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  1. #1
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    Default Queen Quality Over Subsequent Generations

    I know a beekeeper who evaluates quite a few queens annually. With the commercial queen producer he uses, he finds that about 1 in 75 queens is a super great queen that stands out in quality over and above the average good queen.

    These 1 in 75 queens are certainly ones we want to breed from, but they are uncommon and you have to test a lot of queens to find many. It is unknown what percentage of queens are culled by the queen producer before shipment, so these queens are likely much rarer than 1 in 75.

    Last year I started raising queens (other than walkaway splits). I bred from my best overwintered hives. I would see sister queens in the same nuc yard that built up slowly, and some that exploded.

    I raised about 30 queens. Of the 30, 10 didn't mate, or were so weak they got robbed out or I shook them out. Of the 20, most were similar quality, and I had a few boomers. I didn't keep track of what percent were really good ones. (This is not factoring in potential winter losses yet either.)

    If the F1 parent generation produces super great queens 1 in 75, and you breed from the super great queens, what percent of the F2 generation will be super great queens when they are open mated? Or F3 or F4?

    In theory, it 'should' be a better percentage - but do I need to have the mating area flooded with drones from super great queens also before I see noticeable benefits?

    If you just have normal quality drones, does the occurrence of the super great queens become 1 in 150 until you get the quality of drones improved over the course of several years?

  2. #2
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    Re: Queen Quality Over Subsequent Generations

    The simple answer is..YES. The keys to any "great" stock are time and numbers. It takes time to hand select the very best queens every year... and a vast number of hive to study to be able to find those "Superior" ones...

    If you graft off of your best "hive" and then graft from the best hive of one of the offspring in the following season, you can start bouncing back and forth, depending on your drone stock.

    To a serious queen breeder, raising drones is actually his top priority. In our operation, we pick through thousands of hives, selecting the best of the best, then use those to produce drones in the mating yards, and then start our search all over again the next season because the stock that we produce each year will keep getting better and better as we continue to eliminate weaker stock and add to the stronger stock... Its equally important to keep solid records of each graft, and placement of every queen, so that your diversity will never be compromised.

    Hope this makes sense...

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Queen Quality Over Subsequent Generations

    Theoretically, if you keep improving your yard by requeening with daughters of a good queen, you should be developing a drone population with a similar genetic background as the "1-in-75" daughter, even if the drones aren't from her. It improves your chances of getting more queens with characteristics similar to the original P queen.
    So if you replace mediocre queens with daughters of good potential you *should* improve the hand you've been dealt, and have better queens to choose from every cycle.

    ..theoretically.

    Of course open mating is a crap shoot unless you own all the bees in an area, and I have next to no experience, but if you put serious selective pressure on your breeding queens and stack the drones in your favor, you should notice your stock drifting towards the traits you desire within a few generations, ie 2-3 years. At least I hope so.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Queen Quality Over Subsequent Generations

    Here we go...
    A very simplistic, theoretical, academic, don't-jump-all-over-me demonstration of roughly how the numbers should work.

    Assume a recessive single "good queen" gene allele called "a" which produces a good queen "aa" when homozygous (two copies of the same allele or "variety of the gene").

    "A" is the mediocre variety of the same gene which is dominant over the good allele and cancels it out. So "AA" and "Aa" queens are mediocre
    .
    You always pick a "good" queen as a breeder every round and replace all your queens that produce drones with her untested daughters every cycle.

    We also assume you are living on an magical isolated island with no other bees or selective pressures for this gene or effects of linkage, and possibly lots of dandelions and clover and mild winters, but no bears or mice

    ..........AA........Aa.......aa
    P.......58.7.....15.3.......1.0
    f1.........0.0.....66.3.....8.7
    f2.........0.0.....33.2.....41.8
    f3.........0.0.....16.6.....58.4
    f4.........0.0.....8.3.......66.7
    f5.........0.0.....4.1.......70.9
    f6.........0.0.....2.1.......72.9
    f7.........0.0.....1.0.......74.0
    f8.........0.0.....0.5.......74.5
    f9.........0.0.....0.3.......74.7

    so in the P round 1 out of 75 is "aa"
    after three generations about 58 out of 75 are expected to be "aa"
    by f9 the mediocre allele is rare.

