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  1. #1
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    Sep 2011
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    Default Seeking input on local queen idea

    The last two years I have bought or traded with neighboring beekeepers for a frame of eggs and brood in order to pull queens from them. I have done this in an effort to diversify the genetics in my yard with other bee stock that has done well in our climate.

    This year, I know five local beekeepers, none of whom use "hard" treatments on their hives, who are interested in swapping genetics as well. We have agreed that we will each trade stock from our best hives over-wintered hives. In this way, we hope to improve the local bee stock. Basically, we want to give natural selection a little boost.

    So I am seeking input on 1.) our breeding priorities, which I will state below, as well as 2.) ideas about a practical way that other bee clubs could implement such a program. My friends are all comfortable with queen rearing and trust the disease and treatment philosphy of the other beekeepers, so we have just swapped frames. However, if this idea is to spread to other bee clubs, it might need to be less reliant on beekeeper experience and less prone to the possible spread of disease.

    Our "best" hive definition is operationalized as: First, the hive must have successfully survived at least one winter with non-chemical treatment. Of those hives, the second priority is having produced honey. And of those hives (survived and made honey), we will finally select for disease and pest tolerance/resistance. What do you all think of these priorities? I have considered adding a non-aggressiveness criteria, but I think more than three contraints is unrealistic. Opinions?

    As for scaling this approach up, I thought maybe if there was one person per locality who was willing to coordinate by trading and raising queen cells or maybe grafting from each of the participants, that might make it more likely to succeed. So any thoughts? Improvements, ideas?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
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    greer south carolina USA
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    156

    Default Re: Seeking input on local queen idea

    l think it is a great idea. l live in Greer SC. Any takers?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
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    New Albany, Ohio, USA
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    Default Re: Seeking input on local queen idea

    Ruthz,

    I like your idea! I have often thought along similar lines of having a “grafting party” for local beekeepers. My thoughts are to set a meeting time and place where beekeepers could bring a frame of grafting material to share larvae. Have a fairly small window of say an hour or two. Minimum standards may or may not be set, or beekeepers could follow a standard evaluation sheet available for everyone to see. All frames with grafting material and their “pedigree/evaluation form” can be laid out on the table and beekeepers can go around the room and graft what the like. It might be nice to have some experienced grafters on hand to help if necessary. Cells can then be taken home to start in their own cells builders.

    Sounds like fun and is a great way to get genetic diversity in a hurry. Maybe have coffee and doughnuts? Perhaps decaf would be best.

    Joe
    Breeder Queens & Honey Bee Nutritional Supplements
    www.latshawapiaries.com

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
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    greer south carolina USA
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    156

    Default Re: Seeking input on local queen idea

    Quote Originally Posted by JSL View Post
    Ruthz,

    I like your idea! I have often thought along similar lines of having a “grafting party” for local beekeepers. My thoughts are to set a meeting time and place where beekeepers could bring a frame of grafting material to share larvae. Have a fairly small window of say an hour or two. Minimum standards may or may not be set, or beekeepers could follow a standard evaluation sheet available for everyone to see. All frames with grafting material and their “pedigree/evaluation form” can be laid out on the table and beekeepers can go around the room and graft what the like. It might be nice to have some experienced grafters on hand to help if necessary. Cells can then be taken home to start in their own cells builders.

    Sounds like fun and is a great way to get genetic diversity in a hurry. Maybe have coffee and doughnuts? Perhaps decaf would be best.

    Joe
    its all good but l live in south carolina

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
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    Monkton, MD
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    Default Re: Seeking input on local queen idea

    JSL, I love the party idea! Not only would that be a way of getting the genetics transferred fast, but it would allow less experienced grafters to learn techniques from others. I also like the the 'paper pedigree' which could result from the swaps. I keep track of my hive's genetic lines (as best as I can in an open mating system) in a notebook, and it might be useful to others to get that information along with the eggs.

    For those of you in other states, my thinking about this is that if I can make the system work in my area, then maybe I could get a grant to take this to other bee clubs across the country. Personally, I believe that the solution (or at least A solution) to the hive die-off situation lies in better genetics. I worry that the lack of wild hives, combined with the limited genetic pool available from queen breeders, has severely limited the genetic diversity of our nation's bees. Plus, I doubt that we will be able to breed a mite-resistant (or whatever resistant) strain of bees that will be a one-size fits all solution for the whole country with all our virus climates, pesticide exposures, bee diseases, etc.

