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  1. #1
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    Default Systematic breeding in non-treatment management systems

    Its no secret that many beekeepers use systematic low-level, low tech, selective propagation measures to raise and maintain resistance to unwanted predatory organisms. The 'no-treatment' systems of management manage the varroa problem by utilizing longstanding traditional techniques; chiefly, making selection for mite resistance their highest selection criteria.

    That this works, and it what accounts for their success is well evidenced, and the mechanisms are becoming well understood.

    I'd like to be able to talk with other beekeepers about these techniques, to share and improve my understanding of how they are done and how they work; and to explore the informative parallels between natural selection and traditional animal breeding. Many non-treaters describe one of their aims as beekeeping 'naturally', so its good to understand just how nature keeps bees healthy and vigourous.

    One of the aims of gaining a better understand of the techniques available to beekeepers, and the basic reasons why they work, is to be able to predict what will be likely to work in any given circumstances.

    I would like to see discussions grounded in the well established but basic evolutionary biology and animal husbandry sources. While it will be good to look at the deeper nature of the mechanisms involved, I don't want high-level technical discussions or pet theories to drown out the simple foundations of non-treatment beekeeping.

    The idea is that anything we learn here will be accessible to all beekeepers. The focus is practical non-treatment beekeeping.

    Mike Bispham
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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Systematic breeding in non-treatment management systems

    I would be very interested in this. I wonder if you could start by outlining your personal approach to treatment free beekeeping. I would very much like to get a sense of the different approaches.

    Thanks,

    Adam

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    Default Re: Systematic breeding in non-treatment management systems

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    I would be very interested in this. I wonder if you could start by outlining your personal approach to treatment free beekeeping. I would very much like to get a sense of the different approaches.
    Hello Adam,

    I began collecting swarms and taking cut outs 3 years ago, and hiving on a mixture of recovered comb, foundation, and starter strips. The next year I made splits from the 2 survivors, (another had died through isolation starvation), added more swarms and cut-outs, and repaired queenless hives with a frame or two of eggs and brood from the strongest. With 12 colonies, mostly nucs, I didn't feed a lot going into winter, and made a silly design error with feeding candy which allowed mice into several hives in early spring.

    I came through to this year with 4 hives, one of which subsequently failed, but 2 of the remaining built nicely. I've added more swarms and cutouts, made some splits, and tried to encouarge some serious comb building this year, after realising that comb shortage was slowing everything down. I got up to about 38 colonies, but have now tracked back down to about 28. I haven't fed this year yet, but I might help them on when it looks like ivy is over.

    I haven't treated or manipulated at all against varroa, nor any other problem. So its rather a live and let die operation at this stage, offset I hope by the policy of making splits and requeening from the strongest.

    The main objective is to get to a stage where I have plenty of bees (and comb) to work with, and enough variability to be able to locate strengths. I'll be tempted to assay for VHS using frozen brood tests next year, and setting up queen rearing on a scale sufficent to re-queen at will. I'm also mindful that if I have all similar colonies (in terms of queen age, year starting position and so on), I'll be able to make comparisons better. (This will mean tough decisions on things like stimulative feeding and nest spreading.)

    I'm hoping my stock building strategy will have included at least some mite-managing skills. I have succeeded in bringing in 6 or 7 cut-out colonies with good histories, and I suspect about half my swarms are ferals. I know of ferals nearby, and don't have too many treated hives around to mess things up - though one of the reasons for going for good numbers is to be able to swamp the drone population.

    Bought-in VSH and similar are not an option in the UK. But even if they were I'd like to try this way first. I want to raise bees that suit the locality - local ferals are first choice.

    I'm lucky in being able to make my own hives (Nationals, using 6-frame nucs quite a bit) and in having some fairly good spots to park them - I can have 15 or so medium size hives at my own holding, and can place another 20 or more at spots within a 2 or 3 mile radius. I want to get up to 60 hives next year, with, hopefull, at least a majority equipped with a full brood box of combe and a couple of supers. I want more comb!)

    So, that aside, its all been about finding suitable stock, sorting the goers from the duffers, and then bringing the apiary up to scratch. Next year will be about selecting for self-sufficient productivity, using queen raising, splits of various kinds, and seeking to maximise the route through the male side. I think I'll probably be fairly ruthless about this - perhps choose 3 or 4 lines that seem best, test for VSH, then use them to requeen half the weakest.

    I'm not sure but I think that outlines the basic approach.

    How about you Adam?

