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  1. #1
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    Jul 2012
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    Salt Lake City, UT, USA
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    Default Treatment free "genetics" question

    First year beek with one hive here, and I'm trying to go treatment free (had a moment of weakness in the fall...). I'm re-queening my hive this spring with a queen from a treatment free operation in the hopes that I can get some better hygenic behavior in my hives. However, I've been thinking over the past few weeks that re-queening my only be a temporary solution. After all, at some point, the hive will supercede her (or swarm, or...) and I'll be left with a virgin queen. Given that I have just one hive and live in an urban area, the new queen will likely mate with drones from a non-hygenic hive, and I'll lose a bunch of the genetics I want, right?

    So, the questions: Is this inevitable or is there any way around it? If things go well and I get off the "treatment treadmill", will I just be getting on the "queen replacement treadmill" instead?

    Any thoughts/advice you can share would be most helpful,

    Will

    P.S. Thanks to everyone in this forum for all the thoughtful and polite discussion of TF related ideas. It's been a GREAT read!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2012
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    Default Re: Treatment free "genetics" question

    The new queen will inherit traits from her mother, so you will still have some hygenic traits, hopefully, depending on the mother's genetics and what she mated with. If there are feral bees around you, they should be survivor stock as well so I wouldn't stress over it. There are things you can do as treatment free to knockdown mite populations, genetics only go so far sometimes.

  3. #3
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    Nov 2011
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    Rader, Greene County, Tennessee, USA
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    Default Re: Treatment free "genetics" question

    From my perspective, with only one hive, you will be better off spending your money to increase the number of hives you have, as opposed to spending dollars on requeening. Consider splitting your hive this spring, and let them raise a replacement queen.

    http://www.bushfarms.com/beessplits.htm
    Graham
    USDA Zone 7A Elevation 1400 ft

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
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    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    Default Re: Treatment free "genetics" question

    I think it makes sense to look at the big picture. If you stop treating and you keep raising your own queens, at least half the genetics are from a colony that is surviving. The other half is unknown, but still possibly from some feral bees that are surviving. The more you keep survivor bees without treatments, the more they raise drones who mate with the local feral stock and the more your queens mate with local feral stock. In the end it's the right directions. Granted you have people bringing in genetics that can't survive and they are contributing to the problem... but those are also likely to be dead in the spring when the drones are being reared...
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
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    jackson county, alabama, usa
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    Default Re: Treatment free "genetics" question

    with only one or a few hives, it would make sense to let the circumstances determine what needs to be done. if your bees are doing great and don't need any help don't treat them, and let them propagate the good genetics. if they get mite infested beyond survival, knock the mites down and requeen. the hard part is no one has a good answer to the question 'how many mites are too many', although 5% infestation in the summer seems to be the working number. if you have to take action, do so before the fall brood up, so that you will have queens available and the wintering bees will be from the new queen.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  6. #6
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    Jul 2012
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    Salt Lake City, UT, USA
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    Default Re: Treatment free "genetics" question

    Quote Originally Posted by squarepeg View Post
    with only one or a few hives, it would make sense to let the circumstances determine what needs to be done. if your bees are doing great and don't need any help don't treat them, and let them propagate the good genetics. if they get mite infested beyond survival, knock the mites down and requeen. the hard part is no one has a good answer to the question 'how many mites are too many', although 5% infestation in the summer seems to be the working number. if you have to take action, do so before the fall brood up, so that you will have queens available and the wintering bees will be from the new queen.
    This seems to be along the lines of what I was thinking - though I was too slow/late to requeen in the fall and my hive was CLEARLY not dealing with mites well, so a re-queening is necessary

    The issue I think I am struggling with is mating with feral bees/raising my own queens.

    I have huge doubts that there are significant numbers of feral/survivor bees where I am. I'm surrounded by residential neighborhood, and when that ends, it's all scrub oak and sagebrush. Not good feral bee habitat. So, I'm going to guess that the VAST majority of drones around are from other Beek's hives and the majority of those are probably not hygenic strains, since there seems to be not a lot of folks who value that trait. Maybe (hopefully) I'm wrong there.

    In the end, though, it seems like my little "donation" to the drone pool will be insignificant in shaping the genetics of any queens and unless I'm wrong about the size of the feral gene pool, I'll just steadily lose ground (genetically speaking) and my hives will come back to the non-hygenic "norm" in just a couple generations/years. Were I able to keep a dozen or more hives, then maybe I have an effect. But, I'm on a TINY lot, and I think there will be a spousal revolt if a second or third hive suddenly appears. I will be splitting my hive this spring, but the split will be going to a community garden well removed from my home, so no help there.

    I guess the message I'm getting so far is: unless you have a significant apiary (or access to significant populations of feral drones), breeding is gonna be a problem. All one can do is hope for the best?

  7. #7
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    Oct 2010
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    Baker Oregon
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    2,373

    Default Re: Treatment free "genetics" question

    Quote Originally Posted by ubernerd View Post
    I guess the message I'm getting so far is: unless you have a significant apiary (or access to significant populations of feral drones), breeding is gonna be a problem. All one can do is hope for the best?
    Well the likely scenario (assuming your colony survives) is that you will have to re-queen every 4-6 years (queen and first generation offspring queen). I think I would worry much more about the total survival of the colony than the possibility of having to re-queen every couple of years.
    Dan Hayden 4 Years. 9 hives. Tx Free. USDA Zone 5b.

