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  1. #1
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    Default Saskatraz project

    Ian asked about the Saskatraz bees. I know a little about them, but very little.

    Albert Robertson is behind the project along with a group of Saskatchewan beekeepers. He has some fairly high credentials scientifically AFAIK.

    I know Albert and saw him in Orlando, but did not have a chance to talk much. Word has it that he lost his original colonies last winter, but those were old queens by now and kept for breeding. He still has the descendant stock. I had intended to chat with him, since I am interested in getting some strongly disease resistant bees and my friends think quite highly of his stock and use it in their commercial operation. I saw it last year while inspecting and the bees looked good, but they were not a gentle as some. Others are not as enthusiastic as my friends about the project, but I respect their judgement.

    Albert sells breeder queens, but they are expensive, and not, I am told, tested. He also has plans to reproduce his stock in Chile and have it shipped up, but the word is that the cost will be high. My friends buy cells from him, run them in a dedicated yard, do their own selection and reproduction and are quite pleased.

    So, there, I have told you more than I actually know. Corrections and additions to what I have offered here are welcome, but that gives us a start.
    Last edited by Allen Dick; 03-04-2010 at 08:15 AM. Reason: Typo: "Albert", not "Alberta"

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
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    Manitoba Canada
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    Default Re: Saskatraz project

    Hi Allen, I dont mean to discredit anything they are doing. I highly respect the project and support it 100%.

    What I am hearing from hear say, well, bit more than hear say, is that with all the progress they are making in terms of mite resistance they seem to have hit a brick wall. Grooming, mite searching, biting are all characteristics that the bees have acquired, but these traits havent been able to overcome the pressures of the mite.
    They mention needing an intervention treatment in the hives within 3 years. Which is good, but not exactly what they are looking for.

    Another interesting comment was they are finding the bees getting smarmy. And they are speculating that perhaps the bees are building a swarmy behaviour as another method to counter the mite. This is really interesting to me. After all the stock selection for grooming traits and such, the bees are reverting to the good old brood less/queen replacement method of mite control.

    I am no scientist. I am not involved in this project. I am just hearing thoughts that have come from this project.

    If someone who is involved with this breeding project could chime in, please. I am very curious.
    Nobody wants a swamy bee. If what I am hearing is wrong, then correct me please
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
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    Faulkner Manitoba, Canada
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    1,698

    Default Re: Saskatraz project

    Allbert is supposed to be at the bee seminar in Brandon on Friday. Might give more information then

  4. #4
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    Jan 2009
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    Swalwell, AB
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    Default Re: Saskatraz project

    104th MBA CONVENTION
    2010 MANITOBA BEEKEEPERS' ASSOCIATION CONVENTION
    CANAD INNS BRANDON – KEYSTONE CENTRE (Salon A)
    BRANDON MANITOBA
    MARCH 5 & 6, 2010
    http://www.manitobabee.org/bulletins.shtml

    4:45 p.m. Friday:
    Saskatraz Breeding Program – Dr. Albert Robertson, Meadow Ridge Enterprises, Saskatoon, SK

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Saskatraz project

    Ill be there
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  6. #6
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    Manitoba Canada
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    Default Re: Saskatraz project

    I went to the seminar, listened to all his results, and really dont know what to think about it.

    What he was showing was quit interesting. He definitely has been able to segregate and narrow his breeding to target both SMR and VHS traits. Plus he has shown the ability to keep his hives vigorous and honey producing.
    That very fact is real exciting! Varroa tolerance and producing is exactly what we want.

    But after all that was shown, graphs, charts, and more graphs and charts, his hives were still unable to break the two or three year life span without virtually completely yard die out.

    So basically, without beekeeper intervention, his hives managed another year without treatments.

    I will be watching this project well into the future. I think projects like this can only benefit the beekeeping community.
    It will be real interesting to see if they indeed are able to continue to breed and improve the SMR and VHS traits in the bees or if the bees will start to acquire alternative methods of mite management

    Randy Oliver, who also spoke at the convention, made a real interesting comment during one of his presentations. (and I have to add, he is one great presenter, although some of what he was mentioning works great in California, not so much Manitoba)
    I paraphrase, 'in nature, for an organism to acquire one trait advantage, it usually is offset by losing another trait advantage'. So basically, he was mentioning we cant expect to gain everything we want in our bees, we might have to sacrifice some trait we really appreciate in our hives.

    Is that sacrifice swarming? I hope not. yet it would be more manageable than the mites are right now!
    is that sacrifice gentleness,? Is it honey producing?

