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  1. #1
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    Default Coevolution of Honey Bees and Varroa Mites: A New Paper

    Here's a beautiful new paper. Look at this statement:

    "Coevolution by natural selection in this system has been hindered for European honey bee hosts since apicultural practices remove the mite and consequently the selective pressures required for such a process."

    More sound backing for the understanding: treatments ('apicultural practices') prevent the rise of resistance which otherwise occurs rapidly.

    Mike

    Host adaptations reduce the reproductive success of Varroa
    destructor in two distinct European honey bee populations
    Barbara Locke, Yves Le Conte, Didier Crauser & Ingemar Fries

    Ecology and Evolution 2012; 2(6):
    1144–1150
    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ece3.248/pdf

    Abstract
    Honey bee societies (Apis mellifera), the ectoparasitic mite Varroa destructor, and honey bee viruses that are vectored by the mite, form a complex system of host–parasite interactions. Coevolution by natural selection in this system has been hindered for European honey bee hosts since apicultural practices remove the mite and consequently the selective pressures required for such a process. An increasing mite population means increasing transmission opportunities for viruses that can quickly develop into severe infections, killing a bee colony. Remarkably, a few subpopulations in Europe have survived mite infestation for extended periods of
    over 10 years without management by beekeepers and offer the possibility to study their natural host–parasite coevolution. Our study shows that two of these "natural" honey bee populations, in Avignon, France and Gotland, Sweden, have in fact evolved resistant traits that reduce the fitness of the mite (measured as the reproductive success), thereby reducing the parasitic load within the colony to evade the development of overt viral infections. Mite reproductive success was reduced by about 30% in both populations. Detailed examinations of mite reproductive parameters suggest these geographically and genetically distinct populations favor different mechanisms of resistance, even though they have experienced similar selection pressures of mite infestation. Compared to unrelated control colonies in the same location, mites in the Avignon population had high levels of infertility while in Gotland there was a higher proportions of mites that delayed initiation of egg-laying. Possible explanations for the observed rapid coevolution are discussed.
    Anti-husbandry: Medication + Reproduction = Continuing Sickness
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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Coevolution of Honey Bees and Varroa Mites: A New Paper

    ...hence, the comeback of the feral bee in many locations.

  3. #3
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    Sep 2007
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    JACKSON OHIO
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    486

    Default Re: Coevolution of Honey Bees and Varroa Mites: A New Paper

    yep same here
    Quote Originally Posted by Paul McCarty View Post
    ...hence, the comeback of the feral bee in many locations.

  4. #4
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    Tucson, Arizona, USA
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    Default Re: Coevolution of Honey Bees and Varroa Mites: A New Paper

    Perhaps also, why the Varroa mite never really caused much of a problem, here in my apiaries.
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Coevolution of Honey Bees and Varroa Mites: A New Paper

    I once had Les Crowder tell me that the bees we have now in the wild are there because the have adapted to the mites and should require no treatments. I tend to agree.

  6. #6
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    Washington County, Maine
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    Default Re: Coevolution of Honey Bees and Varroa Mites: A New Paper

    Hurrah! The bees are starting to coexist with mites successfully. There is unfortunately a disconnect between the people lauding this study and the people who are commercial beekeepers - that is - the potential for 100% loss of bees by the commercial beekeeper. That could very well put the beekeeper out of business. I applaud those who are big enough to play the percentage game and live in climates where rebuilding stocks are possible. It isn't for everyone. I continue to search for genetics that will make it treatment free in my climate. I am heavily feeding my yard of treatment free bees from Texas. They stored no where near enough honey to get them through a typical Maine winter. Should I just let them die because they weren't good enough to make it? I think not, as I want them to have another chance at getting accustomed to Maine and what they need to do to survive up here. If i let them die, I'm out a bunch of money and am still looking for "good" genetics. Studies like the one mentioned are encouraging and serve to remind us that in beekeeping there is no one size fits all answer.
    Master Beekeeper (EAS) and Master Gardener (U Maine CE) www.beeberrywoods.com

  7. #7
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    Mar 2012
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    North Berwick, Maine, USA
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    45

    Default Re: Coevolution of Honey Bees and Varroa Mites: A New Paper

    Andrew - Have you ever tried Kirk Webster's stock? I have two nucs on order for next year. He's not a small cell guy. His are on 5.2 and his bees coexist with mites. VT is pretty close in terms of climate. If you are near the cost you have much more humidity to deal with than I do. I'm anxious to find other folks with his bees and find out what their experience has been.