    Real world mileage will vary, but the point is that strict selection regimes are very powerful tools.
    Last edited by bot; 12-06-2010 at 02:45 AM. Reason: reformatted table

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Queen Quality Over Subsequent Generations

    Quote Originally Posted by Countryboy View Post

    If the F1 parent generation produces super great queens 1 in 75, and you breed from the super great queens, what percent of the F2 generation will be super great queens when they are open mated? Or F3 or F4?

    In theory, it 'should' be a better percentage - but do I need to have the mating area flooded with drones from super great queens also before I see noticeable benefits?
    In fact, unless you know what genes code for the traits you are looking for, as well as the allele variation for those genes and their relationships to one another, this is fairly impossible to say.

    bot's analysis is accurate - however (and not criticizing the work - just pointing out some of the bigger picture), bot's analysis makes two BIG assumptions:

    1. Only ONE gene and ONE allele code for the desirable trait(s)

    2. That ONE desirable allele is recessive

    These assumptions ignore factors that affect phenotypic ratios such as codominance, incomplete dominance, pleiotropy and polygenetic inheritance.

    Unless the honeybee genome has been mapped (and maybe it has, I don't know) and the molecular structure and effect of every allele in that genome is known and understood - it is impossible to predict accurately F2 percentages and beyond with just a few generations of data.

    Mendel worked out his percentages on pea plants only after (literally) thousands upon thousands of generations - and he was fortunate in that he was investigating mostly simple dominant/recessive relationships (as in bot's example, but which Mendel wasn't even aware of at the time).

    Even Mendel's work was confused by genetic variables that Hugo DeVries encountered when he tried to replicate the work (mutations).

    The only real way to hope to make these types of predictions (without having the mapped genome) is to keep meticulous records regarding the results of your crosses for hundreds of generations (as Mendel did) and then look for the patterns back through the data.

    Good Luck! But that is why I am NOT a geneticist!

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Queen Quality Over Subsequent Generations

    Another important point that I forgot to mention is that while we can think of the hive as the offspring of a single queen, it actually has multiple drone fathers, which would have a blurring effect for the expressed trait (phenotype). So in my simple model "AA" and Aa" are "mediocre" and "aa" is "good", a real hive and/or batch of daughters is going to be a proportional mix of the three based on the frequency in the drone population and pure chance. There will be shades of grey.

    And as NDnewbeekeeper said there are big assumptions being thrown about here in my example, but in general with good record keeping to identify good queens, and requeening your hive and your neighbor's hives you should see results.

    Unless Darwin and Mendel were wrong
    s

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Queen Quality Over Subsequent Generations

    To a serious queen breeder, raising drones is actually his top priority. In our operation, we pick through thousands of hives, selecting the best of the best, then use those to produce drones in the mating yards, and then start our search all over again the next season because the stock that we produce each year will keep getting better and better as we continue to eliminate weaker stock and add to the stronger stock... Its equally important to keep solid records of each graft, and placement of every queen, so that your diversity will never be compromised.

    In my corner of the county, I have a handful of yards that are about 2-3 miles apart from each other. I have a county map with all the roads, and I draw 2 mile diameter circles around each yard so that I can see what kind of coverage I get from a bird's eye view. I believe there are more feral hives than hobbyist hives in the area. (as best I can tell)

    Right now the central yard is the yard I used to raise and mate queens.

    I use quite a bit of foundationless frames in my broodnest. If the bees drew a lot of drone comb, I move those droney combs to the outside. For what I am doing, would the best way for me to improve the good drone supply to put a frame of droney comb in the center of the broodnests of good/above average hives in all my yards?

    Or should I pick out my best hives in the spring, and then make sure I have one of these 'best' overwintered hives at each yard, and put a couple drone combs in the center of the broodnest and then use breeder queens to raise daughter queens, instead of using my best overwintered hives to raise daughter queens from?

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Queen Quality Over Subsequent Generations

    I don't mean to ramble on, its just that I'm just starting down the queen-rearing road so this is a topic that is on my mind lately. Hopefully a few more experienced voices will chime in.

