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  1. #1
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    Default pure breeds, breeds, hybrids, etc.

    I wanted to post a few random thoughts and see where this goes based on what people see as possible, what pure is, etc.

    I see several levels of possible breeders and areas of effort, and what you would consider strains, etc. I'll group them as follows.

    1)Pure stock as nature had them selected. One person I spoke to recently was Malcolm Sanford. One of the things he wishes to achieve with GBBA (Global Bee Breeders Assoc.) is to do genetic testing to isolate the purist breeds. At the moment, what is an Italian, a carni, or a Russian? And where is the pure stock to save, breed, and maintain? Certainly as much as the strains have been moved around, many have commented that there is no pure lines of this or that, especially in the states. But where are the pure strains, if there are any left, around the world? And certainly, whatever the purist strains we have, they should be maintained to continue the lines for future use. Since genetic testing and isolation has not been done in the past, we really do not even know what a pure strain is, how many alleles there was from the start, etc.

    2) Pure lines, or at least as pure as we have now. Efforts such as the Russian breeders program have Russians that they will attempt to keep isolated, and maintain pure lines. Questions are raised about what "pure" is, as we have no past level or quality standard to use as a guideline. But to maintain as pure as we can at this time may be as a good as it gets. Bringing in outside stock to boost alleles numbers, maintain as pure line as possible, and benefit from genetics, is a long task. It seems that getting a plane loaded with bees from Australia is easier to pass customs than a few vials of drone semen. Maintaining the lines that we have is a big step and will be helpful as we move into the future. No sense bringing in new stock if the mechanics are not in place to maintain them once we have them. Some have suggested that a breeding program for carni, Italian, and other strains should be considered.

    3)Standard breeders as we know them. Many open mate, use multiple breeders brought in from various sources, call the queen hybrids, and have a loose breeding program. There are certainly benefits of genetic diversity. The more alleles, the more possibilities exist for selection and maintaining quality. For the average breeder, this is where most are. Something less than pure, but perhaps a better suited queen for overall performance. But the problems within this breeding model has been growing for some time now. A "leveling out" of the pure strains has caused a loss of alleles, and a decline of quality. And certainly, the continued loss of alleles will cause a decrease in quality. Inbreeding will continue to be a potential problem.

    Brother Adam was able to travel around the world and pick the best of the best, and come up with a line called buckfast. That's the great thing about genetic diversity. You get a hybrid that has all the good things you select for. But that was sometime ago. We also had the starline and midnite lines. But over time, these strains have changed, and are being watered down. And currently we do not have the ability as Brother Adam did to collect stock from around the world. Those days have passed being able to fly in new queens at ones choosing. And even if we could, without such vision and future efforts as what Malcolm Sanford speaks, we really don't even know what pure lines are out there, and if those lines have changed themselves over the years. Certainly, Italians have been spread around Europe and other places as they have been here in the states.

    So where are we today? I see us grasping at pure lines as the best we can, and using the tools we know to maintain them. But how long will that last? Can we expect the lines we have, such as NWC, the Russians being used in the Russian breeders association, and other lines just to continue towards a middle ground? Some mention feral. But from a genetic standpoint, how can they be any better genetically than the pool we already have here? They did not come from an outside source.

    I'm hoping my random thoughts make sense. I hope people can understand the larger picture of what needs to be done in protecting any pockets of pure lines we have left around the world. I hope people see how maintaining a breeding pool from what we have here already is also needed. And by how having these tools allows us all to be a little like Brother Adam in selecting the best of different lines, so a diversity and quality bee industry can continue in the future.

    We need various programs at the different levels to benefit each other in the long run. Understanding how each feeds off each other, and what the benefits are of each, is in everyone's interest. They are connected.

    Comments?
    Last edited by BjornBee; 01-28-2008 at 06:46 AM.

  2. #2
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    A couple of thoughts that come to mind.

    1) How are we going to determine what is pure, are we going to develop an AKC type registry for bees.

