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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
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    Washington County, Maine
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    Lightbulb Survivor Bee Experiment?

    If one were to conduct an experiment to see if survivor bees could indeed survive the twin scourges of Nosema and Varroa without the use of chemical treatments AND beekeeper intervention, what would the experiment look like?

    Would it be a legitimate test of the bees ability to survive if they are kept on large cell comb (with underlying plastic foundation)?

    Does anyone know (and can they share what they know) of commercially available "survivor" queens that are free from possible/probable AHB influence? (I understand Purvis is taking orders for 2012)

    Is it reasonable to posit that bees of survivor stock can be used in place of non-survivor stock bees - the primary difference in beekeeper handling being that no chemical treatments and/or manipulations in lieu of chemical treatments are used - that otherwise the bees are kept as the non-survivor bees are - and still produce a honey crop?

    Thanks in advance for thoughtful responses.
    Master Beekeeper (EAS) and Master Gardener (U Maine CE) www.beeberrywoods.com

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Tsawwassen, BC, Canada
    Posts
    280

    Default Re: Survivor Bee Experiment?

    I am surprised you got no replies on this Andrew!

    I have been wondering the same thing...how would you go about it? I guess you can start with mother hives stocked with queens from lines reputed to be resistant already...that kind of bee is available in the USA and to a smaller extent, or less formal extent, in Canada. You could just let the strains mix, and put out the daughter queens with minimal support, and just see who gets through to the next winter. And then keep breeding from survivor stock.

    There are the details...would you assess for mite loads or disease? Would you put all hives on small cell/foundationless comb? Would you monitor tendency to swarm, hive numbers, buildup profile, honey yield?

    I suspect the first order of business is to find true survivor genes and go from there.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
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    Washington County, Maine
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    Default Re: Survivor Bee Experiment?

    I ended up getting 8 packages from BeeWeaver in Texas. They built up slowly (on new equipment) and had no where near enough stores to make it through winter. So I have fed lots - 3 to 6 gallons of 2:1 sugar syrup per hive. Of note is 1 supercedure weeks after installation, and two failed colonies over the summer. One a drone layer or laying worker not discovered until it was too late, and the other looks like a late season abscond - very few bees and no queen left in the box. So 25% loss the first summer. The colonies were inspected last week by an inspector working for Tony Jadczak (Maine's Apiarist) and very few signs of virus were seen: a few brood cells were being chewed out; no obvious signs of dwv or anything else. No samples were taken for Nosema and no mite rolls were done. I generally do alcohol washes which are of course destructive and I have no wish to kill bees this time of year. I'll roll them for mites next June.

    The bees are on new Permadent foundation (5.2) with wax from my operation painted on to the foundation. The permadent is in new wooden frames.

    I will wrap these hives as I usually do with 15lb roofing felt and place 2" insulation between the inner and outer covers. (most likely next week)

    I hope to recover to 8 colonies next year in this yard by removing the queens from any colonies that build swarm cells and making nucs with them, then allowing the swarm cells to hatch and open mate.
    Master Beekeeper (EAS) and Master Gardener (U Maine CE) www.beeberrywoods.com

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Location
    Denver, Colorado
    Posts
    5,113

    Default Re: Survivor Bee Experiment?

    I have not heard of this permadent. I shall have to do some research.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Location
    Western Pennsylvania
    Posts
    2,071

    Default Re: Survivor Bee Experiment?

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Dewey View Post
    If one were to conduct an experiment to see if survivor bees could indeed survive the twin scourges of Nosema and Varroa without the use of chemical treatments AND beekeeper intervention, what would the experiment look like?
    Thanks in advance for thoughtful responses.
    Hi Andrew,

    I will be doing a similar experiment next spring.
    The plan is to test 6 feral stock and 6 commercial
    stock.

    The experiment will start with 12 feral colonies
    on 5.1 mm foundation, caught between May
    1 and May 15, and 6 requeened with commercial
    queens sometime around the middle of May.

    Will be checking mite loads once per month.

    I will be monitoring the growth stage
    (first 16 weeks)
    At least once a month checking:

    weight
    seams filled bees
    total brood area

    Best Wishes
    Joe Waggle
    http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/FeralBeeProject/
    http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/H...eybeeArticles/

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Baytown, TX., USA.
    Posts
    651

    Default Re: Survivor Bee Experiment?

