Excuse me - I asked a question a while back - post 262 of this thread - and no one has answered or commented on the question yet.
Excuse me - I asked a question a while back - post 262 of this thread - and no one has answered or commented on the question yet.
Master Beekeeper (EAS) and Master Gardener (U Maine CE) www.beeberrywoods.com
Andrew; I think you will get some responses if you move from this forum to one of the others.
Andrew, my apologies for not answering your question sooner. With all the hokum going around, I totally missed this post.
The disparaging remarks about 4 particular people in your last post are 1. not true, 2. not called for, 3. show you in a bad light for saying them.
My results have not matched some peoples theories. That does not mean I should have my integrity questioned by those who live far away and don't know me, or that I should be badgered, insulted, and talked down to.
If theory does not match the result, check the theory.
Also, most treatment free people do split a lot. You yourself have put a lot of energy into splitting and nuc making. And you are likely aware that techniques based around splitting or broodless periods are commonly thought to be a way to achieve chemical free beekeeping. Nobody is saying that's wrong or anything, heck I do it myself. No need to get your hackles up.
Last edited by Oldtimer; 07-28-2013 at 08:21 PM.
44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).
What would you say be the worst way to make splits, from the perspective of supplying false resistance impressions?
How would you build an apiary from a limited number of swarms and cut-outs of mixed parentage, some of which are certainly at least surviving if not thriving thriving ferals, with a commercial beekeeper with 120 hives 2 miles in one direction, good rough forage and known ferals on the opposite side?
Would you consider it wise to build as fast as possible, to give yourself many chances of good genetic combinations, and to raise drone numbers to counter the effect of commercial and local treating beekeepers?
To seize the opportunity, while you actually have promising bees, to parlay them into a functional apiary in the knowledge that such an opportunity may not come again for some years? (And to do so without capital with which to buy packages to re-queen.)
What is the route that maximises the likelihood of success? If you agree that making rapid increase is important, how would you go about it, while trying to maintain the ability to select for resistance effectively?
Given a handful of promising hives and nothing else in May, there are choices to be made about how to go about things in the next few months. Anything you do will open some doors and close others. How would you go about it?
Last edited by mike bispham; 07-29-2013 at 01:38 AM.
So the context is different: we do need to make increase, and often (as when threatened by nearby treated bees) rapidly. One way or another. And we do need to be able to do that without giving ourselves false readings in terms of mite management behaviours, in order that we can select effectively.
Once you have your resistant strains, and can pick out best mothers easily, requeening existing stocks and making up spares at will, its another world. We're not there yet. We're trying to get there.
I use what Sam Comfort and I came up with, Expansion Model Beekeeping. Well, he came up with the name, I came up with the method, partly adapted from Michael Palmer and Kirk Webster, I must give credit where credit is due.
1. During spring inspections I pick out which hives I think will produce honey that year and I mark them mentally, that's how you can expand rapidly and still make honey. I don't touch those other than to borrow a couple dozen larvae from the best ones for new queens.
2. Those queens a reared in a queen-right cell builder hive, maintaining that hive's ability to make honey as well. Still no brood breaks.
3. The other hives that are doing poorly are dismantled, moosh the queen, take the brood to start mating nucs. There's usually only a couple of these which yield only a couple frames each, so I end up having to borrow brood from the lower moderate performing hives as well. Those I don't dismantle, just take most of the brood and usually requeen when the queens are ready. I guess you could consider that a brood break even though the brood cycle is never broken if you're being adversarial. I'll grant you that. That accounts for 10% of hives or so.
4. Mating nucs are made of 1 frame brood, 1 frame honey, one empty frame, all in a 3x3 Queen Castle.
5. Once the new queen is well into the first round of brood or has filled up the first three frames, the nuc gets moved to a 5-frame box. Failed nucs (lost or non-laying queen) are shuffled into the successful ones to provide drawn comb in those two new slots.
6. A major proportion of the nucs are sold at this point.
7. The outstanding stars are used (the whole nuc) to replace the queen in the lower moderate performers, making a pretty substantial new hive.