    Mike
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  4. #4
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    Default Re: Systematic breeding in non-treatment management systems

    My story:

    A lot of this is to be found elsewhere on this site, but things need to be repeated from time to time.

    I started with 20 3 pound packages, an ambitious lad I was at the age of 19. I intended to be the second commercial treatment-free beekeeper. Things changed, and instead I now call myself an avid hobbyist. I have never treated with substance, don't do systematic splitting, don't do brood breaks on purpose, and only used screened bottom boards on a few hives (all of which died if I remember correctly) for the first couple years. I now have something like 26 hives and I think I've figured out how to do this thing.

    We've oft heard the idea in treatment free beekeeping of 'breeding from the survivors. But how to get there?

    We've oft heard the idea in treatment free beekeeping of 'breeding from the survivors. But how to get there? I actually really started splitting only a couple years ago. I started off so ambitiously that I quickly ran out of equipment and so never split, instead letting hives die off so I would have enough equipment for the remainders. I think I did one split the first year to make up a lost package, but that was about it until 2009. That winter, I lost all but two hives, and then commenced to buying more nucs and doing walk away splits. In 2011, I did a bunch of them, but I quickly realized that it was very inefficient, finding a handful of dead virgin queens collectively in front of the new hives. Also, several failed due to various reasons.

    This year, I made a plan, researched some methods, and carried it through. I found what I consider the most efficient method of increase and which fits right straight into the Bond method. I kept track of which hives were performing well, had no obvious signs of mite issues, came through winter and built up quickly, and were sufficiently gentle. In one, I did a regular queenless cell builder/finisher. In the other, I did a queenright cell builder/finisher. The ones from the queenright hive were of better quality, finished more, and performed better.

    So here's what happened. I robbed all but one frame of brood from seven hives to make queen castles in which were placed ripe queen cells. Those that came out well graduated into five frame or ten frame nucs. Some were sold, some were used to requeen, and some headed their own hives. I went from ten hives to 28 after selling seven. Naturally, I expect to be down to 20 after this first winter of testing for many of them.

    The important philosophy and method behind the idea is to create a whole bunch of hives with the minimum amount of resources necessary from the best stock you have and evaluate the results. I think I have found the combination to that lock: grafting, queenright cell builder/finisher, queen castles, rob your middling hives for brood and stores, combine the dinks, requeen with the result.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Systematic breeding in non-treatment management systems

    solid plans for sure.

    since the workers carry only half of the queen's genes, have ya'll thought about pushing for drones in your
    strong hives?

    i'm in an area with a good feral population, i'm hoping that some of the survivor traits from the feral drones are being passed into my yard via mating.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Systematic breeding in non-treatment management systems

    I started two top bar hives three seasons ago. I treated with oxalic acid the first Fall, and my bees made it through with a tiny cluster.

    Second season, I tried drone culling and oxalic acid and my bees made it through winter with bigger clusters.

    This spring, I pulled an early drone comb to find it teeming with mites, and I just felt like giving up - on treating for mites. The bees seemed healthy, but there were tons of mites. After reading what seems like a million conflicting ideas and opinions from people more experienced than I, I have decided that there is no single human authority on how to effectively deal with mites, and no one really knows all the ways the bees deal with them on their own.

    So I made a resolution to quit treating, Because I don't know the total effect of my actions, and that worries me. I feel like my effort to 'help' might be doing more harm than good. I've decided it's better to take that variable out of play in my operation - minimize my manipulations and let the bees do what they do as much as I can.

    So I'm not treating. I caught a swarm, bought two local nucs and created spilts. Added 8 frame langstroth hives to my top bars, and now have 13 colonies going into winter.

    I'm looking at threads like this to help me to map out my management plan going forward.

    Adam

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Systematic breeding in non-treatment management systems

    sorry adam, looks like you and i hit reply at the same time. good plan there too.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

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    Default Re: Systematic breeding in non-treatment management systems

    Hi Solomon.

    Quote Originally Posted by Solomon Parker View Post
    I robbed all but one frame of brood from seven hives to make queen castles in which were placed ripe queen cells.
    All but one frame seems a lot to take. What was the thinking behind that - just the objective of multiplying hard? Part of what I mean is: the ones left behind must have had a pretty hard time of rebuilding. Do you seed syrup in this situation to help with comb building?

    Also, do you know where we can find drawings for queen castles?

