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  1. #1
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    Default Evolutionary Theorist

    Hi, I'm new to the Beesource forums. My name is Mike Bispham and I live in the UK. I kept bees for around five years in the early 1990's, building up 6 hives from collected swarms. This was successful at first, but I was then hit by varroa. Told by my local beekeepers association that I must medicate with chemicals, and that there was a policy of destroying ferals that 'harboured' the disease, I gave up in disgust. I had been an organic gardener for around ten years, and understood instinctively that this was no way forward, although I couldn't put in to words why.

    I've spent the intervening years watching what I'd feared unfold, figuring out the 'why,' and putting it into words, using a two-handed approach.

    The first uses the principles of animal husbandry, with particular reference to breeding practices. It states that you never, ever, breed from sick stocks. Keeping sick bees alive to send their sick genes into future generations is quite simply stupid, and is the main cause of the crisis now facing beekeeping. This is backed up with an understanding of the mechanisms that operate in nature: 'Natural Selection for the Fittest Genes.' Evolutionary Theory explains how in Nature sick, or 'unadapted' animals die, and their genes cannot go forward. Those that do survive are 'adapted' to the new disease environment, and can thrive, and begin the longer proces of throwing off the parasite completely. Natural Selection keeps species in rude health by ruthlessly culling the sick and weak; and this process must be copied in sound husbandry in order to achieve the same end.

    And so now I'm an advocate for a version of 'organic' or 'natural' beekeeping that takes the rather extreme position of saying: we must allow our bees to live or die according to their viability in the local environment. To treat for diseases in any way - by medication, or by any of the many methods involving fiddling in the hives, simply makes future generations dependent upon our being present to do the same in the next generation. It also has the effect of sending the same unadapted genes into the wild, weakening the feral colonies.

    The result of these practices has resulted, here in the UK, in beekeeping becoming an unviable business, and ferals becoming non-existent. Despite the concerted attempts of regulators - who do exactly the wrong things - CCD has been unstoppable. This I hope serves as a warning for those who live in other parts of the world, who still have time to locate an clear understanding of what is going wrong, and what is needed for bees to return to rude health.

    I believe that much of what the 'regression' movement does, works with the grain of these principles, and that its successes are due to that fact. What you call 'regression' is actually mostly to allow natural selection for the fittest strains. The most important features are: A) that you do not medicate, and B) that you allow weak colonies to die. The result is adapted, disease-resistant bees. I think this is a great achievement.

    I hope I'll be able to discuss these ideas here with you, and look forward to your critiques of the theory underlying 'Evolutionary' beekeeping. I look forward too to the day when I can start keeping bees again here in the UK, and I hope I can help keepers in other countries prevent what has happened here.

    Sincerely,

    Mike Bispham

  2. #2
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    first off mike welcome aboard..

    secondly my background is not even 1 mm deep in evolutionary theory (although I do pass ideas pass mizz tecumseh who's educational background is quite robust in regards to the subject).

    just to cut to the chase mike... the flaw in your thinking is that there is a combination of gene that will allow a species to survive in the new 'altered' environment. quite obviously (based upon records of many types) it has not been that unusual for species to go extinct. the history of man's intervention suggest that moving 'species' about highly encourages these 'extinctions'. so what mike make you think this is not the case in regards to about a half a dozen introduced species interaction with the honeybee?

  3. #3
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    Hi Tecumseh

    Thanks for writing. i have to say, I'm not sure I understand your objection/s. I'll take a point at a time.

    I think what you are saying here ("... there is a combination of gene that will allow a species to survive in the new 'altered' environment.'') is that genetic variation within a species makes some local strains more likely to adapt to changes to the environment than others, and that these will produce the new generations?

    (If this is so) then you are quite right. However, by helping _all_ bees to survive in environments (think: 'disease environments') that would otherwise weaken or kill them, thus reducing or eliminating their capacity to reproduce, we interfere with the process of natural selection, and send the weak, unadapted genes foward into the future.

    This is all part of my thesis - there is no flaw.

