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  1. #1
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    Default Environmental influences / genetics

    On a winter loss poll, some of us digressed into the beginnings of a discussion on genetics and environmental factors. At the suggestion of naturebee (Joe), I am copying most of one of my posts from that thread into this to start a new thread. While I hold some opinions on this topic, I'm very much interested to see how others might feel about it, so I am branching off here to try to get a better discussion going.

    In that earlier post, I made some comments about what are really stochastic environmental influences, and the ability, or lack thereof, of genetics to withstand those factors.

    What I seem to see among some beekeepers right now is an overemphasis of "genetics" as cure-alls in beekeeping. Mite problems? "Genetics" will solve that. Harsh winter conditions? "Genetics" can overcome those. CCD? "Genetics" can overcome that. Lack of pollen or nectar? "Genetics" can withstand those dearths. T-mites? Small hive beetles? Wax moths? AFB? EFB? Nosema? Any and all -- "genetics."

    But it ain't that simple. At least the way I see it.

    No matter the "genetics," environmental effects can kill hives. Let's start with the extreme: let's say that we have a hypothetical bee that's resistant to all the problems listed above. That strain of bees can withstand -50F spells lasting three weeks, can survive the up-and-down temperature spells of early spring, is absolutely death on Varroa, is completely immune to t-mites, has no issue with any other diseases, seems to be a "perfect" bee. And let's say that we have a yard filled with these things. And a tornado rips through that yard. Or a bear. Are those "environmental influences?" And can "genetics" really be expected to withstand such conditions?

    Breeding or "genetics" is not a magic bullet. We won't eliminate our problems just by breeding or finding that "perfect" bee. It doesn't work that way. It hasn't with any other form of life on this planet, and it won't with bees. And this emphasis on genetics recently even seems to have equated "genetic diversity" with "the more, the better," in the minds of some beekeepers.

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    Much to ponder.

    First of all, I think there is no single "perfect" anything. The strongest of any species must be adaptable, and that requires variations within the species so that, hopefully, at least one of those variations will be able to survive the unknown challenge thrown at it and the species will survive to multiply and further mutate. Varroa is constantly adapting and changing, and a stagnant "superbee" species will eventually be doomed.

    As for things like tornadoes, bears, and the stupid neighbor with a can of "Raid," this is where nature needs quantity. Some of the strongest will, by probability, succumb to unpredictable threats like this. With luck, these random occurrances will not wipe out ALL the individuals with a certain beneficial trait.

    Humans have been a detriment in this regard. Feral bees never congregate in such a manner that tremendous numbers could be decimated by a single tornado/bear/flood/wildfire/whatever. Bee yards and stacks of hives on trucks are not natural. Perhaps there is something to be learned here.
    “The keeping of bees is like the direction of sunbeams.” -Henry David Thoreau

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    Kieck:

    I agree with you, there are environmental factors that cannot be influenced by genetics.

    The general equation is that:
    GENOTYPE + ENVIRONMENT = PHETOTYPE (50% + 50% = 100%)

    This certainly has to be applied within reason. While genetics may only influence half of the total outcome, I would rather have the best genetics available for my environmental conditions. Keep in mind, my environmental conditions may be entirely different than yours.

    Joe
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kieck View Post
    What I seem to see among some beekeepers right now is an overemphasis of "genetics" as cure-alls in beekeeping. Mite problems? "Genetics" will solve that. Harsh winter conditions? "Genetics" can overcome those. CCD? "Genetics" can overcome that. Lack of pollen or nectar? "Genetics" can withstand those dearths. T-mites? Small hive beetles? Wax moths? AFB? EFB? Nosema? Any and all -- "genetics."
    Hello Kieck!