    Quote Originally Posted by Solomon Parker View Post
    The important philosophy and method behind the idea is to create a whole bunch of hives with the minimum amount of resources necessary from the best stock you have and evaluate the results.
    I agree - for people in our position anyway. Some people won't have the space, or will want to learn more slowly, but start out right, and make the right learning moves and investment in gear ready for a deeper go the following year. But before long, yes, dead right. Ruttner makes the link to nature:

    "Breeding is by no means a human invention. Nature, which in millions of years
    has bought forth this immense diversity of wonderfully adapted creatures, is the
    greatest breeder. It is from her that the present day breeder learnt how it must
    be done, excessive production and then ruthless selection, permitting only the
    most suitable to survive and eliminating the inferior." Friedrich Ruttner,
    Breeding Techniques and Selection for Breeding of the Honeybee, pg 45

    There's a term for excessive production in nature - 'overfecundity'. Its a precondition for natural selection - there must be more than just replacement needs in order that the weak can be removed.

    I'll be doing the same next spring. I tried to do it this year, but didn't have the resources in terms of worker numbers or comb. I tried queen raising and half a dozen small mating nucs, but they were not successful. If I'd known more about queen raising I'd have come to now with another 20 or 30 6-frame nucs. With that said just building hives and collecting swarms rushed me off my feet, as I have other stuff that must be done. Collecting swarms and cut outs achieved this first stage anyway.

    Quote Originally Posted by Solomon Parker View Post
    I think I have found the combination to that lock: grafting, queenright cell builder/finisher, queen castles, rob your middling hives for brood and stores, combine the dinks, requeen with the result.
    That sounds like gold to me.

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

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Systematic breeding in non-treatment management systems

    Quote Originally Posted by squarepeg View Post
    since the workers carry only half of the queen's genes, have ya'll thought about pushing for drones in your strong hives?
    I'm planning to keep large hives (unlimited nests, spread for population and maybe drone foundation) scattered around my apiary. Headed by evaluated queens.

    Quote Originally Posted by squarepeg View Post
    i'm in an area with a good feral population, i'm hoping that some of the survivor traits from the feral drones are being passed into my yard via mating.
    No reason why not. To my mind its one of the best strategies.

    Mike
    Last edited by mike bispham; 10-01-2012 at 10:57 AM.
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  10. #10
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    Default Re: Systematic breeding in non-treatment management systems

    Quote Originally Posted by squarepeg View Post
    have ya'll thought about pushing for drones in your strong hives?
    I have plenty of drone comb in most of my hives, so I don't worry about it. I had one hive in particular this year who produced a lot of drones. I didn't breed from that one because it was mean, but I imagine they affected the area heavily. If there were drone comb available in medium plastic, I would get it and try some, but for now, I have medium foundationless frames which will do the job.


    Quote Originally Posted by mike bispham View Post
    What was the thinking behind that - just the objective of multiplying hard? Part of what I mean is: the ones left behind must have had a pretty hard time of rebuilding. Do you seed syrup in this situation to help with comb building?
    Normally, the plan would be to leave them as nucs. Nucs have an incredible propensity for building comb, and many hives, even weak ones can be useful in that capacity. This year, I was short on nucs, so I left them in full size hives to see how they could rebound. It was good that I did. Some rebounded fantastically, even producing honey. Some rebounded poorly or not at all and they were requeened with nucs with the best new queens.



    Quote Originally Posted by mike bispham View Post
    Also, do you know where we can find drawings for queen castles?
    I have posted my design on my website, I drew it up in SketchUp so it would be handy for everybody. They can be built with no more than a simple table saw and some planning, but it's much easier with a sliding miter saw and a table saw with a dado blade. I built 10x3, and constructed with the intention to cut them down to mediums at some future date (strategically placed screws and no glue on parts that will need to be separated). They use one by boards for inner covers and regular telescoping outer covers. I raised around 25 solid nucs with them this year.

    http://parkerfarms.biz/queens.html



    Quote Originally Posted by mike bispham View Post
    I agree - for people in our position anyway. Some people won't have the space, or will want to learn more slowly, but start out right, and make the right learning moves and investment in gear ready
    That's one reason why I went with queenright cell builders. You don't have to sacrifice a hive to make queens, and you can get honey from them too. Same with the queen castles, no special frames or mini-nucs.



    Quote Originally Posted by mike bispham View Post
    There's a term for excessive production in nature - 'overfecundity'. Its a precondition for natural selection - there must be more than just replacement needs in order that the weak can be removed.
    Hopefully it will be a temporary condition. Michael Palmer's ratio seems to work out well for me, a third great, a third average, and a third dinks. Leave the great ones to make honey, break up the average for nucs and supplies, requeen the dinks.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Systematic breeding in non-treatment management systems

    Quote Originally Posted by mike bispham View Post
    Hello Adam,

    With 12 colonies, mostly nucs, I didn't feed a lot going into winter, and made a silly design error with feeding candy which allowed mice into several hives in early spring.