    As to moving species about; in some cases this has helped species spread successfully into new territory - and this has been variously good or bad, depending on your point of view. Carrying diseases around, as beekeers have, is obviously bad. Carrying European bees to the US, as happen in the 16th Century is, most people would say, ok.

    That deals with your second point. Again it demonstrates no flaw in the application of evolutionary theory to honeybees; and shows no error in the central diagnosis; systematic medication and subsequent breeding from weak/sick/unadapted stock is the sole reason why bees are not gaining resistance.

    Lastly, you write: "so what mike make you think this is not the case in regards to about a half a dozen introduced species interaction with the honeybee?"

    Do you mean that you think I don't think that humanly introduced pathogens are not part of the equation? Of course I'm aware that beekeepers have spread many diseases around. Varroa, and the accompanying virus, baterial and fungal diseases have all been spread - mostly by queen and nuc dealers (and this should imo be banned).

    But recognising that does not take anything away from my thesis: that it is either natural selection or sound breeding practice that keeps a species healthy; and that it is the practices of beekeepers that ignore the principles of good husbandry that are the reason why bees (in most places) are currently unable to gain resistance, or immunity to the current disease environment.

    I think I've addresses your points, but if I haven't do write again and help me see what it is you think I'm getting wrong. It might be worth looking over my website first, and perhaps also visiting http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_selection for an introduction to evolutionary theory and the mechanism of Natural Selection.

    I hope that helps,

    Best wishes,

    Mike Bispham
    http://www.suttonjoinery.co.uk/CCD/

  4. #4
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    good mornin' to ya' mike from this side of the pond...

    a mike snip or two...
    I've spent the intervening years watching what I'd feared unfold, figuring out the 'why,' and putting it into words, using a two-handed approach.

    This is all part of my thesis - there is no flaw.

    tecumseh:
    as suggested by one of your own countrymen (betrand russell) 'why' is the improper question. he suggested that in the history of 'science' very little was accomplished in the first 1500 years (prior to the enlightenment) when folks stood about and ask the question 'why'. the enlightenment pushed forward the question of 'how' and much good has flowed from this subtle recasting of the question.

    all things done by man are flawed. we strive for perfection knowing perfectly well we will fall short of the mark. imho a great deal of falling short by man (and myself of coursee) is about setting the mark too low.

    another mike snip...
    I'm not sure I understand your objection/s

    tecumseh:
    I am not objecting I am simply asking questions.

    I will most certainly check out your web site when I am done typing here.

    my take (and cutting to the chase once again)... is that in the current environment and much like the subtle shifting of the question from why to how beekeepers (and bee breeders) need to shift their focus from selection to culling (culling being those individual that are not permitted to pass along genetic material). we rarely speak of culling but the rhetoric is much more likely to speak of breeding up to the varroa resistant honeybee... meanwhile we seem to overlook that in natural selection (especially of the most severe kinds whereby species commonly do go extinct) exteme culling is what is really taking place.

    thanks for the bit of conversation mike....

  5. #5
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    Hi Mike,

    Appreciate your thoughts. But, what is it that is new in your thinking? If you read some of the threads on this forum you will see that there are many beekeepers, both in the US and elsewhere, who have taken the approach of minimal or no intervention. That is, the bees live or die based on the ability of individual colonies to survive the various environmental stresses. The survivor stock is used to breed future generations and the survivor genetics are passed on to the genetic pool, hopefully, improving it. Of course, it is more complicated that just selecting for one trait, like Varroa resistance. There is survivability against other stresses, like climate and other pests/parasites, and there are the other behavior factors which we find desirable in our bees - productivity, gentleness, etc.

    But, I think you will find that there are many beekeepers, who have already taken the approach, to paraphrase Tecumseh, of culling the herd.

    Bill
    “If you want to gather honey, don't kick over the beehive.” - Dale Carnegie

  6. #6
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    Just read my post, which I wrote quickly while drinking morning coffee. Did not want to come across as negative and certainly appreciate the point of view and the time you took to post. Just running short of time and being too brief. Sorry about that.