    I think the best thing you can do is requeen anything that isn't above average with daughters of your best queens, perhaps in the form of last year's last batch of queens that have been overwintered in nucs, or this year's first batch. There is a fair bit of lag between requeening and getting serious numbers of drones, so if you want to keep the last round of this year's queens for stock improvement you need to improve your sub-par drone sources early.

    Here's a Marla Spivak reference that might be of interest

    http://www.extension.umn.edu/honeybe...k_oct_2009.pdf

    The comparison at the bottom of table 1 (section 3) shows the improvement of VSH frequency over four years of queen selection.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Queen Quality Over Subsequent Generations

    Raising daughters of the breeder, and daughters of the daughters, when the yard is saturated with brothers of the daughters - when does genetic depression start degrading the progeny? If the best daughters, or successive generations, mate with drones of the same mother, heterosis decreases with each generation.
    americasbeekeeper.com
    beekeeper@americasbeekeeper.com

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Queen Quality Over Subsequent Generations

    That's a good point. In my situation I have enough drones from sources out of my control that I'm assuming this isn't a problem. But it could be an issue if you are very secluded or have a big enough operation that you control all the drones.
    You could always bring in outside queens now and again. The nice thing about drones is that they are more like brothers than offspring, which gets you genetically closer to a proven queen even if you you only spring for one that is open-mated .

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Queen Quality Over Subsequent Generations

    Raising daughters of the breeder, and daughters of the daughters, when the yard is saturated with brothers of the daughters - when does genetic depression start degrading the progeny?

    That's not what I'm asking, and is going in the opposite direction I want to go. I am not talking about inbreeding.

    If you have one really good queen, (a 1 in 75 queen) and her daughters are open mated...what percentage or ratio of the daughters will be really good queens like the queen mother?

    If those good daughter queens are open mated, (in that yard or in a different yard) what percentage or ratio of the offspring will be really good queens that exhibits characteristics of the queen grandmother?

    What I am trying to find out is how fast good genetic traits dilute out. (Or is dilution/dissipation so fast that inbreeding is required to retain the genetic traits?)

  12. #12
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    Re: Queen Quality Over Subsequent Generations

    Quote Originally Posted by Countryboy View Post
    [I]I use quite a bit of foundationless frames in my broodnest. If the bees drew a lot of drone comb, I move those droney combs to the outside. For what I am doing, would the best way for me to improve the good drone supply to put a frame of droney comb in the center of the broodnests of good/above average hives in all my yards?

    Or should I pick out my best hives in the spring, and then make sure I have one of these 'best' overwintered hives at each yard, and put a couple drone combs in the center of the broodnest and then use breeder queens to raise daughter queens, instead of using my best overwintered hives to raise daughter queens from?
    Your on the right track... The thing to remember is that the queens genetics pass down in a lesser amount to the offspring than that of her mates... The average is about 43%-Queen and 57%-Drones... That said there are a few other factors to consider... the queen will mate with 12-17 drones on average... these drones can ALL come from different hives... thus mixing stock from upto 18 different hives at once... The next variable is that drones are excepted in any hive...this is just natures way of enabling diversity... drones can travel for miles, then stay overnight in a distant hive, then travel further the next day and so on until they reach a saturated area.

    Thats the natural order of things, now this is how you regain control to use this order to your benefit...

    As you said, you will want drone frames to use at your own disposal... when bees make natural wax they produce more drone cells automatically... but if you can, I would suggest a few drone frames for creating a heavy population when the time comes.

    First remove as much of the drone comb as you can, so that you can more easily see what the population buildup will be (if a great hive this year has lots of drone comb in it for mating, it will not have as many workers in spring because there are not as many worker cells as there are in the other hives). Next study, study, study your hives... You need to know everything about them... write down your goals of what you think would make the best hive, then study and grade every single hive on these points.... in spring you will want to graft out of the very best oneS (note that its plural... you want to graft smaller numbers of cells, yet from a larger number of hives... this is where you break the "daughter/sister/brother" cycle).

    The next best hives are the ones that get your drone combs... NOT the grafting hives, and NOT your cell builders (you will need as many nurse bees as you can get to build your cells, dont waste the space here with drone comb).