    If I could start with what emphasis do we choose place on genetics?
    From the above quote, am I correct in assuming that you are suggesting, a beekeeper would do just as good to pick a queen breeder at random for his stock?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kieck View Post
    No matter the "genetics," environmental effects can kill hives. Let's start with the extreme: let's say that we have a hypothetical bee that's resistant to all the problems listed above. That strain of bees can withstand -50F spells lasting three weeks, can survive the up-and-down temperature spells of early spring, is absolutely death on Varroa, is completely immune to t-mites, has no issue with any other diseases, seems to be a "perfect" bee. And let's say that we have a yard filled with these things. And a tornado rips through that yard. Or a bear. Are those "environmental influences?" And can "genetics" really be expected to withstand such conditions?.
    A perfectly good question here concerning your above statements;
    Do you really think that a tornado a good example of an environmental influence that you would expect genetics to resist? Or perhaps, do you think the suggestion being a bit absurd? Speaking in all honesty, I see these types of suggestions as an interjection of ‘absurd loopholes’ designed to promote highly unlikely scenarios for the purpose of defeating an opponent. Can we perhaps stick with scenarios that one is “likely to experience” in any given bee season? If you truly believe it is a reasonable ’environmental influence’ then I do not think we can proceed with the discussion, because I think it is absurd.

    Genetic ability to resist environmental influences works in strange ways. I now have very small clusters surviving winter that would in the past 15 years, succumb during winter. But now that varroa is not a problem, it appears wintering as improved remarkably. Now, resistance to varroa may seem to have nothing to do with a colonies ability to survive cold temperatures, but I do infact attribute the increase in wintering success solely to the reduction of varroa and associated stresses found <<within the population as a whole>> as well as at the <<colony level>>. I am of very strong opinion that the population as a whole affects what you are seeing at the colony level more than one might think, so as I am inspecting and looking at the health of a colony, I know that I am also looking at the health of the population.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kieck View Post
    Breeding or "genetics" is not a magic bullet. We won't eliminate our problems just by breeding or finding that "perfect" bee. It doesn't work that way. It hasn't with any other form of life on this planet, and it won't with bees. And this emphasis on genetics recently even seems to have equated "genetic diversity" with "the more, the better," in the minds of some beekeepers.
    I agree, and my belief is that there is no such thing as a perfect bee. IMO, a colony needs not be perfect in its ability to eliminate varroa, disease, or any other environmental influence. All a colony needs to do is compete well against its competitors as well as the environmental forces that are working against it.


    Best Wishes,
    Joe
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    but a bee is always in such a confounded hurry that he gets
    in his work before you can light your cigar."
    (Albert Lea, Minnesota, 1879)

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    As for things like tornadoes, bears, and the stupid neighbor with a can of "Raid," this is where nature needs quantity. -Hobie
    Or luck. If a hive of "superbees" gets destroyed by a bear, but a hive of bees that cannot survive Varroa without chemical intervention is not, that hive that gets missed has greater evolutionary fitness provided that they survive long enough to reproduce.

    But that's kind of the point. We can't simply be concerned with how they survive, and nature doesn't worry about the "how," just that they do survive. Stochastic events happen, and those events can and will eliminate certain individuals without regard for genetics.

    You could, for example, have a bee completely resistant to mites through genetics, but then small hive beetle destroys that line of bees. Or AFB. Or hot weather. Or something else. Trying to breed for every possibility is virtually impossible, and is certainly impractical.

    While genetics may only influence half of the total outcome, I would rather have the best genetics available for my environmental conditions. -JSL
    Absolutely. I agree. I prefer to have the best adapted bees for my environmental conditions, too. But I think that management will affect bees just as much or more than genetics, as reflected by your equation, and I tend to see greater results from management changes than from genetic changes. That may largely be because I don't invest in breeder or select queens, the bees that I keep are surrounded and vastly outnumbered by other beekeepers' bees, and I do not use instrument insemination to keep purity. If I worked much harder on maintaining purity of breeding lines, I might see more effect from genetics.

    I still maintain, though, that too much emphasis is being placed right now on "breeding our way out of trouble." Genetics will not solve our problems, in my opinion. Genetics may help, but I think the majority of work will have to be done through management.

    From the above quote, am I correct in assuming that you are suggesting, a beekeeper would do just as good to pick a queen breeder at random for his stock? -naturebee
    That's not what I wrote, Joe. What I wrote was that beekeepers right now seem to overemphasizing the importance of genetics in overcoming any and all difficulties faced with keeping bees.