    I came through to this year with 4 hives, one of which subsequently failed, but 2 of the remaining built nicely. I've added more swarms and cutouts, made some splits, and tried to encouarge some serious comb building this year, after realising that comb shortage was slowing everything down. I got up to about 38 colonies, but have now tracked back down to about 28. I haven't fed this year yet, but I might help them on when it looks like ivy is over. I haven't treated or manipulated at all against varroa, nor any other problem. So its rather a live and let die operation at this stage, offset I hope by the policy of making splits and requeening from the strongest.



    Mike

    Breed the best to the best???

    How are you going to know who your best feral survivors colonies are if you are feeding and splitting?


    You are not following your own advice regards

    Don

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    Default Re: Systematic breeding in non-treatment management systems

    Quote Originally Posted by D Semple View Post
    Breed the best to the best???

    How are you going to know who your best feral survivors colonies are if you are feeding...?


    You are not following your own advice regards

    Don
    Well, up to this point I haven't fed - for that sort of reason. But I'm thinking its silly to lose colonies that have not been able to build and store, because:

    a) it might just be that they're late swarms (and I'm not yet convinced that's a good reason to die in breeding terms)

    b) it might be that they've been robbed badly (same)

    c) if I keep them going through the winter I can re-evaluate in spring and, if I decide it's best, re-queen from the best.

    Quote Originally Posted by D Semple View Post
    ... and splitting?
    I've split only from strong colonies, and these, despite being heavily robbed of brood, have done well. They remain earmarked at this time as candidates for multiplying in the spring.

    (I've taken multiple combs for trap-outs as well as splits. I like to raise several new queens on site - hopefully getting some patrilines from the nest's drones. I've taken up to three strong nucs from feral colonies this way)

    So you see I am tracking strength and thinking about these things, but also trying to arrange the best strategy for getting off to a flying start in the spring.

    But I see too the importance of the point you make. I think its easy to spot the best when you have many hives that are similar in size and well established. It can be harder when they're a big mix of 2 year olds, this year's earlies middles and lates, and cut-outs. I have a small cut-out from a tree made only about 3 weeks ago, still parked on the stump. It didn't have much honey, and I haven't fed it - till now the forage has been good, but it will dwindle as soon as the weather gets colder. What to do? I think preserve it and see how it does in the spring. Even then, I shouldn't compare too soon it with established hives with drawn comb.

    This is the sort of complication I think people in my position face. There aren't any across-the-board strategies - its a case of what's best for this hive in my apiary? Actually telling which is 'weaker' and which' stronger' is not as straightforward as it is when you can assume the same starting position for all and simply take stored weight as the top guide.

    I draw the line at treating. To me mite-managers is what I want above all at this stage and if they fail from varroa problems I don't want them. However - technically, that's just as silly. I should treat then and mark for early re-queening - and be able to count another hive.

    For me just now building numbers (and comb) is important, and everything is geared to that end. Next year, hopefully, I'll be in a position to raise pretty much as many as I want (60+) and do so fairly early in the season. Then the strategy will change toward equalising circumstances so that strength shows through more clearly. And then management will be simple and methodical. I hope!

    Does all that make sense Don?

    Mike
    Last edited by mike bispham; 10-01-2012 at 10:56 AM.
    Anti-husbandry: Medication + Reproduction = Continuing Sickness
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    Default Re: Systematic breeding in non-treatment management systems

    Quote Originally Posted by mike bispham View Post
    I think its easy to spot the best when you have many hives that are similar in size and well established. It can be harder when they're a big mix of 2 year olds, this year's earlies middles and lates, and cut-outs.


    This is the sort of complication I think people in my position face. There aren't any across-the-board strategies - its a case of what's best for this hive in my apiary? Actually telling which is 'weaker' and which' stronger' is not as straightforward as it is when you can assume the same starting position for all and simply take stored weight as the top guide.

    I draw the line at treating. To me mite-managers is what I want above all at this stage and if they fail from varroa problems I don't want them. However - technically, that's just as silly. I should treat then and mark for early re-queening - and be able to count another hive.


    Mike

    Counting mites in treatment free hives has showed me brood breaks here are the most important eliment as to why our local feral population is handling varroa and thriving, not VSH.

    Couple of points of how management undermines being able to keep bees treatments free in a commercial enviroment

    - Spring time swarming period provides a brood break and natural split, swarm prevention measures undermine this. Better to let them swarm or make splits, but this hurts honey prodution.