8. If I want to increase numbers or have a bunch of nucs left over, I combine them 5+5 and then 10+10 as they demonstrate strength or weakness, to make new hives.
9. Harvest honey from the hives you left alone at the beginning. These hives almost always are several years old, occasionally they are one of the ones that was requeened last year, they have not had a brood break, and they've only been inspected minimally. These are the ones I keep asking for an explanation for. I have one that is now over ten years old, always naturally superseded, not split in several years. I have several others that have never been split in the several years since I made them.
The reason why I use this method is because it is what I have discovered to be the most efficient method in turning one or a couple hives into a whole bunch. One strong hive can be multiplied into ten in one spring, minus failed virgins. As many bees as you can make mating nucs, that's as many nucs as you can make from a hive. The first year I tried it, I used 7 to make 30, while not killing off any of the 7 (2 were later requeened). So I'm super efficient in making the nucs that I want while using the unburdened other hives to make honey. Just ignore mites.
> But its my understanding that others are able to succeed using normal foundation. If this is so, then yours, and Dee's, and the (only) breeders' success can be logically attibuted to genetics only.
That depends on your definition of "success". I still have not met anyone using large cell foundation who is not losing a colonies to Varroa in significant numbers which they are trying to make up with splits. I see a significant difference in success that cannot be logically attributed to genetics only. I got to the point of not losing them from Varroa with standard commercial queens on small cell. My only issue then was winter losses from southern stock, which is, in my opinion, entirely genetics.
>>You want to believe it's all genetics but that does not explain my success at all.
>Am I right in thinking Marla Spivak claims success without any mention of small cell - genetics only?
I have never heard Marla make that claim in writing or in person. I have heard Marla Spivak speak many times. I have NEVER heard her claim to have resolved the Varroa problem with genetics. She will talk about hygienic behavior and how that helps. She will talk about the idea of not treating and then tell you how to treat and how it's still necessary.
>Are you certain the genetic lines you got to replace all of the colonies lost to varroa wreren't better suited to varroa?
The lines I got were regular commercial stock from several sources. They did fine against Varroa:
I went to local survivor stock, not for Varroa, but for wintering.
>I have noted consistencies in survivabilty of bees caught at specific locations around here. There seem to be great differences in swarm size, coloration, work ethic and overwintering abilities
Yes. So have I.
>even here in this 50 mile x 50 mile zone where I place my traps. These locations consistently provide bees with similar attributes (swarm size, coloration, work ethic etc.) year after year.
So have I.
>I don't know what else to attribute this to other than genetics. The entire region is mono cropped soy and corn, so it isn't like some of these bees are coming from easy to live locations. What do you think?
I think wintering is almost entirely genetics. I certainly believe that genetics is important to bee survival. It's just that I never had any survive Varroa until I change the cell size. So until then I had no survivors to breed from. When Tom Seeley took the survivor feral bees from Arnot forest and put them on large cell in his apiary they all died. He assumed because of the virility of the mites in the apiary as opposed to the ones in the forest, which is a reasonable theory. But, based on my experience I think it's because of the cell size.
I have not measured my cell sizes, but I have been experiencing fewer losses since I:
1 quit using foundation in brood chambers,
2 quit feeding,
3 quit treating, and
4 sourcing all my bees from swarm traps.
With all of those changes it is hard to use the scientific method to determine what the true cause is, but I am going to continue doing what I am doing. I don't care which factor is leading to better overwintering.
My main difficulty this year was having enough bees to make more, and the fact that drawing down my best hives reduced drone populations.
As you seem to agree, I think that young or not, these are good bees. Wall to wall brood says a lot to me. I don't think my kind of splitting has artificially reduced varroa, and from what I can gather I think you agree that.
All in all I'm reassured to hear you say I'm doing things roughly right. Thanks for taking the trouble to write it out at length for me.
I think these are issues relevant to anyone trying to build up an untreated apiary. When transitioning some things might be different, but the principles are the same.