    I bought two three lb packages from BeeWeaver this spring. One package arrived through USPS late and 2/3 of the bees were dead. Weaver replaced the package quickly.
    Presently both hives have one deep and three supers filled with bees and honey. They are a bit aggressive. Of course I am a newbie and clumsy in my beekeeping skills.
    At the same time I bought a package from a CA located supplier and installed them in a top bar hive. This is a weak hive prone to Ant attacks. Again mis-managed by me. A mild winter and better management should turn them into a strong hive next spring.
    I now have two trap hives out and hope to catch some wild bees in the spring. Maybe from my hives as there seem to be few wild bees about. I plan to let my hives re-queen themselves, maybe buy some feral queens if I can find them. Unless they get to Africanized then they will become feral. Bees are kept all around me so that may not produce true ferals, I will just go with the flow since to me it is a hobby and to some degree helping restore feral bees in the area.
    All of these bees come from treatment free suppliers and no signs of disease at this time. Time will tell. All three have screened bottom boards and bottom entry points. This is a mild climate and no special prep will be made for winter outside assuring that the bees have enough stores.
    Julysun elevation 23 feet. 4 Hives, 2 years.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Alachua County, FL, USA
    Posts
    7,103

    Default Re: Survivor Bee Experiment?

    Any such experiment would be more valid with 30 hives or more left for 5 to 7 years. They would have to be centered in a "bee desert", an area surrounded by territory bees cannot inhabit. We have two or three such experiments in Florida. We did a mite roll on one apiary yesterday and there were only 3-5 in each hive and we only found 3 small hive beetles in one hive. They are also bringing in honey while the nearest managed hives are being fed. The reason for isolation is bees will move into used equipment. Usurpation is another concern in AHB areas. Monitoring and marking queens in those areas is essential. You can work these girls without a veil also.
    americasbeekeeper.com
    beekeeper@americasbeekeeper.com

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Tsawwassen, BC, Canada
    Posts
    280

    Default Re: Survivor Bee Experiment?

    So many interesting projects are out there. AmericasBeekeeper, I don't know where I would have to go around my large urban area to isolate a mating yard like that...honestly! I think here you would have to find a little island offshore, and plant it with bee forage. Most of our local wild places are cedar at maturity, but of course have now been logged and re-logged, but humans inhabit the valleys and finding a remote bee free/bee isolated spot would be quite a feat.

    It is certainly not a feat open to my own self! I will have to set up as a guest on someone's land (until I win the lottery) and just try to stock with promising colonies, and increasingly let the daughter colonies fend for themselves. At least I do not have AHB to worry about.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Baytown, TX., USA.
    Posts
    651

    Default Re: Survivor Bee Experiment?

    Five to seven years! Wow. Thirty hives. Many of us are lucky to have 2 to 10 hives plunked down in the middle of urban areas that are out of our control. Since a bee hive changes it's personality every 5 to 10 weeks as the queen moves through her semen collection us small guys are faced with constantly changing hives. Still, shot-gunners kill more turkeys than riflemen. Going with the flow still allows us some selectivity in bee herding!
    Julysun elevation 23 feet. 4 Hives, 2 years.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Tsawwassen, BC, Canada
    Posts
    280

    Default Re: Survivor Bee Experiment?

    Julysun, the shotgun metaphor is too funny...and apt. We need to get as many backyard beekeepers as possible tinkering with what works, and trying out new stocks, mixing stocks. It increases our chance of finding tougher, hardier bees.

    I am reminded of the old Burpee Seed contest that ran for some years, in which the company asked all their customers to try to grow a green (or was it white?... it was some time ago, '80's I think) zinnia. A big prize awaited the lucky gardener who found one of these in their garden. The magic plant finally appeared and the industry went wild breeding them up. It is the same with our bees. The more hunters we have out there trying to find a resistant, survivor honeybee, the better our chances of finding/facilitating that rare beast when it appears.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Baytown, TX., USA.
    Posts
    651

    Default Re: Survivor Bee Experiment?

    "Did you know that most of the hybrid zinnias we have today are as a result of a single plant grown in an experimental field by Burpee? In the sixty-sixth row of this field was one plant that looked different than the rest-it has since come to be known as "Old 66." http://mrbrownthumb.blogspot.com/200...reen-envy.html

    Maybe some lucky Beek will hit an "Old 66" bee.
    Julysun elevation 23 feet. 4 Hives, 2 years.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Location
    Calvert, Md,USA
    Posts
    1,701

    Default Re: Survivor Bee Experiment?

    The apple we know as "Red Delicious" was a similar find as I recall. The rest is history

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Location
    Western Pennsylvania
    Posts
    2,071

    Default Re: Survivor Bee Experiment?