    What do you guys think about all of this? I mean we ("the industry") have been breeding bees for tolerance and resistance for some time now, and are we making anymore progress in our fight against varroa than we did 5 years ago? How much more SMR or VHS can we get the hives? Even the pure line SMR and VHS lines dont seem to survive real commercial time for longer than 3 years or so.

    Do you guys agree? What do you think?
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  7. #7
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    Jan 2009
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    Swalwell, AB
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    Default Re: Saskatraz project

    > ...his hives were still unable to break the two or three year life span without virtually completely yard die out. So basically, without beekeeper intervention, his hives managed another year without treatments.

    That is pretty good. I guess the question is, what is causing the eventual death? Is it mites levels increasing, or is it a build-up of secondary diseases and pathogens? Was any answer given?

    > ... So basically, he was mentioning we cant expect to gain everything we want in our bees, we might have to sacrifice some trait we really appreciate in our hives.

    That is a general rule, and applies in the short term in limited populations. We have a long time ahead of us and huge populations, so my guess is that we will see an eventual victory, assuming that we are not totally swamped by something new in the meantime.

    > How much more SMR or VHS can we get the hives? Even the pure line SMR and VHS lines dont seem to survive real commercial time for longer than 3 years or so.

    There are management techniques that involve constantly making new colonies and disposing of the old. They can even work in the North, although there is more work, equipment and expertise required. Plus there is more risk.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
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    FRASER VALLEY, BRITISH COLUMBIA
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    1,276

    Default Re: Saskatraz project

    Very costly management to set up new colonies and dispose of the old. I do the set up the new colonies part, don't have the heart to dispose of the old but if we are to run into troubles with bees it's always with the old queens. Slowly I'm leaning towards running two outfits, one for this year, one for next year.

    Jean-Marc

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    souris, manitoba, canada
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    Default Re: Saskatraz project

    Ahh!! Jean Marc you seemed to have hit the crux of the problem of keeping bees in these risky times with mites and there viruses.Because I have my lowest loses with new queens over winter, I have in the past two queened everthing,splitting and installing a young laying queen as early as possible in the spring and uniting the two in sept.Old queen is usually killed by the younger one.These two queeners require intensive management, prone to swarming, get to be 7-8 or more high, fall over easily,require a step ladder to pull honey, and are hard on both men and equipment.Large bee populations can be scary if hot or Africanized.Make for long days and long weeks in the extracting room. They do quite often produce more than two and one half times what a single queen colony would produce, they start the flow early, no waiting for build upon the flow, if my timing and feeding are co-ordinated.Several options are avaiable when you get a large population early, pulling one or two frames for nuc's in june or Aug1 .Early nuc's are with cells and later on nuc's are with laying queens,these can be boosted after queen is up and running, or if two young queens are present in each brood chamber in the fall , a box containing half honey and half empty frames is added as a second and feed is put on.This last option is for quick expansion of colony numbers.I rarely have time to do all this nucing that I should be doing. Bees and honey both are not cheap to produce, vary sometimes greatly with each season, but if you have the bees the honey usually follows

    I am thinking that mite resistant bees, say Keefus line, that have been in existence for a number of years, the number or sequence of genes, alleles, it is so fragile, easily out crossed, or lost by outside breeding that it would be difficult but not impossible to keep, easier if all your neighbors have the same genes.
    Mr Robertson should be commended for his work with these lines,colonies, which continued to increase in honey production as well as a certain amount of mite resistance and I understand his work is not finished yet.It would seem this selection of lines is slower than the bond method of live or let die, but in that method one could end up with nothing, everything dead
    Last edited by irwin harlton; 03-07-2010 at 07:58 PM. Reason: info added

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    Manitoba Canada
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    Default Re: Saskatraz project

    yes, these hives are surviving one more year than the control hives. This is buys us the ability to pencil out an internal nuc replacement program. We need to be able to stretch the hives life time for at least 3 year for it to work out though,
    It also provide us the flexibility to use alternative hive treatments if conditions one year isnt favorable for it.

    Irwin, I see alot of advantages to your hive arrangement. you have to admit though, it isnt sustainable on its own without treatments though,? unless you have a nucing program in place, young queens can only keep ahead of the mites to a certain point.

    >>There are management techniques that involve constantly making new colonies and disposing of the old. They can even work in the North, although there is more work, equipment and expertise required. Plus there is more risk.

    I cant pencil it out. It definatly helps,
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

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