    Bill
    “If you want to gather honey, don't kick over the beehive.” - Dale Carnegie

  7. #7
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    bill..
    I didn't find your comment negative at all. a bit brief but definitely not negative.

    after reading kevins links an objection plus a question or so came to mind...

    objection...
    linking ccd to one cause (and excluding the largest thee factors like foul brood, a. nosema and c. nosema) would appear not the best way to begin an argument defending a case or cause.

    question...
    since the natural selection link firmly establishes a link between breeding/reproductive age and selection in the purely 'natura; selection' environment there would be NO selection presssure againist varroa since varroa quite typically does it ultimate damage in year 2.

  8. #8
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    Darwin was the one who came up with the Natural Selection 'survival of the fittest' hoopla. Honeybees were one of the things he could not explain.

    I have honeybees that don't overwinter. You may call them sick/weak bees, but I call them drones.
    I have bees that can't live but a few days on their own. Sick? Weak? Or worker bees?
    I have bees that need 24/7 nurses present to feed, groom, and them them go potty. Sick, weak, and undeserving of breeding? Or queen bees?

    I remember reading an experiment a guy tried. (jean-marc?) He monitored mite drop in several hives to determine how fast mite populations were increasing. In the hives the mites reproduced the slowest, those hives were split. Over the course of a few years, he was able to select mites that were slow breeders. I think it was well over a week more time for the mite population to double than regular mites.

    Human selection like that holds a lot of promise too.

  9. #9
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    Honeybees are easy to explain in the "survival of the fittest" model. It's just a matter of thinking of the entire hive as a single organism/reproductive unit, rather than the individual bees (which are basically all just an extension of the queen).

    Country Boy describes (in other threads of this type) the death of a weak hive as a catastrophe.

    Survivor bee enthusiasts see the death of a weak hive as a necessary means of eliminating bad genes.
    What one man can do, another can do.

  10. #10
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    kelbee writes:
    Survivor bee enthusiasts see the death of a weak hive as a necessary means of eliminating bad genes.

    tecumseh:
    since the data suggest that under normal circumstanse it requires two years for varroa to kill a hive it would seem to me that in the purest sense these 'bad genes' are not eliminated.

    I could be wrong (like I stated previously I am no expert on evolutionary theory) but I wouldn't be surprised if the term 'survival of the fittist' was not even a phase used by Darwin. A lot of time such phases (catchy) are pick up after someone made some comments about someone else's work... which then over time get attributed to the original author.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by tecumseh View Post
    since the data suggest that under normal circumstanse it requires two years for varroa to kill a hive it would seem to me that in the purest sense these 'bad genes' are not eliminated.
    You are correct in that a long, slow death is a less effective means of eliminating bad genes. It comes down to whether the hive produced any offspring (cast a swarm, split, etc.) to perpetuate its genes before it died. Then there is the "drone factor" where drones likely scattered at least some of the genes. Clearly, the death of a single hive does not completely eliminate the bad genes. We can only hope to dilute out those bad genes as much as possible over time.

    Clearly a strong survivor hive over the course of its existence will reproduce much more effectively (cast more swarms, splits, queen rearing, etc.) and produce many more drones to perpetuate its genes than its weak nonsurvivor counterpart.

    Quote Originally Posted by tecumseh View Post
    I could be wrong (like I stated previously I am no expert on evolutionary theory) but I wouldn't be surprised if the term 'survival of the fittist' was not even a phase used by Darwin. A lot of time such phases (catchy) are pick up after someone made some comments about someone else's work... which then over time get attributed to the original author.
    Other than trying to give credit where credit is due, does it really matter who coined the term?
    What one man can do, another can do.

  12. #12
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    Default Natural Selection

    Tecumseh said:

    I could be wrong (like I stated previously I am no expert on evolutionary theory) but I wouldn't be surprised if the term 'survival of the fittist' was not even a phase used by Darwin. A lot of time such phases (catchy) are pick up after someone made some comments about someone else's work... which then over time get attributed to the original author.
    I made bold the remarks I wanted to "cull" from the herd. There are many "theories" about who or what the original "author" is. It may be "natural selection," or there may be "intelligent design!"