    - Late summer dearth period with brood breaks are important to keeping varroa population in check. Feeding during dearths, keeps the bees producing young and the varroa population keeps exploding.

    - Type of bee is also very important, bees that produce young continuously succumb to varroa quickly untreated.

    - Local survivors are the way to go for treatment free, BUT you have to manage them, like they manage themselve in the wild and not interfere with their ability to deal with the mites. Once you start managing them for prodution, their ability to cope goes right out the window.

    - One other point - swapping drawn comb amongst hives spreads desease and should be avoided in a treatment free enviroment.

    Just my 2 cents.

    Don

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    Default Re: Systematic breeding in non-treatment management systems

    This all sounds great. However none of you guys are truly breeding treatment free bees. I don't say that to be defeatist or mean spirited. Follow if you will and answer these questions.

    1. Are you really breeding or just letting your surviving hive reproduce? There is a difference.

    2. If you are breeding, how are you deciding what to breed from? Are you are basing your decisions on hive strength, populations, apparent ability to survive? If so since the queen has mated wit say 15 or so drones, the drone mix has as much to do with overall hive performance as the queen does.

    3. How are you managing drones? Drone flooding is not a dependable method of attaining the desired genetics. If you really intend to breed, you almost have to use ai on the queen with selected drone semen.

    4. How do you limit outside genetics? Once again the only way is to select larva from a desired queen and AI. Otherwise you have very little chance to avoid cross breeding with less than favorable drones.

    5. How do you access your new queens for selection? This take time(years) ro verify resistance and the propagate.

    If you are not using AI or are not completely isolated then you are not in control of your breeding program. If you are not checking for mites and other pathogens/diseases then you really don't know what you are selecting for.
    I believe you are making the best choices you can bases on limited information and time. But if you really want to breed to treatment free you have to do more than put hives out there and let them live or die. Open mating in a non isolated area is not a viable method of breeding. Introduction of outside genetics must be controlled and evaluated. But once again the only real way to do this dependably is through II.

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    Default Re: Systematic breeding in non-treatment management systems

    Quote Originally Posted by D Semple View Post
    - Local survivors are the way to go for treatment free, BUT you have to manage them, like they manage themselve in the wild and not interfere with their ability to deal with the mites. Once you start managing them for prodution, their ability to cope goes right out the window.
    A couple of thoughts Don,
    I would think that some management for production should be possible, as long as these natural breaks remain, but more importantly,

    It is the case that VSH and other mechanisms for controlling varroa do arise naturally in some feral populations. These have the potential to cope with continuous brood raising - should the local bees be inclined able to do that.

    I'm in favour of trying to breed as closely with the local population as possible - I understand the ferals are delicately balanced, and I don't want to suppress them. But I'm not (at present) convinced that a little stimulative feeding and nest spreading will result in bees that do that.

    Also, I'm not looking to maximise productivity to the hilt. If I can breed quietly and systematically, and otherwise work in a fairly hands off manner, a moderate crop will be acceptable. I'm only hoping to earn around 1/3rd of my very modest living from bees, and I'm hoping too that much of that will come from other products beside honey.

    Quote Originally Posted by D Semple View Post
    - One other point - swapping drawn comb amongst hives spreads desease and should be avoided in a treatment free enviroment.
    I want to spread pathogens and parasites evenly round my hives at this point - and probably in the future. Its the only way of evaluating them against each other for resistance. I want multiply-resistant bees, hardy as the ferals.

    Mike
    Anti-husbandry: Medication + Reproduction = Continuing Sickness
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    Default Re: Systematic breeding in non-treatment management systems

    Quote Originally Posted by jbeshearse View Post
    However none of you guys are truly breeding treatment free bees.
    I disagree.


    Quote Originally Posted by jbeshearse View Post
    1. Are you really breeding or just letting your surviving hive reproduce?
    Breeding. Little to no swarming goes on here.


    Quote Originally Posted by jbeshearse View Post
    2. If you are breeding, how are you deciding what to breed from? Are you are basing your decisions on hive strength, populations, apparent ability to survive? If so since the queen has mated wit say 15 or so drones, the drone mix has as much to do with overall hive performance as the queen does.
    I breed based on a bunch of aspects, first, did the hive survive the winter? If not, I don't breed from it.
    Second, can I work the hive without gloves while it's raining? Did the hive make a goodly amount of honey last year? Did the hive build up well this spring? Most other aspects weed themselves out. There are a lot more things you can breed for, but I find that the hives that do the above things well just about never have problems with other aspects. For instance, I had one hive that produced a lot of sticky propolis. It didn't make honey and didn't build up well, requeened, problem solved.