  8. #8
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    Dec 2002
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    5,113

    Default Re: Coevolution of Honey Bees and Varroa Mites: A New Paper

    I took some time to sit down and read the whole paper last night.

    I don't meant to toot my own horn, but this paper says many of the things that I have been saying for years.

    1. There are multiple methods of mite coexistence not necessarily including the VSH trait.
    2. Bees don't necessarily have to have the VSH trait to survive mites.
    3. Treating bees doesn't allow them the opportunity to become resistant to the mites.
    4. It works both ways, the mites have to evolve to become less virulent AND the bees evolve (or express) methods to handle them.

    Especially number four, the mites beekeepers are breeding by treating are stronger. Non-treatment produces weaker mites ultimately because the more virulent mites kill the hive and themselves die. Killing mites with various methods decreases the population of mites and therefore may allow the hive to survive, but the mites that remain are those that are the strongest and most capable of surviving the treatment. Therefore treating bees makes the problem worse and pushes it down the calender a bit, but it most assuredly doesn't fix anything.

    The paper talks about populations of bees that have been feral and unkept for 10 years. I have kept mine treatment-free for nine and a half years. There is no eminent crash as I have been told over and over and over. The population has stabilized. Capable and worthwhile honey production has returned to my population. Some of the credit goes to breeding, but much of it goes to allowing weak hives to die. This year, I also have taken the step of not only allowing weak hives to die, but requeening hives that fail to thrive given a reasonable opportunity.

    This is the work of beekeeping that needs to be done. The solution is simple: quit treating and the bees will sort it out themselves. If backyard beekeepers with limited number of hives want to keep them year after year, then they must quit buying packages like cheap plastic China-made toys and buy quality locally raised treatment free stock. You get what you pay for. A $20 queen is a queen you're going to pay for over and over and over, so don't buy it.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Coevolution of Honey Bees and Varroa Mites: A New Paper

    I totally agree with Solomon, and also would like to add that people need to broaden their horizons and quit killing feral colonies. I think the small scale guys are going to save the big guys once again, when this is all sorted out. And Andrew Dewey - you should try some Zia stock from New Mexico - our mountain bees live in cold conditions very similar to Vermont. I would think they would do better than TX bees.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Coevolution of Honey Bees and Varroa Mites: A New Paper

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul McCarty View Post
    I totally agree with Solomon, and also would like to add that people need to broaden their horizons and quit killing feral colonies. I think the small scale guys are going to save the big guys once again, when this is all sorted out. And Andrew Dewey - you should try some Zia stock from New Mexico - our mountain bees live in cold conditions very similar to Vermont. I would think they would do better than TX bees.
    Once again?
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  11. #11
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    DuPage County, Illinois USA
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    Default Re: Coevolution of Honey Bees and Varroa Mites: A New Paper

    You know, when "we" saved the industry back in '48 and again in '72. Bet you're glad we did!
    Regards, Barry

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Coevolution of Honey Bees and Varroa Mites: A New Paper

    I appreciate the suggestions of Kirk Webster and Zia stock. Folks may remember last Spring when I was lamenting the seeming lack of commercially available survivor stock (which is how I ended up with Bee Weaver packages.) I anticipate looking for queens to over winter in nucs prior to placing the nucs in production colonies. Any other stock suggestions? Most places won't start taking 2013 orders until January, but I do want to be at the front of the line!
    Master Beekeeper (EAS) and Master Gardener (U Maine CE) www.beeberrywoods.com

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Coevolution of Honey Bees and Varroa Mites: A New Paper

    Quote Originally Posted by Barry View Post
    You know, when "we" saved the industry back in '48 and again in '72. Bet you're glad we did!
    So your the guys?
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  14. #14
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    Aug 2002
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    Casper, Wy, USA
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    804

    Default Re: Coevolution of Honey Bees and Varroa Mites: A New Paper

    Hi Guys

    Mike, thanks for the link.

    Years ago, I setup a small cell test yard optimized for the scientific method. But when those small cell hives become mite tolerant, I dropped my scientific approach and switched all my hives over to small cell, including the control hives.


    At the time I was more interesting in running healthy, productive hives. And less interesting in proving something.