    People who rely on massive bee operations to make their living can't take the time to mess with the long-term trial and error of this appraoch. So I feel that hobbyists and small-time bee tinkerers might have the spare time and ability to re-diversify our bee stock to create 'locally top-notch' queens. I can afford to mess around with my bees, and take some losses as a consequence, because my living doesn't depend on it. Many other hobbyists are in the same boat.

    I think that if I could start this "genetic swap party" idea, and have it catch on at local bee-clubs across the country, then we all might be able to help the bees and keep them, and ultimately ourselves, from dying off. Heck, maybe even Monsanto might be willing to throw some money my way.

    Again any and all thoughts or ideas are welcome.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
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    Default Re: Seeking input on local queen idea

    ...sharing genetics is a fine idea,but I think it's worth looking a bit further ahead if you want to make "progress".

    The problem is that although you want to keep diversity high enough to prevent inbreeding, you also want to "improve" over time. You can't do this if you are constantly mixing things up...at some point, if you want something to point at as "good stock", it has to be somewhat uniform...and therefore, somewhat limited in diversity.

    Breeding is not just tossing things together (although it can start that way). You are looking for bees that "do well" (however you want to define that)...at some point, the more diverse your gene pool, the traits that "do well" for you will be less common.

    This isn't to say that a "salad" is a bad way to start....whatever your criteria, you should start with whatever you have available to you that is "best" (whether you already have it or think you need to buy it or trade for it) and begin your selection. If you are constantly "tossing" the salad, you are not refining anything, not accumulating anything.

    deknow
    The perils of benefactors; The blessings of parasites; Blindness blindness and sight -Joni Mitchell 'Shadows and Light'

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
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    Greenville,SC,USA
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    10

    Default Re: Seeking input on local queen idea

    Good Morning from Greenville SC,

    I think the idea of producing queens for genetic diversity is wonderful. It is, as you have stated, is a local approach that can be shared by many. However, it has been my experience that the queen rearing beekeepers in my location are few and far between. I am teaching beekeeping at my apiary, just to get the knowlege of queen rearing introduced to as many as I can. I am using the Nicot method to begin with and will eventually move into teaching grafting. I applaud your enthusiam to further the diversity of genes and will be glad to assist anyway I possibly can.
    Buddy

  8. #8
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    Jun 2011
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    Greenville,SC,USA
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    10

    Default Re: Seeking input on local queen idea

    Hello seamuswildflower,
    Are you an experienced bee keeper in Greer?
    Buddy

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
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    Northern Virginia
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    Default Re: Seeking input on local queen idea

    Quote Originally Posted by Ruthz View Post
    I think that if I could start this "genetic swap party" idea, and have it catch on at local bee-clubs across the country, then we all might be able to help the bees and keep them, and ultimately ourselves, from dying off.
    Several of your neighbors in Virginia are already doing this type of sharing and even "grafting parties". We have also spent a fair amount of resources, time, etc. in queen rearing education in various formats from 3 day workshops to half day sessions to raise the skill level throughout the State the past several years. As far as I am aware, we have not used multiple frames from different queen sources to graft from as of yet, but mostly one queen identified at a time has been used. While I am not very experienced in grafting and hope to work on that this year, one of the issues I have experienced is the grafting frame drying out, so transport and timing and all needs to be considered. I would be interested in what others have to say about that. My latest idea is to transfer the grafting frame with bees and perhaps a few more frames in a nuc if it will be any amount of time before grafting begins.

    We have also shared queens among us... mostly in the form of queen cells and virgin queens as a way to share genetics. For example, I had a 2009 survivor from VP and produced many virgin queen cells which got distributed. I think what you will find most challenging is the paper trail, and actually getting folks to keep records and notes on performance by queen source.

    I rarely find myself in agreement with Deknow, but on this I must say I like his message. I don't believe any of us backyard queen rearers are "breeding." For that you need hundreds if not thousands. But what we can do is to continually select what is working for us and share, and be conscious of maintaining a diversity in our yards, sometimes selecting new material to keep that diversity. There have been several grants to help sponsor this work and there are many who are doing it as clubs or small groups without any grant support. I think you'll find yourself in good company with the idea and you can pm me off line if you want some VA contacts or to talk further
    karla

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Seeking input on local queen idea

    Quote Originally Posted by JSL View Post
    Ruthz,

    I like your idea! I have often thought along similar lines of having a “grafting party” for local beekeepers.
    Joe
    Will there be Guinness?