    Either way, as we observe the history of mankind, we notice him taking dominion over his environment and it's elements, in this case, bees. When man, the intelligent one (so they say) sees something he likes in a breed whether it be cow, dog, or bee, he has been the one to select the "qualities" he was looking for to use the element to his best good and gain.

    Ultimatley, time and nature are going to bring the strongest to the top, but man is always going to intervene as he sees possibilities to advance a controlable element (bees.)

    Though I strongly lean toward natural or organic beekeeping, I would also use methods in "that realm" that produce a strong healthy bee. I lean away from chemical, simply because we are pretty "earthy" around our house and we like things done as close to the Creative order as possible.

    Two cents worth,
    Ben

  13. #13
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    A little history about the phrase.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Survival_of_the_fittest

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by tecumseh View Post
    kelbee writes:
    Survivor bee enthusiasts see the death of a weak hive as a necessary means of eliminating bad genes.

    tecumseh:
    since the data suggest that under normal circumstanse it requires two years for varroa to kill a hive it would seem to me that in the purest sense these 'bad genes' are not eliminated.

    I could be wrong (like I stated previously I am no expert on evolutionary theory) but I wouldn't be surprised if the term 'survival of the fittist' was not even a phase used by Darwin. A lot of time such phases (catchy) are pick up after someone made some comments about someone else's work... which then over time get attributed to the original author.
    Hi Guys,

    Thanks for these very useful posts.

    Kelbee is right, it doesn't really matter who coined the term; but as well as clarification, the wiki article is also worth reading in my view for insights into the multiple nature of the mechanism it describes:

    " "Survival of the fittest" is a phrase which is shorthand for a concept relating to competition for survival or predominance. Originally applied by Herbert Spencer in his Principles of Biology of 1864, Spencer drew parallels to his ideas of economics with Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by what Darwin termed natural selection.

    Darwin first used Spencer's phrase "survival of the fittest" as a synonym for "natural selection" in the fifth edition of On the Origin of Species, published in 1869.[1][2] It is a metaphor, not a scientific description,[3] and is both incomplete and misleading. Survival is only one component of selection, and for example where a number of males survive to reproductive age, but only a few ever mate, the difference in reproductive success stems mainly from ability to attract mates rather than ability to survive. In an evolutionary sense, fitness is the average reproductive output of a class of genetic variants in a gene pool, and should not be confused with physically fit meaning biggest, fastest or strongest, which does not necessarily lead to reproductive success.[4] It is not generally used by modern biologists, who use the phrase "natural selection" almost exclusively.

    An interpretation of the phrase to mean "only the fittest organisms will prevail" (a view sometimes derided as "social Darwinism") is not consistent with the actual theory of evolution. Any individual organism which succeeds in reproducing itself is "fit" and will contribute to survival of its species, not just the "fittest" ones, though some of the population will be better adapted to the circumstances than others. A more accurate characterization of evolution would be "survival of the fit enough."[5]

    The phrase "survival of the fittest" is sometimes misunderstood to simply mean "survival of those who are better equipped for surviving," which is a rhetorical tautology. What Darwin meant was "better adapted for immediate, local environment", tracking changing environments by differential preservation of organisms better adapted to live in them. The theory is not tautological as it contains an independent criterion of fitness.[6]"

    I'd only want to add to the very interesting points raised: that it was Natural Selection that has enabled bees to adapt to the threats posed by countless new parasites, viruses, fungus and bacteria, as well as larger predators, over the 100 million or so years it has existed; and perhaps emphasis that it is human medication (in a broad sense) that disrupts the process.

    My webpages have been extended, and those interested in the role of natural selection generally, in the precepts guiding sound animal breeding practice, and several related issues will find lots to chew on there. http://www.suttonjoinery.co.uk/CCD/

    All best,

    Mike
    Last edited by mike bispham; 06-05-2009 at 08:17 AM.

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