    Quote Originally Posted by jbeshearse View Post
    3. How are you managing drones? Drone flooding is not a dependable method of attaining the desired genetics. If you really intend to breed, you almost have to use ai on the queen with selected drone semen.
    I have a location to the north and south of my location to add drones to the mix. I feel AI is unecessary and somewhat antithetical to the ideal of treatment free beekeeping.



    Quote Originally Posted by jbeshearse View Post
    4. How do you limit outside genetics? Once again the only way is to select larva from a desired queen and AI. Otherwise you have very little chance to avoid cross breeding with less than favorable drones.
    By letting them die over winter or by not breeding from undesirable hives.



    Quote Originally Posted by jbeshearse View Post
    5. How do you access your new queens for selection? This take time(years) ro verify resistance and the propagate.
    I think you mean assess, so I'll reply on that assumption. One or two winters pretty well does it for me. After increase made from the same queen for two years, I move to different ones to avoid too much inbreeding.



    Quote Originally Posted by jbeshearse View Post
    If you are not using AI or are not completely isolated then you are not in control of your breeding program. If you are not checking for mites and other pathogens/diseases then you really don't know what you are selecting for.
    I do know what I am selecting for, I am selecting for survival, gentleness, and production. I don't care about the specifics, and many small beekeepers don't have time or resources to care either. I don't care what trait the bees use to survive, only that they do, same with gentleness and production. The results are well within acceptable to me.


    Quote Originally Posted by jbeshearse View Post
    I believe you are making the best choices you can bases on limited information and time. But if you really want to breed to treatment free you have to do more than put hives out there and let them live or die. Open mating in a non isolated area is not a viable method of breeding. Introduction of outside genetics must be controlled and evaluated. But once again the only real way to do this dependably is through II.
    No. What you're describing is a totally different mindset to the way I think and carryout my beekeeping practice. Control is for treatments and inbreeding to express a certain trait. I'm not going there. My method fits just fine with the idea of keeping bees in the context of a hobbyist. I don't need every hive to produce a bumper crop every year. I don't need every hive to survive every winter. I don't need to breed for a certain specific trait for the bees to survive. And I don't need to control much because it's not necessary. Nature controls what I need to control for me. Outside of that, I have all the control I need by getting rid of mean or unproductive queens. Winter does the rest. This simple method of breeding from what I want and discarding the rest is the same thing that all manner of farmers have done for thousands of years. There is only so far you can go with it. II is only going to produce a hive, same as mine. Maybe it produces more honey or is nicer or whatever, maybe not. There's no guarantee either way. I've never even seen anyone guarantee that the drone they got is from the hive they got it from.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Systematic breeding in non-treatment management systems

    Quote Originally Posted by D Semple View Post
    Counting mites in treatment free hives has showed me brood breaks here are the most important eliment as to why our local feral population is handling varroa and thriving, not VSH.
    Good point, but it's not the only mechanism. I freely admit, I don't test for mites, but I do look for them. Even without brood breaks, most hives maintain a very low mite load year 'round. But that's here, 200 miles southeast.


    Quote Originally Posted by D Semple View Post
    Couple of points of how management undermines being able to keep bees treatments free in a commercial enviroment
    We're not commercial, nor are most beekeepers. I was going to answer all your points, but I shall be skipping some of them as the Forum Rules state that this isn't the place to talk about commercial beekeeping. This certainly isn't the thread.


    Quote Originally Posted by D Semple View Post
    - Type of bee is also very important, bees that produce young continuously succumb to varroa quickly untreated.
    But do they have to? I am confident that a bee could be created that doesn't suffer from that affliction and yet maintains the necessary brood pattern for the respective area. It may have to rely upon a different trait than the ones for which they are typically bred.


    Quote Originally Posted by D Semple View Post
    - Local survivors are the way to go for treatment free, BUT you have to manage them, like they manage themselve in the wild and not interfere with their ability to deal with the mites. Once you start managing them for prodution, their ability to cope goes right out the window.
    I completely disagree. Manage bees as if it isn't a problem and eventually the problem will go away. That is what I have found. I do not manage to deal with mites or any other disease. I manage to keep bees. It's their responsibility to deal with mites.


    Quote Originally Posted by D Semple View Post
    - One other point - swapping drawn comb amongst hives spreads desease and should be avoided in a treatment free enviroment.
    If it's their responsibility to deal with disease, then it's not a problem. A resistant hive will not see an infection. A weak hive will die of it. Anything in the narrow middle should be requeened for not producing enough honey.