    2) When you do isolate "pure stock" Where does the future stock come from over years of breeding to keep the stock from inbreeding? (reference buckfast bees from England vs Buckfast bees from Texas)

    3) What is the value of maintaining a pure line? All of the lines seem to have advantages and disavantages, wouldn't we want to continue to breed "hybrids" aimed at continually improving any line of bees.

    4) With the advances in mechancially conducting genetic engineering vs continued cross breeding (which is a form of genetic engineering) how long until someone comes out with a bee which has most or all of the traits the industry is working towards and would you buy queens raised from mechanically engineered stock?

  3. #3
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    Joel,
    #1. This is what Malcolm is hoping to do in the future. Working with the bee genome, and having geneticists isolate the purist of strains. I'm not suggesting AKC type registration. But as it stands now, what exactly is a russian, an italian, etc. Having the knowledge of the differences and groups set up (such as the russian bee breeders) would help maintain the lines for further selection and breeding.

    #2. Having enough within the gene pools would be the goal. Did buckfast have enough lines to maintain long term? Or did the line slightly change over time with no real evidence from the lack of genetic testing? Certainly finding enough russians to maintain lines would be easier than finding the same buckfast. Buckfast was the combination of alot of lines. Not something you can go get samples of in nature.

    #3. By having pure lines, genetic diversity, a higher level of alleles, and other factors then can be options. Brother Adam, made a good hybrid line by using the best of the pure lines he found.
    Its kind of like a goodenoodle dog. Something of a trend dog lately. but if you take all golden retrievers and all poodles and made only goodenoodles, what would you breed from in the future? You would always need the original lines.
    And of course, mutts have always shown to be better for many animals. mutt dogs outlive pure breeds. But it only allows you to do this for a certain period of time. Certainly cattle/cow breeders know that taking two breeds and crossing, makes some great stock. Continue it another generation, and the stock starts degrading. You need the pure lines to accomplish and continue quality as what brother Adam did. It does not stop, and maintain quality on its own. That's not how it works.

    My own goal is to breed hybrids. And that what 99% do, including Brother Adam. Its just some do it better. But you certainly have those possibilities of the advantages of the pure lines, only if they are protected and available for future use. As it is now, we have seen a watering down of the lines, through mass production, using closed lines, and resulting in a poor quality queen with less alleles.

    If everyone just bred hybrids and they continued to be bred inwards to a more similar genetic make-up, that is the wrong direction. We need genetic diversity, and pure lines to continue that process. And certainly that means diversity inside each line (russians, carni, etc. ) as well as the overall gene pool to include hybrid stock, feral, etc.

    #4. Certainly a discussion that could get deep. But with individual beekeepers breeding, the cost of those techniques in the future (Look at AI queens...how many want to requeen at that price?) being potentially prohibitive, all make this something "down the road'. But certainly any discussions today, will change as the times change and new technology becomes available. But what about the next 20 years? We have documentation that shows a lessening of alleles, queen quality problems, and potential problems looming.

    Beekeeping has seen benefits to the many selection and breeding efforts over the years. But those same benefits are certainly much harder to do with a watered down gene pool.
    Last edited by BjornBee; 01-28-2008 at 08:26 AM.

  4. #4
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    Intriguing idea, BjornBee; hopefully this thread will generate a good deal of discussion.

    A few thoughts leap to mind for me:

    Pure stock as nature had them selected. -BjornBee
    I believe this is valuable and justified in a natural sense. "Wild" honey bees, if you will, have adapted to specific localities to segregate into "races." This, to my way of thinking, is not as similar to human-selected breeds of dogs or cattle or pigeons or whatever as it appears at first glance. The traits that fit best with their individual habitats were perpetuated in the greatest proportions, eventually creating "races." With dogs, for example, a greyhound has no greater evolutionary fitness in a city home than does a bloodhound, unless the human owner eliminates or reduces the evolutionary fitness of one or the other.

    That's off on a bit of a tangent. What I believe is worth preserving, in the sense of preserving races of bees, are the original races in their original places. To me, this means identifying specific races and avoiding importing bees of other races to "water down" the local races.