    You have to repeat this method year after year until you have repopulated your own yards with bees that meet your goals... Remember to keep a list of what you grafted from and where you put those queens... you want to keep mixing that up as much as possible... With your yards being so close together, I would certainly treat each yard as if it were in my mating yard...

    Good Luck. I would be happy to help in any way that I can!

  13. #13
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    Re: Queen Quality Over Subsequent Generations

    Quote Originally Posted by Countryboy View Post
    What I am trying to find out is how fast good genetic traits dilute out. (Or is dilution/dissipation so fast that inbreeding is required to retain the genetic traits?)
    "Good traits" dissipate with generations... every queen that you graft from a "good" queen will have almost half of her traits... so you need "good" drones and nothing else in the mating area.

    Inbreeding is not hard to avoid... it just takes a good number of hives to keep things diverse... One thing that will help you greatly is to mix up your genetics by adding a few breeders from seperate origins. Then graft from a few to requeen some of your hives in seperate yards.

    The way the "bred" genetics leave is through generational evolution... If you allow the queens that you breed to swarm, and you do not have drone cells in the right place at the right time, you will begin to regress your breeding practices... clipping wings may help, but can also lower longevity and acceptance. You are on the right track...
    Last edited by Barry; 12-06-2010 at 10:21 PM. Reason: excessive quoting

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Queen Quality Over Subsequent Generations

    What percentages of drones from your actual yard are mated to the daughters. I know you can saturate an area, however without I.I. you really can not put a percentage or number on an openly mated queen. You will always have a percentage +/- what when openly mating a queen.

    It is interesting 1 in 75 have optimal queens.

    How are the large queen producer determining there genetic stock of openly mated hives. I know a lot wait to see a brood pattern, but then you are waiting what another 12 to 24 days to determine their attitudes?

    These are more or less questions. I have studied the genetic charting, but it is diffiecult to tell what a queen is mated with in openly mated operations. Most detail studies use I.I. that gave enough detail.

    Can someone explain how you determine the genetic traits in openly mated operations and give some +/-%.

    Sorry if I confuse, but mating is confusing to me. I hope to start next year and would love to have some hard facts to work with.

    I am assuming most breeder queens are I.I. or have been kept long enough to determine that they have the desired traits to become breeder queens?

    Thanks

  15. #15
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    Re: Queen Quality Over Subsequent Generations

    Controling your drone comb placement is how you keep from breeding from within the same line.

    It is important to graft from seperate hives than your drone stock, and even grafting from your furthest yard away from your mating yard can be a plus.

    If all of your hives were queened from a single order from a queen breeder, chances are, your queens are from the same graft...

    Good breeders graft from multiple hives at once and then mix the cells throughout their mating nuks...

    For example... We may graft from 40 seperate hives at one time, then place the cells into completely seperate cell builders, then plant the cells into our nucs in such an order that each box has a cell from a different hive, then mark where this cycle starts over again... Then when catching queens for our customers, we can be sure that they will receive queens from 40 different "families"... In orders of 80 they would receive 2 queens from each "family", yet the two queens will be mated by a different mixture of drones (in theory).

    Yet in smaller orders, no two queens will come from the same graft.

    How do we get an idea of what makes what when open mating? Simple... Years and years and years and years of maticulous record keeping, studying, hive placement, drone comb placement, and isolated mating yards... ok, I take it back... not so "simple". But it is not as bad as it sounds.

    In most of our mating yards, I know the colonies that I have placed drone combs in so well, that I can give you a good estimate on what kind of bees the mating yard will produce. But this is just from experience and studying each hive year round.

    Breeder queens can either be I.I. queens, or open mated queens that have led a colony for a full year, this way you know exactly what they are producing and you are sure that they meet or exceed all of the goals that you were hoping to acheive.

    By grafting from breeders like this, you can take away almost half of the guess work...(as about 43% of the genetics of those queens will pass on to their offspring... the other 57% or so, will come from the drones that she mated with).

    Select the highest quality hives in your yards for producing drones, take away as many chances for weaker quality drones to reach your mating yard, and graft from select breeders... then you will have a great stock.

    Hope this helps!

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Queen Quality Over Subsequent Generations

    Thank you russel that explains of my confusion.

    BTW I did send an email earlier today

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