    I do see some contradictions in popular opinions among beekeepers, though, that might relate to what you posted. On one hand, we have this belief that as long as the right breeding stock can be found/developed, any problems can be overcome. On the other, we have the belief that genetic diversity is lacking to the point of causing problems. If that diversity in genes is really so limited, then I believe your assumption should be correct -- a random queen would be as good as a select queen for breeding purposes. Limited diversity of genes means that all bees would pretty much share the same genes, which would mean that we would see no real differences in genetics, which would mean that any given queen would be the same as any other queen.

    But I don't believe that diversity in honey bees in North America is all that lacking, either.

    Do you really think that a tornado a good example of an environmental influence that you would expect genetics to resist? -naturebee
    No. I don't believe genetics would be able to resist such forces.

    Yet some of what has been suggested in threads here on BeeSource verge on the same. Bees in the southern U. S. being bred for "wintering in harsh winter conditions?" What "harsh conditions" would bees down in the south face? Below 0F temperatures in some of those states? Less common weather conditions there than tornadoes in many places, I think.

    Can we perhaps stick with scenarios that one is “likely to experience” in any given bee season? -naturebee
    Not for me, but for many beekeepers, I think bears are scenarios that are "likely to be experienced in any given bee season." And some behavioral patterns in bees suggest that bees have evolved some defense mechanisms to try to cope with attacks by bears. That evolutionary change suggests that attacks by bears must be common enough that such changes would benefit bees.

    I agree, and my belief is that there is no such thing as a perfect bee. -naturebee
    OK. So why do you think we keep reading things on BeeSource threads that say things like [paraphrasing here], "Just switch to 'feral'/hygienic/Russian/fill-in-the-name-of-some-sort-with-some-specific-genes bees, and their genetics will eliminate your mite problems"; "Beekeepers who have two or three or ten hives can create and perpetuate novel breeding lines designed to handle [fill in the blank with the name of whatever problem you might have]"; and similar suggestions?

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    Kieck, my point about "quantity" was that if a hive of "superbees" gets destroyed by a bear, there needs to be three or four more hives of superbees somewhere else to live on.
    “The keeping of bees is like the direction of sunbeams.” -Henry David Thoreau

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    Oh, I got that, Hobie, and you're right.

    What I was attempting to point out is that "luck" may confer just as great an advantage as genes.

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    That is true, Kieck. I tend to think that random occurrences of devastation are less frequent than occurrences that favor certain genetics, but when I think about it, I have no basis for that.
    “The keeping of bees is like the direction of sunbeams.” -Henry David Thoreau

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    I think your idea is generally correct, Hobie. I think random occurences of devastation are less frequent than occurences that could result in natural selection of certain genotypes.

    But luck may be involved in other aspects than survival of natural disasters.

    For example, two yards are established in different areas. One has the "superbees" in it. The other has "average" or "below average" bees in it. The area with the poorer bees happens to have better bloom. The area with the "superbees" suffers a local effect that severely limits floral resources for a year. Which comes out ahead? Why? (Rhetorical questions.)

    Such effects are pretty common, and you could argue, I suppose, that bees could evolve to survive such dearths. But I doubt that those bees would be as evolutionarily successful as those bees with poorer genetics, and I doubt that those bees would seem as desireable to a beekeeper as the bees with the poorer genetics and better location.

    As simplistic as it might seem, bees may face more of that sort of thing than we recognize. All things being equal, "superior genetics" (for whatever traits we choose) will be just that: superior.

    But in the real world, conditions are very rarely all equal.

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    Can we perhaps stick with scenarios that one is “likely to experience” in any given bee season? -naturebee

    Drought
    Excessive rain
    Unusually cool summer temperatures
    Unusual winter weather patterns (warm or cold)
    Large Late season, High Ash, Low nutritional value honey flows (ie. aster here in NY)
    High sustained winds
    Pesticide mortaltity
    Predators (skunks/bears/mice)

    Do we need more?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kieck View Post
    Or luck. If a hive of "superbees" gets destroyed by a bear, .?
    Hi Keick,