    Here in North America, we don't have a native race of honey bee. So, while I see some merit in maintaining distinct lines for breeding, trying to "preserve" races here is far less important, in my opinion.

    Pure lines, or at least as pure as we have now. Efforts such as the Russian breeders program have Russians that they will attempt to keep isolated, and maintain pure lines. -BjornBee
    From what I've read, "Russians" are not a distinct race of bees like "Italians" or "Carniolans," but are simply bees from one of the other races or hybrids of bees of other races that live fairly far east in Eurasia. It may be that the "purity" desired in "Russians" is actually a hybridization in the first place.

    Standard breeders as we know them. Many open mate, use multiple breeders brought in from various sources, call the queen hybrids, and have a loose breeding program. There are certainly benefits of genetic diversity. The more alleles, the more possibilities exist for selection and maintaining quality. For the average breeder, this is where most are. Something less than pure, but perhaps a better suited queen for overall performance. But the problems within this breeding model has been growing for some time now. A "leveling out" of the pure strains has caused a loss of alleles, and a decline of quality. And certainly, the continued loss of alleles will cause a decrease in quality. Inbreeding will continue to be a potential problem. -BjornBee
    The problem that I see here is a fundamental contradiction. The very aspect that creates the "purity" and "distinction" of a race is reduction and fixation of alleles. Variability is lost.

    Greater alleles in a population should translate into greater variability, or less "fixedness." A hive with greater variability in alleles will appear to have a greater variability in workers. Same goes for a breeding operation. In fact, the very human tendency to selectively breed from only the "best" queens may be reducing the number of alleles effectively reaching the next generations of bees.

    Beekeeping has seen benefits to the many selection and breeding efforts over the years. But those same benefits are certainly much harder to do with a watered down gene pool. -BjornBee
    I'm curious -- where or how do you see the "gene pool" in honey bees diminishing? While I agree with the principle, and I commend efforts to protect some of the remaining natural populations of honey bees, I wonder how much variability has been lost among honey bees in North America.

  5. #5
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    Smile Pure Breeds

    The Russian strain geographicaly manay miles away from the land of Carniola.
    The Russians are from far eastern Russia. We found out about then after the trans-Serbian rail way was constructed.
    Regards,
    Ernie
    Lucas Apiaries

  6. #6
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    The Russian strain geographicaly manay miles away from the land of Carniola. -BEES4U
    Sure, but "American" bees are far away from Carniola, and some of our bees are still Apis mellifera carnica.

    The Russians are from far eastern Russia. We found out about then after the trans-Serbian rail way was constructed. -BEES4U
    Well, not exactly.

    Apis mellifera is not native to the Primorsky Territory on Russia's Pacific coast, but was first moved there in the last century. At that time, pioneers from western Russia took advantage of the completion of the Trans-Siberian Railway and moved bees from European western Russia to the Primorsky Territory in Asian far-eastern Russia. This far-eastern area of Russia is within the natural range of Apis cerana, the original host of Varroa jacobsoni. Thus A. mellifera was brought into the likely range of V. jacobsoni even before the parasite was scientifically described in 1904. This probable long association of V. jacobsoni and A. mellifera in the region has engendered one of the best opportunities in the world for A. mellifera to develop genetic resistance to V. jacobsoni. -from http://www.ars.usda.gov/Services/doc...id=2744&page=2
    So, if those Russian pioneering beekeepers took A. mellifera ligustica, wouldn't those Russian bees still be "Italians?"

    (Just for clarification, the Trans-Siberian Railway was largely completed in 1897.)

    As I understand it, the race of honey bee that occurs naturally farthest east in Asia is Apis mellifera pomonella, and that race was only "discovered" in 2003. While it may hold promise as another race with some adaptation to surviving with Varroa, it is clearly not the race of the "Russian" bees imported by the USDA.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kieck View Post
    Intriguing idea, BjornBee; hopefully this thread will generate a good deal of discussion.