  8. #8
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    Jul 2010
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    jackson county, alabama, usa
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    Default Re: Treatment free "genetics" question

    my gut feeling tells me that with open mating it will always be a crap shoot as far as what genetics end up in a colony of bees.

    i would venture to guess that even with purchased vsh queens there will always be some that do better than others with respect to resistance and other desirable traits.

    i am lucky to live in a heavily wooded area that has many feral colonies nearby. i am hoping that these survivors will produce drones that will be available to my new queens for mating.

    even so, i expect to find some variability in how well or not the colonies headed by my queens perform across the board to include mite resistance. i think each colony has to 'prove' itself before any conclusions can be drawn.

    you can try to buy queens that are supposed to have the traits you are looking for, but in the end you'll have to decide on each one based on performance. if you get an especially good one, you could remove her into a nuc, let them raise one of her daughters, and see how that daughter does. you just might get real lucky.

    i will have the luxury of deselecting the bees that aren't doing as well, by killing their queen, and using the remaining bees for mating nucs. i plan to do some drone trapping on the worse colonies, while allowing drones in the better ones. i'll just have to be careful to have as many good colonies contributing genes as i can in order to prevent bottlenecking.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  9. #9
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    Salt Lake City, UT, USA
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    Default Re: Treatment free "genetics" question

    Quote Originally Posted by RiodeLobo View Post
    Well the likely scenario (assuming your colony survives) is that you will have to re-queen every 4-6 years (queen and first generation offspring queen). I think I would worry much more about the total survival of the colony than the possibility of having to re-queen every couple of years.
    Probably a good idea. I tend to look long-term though. I guess I should be happy if I can keep the colony alive long enough to worry about having to do periodic re-queening. Perhaps I'll revisit the dilemma then.

  10. #10
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    Jul 2012
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    Default Re: Treatment free "genetics" question

    Quote Originally Posted by squarepeg View Post
    my gut feeling tells me that with open mating it will always be a crap shoot as far as what genetics end up in a colony of bees.

    i would venture to guess that even with purchased vsh queens there will always be some that do better than others with respect to resistance and other desirable traits.

    i am lucky to live in a heavily wooded area that has many feral colonies nearby. i am hoping that these survivors will produce drones that will be available to my new queens for mating.

    even so, i expect to find some variability in how well or not the colonies headed by my queens perform across the board to include mite resistance. i think each colony has to 'prove' itself before any conclusions can be drawn.

    you can try to buy queens that are supposed to have the traits you are looking for, but in the end you'll have to decide on each one based on performance. if you get an especially good one, you could remove her into a nuc, let them raise one of her daughters, and see how that daughter does. you just might get real lucky.

    i will have the luxury of deselecting the bees that aren't doing as well, by killing their queen, and using the remaining bees for mating nucs. i plan to do some drone trapping on the worse colonies, while allowing drones in the better ones. i'll just have to be careful to have as many good colonies contributing genes as i can in order to prevent bottlenecking.
    I'm still trying to wrap my head around the whole nuc and queen breeding thing. I guess it's time to start figuring it out. It seems like a powerful tool in the treatment free arsenal. I just have to figure out where to hide them in my back yard. Maybe some of my friends need bees for their gardens...

  11. #11
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    Jan 2011
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    Great Falls Montana
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    3,956

    Default Re: Treatment free "genetics" question

    Maybe you need to find a guy who owns some of that sage and scrub and see if you can keep bees there. I have the genetic problems you are talking about myself. Every spring this area is filled with commercial bees that are bred to produce huge populations and collect a crop of alfalfa honey and then get trucked out to pollinate almonds. There are extremely few feral bees here. They never see a snowflake, but any queens I raise are going to be fathered by drones from those commercial hives. I will try to get some queens raised before they arrive but otherwise, I will be counting on buying mite resistent queens on a continuing basis.

  12. #12
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    Sacramento, CA, USA
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    Default Re: Treatment free "genetics" question

    If you get a VSH daughter queen from a breeder queen, her drones should all carry the VSH traits. What you do with that information is up to you.

  13. #13
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    Jul 2012
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    Salt Lake City, UT, USA
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    Default Re: Treatment free "genetics" question

    Quote Originally Posted by Vance G View Post
    Maybe you need to find a guy who owns some of that sage and scrub and see if you can keep bees there.
    It's state and federal land. Utah law says hives are not allowed there (at least I'm pretty sure that's what I dug up a while ago). Now, maybe if I can backpack a hive in a few miles, I can make myself a stealth "isolated" apiary and solve my problems. I'm sure that won't be much of a nuisance to manage...

  14. #14
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    Jul 2010
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    jackson county, alabama, usa
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    Default Re: Treatment free "genetics" question

    Quote Originally Posted by ubernerd View Post
    I'm still trying to wrap my head around the whole nuc and queen breeding thing. I guess it's time to start figuring it out. It seems like a powerful tool in the treatment free arsenal. I just have to figure out where to hide them in my back yard. Maybe some of my friends need bees for their gardens...
    yep, in theory one should be able with bees that have the right stuff. that's a real dilemma having all of those commercial hives nearby. i have been relying on a nearby supplier who has never used treatments. i may go back to getting queens from him if raising my own ends up being more trouble than it is worth. ultimately though, i would like to sell nucs. i like your backpack strategy....
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  15. #15
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    Feb 2011
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    Dexter, Missouri USA
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    96

    Default Re: Treatment free "genetics" question

    It's never a bad idea to use resistant genetics, no matter how small your operation is.

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