    I know that I am taking you a bit out of context as to the above,
    but for sake of discussion.
    How do you measure luck?
    If you can identify a colonies response to a bear attack, that would rule out luck as playing a role. I have salvaged a bee tree, and a gum, as well as a whisky barrel that were destroyed by bear. And in all cases, I did manage to locate the queen, which upon being disturbed, moved with workers accompanying to the recesses of the bee tree and escaped. This flight to safety saved the colony and was not luck, but a clear strategy of survival. And if the bear kills the queen, it is not bad luck, but a failure of that strategy to succeed in that particular case.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kieck View Post
    But that's kind of the point. We can't simply be concerned with how they survive, and nature doesn't worry about the "how," just that they do survive. Stochastic events happen, and those events can and will eliminate certain individuals without regard for genetics..
    Agree, and that’s why I put the rock on my hive to provide at least some protecting from the random breeze. But remember that the random event eliminating certain individuals, does not necessarily eliminate all the other individuals that were influenced by them with regard to genetics. So I personally am not concerned with the occasional random event, or losing an occasional individual colony. Because IMO the breeding sphere as a whole is where the wealth is contained, and in my area, most of the wealth is in the ferals and are found outside my control.

    There is an argument for “how they survive is extremely important“. In past years, nature didn’t care about resistance to varroa in Hawaiian honeybees. But now that varroa has been introduced, it sure as heck will care now! You are right, nature doesn’t care about how they survive, but my point is, is it sustainable?,,, meaning here, are treatments etc. sustainable for the long run?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kieck View Post
    You could, for example, have a bee completely resistant to mites through genetics, but then small hive beetle destroys that line of bees. Or AFB. Or hot weather. Or something else. Trying to breed for every possibility is virtually impossible, and is certainly impractical.
    Perhaps. But it is known that SHB attack weaker colonies. I would argue the fact that I would expect a “bee completely resistant to mites through genetics” to out perform, be less prone to the stresses associated with mites, and therefore be more able to defend itself from SHB. Same with AFB which tends to infect stressed colonies over the healthy. This is my strong belief that traits do are not single minded in what benefits they promote.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kieck View Post
    I still maintain, though, that too much emphasis is being placed right now on "breeding our way out of trouble." Genetics will not solve our problems, in my opinion. Genetics may help, but I think the majority of work will have to be done through management..
    I agree!
    What I meant by “breeding your way out of trouble“, is that is a part of a good management strategy.
    Maybe I was naive to expected that good management would be logically assumed by all beekeepers to be the key to successful beekeeping in general, and therefore not in need of mention specifically. Breeding is a ’part of good management’. But you can’t do one without the other.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kieck View Post
    OK. So why do you think we keep reading things on BeeSource threads that say things like [paraphrasing here], "Just switch to 'feral'/hygienic/Russian/fill-in-the-name-of-some-sort-with-some-specific-genes bees, and their genetics will eliminate your mite problems"; "Beekeepers who have two or three or ten hives can create and perpetuate novel breeding lines designed to handle [fill in the blank with the name of whatever problem you might have]"; and similar suggestions?
    A very good comment, and it is root of many problems!

    Hypothetically, I might for instance say that switching 'feral'/hygienic/Russian/ <<<<might help>>>>,
    but I would not say that it would eliminate your problems.

    A beekeeper once said “all beekeeping is local”.
    Although mites are in my hives, the colonies are not stressed by them. I credit this fact to the local population as a whole, and the resistance found within this population. Will my bees do good else ware? I have come to a conclusion from my own experiences, not necessarily.

    Joe

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    Quote Originally Posted by naturebee View Post
    Hi Keick,

    I

    Perhaps. But it is known that SHB attack weaker colonies. I would argue the fact that I would expect a “bee completely resistant to mites through genetics” to out perform, be less prone to the stresses associated with mites, and therefore be more able to defend itself from SHB. Same with AFB which tends to infect stressed colonies over the healthy. This is my strong belief that traits do are not single minded in what benefits they promote.

    Joe
    This is an interesting observation and I think a point we should further discuss. I don't have much in answer theroies just questions. We started seeing this in our 3rd year in our own breeding from survivor hives and I have seen a few others post stating this observation. Mites present but not distressing the hives. If the mites carry the same diseases, attack brood and damage bees what's happening that is different?

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    This flight to safety saved the colony and was not luck, but a clear strategy of survival. -naturebee
    Not so sure about that one. How do you know that it was a deliberate strategy, and not just chance?

    For the purposes of this discussion, I'll equate "luck" with "chance."