    Quote Originally Posted by D Semple View Post
    Just my 2 cents.
    Thank you.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

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    Default Re: Systematic breeding in non-treatment management systems

    Quote Originally Posted by Solomon Parker View Post
    We're not commercial, nor are most beekeepers. I was going to answer all your points, but I shall be skipping some of them as the Forum Rules state that this isn't the place to talk about commercial beekeeping. This certainly isn't the thread.
    Poor choice of words on my part, I should have said "Couple of points of how management undermines being able to keep bees treatments free in a production environment".

    Quote Originally Posted by Solomon Parker View Post

    I completely disagree. Manage bees as if it isn't a problem and eventually the problem will go away. That is what I have found. I do not manage to deal with mites or any other disease. I manage to keep bees. It's their responsibility to deal with mites.
    I agree for us, but is it repeatable. Are the bees that you and I are producing going to work for others managed differently? I don't think mine will, managed in a production environment.

    Quote Originally Posted by Solomon Parker View Post

    If it's their responsibility to deal with disease, then it's not a problem. A resistant hive will not see an infection. A weak hive will die of it. Anything in the narrow middle should be requeened for not producing enough honey.
    I hope your right, you have more years of experiance than I.

    I see some deseased comb doing cutouts and the quicker I get rid of it, the better the bees do.

    Don

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    Default Re: Systematic breeding in non-treatment management systems

    Quote Originally Posted by mike bispham View Post
    A couple of thoughts Don,
    I would think that some management for production should be possible, as long as these natural breaks remain, but more importantly,

    It is the case that VSH and other mechanisms for controlling varroa do arise naturally in some feral populations. These have the potential to cope with continuous brood raising - should the local bees be inclined able to do that.

    Mike
    I think the work VSH breeders are doing is remarkable and I'm pulling for them to come up with a bullet proof bee. Lot of really smart folks are working on it, the Germans have pretty much made it their National goal amongst their licensed commercial breeders.


    Quote Originally Posted by mike bispham View Post

    I'm in favour of trying to breed as closely with the local population as possible - I understand the ferals are delicately balanced, and I don't want to suppress them. But I'm not (at present) convinced that a little stimulative feeding and nest spreading will result in bees that do that.

    Mike
    All depends on your local bee, I have nothing but feral stock and for me I want a bee that responds to the local flows and pollen production, not one who's brood production cycles by artificially stimulation. Where's the balance in that?

    Quote Originally Posted by mike bispham View Post
    I want to spread pathogens and parasites evenly round my hives at this point - and probably in the future. Its the only way of evaluating them against each other for resistance. I want multiply-resistant bees, hardy as the ferals.

    Mike
    Ferals die a lot and native populations swing dramatically year to year, can you stand > 50% losses?

    Your hearts in the right place Mike, wish you success.

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    Default Re: Systematic breeding in non-treatment management systems

    Quote Originally Posted by jbeshearse View Post
    This all sounds great. However none of you guys are truly breeding treatment free bees. I don't say that to be defeatist or mean spirited. Follow if you will and answer these questions.
    Hi JB,

    In my description of what it is we do, I used the phrase 'systematic breeding' and then qualified it straightaway with: "systematic low-level, low tech, selective propagation measures "

    The fact is the term 'breeding' covers a lot of ground.

    Lets note first, there is no 'precise' breeding. You can bring two of the finest individuals together and get rubbish. The only real way to know if an individual is a good breeder is to propagate and look at the results, in the knowledge that some will be great and some not so great. Many husbandrymen take care to look as well at second generation results - does to the individual that makes strong offspring also make good breeding stock - not all do.

    So matters are hit and miss in all kinds of breeding. Its an art not a science - and AI doesn't alter that - though it does tighten parental control. In other words, what is happening even in close breeding is 'playing the odds', nothing more than loading the dice in whatever way you can to influence the result in the ways you wish to go. As things go on it is possible to raise the broad standard by narrowing diversity through limited inbreeding.

    Its just the same with 'systematic low-level, low tech, selective propagation measures'. The way the dice are loaded in our favour is by choosing strong mothers and improving the odds of getting (sort of) fathers with the desireable qualities.

    Its not high-tech or 'tightly controlled' breeding - but it is a kind of breeding, in that its deliberative, and it works. Treatments are not used, yields can be good. That doesn't happen at random - it happens because productive mite resistant bloodlines have been sought and raised.