BTW your method of making increase is pretty close to that recommended by R.A.B. Manley in Honey Farming, written in the 1930's or 40's. Making increase and requeening from best stock was just normal practise - back when people understood beekeeping was no different to any other form of husbandry. Propagate carefully, systematically and selectively or health suffers.
So I don't 'believe it's all genetics', but I do believe that neglecting genetics will cause failure.
Thanks for your comments as ever,
>That isn't how her published work presents things.
Dr. Spivak has certainly made clear she thinks genetics will be the answer, and specifically that hygienic behavior will be the answer. However I have never heard her claim to have found that answer (Varroa tolerant bees that don't require treatment) nor that anyone else has. Can you point out where she says that?
I know some of you successful TF guys think it's a waste of time to do mite counts, but aren't you at least interested in the mechanism by which your bees are tolerating mites. I, for one, am curious as to whether your bees are keeping numbers down or tolerating high numbers. It's really not that big a deal to do. How about it?
Go to Heaven for the climate, go to Hell for the company. -Mark Twain
journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives
Sol, your post in #348 is pretty much the way I'm going as well. I'm glad to see I'm coming to similar conclusions, and hope it proves successful in the coming year. We shall see.
Thanks for taking the time to lay it all out once again.
This document isn't dated, but includes references up to 2003
"Our goal is to breed honey bees, Apis mellifera, resistant to diseases and parasitic mites to reduce the amount of antibiotics and pesticides used in bee colonies and to ensure that our breeding methods and stock are accessible to beekeepers everywhere."
"We have been breeding honey bees for resistance to diseases and Varroa destructor since 1994"
"We have bred hygienic behavior into an Italian line of honey bees. However, the behavior is present in all races and lines of honey bees in the US (and the world!), and can be easily selected for, using the methods described below. Our "MN Hygienic Line" of bees is available commercially in the US and has become widely accepted by beekeepers."
"However, our hope is that beekeepers select for hygienic behavior from among their favorite line of honey bee, whether it be Carniolan, Italian, Caucasian or other species. In this way, there will be a number of resistant lines avail-able within the U.S. to maintain genetic diversity -- the perfect way to promote the vitality of our pollinators."
"The effects of American foulbrood, chalkbrood and Varroa mites can be alleviated if queen producers select for hygienic behavior from their own lines of bees."
[MB That word 'alleviated' is rather vague. I agree it doesn't mean 'fixed' but it could mean 'reduced to little more than a light nuisance.
"Since 2001, we have been incorporating another trait into the MN Hygienic line called "Suppression of Mite Reproduction" or SMR. We also have been investigating the mechanism for the SMR trait to determine how bees can reduce mite reproductive success. Our results demonstrated that bees bred for SMR are both hygienic and have some yet unknown property associated with their brood that reduces the number of viable offspring the mites pro-duce. Combining the SMR trait into the hygienic line, therefore, helped increase the degree of hygienic behavior in our line, and added another factor that helps suppress mite reproduction. Field trials in commercial apiaries have demonstrated that the Hygienic/SMR cross significantly reduces mite loads in colonies relative to the pure Hygienic line and unselected lines of bees."
There is a more up to date approach at Bee Lab
"Our research includes:
Breeding Better Bees: The "Minnesota Hygenic Bees" have been bred in Minnesota. Hygienic bees detect and remove damaging diseases and parasites from the hive, helping bees defend themselves naturally."
Honey Bee Diseases and Pests Manual Updates for 2013 Marla Spivak and Gary Reuter
(This won't copy)
It seems to me that here there is something of a change of tune. The optimistic note of earlier publications is replaced by instructions to monitor and treat without fail. Yet the words seem to me to be addressed to those beekeepers who have been treating regularly. Dr. Spivak writes that 90% of colonies will die in their 2nd winter - a figure that she must know isn't true of many non-treatment beekeepers - like yourself.
Thanks again for pointing out the likely limitations in this approach.