    There is an argument for “how they survive is extremely important“. -naturebee
    The argument can be made, but the argument you made in your post was "do they survive," not "how they survive." Evolution/nature does not care whether some bees survive because they groom off mites, or whether they have some repugnancy in their hemolymph that deters mites, or whether they are just too slippery and shiny for mites to cling to them. That's the "how." And in the most simplistic terms, we care about survival/extinction, not the mechanism of how.

    . . . but my point is, is it sustainable?,,, meaning here, are treatments etc. sustainable for the long run? -naturebee
    The discussion here is the importance or significance of genetics in dealing with environmental influences. How does sustainability figure in?

    I credit this fact to the local population as a whole, and the resistance found within this population. -naturebee
    Could it be that you are simply dealing with less virulent mites, or mites that have better adapted as parasites of Apis mellifera?

    This is my strong belief that traits do are not single minded in what benefits they promote. -naturebee
    I see the link in terms of stresses leading to other problems.

    But from an evolutionary standpoint, many traits do seem to be pretty specific to certain selective pressures. For example, the trait that might allow one type of bee to overwinter in smaller clusters is unlikely to confer an advantage to that bee to deal with robbing. Or attack by mammalian predator. Or extremely hot weather.

    But I easily understand how hives that are not weakened by mites would be better able to deal with small hive beetle or AFB or some other problems.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Joel View Post
    Mites present but not distressing the hives. If the mites carry the same diseases, attack brood and damage bees what's happening that is different?
    Hello Joel,

    I may be not popular in my views here, and that’s ok with me. But I am of a strong belief that in the case of honeybees, a <<sustainable disease resistance and parasite fighting abilities>> lie in two places, 1. at the colony level, and 2. at the population level. IMO, you can’t have one without the other, but at the same time, the more important of the two are disease resistance and parasite fighting abilities at the population level. So one can purchase all the resistant bees they can, but it wont be sustainable until the population as a whole obtains a sufficient level of resistance to the particular maladies involved which are creating the stresses at the colony level.

    Seeley did a study concerning the feral bees in the Arnot forest that became infamous on discussion lists throughout the USA. Seeley placed a domestic colony of bees up in a tree with the population of ferals in that forest, in an attempt to study why the ferals were surviving with varroa. Seeley found that the domestic hive (no doubt already having some resistance to varroa through commercial bee breeding) took on a very similar, nearly identical low mite count to that found in the forest population of ferals. And same as you are observing, the colony was not being stressed by the mites.

    What conclusion did Seeley come up with?

    IMO, he came up with a rather ridiculous conclusion:
    He claimed that the ferals in the forest where surviving because the varroa there were “non virulent“. And thus set off the first shot fired in what became known as ‘The GREAT virulent / non virulent mite debate’ which spread amongst discussion lists like the hysteria of the fabled CCD. And then, many beekeepers blamed the unfairness of the ferals which were said to cheating in the game of life by living with non virulent mites, while the domestic beekeepers had to contend with the more nasty, severely lethal and merciless virulent mites which were devastating their bees.

    I came to a bit different conclusion:
    The population of bees, having an equally important role in suppressing varroa, were responsible for the maintaining of low levels of varroa found in the test colony, as well as other colonies found throughout the this population of bees.

    Joel, you make a key point about not stressing the hives, because that is key!,,, stress is key! Bees already have virus fighting capabilities, they can handle low levels of virus, parasites and a host of other diseases. Just because virus or any other disease are detected, doesn’t mean they are being stressed by it,. And I hate when I hear scientists say that virus was found in CCD colonies, because it means nothing, only <<<levels of virus>>> mean something, and when levels can be determined, then it will mean something.

    Disease naturally spreads within every population, resistance within the population determines what these levels these disease will spread. Sick bees, get disoriented and drift away from the parent colony and much of the time, into other colonies. When the population fails to do its job in the suppression of disease, levels of disease rise, and resistant colonies can be overwhelmed thru contaminated drifting bees to the point they can no longer suppress a disease at this higher level of influx.

    I would suspect that in your area, the population as a whole, including your colonies have reached a sufficient level of resistance, and therefore overwhelming levels of disease are not drifting into your colonies, and the bees able to suppress the disease at the colony level, and stresses reduced, will subsequently thrive. And from judging by your experience and expertise in breeding bees, your efforts may have contributed greatly to this stabilization of the population, so therefore, the subpopulation of ferals are your bees and a part of your making.