    Since then, I’ve always wished I’d left a few of those control hives untouched. I've still got a few questions about that experience that nag me. And the impacts of natural selection and co-evolution are at the top of the list.


    And that's why, besides still having some small cell equipment, I'm going to try and replicate those past small cell successes. This time I'll be more interested in the whys and less interested in the hows.

    As a natural beekeeper, I've found that the more I can cooperate with the natural processes, the better my bees do. But as with any natural process, there's an interaction of a whole scheme of things:

    - bee genetics.
    - mite genetics.
    - colony health/stress.
    - environment.
    - colony decisions.
    - colony management.

    Alter just one and the results can dramatically change.

    Beekeepers tend to focus on bee genetics and will go to great lengths to get the right stuff. As a small time queen producer I focused on bee genetics and found out the hard way that:

    - when you select for something, you are also selecting against something.

    And that something that was selected against often becomes the bee's next weakness in the co-evolutionary dance for survival between the bee and its pests.

    My narrowly selected bees were absolutely varroa tolerant. But they were all wiped out by CCD.

    Regards - Dennis
    Last edited by BWrangler; 09-16-2012 at 08:55 AM. Reason: I forgot the most important part!
    I once wrangled bees. But now, knowing better, I just let them bee.
    http://talkingstick.me/category/bees/

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Coevolution of Honey Bees and Varroa Mites: A New Paper

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul McCarty View Post
    I think the small scale guys are going to save the big guys once again, when this is all sorted out.
    I would approach this point of view with trepidation. This isn't an industry based on farming an endangered species which happens to also be kept by a bunch of hobbyists...like tigers or something.

    Honeybees (as noted in the paper) have a recombination rate ten times higher than other eukaryotes. They have an amazing ability for adaptation. Furthermore, they exist in substantial numbers throughout every inhabited continent both kept and feral. The feral populations have already adapted, be it by whatever means they found, they have adapted.

    In conclusion, this is a self-righting species and system. As long as there is food (even if it is maraschino cherry juice) they will survive. What is evident however is what I've been saying for quite a while. The treatment regime practiced by at least half of American beekeepers and the vast majority of commercial beekeepers only serves to slow down the adaptation process. Isolated populations adapt quickly. However, the American population is very homogenous and mixed quite frequently.

    Pockets of natural resistance have developed but not really in areas where there are many commercial beekeepers coming and going.

    Transition to softer chemicals is good. But it's a smaller and smaller bandaid that still keeps ripping the wound open.

    The bees aren't dying. They are coming back from varroa. And it won't be because we smaller beekeepers have done it. It will be because the feral population adapted. Some of us will learn to follow that model sooner than others.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Coevolution of Honey Bees and Varroa Mites: A New Paper

    Didn't mean to cause drama by my "small scale" comment, just meant to say that local non-migratory beekeepers have provided most of the impetuous for change in the last 30 years or so.

    I am all for feral stock. I think a lot of what is being bred for is the wrong stuff. For whatever reasons, my "commercial" stock bees never seem to do as well as my bees of feral origin. By "do as well" I mean survive without treatments or undue manipulations to keep them strong. In fact, they usually don't make it. I have wild derived colonies going strong after several years with no treatments at all, the only manipulations being swarm prevention or the occasional split. Just have to watch their temperament and nervousness.

    It is a bit hard to find bees that thrive where I live. they either seem adapted to desert life or high altitudes, but not so much both. I am always looking for wild bees that can do both.
    Last edited by Paul McCarty; 09-16-2012 at 09:22 AM.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Coevolution of Honey Bees and Varroa Mites: A New Paper

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul McCarty View Post
    Didn't mean to cause drama by my "small scale" comment, just meant to say that local non-migratory beekeepers have provided most of the impetuous for change in the last 30 years or so.

    I am all for feral stock. I think a lot of what is being bred for is the wrong stuff. For whatever reasons, my "commercial" stock bees never seem to do as well as my bees of feral origin. By "do as well" I mean survive without treatments or undue manipulations to keep them strong. In fact, they usually don't make it. I have wild derived colonies going strong after several years with no treatments at all, the only manipulations being swarm prevention or the occasional split. Just have to watch their temperament and nervousness.