    Ask yourself: If you were given the choice between selecting the very best from among your bees and the very worst to make splits for a year, which would you choose?

    No brainer isn't it?

    The fact that ours are mongrels rather than pure race bees might make some differences, but it doesn't stop the process being a form of 'breeding.'

    Quote Originally Posted by jbeshearse View Post
    1. Are you really breeding or just letting your surviving hive reproduce? There is a difference.
    Positively selecting the strongest.

    Quote Originally Posted by jbeshearse View Post
    2. If you are breeding, how are you deciding what to breed from? Are you are basing your decisions on hive strength, populations, apparent ability to survive?
    Yes

    Quote Originally Posted by jbeshearse View Post
    If so since the queen has mated with say 15 or so drones, the drone mix has as much to do with overall hive performance as the queen does.
    Sure. So we take whatever steps we can to bring in the sorts of semen we want, and keep out the sort of semen we don't. Open mating also has the advantage of being competitive - the stronger drones tend to win.

    Don't forget not all patrilines need to be 'hygienic' - just a few will do. Different mixes of approach to mite-management can only be helpful. All that matters is that not too many patrilines are 'blind' to mites.

    Quote Originally Posted by jbeshearse View Post
    3. How are you managing drones? Drone flooding is not a dependable method of attaining the desired genetics. If you really intend to breed, you almost have to use ai on the queen with selected drone semen.
    As above that sort of control isn't necessary. Don't forget the drones from our hives will be carrying the qualities we want, and the drones from feral hives will bring in stongly multiply-resistant blood. As long as there are no large treating operations within range we should get the sort of mix that will work well.

    Quote Originally Posted by jbeshearse View Post
    4. How do you limit outside genetics? Once again the only way is to select larva from a desired queen and AI. Otherwise you have very little chance to avoid cross breeding with less than favorable drones.
    You are just repeating the same question. The answer is the same. The process is perhaps slower, but no less effective for that.

    Quote Originally Posted by jbeshearse View Post
    5. How do you access your new queens for selection? This take time(years) ro verify resistance and the propagate.
    I think Solomon's answer is good. Two years is a fair testing period, and productivity is a good general assay criteria. Personally I may also follow Marla Spivak's methods through frozen brood tests. Some people look closely at floor debris for broken mites and purple-eyed pupae - both indicating different mite-management skills. Good clean floors and especially good undertaking are further indicators - and there are more. I think my answer might be 'as many ways as possible, and I won't stop trying to find out about more.'

    Quote Originally Posted by jbeshearse View Post
    If you are not using AI or are not completely isolated then you are not in control of your breeding program.
    Again, same assertion, same denial.

    Quote Originally Posted by jbeshearse View Post
    If you are not checking for mites and other pathogens/diseases then you really don't know what you are selecting for.
    When you are not treating or manipulating in any way, simple selection for productivity is fine - because it tells you: this queen imparts resistance to all the present pathogens and predators, and is well attuned to the location. And that's all you really need to know. Multiply from her and with luck you'll get some more just as good. And so on.

    Propagating from her will likely pass on those traits and qualities to some of her offspring, but.... you'll evaluate them in turn to see if they're keepers, breeders, or duffers - and act accordingly. Once you know that a good proportion of her offspring are indeed good 'uns, and, even better, they make good breeders, you can go to town in requeening - all average and below average - and making splits. You can set her up in a small nuc to preserve her eggs.

    There are lots of ways of shifting the odds in favour of productive treatment free bees - and we're still learning about them, and trying different combinations. Its an art as much as a science. And I don't know any reason why describing it is 'breeding' is inappropriate.

    Quote Originally Posted by jbeshearse View Post
    I believe you are making the best choices you can bases on limited information and time. But if you really want to breed to treatment free you have to do more than put hives out there and let them live or die.
    No you don't. The evidence is out there. People do it, successfully.

    A possible misunderstanding: 'breed to treatment free' isn't a place where you can stop propagating selectively. You can never stop propagating selectively. Its a management process, not a one-time fix. Its something that happens as a matter of course, in every generation, in all other fields of husbandry.

    Quote Originally Posted by jbeshearse View Post
    Open mating in a non isolated area is not a viable method of breeding. Introduction of outside genetics must be controlled and evaluated. But once again the only real way to do this dependably is through II.
    Demonstrably not so.

    Best wishes,

    Mike
    Last edited by mike bispham; 10-01-2012 at 03:30 PM.
    Anti-husbandry: Medication + Reproduction = Continuing Sickness
    http://www.suttonjoinery.co.uk/CCD/

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