    Best Wishes,
    Joe
    Feralbeeproject.com

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kieck View Post
    The discussion here is the importance or significance of genetics in dealing with environmental influences. How does sustainability figure in?
    IMO, if there is not sufficient of traits in a population to deal with the particular environmental influences such as disease, this is not sustainable. The insufficiency of the population to deal with these things will effect the entire population, by way of higher prevalence of disease by drifting, and bring down even the most fit colony that happens to be amongst the population. So there is a great significance to sustainability as far as honey bees are concerned.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kieck View Post
    Could it be that you are simply dealing with less virulent mites, or mites that have better adapted as parasites of Apis mellifera??
    I don’t buy the non virulent mite theory, its pretty much a foolish theory, as these non virulent mites should be distributed throughout the USA by now amongst ferals as well as domestic colonies. How do you propose that non virulent mites distinguish between domestic and feral bees? Those that promote this theory need to produce a reason how non virulent mites manage select a feral colony to infest over a domestic colony.

    Best Wishes,
    Joe

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    . . . 1. at the colony level, and 2. at the population level. -naturebee
    These two could be perceived as the same thing. "Population" typically refers to a group with at least some boundaries to it. Boundaries may be physical, or geographic, or behavioral, or seasonal, etcetera. But something at least limits some of the chances for interaction (and especially limits interbreeding) to define the group, and individuals in that group compose the "population."

    So, the "health of a population" may be very, very difficult to pin down, or it may be very simple. If one hive stands alone, far, far away from any other hives, the population is the colony. On the other hand, almost all of the hives here in South Dakota end up in almonds together, along with many hives from all across the country. In this case, the "population" refers to most of the honey bees across the United States.

    "Sustainable" is another of those nasty, nearly-impossible-to-define terms.

    So one can purchase all the resistant bees they can, but it wont be sustainable until the population as a whole obtains a sufficient level of resistance to the particular maladies involved which are creating the stresses at the colony level. -naturebee
    The theory sounds good, theoretically. Can you provide an example of a situation where such an approach (large-scale population, as opposed to at an individual level) has been successful?

    The insufficiency of the population to deal with these things will effect the entire population, by way of higher prevalence of disease by drifting, and bring down even the most fit colony that happens to be amongst the population. -naturebee
    I respectfully disagree. This concept seems to fly in the face of differential survival from selective pressures due to adaptations and variation.

    Seeley found that the domestic hive (no doubt already having some resistance to varroa through commercial bee breeding) took on a very similar, nearly identical low mite count to that found in the forest population of ferals. -naturebee
    OK, but this contradicts much of your position. If a single, unselected hive of bees just "happens to have" some resistance to mites, that suggests that the population on the continent already has the genetics to deal with the mites. If that were the case, why are we still dealing with mites? As you point out (but modified), "these resistant bees should be distributed throughout the USA by now amongst ferals as well as domestic colonies."

    Oh, and by the way, you've got the methodology of the Seeley paper somewhat turned around. And the first possible conclusion suggested by Seeley in the paper is that "feral" bees may adopt grooming or hygienic traits to limit mite populations, rather than hosting avirulent mites.

    Also pertinent to this discussion, if you haven't read the paper or didn't catch it if you did read the paper -- a black bear destroyed a pair of the colonies in Seeley's study, one of the hives established from "Arnot Forest" stock, and one from New World Carniolan stock.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kieck View Post
    So, the "health of a population" may be very, very difficult to pin down, or it may be very simple. If one hive stands alone, far, far away from any other hives, the population is the colony. On the other hand, almost all of the hives here in South Dakota end up in almonds together, along with many hives from all across the country. In this case, the "population" refers to most of the honey bees across the United States..
    I agree defining these things are difficult as well as key to the discussion, so I will choose to focus to this topic.
    IMO, this is a reason why there are many failures in beekeeping, -because few beekeepers understand the interaction of colony vs. population, and just how close they are tied together. Strange,,,, on one hand, this fact is recognized by beekeepers when they recommend to “move resistant colonies to an isolated beeyard to escape mite pressures“, and yet, it is ignored on almost all other levels.

