Quote Originally Posted by Fusion_power View Post
Adamf, My statement was made based on 20 years of seeking and raising various types of varroa tolerant bees, not just from reading articles on the internet. In the early years from the roughly 1990 invasion of Varroa into the U.S., the major resistance mechanism was breaks in brood rearing. Any way you slice it, those breaks wound up cutting honey production. Along the way, a few colonies were found that were naturally tolerant to varroa without the brood breaks. In retrospect, these were either highly hygienic or else mite mauling bees. Most feral bees were wiped out. Selection within the pool of survivors is gradually increasing the mite tolerance traits in our feral population.
Okay FP. Those "gems" are raw material for selection.

When the Russian queens were brought in, researchers at first called the tolerant genetics "SMR" because they did not understand the mechanisms involved. These bees exhibit very high levels of mite tolerance, but if line bred too closely, they exhibit traits like uncapping and removing even healthy brood. This trait seems to be a case of a little bit is good, but too much is a problem. If you are not familiar with this aspect of VSH, I suggest you check with Glenn Apiaries, they deal with it on a regular basis.
SMR/VSH trait selection doesn't/didn't have anything to do with Russian bees. You are mixing the two up. We use VSH/SMR stock in our breeding program and have used it since it first became available. There was initially a problem with over-zealous uncapping but that was resolved--it's in the literature, and in the success of VSH stock now performing as well as any other "commercial" stock with some crossing and selection.

That gets us to the essence of my statement. When you consider all the queen breeders in the U.S., less than 10% are raising highly varroa tolerant queens. That number is increasing rapidly as breeder queens with high levels of mite tolerance become more common. The problem I see is that these tolerant queens are based almost entirely on the VSH trait. This trait has known problems when concentrated.
I'd check this. You're concerned about a problem that has been resolved.

As I stated, brood production is reduced and honey production is reduced too. That you actively select for both production and tolerance is the path we should be going forward, but I would bet a dollar that you either don't actually screen your breeder queens to see which trait they are exhibiting or else don't actively seek other traits like mite mauling in your breeding lines.
Ha ha! You would lose that dollar! You're oversimplifying VSH expression to be black or white. Assume that VSH expression is not a negative, but an additive. By selecting for it AND for other good traits, one is breeding excellent stock. More and more breeders are using VSH stock in their programs. Are they doing this because they want their stock to perform less well? No. More queen producers are buying-into using VSH expressing stock. Most bee breeders have something with VSH going--depending on what their breeding objectives are.

My reason for starting this thread is because we are at the tipping point where bees in the U.S. are finally going to be mostly varroa tolerant. I would like to see more effort made to increase the mite mauling trait in our bees. That is the one trait you don't mention selecting for and arguably it is the trait most needed to finally get away from using chemicals.
I did an experiment back in 1996 that looked at grooming in colonies. I found that all colonies groom, some more then others. Yes, to combine grooming with VSH would be a good thing. You wouldn't lose a dollar bet if you gambled that that is being done now.

Adam Finkelstein
www.vpqueenbees.com