  11. #11
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    Northern Virginia
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    Default Re: Seeking input on local queen idea

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Palmer View Post
    Will there be Guinness?
    we'll have whatever you want- maybe ale is my ticket for better grafting success.
    karla

  12. #12
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    Jul 2010
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    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand
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    Default Re: Seeking input on local queen idea

    Question about the grafting party. If people graft at the grafting party, what happens to the grafted cells between then, and when they get home? They bring a nuc of queenless bees to put them in or something?
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  13. #13
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    Sep 2011
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    Monkton, MD
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    Default Re: Seeking input on local queen idea

    Your point is well taken deknow. Maybe I shouldn't use the term breeding, perhaps "selecting" would be a better term. After all, in an open mating situation, I am only able to control for the genetics of the queen. That said, however, I do think that there is value in trying to pull new queens from our BEST hives, and in that way, give natural selection a little boost. Am I wrong on this?

    And as for the definition of BEST, I proposed the criteria in my original post, and I would appreciate your feedback on the priorities and/or methods of measurement. Surviving through winter without "hard" chemical treatment seemed like a good first criteria, because if the hive didn't survive, you wouldn't have any eggs to work with. Individual groups can define allowable treatments however they want, but my nearby friends are shooting for no more than screened bottom boards, brood cycle breaks, and powdered sugar when needed. I am trying to select AGAINST strains of bees that can't survive without miticides.

    The second criteria is pounds of harvestable honey, because many people keep bees for the honey, and that is a relatively easy thing to measure and track. If you sell your honey, you almost certainly know which hive gave you the most in any given year.

    I am still on the fence regarding the third criteria, partly because it seems like too much for people to keep track of, and I don't want anyone to be scared away fearing that they will have to spend days counting mites. What do you all think?

  14. #14
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    Northern Virginia
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    Default Re: Seeking input on local queen idea

    Quote Originally Posted by Oldtimer View Post
    Question about the grafting party. If people graft at the grafting party, what happens to the grafted cells between then, and when they get home? They bring a nuc of queenless bees to put them in or something?
    We have done it a few ways. Folks come back and pick up capped queen cells, or if cells get caged when capped, then emerged, virgin queens. Sometimes they all stay at the host apiary. Larry Connor in his workshops had students pick up 24 hour grafts- just started in the little cups and transported safely (small styrofoam coolers with vial holders worked well). Many of us actually raised queens this way although I was very skeptical. I believe he has an article on it, and someone else did too I think they actually mailed them maybe- Maybe Joe? I have not heard of anyone actually taking grafts back the same day.
    karla

  15. #15
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    Sep 2007
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    New Albany, Ohio, USA
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    Default Re: Seeking input on local queen idea

    Karla and Oldtimer,

    I did ship 48hour cells. The final outcome was about 25% success. That was okay for trading stock, but relatively poor for all practical purposes.

    Freshly grafted cells can be transported several hours, perhaps more. We worked on this with our state organization. Royal jelly diluted with 15% saline solution was used to prime the cells prior to grafting. Acceptance for newly grafted cells was nearly as good as transporting 24hour cells.

    Joe
    Breeder Queens & Honey Bee Nutritional Supplements
    www.latshawapiaries.com

  16. #16
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    May 2012
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    2,925

    Default Re: Seeking input on local queen idea

    Another thing to consider is/are lines/hives that compliment each other. Say, you have a great honey producer, but not so resistant hive, but a great resistant hive but not so great at producing honey... Co mingle those genetics and you might get a better line than either one, or at least a decent semi resistant producing hive. I posted on some other thread, I would start with bees you like and then look for traits to bring in. Taking your best hives based on similar criteria (all good producers, gentle, survivors) may not diversify your genetics if they're all from the same areas.

  17. #17
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    Sep 2011
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    Monkton, MD
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    Default Re: Seeking input on local queen idea

    Karla and Oldtimer,

    I am so glad to hear that folks in Virginia are already doing this. I am not that far away, and I would love to come to one of your parties. I could even bring some beer, you know, just to keep that grafting hand steady.

    As for transport and drying out, I have wrapped frames in damp towels before, and that has worked. I also have a "travel hive," which is really just a three frame nuc without a queen and a screen bottom. Some might call it a cell builder. I have used it to transport frames of brood or frames with a swarm cell from one bee yard to another. I have also used it for short-term 'queen banking.'

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