    If I may say, your ‘quibbling’ about the defining of ‘population’ and ‘colony level’, is understood by me as nit picking, because what you have stated is essentially what I was saying. Yes, the population can be a region containing many honeybee colonies OR as little as a single honeybee colony. In each case, there is a ‘colony level’ (the single colony) and a ‘population’ (comprised of the total number of single colonies in that area, which YES, can be one colony). When a hives are moved into an area, they become part of that population, moved out, they are no longer a part of that population.

    WE need to keep the facts we choose to present within the realm of realness, therefore I might propose that your suggestion that a population refers to ‘most honeybees across the united states’ as ‘not accurate‘. I don’t know of any beekeepers in my area that move their hives to almonds. Even the movement of colonies from South Dakota to California is not a representation of the entire population of bees in South Dakota, BUT it perhaps represents only the regions that those bees the apiary are originated from. A beekeeper from one end of SD might have a totally different management style, selective pressures, as well as genetics, and do not have one iota of influence on each other, so how are they part of the same population?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kieck View Post
    The theory sounds good, theoretically. Can you provide an example of a situation where such an approach (large-scale population, as opposed to at an individual level) has been successful?
    Yes, I will provide a reverse example.
    Maybe the name Thomas Rinderer rings a bell. If not, Rinderer lead the team that secured Russian bee stock from Far East Russia, and was charged with evaluating and developing a stock for use in the USA. This approach. which you ask for example, was successful in Rinderers operation.

    Wanting to secure information about Russian bees; -and not from the salesmen breeders, but instead from a bee scientist, I exchanged several correspondence directly with Dr. Rinderer to discuss that attributes of these Russian bees before I made the decision weather or not to import some stock. Rinderer told me in no uncertain terms ’in the Russian colonies in his research facility, over several years, the mite levels in these colonies stayed very low, and he had not needed to treat, and he assured me that he did not foresee the need for me to treat the stock for mites‘. Within three years of me having the stock, most colonies were succumbing to varroa, having very high levels of varroa, and OR non performing as a result of the severe stress. A decision was made then to destroy all Russian lines and work towards developing a resistant stock from the local ferals, and thus formed the feralbeeproject.com

    But strangely enough, the ferals in my immediate area were very distressed by varroa and for all practical purposes, nearly non existent in my immediate area. But because I cover a several county area in bee removal for a pest company, I saw that ferals were rebounding very strong in ’prime bee habitat areas’; -with very massive nest structure and huge bee family population which indicated to me they were coping very well with the stresses from varroa and other diseases, and thus the basis for my ’sustainable bee population’ hypothesis.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kieck View Post
    OK, but this contradicts much of your position. If a single, unselected hive of bees just "happens to have" some resistance to mites, that suggests that the population on the continent already has the genetics to deal with the mites.
    NO, it does not contradict.

    I know that you are understanding and comprehending what I am saying for you have great intellectual abilities and I write in simple form, so please do not purposely misrepresent what I say.

    What I said was:
    “no doubt already having some resistance to varroa”

    “Some resistance” to varroa means just that, ‘some resistance’, and by no means suggests there is “sufficient resistance” OR sustainable resistance. There is a difference!

    Quote Originally Posted by Kieck View Post
    If that were the case, why are we still dealing with mites? As you point out (but modified), "these resistant bees should be distributed throughout the USA by now amongst ferals as well as domestic colonies."
    IMO, Resistant bees are not being distributed very well into domestic bee yards because the management style commercial operations and bee breeders often promote bees that are dependant on treatments for mite resistance. When a resistant colony does show up in a commercial bee yard, they often go unidentified as such, because the management style complicates the beekeepers ability do distinguish weather resistance is due to traits or treatments.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kieck View Post
    Oh, and by the way, you've got the methodology of the Seeley paper somewhat turned around. And the first possible conclusion suggested by Seeley in the paper is that "feral" bees may adopt grooming or hygienic traits to limit mite populations, rather than hosting avirulent mites.."
    Do you know what the above means?
    It means, Seeley is suggesting that a population of ferals may have traits that are separate, and not found in neighboring domestic colonies where Seeley obtained the domestic bees from for his experiment. Thought you said populations cannot be separate like that within such a small range?,,, This is in support of my ’sustainable population’ hypothesis. And why would Seeley say that unless he thought is was possible?