    Quote Originally Posted by AmericasBeekeeper View Post
    Any such experiment would be more valid with 30 hives or more left for 5 to 7 years. They would have to be centered in a "bee desert", an area surrounded by territory bees cannot inhabit.
    ...The reason for isolation is bees will move into used equipment. Usurpation is another concern in AHB areas
    America, That may be the case for your area.
    But here in PA, there is no such thing as 'bee deserts',
    tests must be performed based on our habitat which
    includes competition from the local bee population.
    There are mite pressures and competition from the local
    population, and these things must be considered in any
    test.

    I'm ok with 5 to 7 years.
    However, it is not necessary to have many hives
    to have a more valid test. Is 30 more valid than
    20,,, is 40 more valid than 30,,, is 50 more valid
    than 40...? etc.

    Here in my section of PA, it is rare to see an
    apiary of more than 5 perhaps 10 colonies,
    and ferals are abundant and scattered
    about. So If a 30 colony test were done in
    this area, it would need to reflect conditions
    which exist in this area to have any chance
    at being valid in this area. Test colonies would
    need to be scattered in yards of 5 to 10 colonies
    to better reflect beekeeping and feral habitat
    which exists here in order to apply to this area.

    Best Wishes
    Joe Waggle
    http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/FeralBeeProject/
    http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/H...eybeeArticles/

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Location
    Calvert, Md,USA
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    1,701

    Default Re: Survivor Bee Experiment?

    INteresting,,,,So many variables. I guess my question would be, why are they surviving? The foundation they are on, or aren't, some behavior like biting mites, VSH in whatever form, do they swarm and it is the brood break? Could mites have "localized" to some degree? Then, if I did all that, shipped a queen to another region, how long, if at all, would the next generations of bees, exhibit the traits? Crazy thinking out loud digitally

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Alachua County, FL, USA
    Posts
    7,103

    Default Re: Survivor Bee Experiment?

    Ocala National Forest is one such area. Except where a pine forest has been recently clear-cut, there is nothing for bees to feed on and they have little environment to nest in a managed pine forest. There are also a few islands in Florida, believe it or not.
    The quantity has to do with sample size. If you tell me there are no small hive beetles based on your two hives in Canada, I am less likely to accept it than a beekeeper with 700 hives that is or has been in various climates. That is probably why statistics is required for engineering/science degrees at the University of Maryland. You need to understand and use the probability of error for small samples.
    americasbeekeeper.com
    beekeeper@americasbeekeeper.com

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    Washington County, Maine
    Posts
    2,963

    Default Re: Survivor Bee Experiment?

    Well, no bee desert on my property here in Maine. The yard containing the TF bees is about a 1/4 mile from my treated bee yard and within a two mile zone that gets several drops of commercial bees used for blueberry pollination. So I guess I should be revising the experiment conditions to include coexisting with treated bees.

    On another note, my experiment with Russian stock is going to require some work on my part to keep going. I have two yards of Russians both located on organic farms. The yard going into its third winter is down to 1 colony and 1 nuc (out of 8 originally placed) and the second yard (going into its 2nd winter) is down to 1 colony from 6. There are more bees in boxes there; I had the State inspect them and the above numbers reflect what they thought would make it through winter. I'll be pleased if the inspector is wrong and more survive, but the guy knows his stuff, and i respect his opinion.
    Master Beekeeper (EAS) and Master Gardener (U Maine CE) www.beeberrywoods.com

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Tsawwassen, BC, Canada
    Posts
    280

    Default Re: Survivor Bee Experiment?

    Andrew, what factors are making yoru Russian stock dwindle? I take it they are a treatment free experiment?

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
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    Washington County, Maine
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    2,963

    Default Re: Survivor Bee Experiment?

    Varroa and resulting viruses. No treatments - though in yard 1 they are getting sugar syrup (just sugar and water) to get their weight up for winter. No honey harvested from yard. The 2nd yard produced about a shallow super of summer honey and stores are adequate for winter so no feeding.
    Master Beekeeper (EAS) and Master Gardener (U Maine CE) www.beeberrywoods.com

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
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    Tsawwassen, BC, Canada
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    280

    Default Re: Survivor Bee Experiment?

    What do you typically see in the life span of a treatment free colony?

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Poplar Bluff, Missouri, USA
    Posts
    2,308

    Default Re: Survivor Bee Experiment?

    Andrew, I haven't had much luck with my Russians either. Though for the most part the hives have survived, some as long as 5 years, they're just not that productive.

    WesternWilson, my oldest treatment free hive is 6 years old. I started with two, have expanded in the past 6 years to 32, all treatment free. What generally takes my colonies is starvation and queen issues, and one succumbed to the small hive beetle - my serious mistake.
    Regards,
    Steven
    "If all you have is a hammer, the whole world is a nail." - A.H. Maslow

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