying to learn!
    Dan Williamson
    B&C Honey Farm http://www.flickr.com/photos/9848229@N05/

  14. #14
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    I think beekeepers get confused with the term resistance, really meaning tolerance. What does a mite resistant bee really mean? How does that bee become resistant to the mite?
    They cant form resistance to that pest, it will always be with them, and will always have the ability to take them down.
    But they can become tolerant. Adapting to behaviours to suppress the mite.
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ian View Post
    I think beekeepers get confused with the term resistance, really meaning tolerance. What does a mite resistant bee really mean? How does that bee become resistant to the mite?
    They cant form resistance to that pest, it will always be with them, and will always have the ability to take them down.
    But they can become tolerant. Adapting to behaviours to suppress the mite.
    lets put resist or tolerate in a sentance .
    1) i have bees that resist the presense of mites.
    2) i have bees that tolerate the presense of mites.
    i would prefer bees who are described by the first description.
    Last edited by stangardener; 10-17-2007 at 08:16 PM. Reason: mistake due to distraction:)
    all that is gold does not glitter

  16. #16
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    I dont think there is a bee that will resist mites. Not even the Russian bees that have interacted with them for so long. They have adapted thier behaviour to tolerate and control their presence.
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  17. #17
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    And there's the problem.....

    Everyone has a different idea of what it means when someone says "resistant bees".

    Definition of resistant: "One who or that which resists".

    Definition of resists: "To withstand; to oppose; to struggle against.

    Most everyone has this win or lose mentality when speaking of resistance. I think bees have resistance in various levels of degrees or success. Some are good, some are bad.

    To suggest that bees do not or can not, as the definitions state "to withstand, to oppose, to struggle against" mites, is wrong. Its not an all or nothing choice. As others have commented, you will never have a mite free world, or a bee with armor plating. That's not how nature works. That's not what we will ever achieve.

    I commented many times about marketing hype. I see now that perhaps my own comments were wrong. Its not the hype of those correctly marketing their bees as "resistant" or breeding for "resistance". Its the buyers who have unreal expectations based on a few incorrectly self perceived defined terms. Its the consumer that has built these terms into way more than what they should be.

    The Ontario group has bred bees that are as close to t-mite free as possible. I believe its something like 95%. They also have improved the hygienic factor of bees cleaning out the cells of frozen larvae from about 40% to around 95% in a 24 hour period. (Forgive me if my numbers are wrong, I am quoting on memory.) I don't think that 100% is achievable for t-mites. That's not the goal. And even if was, any complete resistance (mite free) normally reverts to problems as bees lose the ability to deal with the pest if they are not exposed over long periods of time.

    The one thing that the Ontario group does show me, is how far and how fast (10-15 years) that a higher level of resistance can be achieved with concentrated efforts and a plan of attack.

    If your defining resistant bees as a colony with absolutely no mites....good luck. It won't happen. If your defining resistance as bees being able to control mites, or the damage they produce...then your on the right path.

    Resistance should be measured on a scale of low, medium, high...or some other graph with appropriate scaling methods. To define resistance with "has mites....has no mites" is wrong.

    There are resistant bees. Bees are a sum of the whole in counting everything that allows them to be resistant. Beekeepers dictate much of the environment that goes into a colony. Everything from equipment choices, to management timing, stress, nutrition, etc. They all have impacts on the bees environment and ability to control mites and maintain health. We need to improve not only the bees ability to deal with v-mites, but also understand that we can play a large role in their resistance (struggle) against mites.
    Last edited by BjornBee; 10-18-2007 at 06:09 AM.

  18. #18
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    >>Resistance should be measured on a scale of low, medium, high...or some other graph with appropriate scaling methods. To define resistance with "has mites....has no mites" is wrong.

    I agree.

    There has to be a measure of tolerance to mark the level of resistance to the mites. That is what is currently done in the crop breeding sector. Low, medium and high levels of disease resistance, but a measure of the plants physical resistant characteristics.
    The bees level of resistance is a matter of its change of behaviour towards the mite population.
    Is the change of the bees behaviour is an act of resistance, or the ability to tolerate?
    I agree, its a measure of resistance.

    But lets not fool our selves. Raising that so called resistant bee doesnt get you away from the same problems of the possibility of that hive crashing due to the mites. There is a tolerance there, and the bees will have to maintain to that tolerance. Beekeepers are still going to have to maintain a treatment program for the mites even though they are running these resistant bees. It is a matter of how much the bees can tolerate, determines the treatment fequency, and choice.

    Soo often here on this fourm I hear beekeepers say, "havent treated in three years", "dont believe in treatments" and refering to resistant stock.
    They will soo soon have their eyes opened,
    Last edited by Ian; 10-18-2007 at 11:54 AM.
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  19. #19
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    Breeders around here have also been breeding an area select bee. They have been able to isolate a hygienic grooming behaviour typically found with bee stocks.
    They have developed a technique to find hygienic stock quicker than with previous methods, using an infrared camera. They extract a sample of bees from a colony, large enough to form cluster, and expose them to mites. They have found they hygienic bees will have a cluster temperature rise as compared to non hygienic bees.

    What good does grooming do?
    Incorporates well into an IPM system, that uses screened bottom boards. Also helps reduce T mite populations. So it adds some tolerance there also.
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  20. #20
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    In plant breeding, at least, "resistance" and "tolerance" differ slightly.

    "Resistance" attempts to avoid colonization or feeding by a pest.

    "Tolerance" attempts to reduce damage to the plant despite colonization or feeding by a pest.

    Using plant-breeding terms, I think seeking "Varroa-tolerant" bees makes far more sense than attempting to breed "Varroa-resistant" bees.

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