    As you are well aware, the money men of the beekeeping community latched onto the avirulent mite theory and spread that propaganda, while applying a debunk status to the idea that Seeley suggested a <<<“population of ferals”>>> may have developed resistant traits separate from that of nearby domestic beekeeping. Perhaps to protect the BIG EGOS, and their assertions that commercial bee breeding and scientists are the saviors of the honeybees and ferals are mutts.

    So to sum up, Seeley saying, “feral" bees may adopt grooming or hygienic traits”, is in support of my sustainable population theory (that bees in a micro population, can develop an order of traits unique to that population)

    Quote Originally Posted by Kieck View Post
    Also pertinent to this discussion, if you haven't read the paper or didn't catch it if you did read the paper -- a black bear destroyed a pair of the colonies in Seeley's study, one of the hives established from "Arnot Forest" stock, and one from New World Carniolan stock.
    Why were the ferals inside of trees not harmed by the bear? was this due to the ’luck’ that you promote? or were there measured reasons?

    Joe
    et apes condunt examina cavis corticibus, que alveo vitiosse ilicis. -Virgil
    “the bees conceal their swarms in hollow barks, and in the cavity of a rotten oak.”
    http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/H...eybeeArticles/
    Last edited by naturebee; 03-07-2009 at 10:04 PM. Reason: Adding smiley faces

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
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    Faulkner Manitoba, Canada
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    ok lets try this again, lost the previous post

    I believe that enviromental factors play more than a 50% in the health of a hive. If you have a "super bee", great, the only thing this super bee has created is a higher threshold of resistance to disease.
    The only way to ride out enviromental factors to keep the threshold of resistance up is through nutrition through out the year. I think nutrition is the key.
    For example, please bear with me, having a hard time putting it to words:

    Take a hive, lets say that resistance to the effects of varroa is 3% and nosema is 1,000,000 spores in a bee. Lets also say that pathogens exist in a hive in controlled amounts. The hive is keeping things undercontrol.
    Now add in an enviromental factor or two. You can pick from

    Drought,
    Rain excessive
    brutal winters
    dirth
    Unusually cool summer temperatures
    Unusual winter weather patterns (warm or cold)
    Large Late season, High Ash, Low nutritional value honey flows (ie. aster here in NY)
    High sustained winds
    Pesticide mortaltity
    Predators (skunks/bears/mice

    Now your resistance to the pathogens and mites have dropped. Instead of 3% varroa it might be 1% and instead of 1,000,000 spores of nosema, it is now 500 000. But the levels in the hive did not drop. They are still at 3 and 1,000,000. Now the hive is out of balance, not able to keep up to the disease and the other pathogens and now they increase causing hive failure.

    Clear as mud?
    In a super bee, the thresholds will be higher, but the thresholds can still decrease causing the same problem. Ultimately I think our key is nutrition and reducing the stresses we can place on a hive so the things we can not control do not reduce the resistance thresholds below a point which the hive can not handle.

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
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    Western Pennsylvania
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    Honeyshack, I agree 100 percent!
    During my experiential days (I’m not talking about the 70’s I mean my beekeeping experiential days), I had hives that I used Styrofoam for top insulation without upper vent. This created a great stress on the colonies from added moisture which sickened the bees and brood. A highly respected expert visited my apiary in the spring and stated he was confused as to why the mite counts were so low because they were clearly not hygienic bees due to some sac brood and wax moth found in brood. This, in spite of the fact that the bees tested nearly 100 percent hygenic in the months prior. When I removed the stryofoam and added an upper vent, the stress was relieved and the bees regained their hygenic abilities and cleaned out the mess.

    Joe

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
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    Faulkner Manitoba, Canada
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    Then we need to find ways that fit both the hobbiest and the commercial beeks way without pinching the pocket book. Remembering that one size does not fit all.
    And maybe one of those sizes could be rather than babying hives that can not do it with proper nutrition and beeks choice of treatments, maybe the, the weak hives need to be culled and the frames need to not go into other hives accidentally increasing the pathogens in the hive.
    i do not have the answer, I know what protocols i would follow in the event of disease, but what ever we decide has to be ecomonically viable.

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