Re: Systematic breeding in non-treatment management systems
I have a couple of reoccurring thoughts regarding "Natural Selection" type of focus on a breeding program. Or treatment free methods.
First and simplest I will just put out there. How does the Keeping of bees at all make it impossible to be treatment free. I understand that treatment is meant to attempt to cure from disease. but my idea of treatment is broader than that. As in how where you treated the last time you visited the in laws?
Associated with my first thought and to me far more important is this one.
Basically treatment free to me is a recognition that nature has a better method of selecting than we do. we make mistakes that weaken the species. So treatment free is also a returning toward (not to, but toward) natural selection.
I will assume that the majority will agree that natural selection can and most likely will solve these problems. It is a fair bet that if you are an advocate of treatment free beekeeping you have a faith in natural selection.
A stable population is one in which the number of any given species remains the same. For bees I will consider a colony as an individual of the species. So regardless of how many offspring are produced when the parent has passed only one offspring has survived. In bees I consider there is only one colony producing parent, the queen. so in a stable system for every hive that dies out it has manged to only produce one surviving colony.
So just what sort of numbers are we looking at, when do they happen and what might be the importance of those losses on improving the qualities of the bees?
I will just take some numbers that it seems to me are fairly common. A healthy hive that is left to manage itself will produce something in the neighborhood of 20 queens. cast a primary swarm and multiple after swarms.
I don't know the nature of an after swarm as well as the primary swarm but my understanding is it is multiple tiny clusters of bees that will actually group together each containing several queens.
It also seems to me that the overall opinion is that a primary swarm has a better chance of survival then an after swarm. a larger swarm has a better chance than a smaller one etc. But is this true. Are our observations in beekeeping being altered due to the fact we "Keep" bees.
Regardless of the rats next of questions this alone can bring up. At this point just where the issue of only one queen, one colony can now survive nature is accepting 95% losses.
Are you willing to accept that only one out of every 20 queens will survive? That according to the above evidence is the direction yo may be choosing to go.
Is it critical that you accept that part of natural selection? I personally believe it is. It is just such heavy losses that improve the species. Eventually after successive generations of such loses the species in improved to some degree and the population begins to increase.
Also keep in mind that one of the ways nature stops a plague is that the victim species is driven to very near extinction. when the disease no longer has nay hosts. it then dies out. the population of the host is then able to recover. Sometimes not. extinction does happen naturally.
It has been observed that feral colonies are development resistance.
I suspect a fairly heavy loss in queens is made right at the outset. I suspect at best only 25% of the queens that swarm from the hive ever live long enough to find a location to colonies. They die or are killed in the cluster or shortly after the bees find a place to build the hive.
What is the survival rate of primary swarms> what is the survival rate of secondary swarms. What is the survival rate of queens in a secondary swarm?
Just one idea that has come to mind that might improve queen production. No proof just an idea that at least falls partial in line with the thoughts above.
Produce 20 times the number of queens desired from carefully chosen queen stocks. Keep these queen cells in groups of 20. and only the one queen able to survive gets to live and produce a colony. I seriously doubt there is much accuracy in that or that it woudl even be on the right track. but at least it give some idea of what matching natural selection might look like.
Keep in mind that in feral colonies even these sort of losses are resulting in barely noticeable resistance. Natural selection is not so much about the strong surviving as it is about the weak dying.
Mice. one in 365 offspring in just a single year can be allowed to live in a stable population. In many birds only one in 35 to 40 survive after one year.
Even bears only one in about a dozen or so can survive and remain stable. and that is during the parents entire life.
In deer a species low on the food chain only 1 in 4 or so over the parents lifetime. funny how the prey species has lower production numbers. That is because any species that has to hunt and kill to eat is more likely to die than thrive. Nothing has to happen to keep a bear population in check other than it doesn't find enough food. Mountain lions is about 1 in 24 survive over the lifetime of the parent.
Nature produces some fairly grand numbers just to remain stable. death is the rule. death is the control. Avoiding gross odds of dying is what produces blood lines that are very suitable to survival.
Okay I am not saying anything with all that except. What if that is what it takes?
Last edited by Solomon Parker; 10-02-2012 at 07:52 AM.
Reason: Belongs in Tailgater
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