    I'm curious -- where or how do you see the "gene pool" in honey bees diminishing? While I agree with the principle, and I commend efforts to protect some of the remaining natural populations of honey bees, I wonder how much variability has been lost among honey bees in North America.
    Kieck,
    Please forgive for this one fault I have, I do not keep an extensive flagged data base at my disposal. I just simply do not have the time. So many things I read I just make mental notes. I'm not sure if it was articles on queen promiscuity, or another that actually gave the decreasing number of alleles as compared to a few years back. But I have read about the loss of alleles in a couple different articles, thats for sure.

    For those not familiar with alleles, Malcolm Sanford does a good job detailing the basics and functions in Bee Culture, Jan 2008 in an article entitled "Better Stock for Beekeepers.

    The debate about the origins of Russians are the reason that Malcolm potential efforts may be worthy for future research. What exactly is a Russian. And for that matter, what is an Italian or anything else. Without that knowledge of the differing combinations of alleles and genes, are we not just shooting in the dark, with some potentially misapplied labeling as a guidepost?

    I also wonder Keith how much genetic diversity has been lost in North America. The large propagation of limiting lines over the years by commercial operations, the collapse of feral (and even if they are coming back, what genetic diversity is left from a slim line of survivors), the inbreeding from breeders of every size, and other factors make this questionable.

    In nature, one hive perhaps mates with several other colonies and the diversity within those colonies. (each being a sub-family of differing stock). But take a breeder that raises hundreds if not thousands of queens from the same area, and the genetic diversity can be effected. Many factors could be listed as factors of this bottleneck of genetics we have here in the states.

    I'm not trying to discuss the finer points of where Russians came from. Its a bigger picture of isolating genetic pools, understanding the relationship that bees need in regards to diversity, and the loss thus far of alleles within the closed stock we have here in the states.
    Last edited by BjornBee; 01-29-2008 at 07:43 PM.

  8. #8
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    I'm not sure if it was articles on queen promiscuity, or another that actually gave the decreasing number of alleles as compared to a few years back. But I have read about the loss of alleles in a couple different articles, thats for sure. -BjornBee
    I understand that you can't pull up references from a databank. No problem.

    I have seen statements along the lines of, "Diversity in honey bees in North America is decreasing," and "Alleles are being lost in North American honey bees." However, none of the statements are backed up by actual data, as far as I've seen.

    In fact, just the opposite seems to be happening. Alleles from African honey bees seem to be spreading into and around the country, from the reports I've read. And the USDA imported what, theoretically, should be genetically distinct stock from Russia a few years ago. I've also read that some beekeepers suspect the old Apis mellifera mellifera persists in "feral" populations. Other than those, the only other races that I'm aware of that have historically been brought into this country are A. m. liguistica (still here), A. m. carnica (still here), A. m. caucasica (still here, although in lower numbers perhaps) and "Buckfast" -- and who knows how many genes from how many races went into "Buckfast," or if those genes are still present.

    So I see the diversity as somewhat greater than it was, say, 15 years ago. Distinctions among races may not be as great, but overall diversity seems fairly strong.

    The large propagation of limiting lines over the years by commercial operations, the collapse of feral (and even if they are coming back, what genetic diversity is left from a slim line of survivors), the inbreeding from breeders of every size, and other factors make this questionable. -BjornBee
    OK. I agree in principle. I believe I pointed out that even something as seemingly inocuous as selecting the "best" queens as breeders could inadvertently be hurting diversity.

    Many factors could be listed as factors of this bottleneck of genetics we have here in the states. -BjornBee
    Sure, but that presumes that we in fact do have a bottleneck. I haven't seen any evidence of that, yet.

    Its a bigger picture of isolating genetic pools, understanding the relationship that bees need in regards to diversity, and the loss thus far of alleles within the closed stock we have here in the states. -BjornBee
    HUGE project, so far as I would estimate. Worthwhile, but huge. First, I'd like to know if variability has been lost, then what variability in the U.S. has been lost (if it has), then where some of that variability might still exist.

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