    It is a bit hard to find bees that thrive where I live. they either seem adapted to desert life or high altitudes, but not so much both. I am always looking for wild bees that can do both.
    Drama? On Beesource? Nah, just wondering what event you might be basing your statement on. Nothing wrong with seeking out and working with feral genetics. I do have my doubts, though, that it will have as much of an impact on the industry as will a large scale breeding program done by those with a very broad genetic pool at their disposal. Let's not forget if humans bred only from the strongest survivors we would have been deprived of a genius such as Steven Hawking. I would maintain that even the most obscure of hives has some desirable traits.
    Out of curiosity are your best survivor hives showing any AHB tendencies?
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Coevolution of Honey Bees and Varroa Mites: A New Paper

    Well, officially it is too cold here for full Brazilian AHB to survive the Winter according to scientists, but we do see them, and bees with their traits. We have had African genetics in New Mexico for many, many years - centuries actually from what I have learned. The Spaniards brought them over with their Iberian/Intermissa bees. They say the Brazilian bees are just passers-by and do not stay. If they do, their genetics are pretty watered down.

    I re-queen any bees that are nervous and runny or too defensive. Most of the feral bees where I live are fairly tame, but a lot of them are nervous and runny, and a bit flighty. I have had hives that would fit the description of Brazilian AHB, but those are way out in the desert by themselves and get re-queened pretty quick - or they just fly off when you mess with them too much. They are actually fairly rare. I did 15 removals this year and only ran across two like that. Hard working bees though. They will fill up a box of honey, just have to feed them drawn comb - and not bang them around too much. I only keep the bees that are calm on the comb, store a nice rainbow of honey in the brood comb, and don't mob me when I check them. The others get new queens. On the good side of African/AHB genetics - the bees are all VSH and will pick the mites from each other. I have sat and watched them do it. They will not tolerate hive invaders either - like yellowjackets. I have seen more domestic varieties just let them come right in.

    The key traits to watch out for are nervous and runny (as in dripping en-masse from frame when picked up), overly defensive, coming out of the hive and bearding while the hive is opened (heavy bearding in general), very little nectar in the brood nest (it is stored in the next box), and bees that enter and exit the hive like they are being blown out by a leaf blower. I have found the other traits as depicted in the scientific literature to be inaccurate - especially the overwintering part. In general - they behave like untamed, undomesticated wild bees. I do DNA test my bees when they show these traits. Like I said - it earns them a new queen. My mountain bees are mostly Russian/feral crosses - mated at around 8000' feet. Not your usual AHB area. I do not let my bees in the desert keep a queen past the second generation - especially if she is open mated down there - just to be safe. They get one of my Russian/Feral/Survivor queens or similar local survivor based stock from another local beek.

    So yeah, AHB is a scary thing, but I have found it to be mostly hype, at least around here. A little closer to the border, yeah, I can see it, but not where I live.
    Last edited by Paul McCarty; 09-16-2012 at 09:44 PM.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Coevolution of Honey Bees and Varroa Mites: A New Paper

    Quote Originally Posted by jim lyon View Post
    Let's not forget if humans bred only from the strongest survivors we would have been deprived of a genius such as Steven Hawking. I would maintain that even the most obscure of hives has some desirable traits.
    Your point is taken: but where would we be if we bred only from the Stephen Hawkins's? Would you deliberately propagate from only your weakest hives? Would you make efforts to keep them alive just to be able to reproduce them?

    The answers are surely no, and no. The logic that flows from there is simple, time honoured, and consistent with standard practice in all other fields of husbandry. Put Best to Best. Never propagate weakness.

    The fact remains: nature knows best. The natural way is ruthless selection of the best adapted in each generation; and the beekeeper who wants healthy bees needs to understand the process and work with it.

    The problem is the bee farming industry is stuffed by people who don't understand - or who want obscure - that simple imperative.

    Mike
    Anti-husbandry: Medication + Reproduction = Continuing Sickness
    http://www.suttonjoinery.co.uk/CCD/

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Coevolution of Honey Bees and Varroa Mites: A New Paper

    Coming late to the game, but, you are assuming that Stephen Hawking came about from the combination of weak genes?

    You are also assuming that we humans are outside of Nature and natural selection. Or that what we do w/ the husbandry of species is not in fact natural, part of Nature. Is that correct?

    I'm sure I am one of those people who don't understand, so I don't mind whatever answer comes my way.
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