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  1. #1
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    Default VSH Breeding?

    I've noticed the number of threads with VSH in the title, so I thought I would ask this question, as I've been wondering about this for a while.

    I've read the postings over on the VSH Breeders website/forum, and I can't tell if (outside the formal USDA program) anyone is actually testing for VSH.

    We know that HYG and VSH will not persist in the population unless they are constantly selected for generation after generation.

    ...so how are breeders (that are not just propagating USDA stock) qualifying their bees as VSH? How are they able to provide VSH behavior without testing? How many generations have these stocks gone since they have been properly evaluated for VSH?

    There is certainly less of a consensus about what constitutes a valid VSH test than there is for HYG...but if someone is going to claim that their bees are HYG or VSH, it seems there should be something observable that is being evaluated?

    Any thoughts?

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

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    Default Re: VSH Breeding?

    I recall some posts of people using the nitrogen test, but I always wonder how that translates into finding cells with mites as opposed to just dead larvae/pupae. My intuition is people use a qualitative assessment, they see the bees uncapping and removing cells, therefore must be hygenic/vsh?? I think most of the queens I've seen advertised as VSH are all daughter queens of a breeder but saying they're VSH and being such is two different things which is what you're getting at.

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    Default Re: VSH Breeding?

    great question dean. i've been wondering the same thing. even with testing, how can when be sure that a daughter queen and her colony are going to express a trait until they are proven themselves?

    for vsh, it seems like the best measure would be a summer mite count, at least that's what i am going to use for selection and deselection.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

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    Default Re: VSH Breeding?

    Probably a sensible approach square, but I don't think mite counts translate directly to VsH/hygenics. If you have light pressure for whatever reason you may assume it's your bees. Quantifying seems difficult to me as we cannot observe exactly what's going on, we just know cells are being uncapped etc... but can't really quantify how many mites were in there etc... What's the detection limit? 1 mite, 2 mites, 10 mites... If your bees only uncap 5 mites and greater... that's not very good. I guess a queen rearer needs to chime in and enlighten us. Do they monitor daughter queens for hygenics? Or just assume and sell them.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: VSH Breeding?

    Deknow,

    I think you hit the nail on the head. Evaluating even a single colony for the expression of a VSH takes a little time. Evaluating a breeding population is extensive. VSH is not really a stock per se, but a trait to be incorporated into stock, at least that is how John Harbo and Jeff Harris initially approached it. To incorporate VSH into a production stock successfully is a challenge for several reasons. VSH is not a simple characteristic and therefore not very stable in a population. From what I understand, there is also no general consensus as to what percentage of the workers should express VSH to provide an economically viable control level of VSH. 50% has been tossed around, but can be greatly influenced by a large number of environmental conditions.

    My assumption is that virtually no one outside of the USDA actually properly screens for VSH expression. I think the USDA provides regular disbursements of semen and perhaps queens to those that are interested in the trait. But, this is like the old days of making a copy of a copy of a copy… How much of the trait is actually retained or exhibited by queens on the market?

    The same concern was expressed with the hygienic stock Marla Spivak worked with and that trait was much easier to evaluate and select for. The problem was beekeepers put the catch phrase “hygienic behavior” in their ads, but the queens they were selling expressed very little actual hygienic behavior.

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

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    Default Re: VSH Breeding?

    thanks joe, and good reply. i should have added that the mite count won't be the only consideration for selection/deselection. it's not hard to tell which hives are more robust across the board than their cohorts. the mite count will be more to uncover a latent infestation and factor that into management. i'm not sure what else to do except proceed with the working assumption that a robust colony having a low mite count is my best bet for propagating genetics.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

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    Default Re: VSH Breeding?

    If you haven't already read it, THIS may help.

    Rusty
    Rusty Hills Farm -- home of AQHA A Rusty Zipper & Rusty's Bees ( LC and T)

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    Default Re: VSH Breeding?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rusty Hills Farm View Post
    If you haven't already read it, THIS may help.
    Rusty
    Hi Rusty,
    When I've read through things on the VSH breeders forum (where one would think selection for VSH trait would be discussed), there is almost nothing about the breeders actually using any of these methods.
    I saw one post that claimed they were going to post an easy step by step guide, but I haven't seen it.

    There is so much hype about VSH (just look at how many active threads have VSH in the title)...yet I think there are very few (if any) that do any kind of proper evaluation to support the VSH claims....and little incentive to educate beekeepers that want to breed their own bees (not just rear from purchased breeder stock) on how VSH actually works, and help them decide if this is a good road to go down for them.

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

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    Default Re: VSH Breeding?

    On thing I keep coming back to....

    _If_ VSH behavior helps reduce mite loads (Let's assume yes)

    and

    _If_ VSH behavior will not persist over a number of generations without actually selecting for it (I believe this is what the literature states quite plainly...this would mean a test for VSH as part of the selection process for each generation)

    Then what happens when we try to use VSH stock as a basis of a breeding program, or try to incorporate the trait into a population?

    1. At first it seems successful, as the first and second generations benefit from the VSH traits.

    2. As the generations unfold, actual VSH becomes less and less pronounced/common.

    3. One of the following 3 things will happen:

    A. The bees become susceptible to the mites as VSH dissipates
    B. The bees that are selected for survival/production/etc have those traits as a byproduct of VSH....that the survivors are assumed to be VSH because they are surviving
    C. As VSH dissipates, other mite resistant traits become more pronounced

    In cases A and C, a few generations down the line, the VSH traits are not maintained....was it useful to introduce VSH in the first place? What was gained?

    Case B seems to be what people think will happen when they buy some VSH stock to integrate into their own (or to start their own program)...but this assumption doesn't seem to be based on anything real.

    IMHO, "3 letter queens" are not a productive way to go...even if you do get stock that actually is VSH....and for the purpose of this statement, "JSL" doesn't count as 3 letters

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

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    Default Re: VSH Breeding?

    Deknow,

    This is where I think there is a disconnect. I have looked at and worked with bees that truly expressed measurable levels of VSH behavior. I started with the original lines from Harbo and Harris and tested lines from following years released by the USDA. Each time, yes the VSH lines did express lower Varroa levels, BUT in looking at the broader picture, I had concerns about production and survivability issues. I simply could not get good survivability and production out of lines that expressed high levels of VSH. In my opinion, the expression of VSH comes at a very high energetic cost to the colony, which is probably why it is expressed at such a low level in unselected populations.

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

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    Default Re: VSH Breeding?

    Good Read Rusty Hills, thanks for that.

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    Default Re: VSH Breeding?

    In the past, Tom Glenn obtained breeding material from the USDA program in Baton Rouge, and he maintained crosses of VSH without having to select for the VSH behavior. He sold the breeders, and many folks simply outcrossed daughters of those queens to produce VSH x unselected crosses -- and these colonies delivered about half of the resistance of the purebred parent line. However, the level of resistance afforded measurable slowing of mite population growth, and the hybrid colonies did not exhibit some of the problems that were sometimes seen in the purebred lines (small colony size; poor brood quality, etc.).

    It is difficult to directly select for the VSH behavior; however, beginning this year, I will establish a closed population breeding program at Mississippi State University that will try to produce an Italian-like stock with high expression of the VSH trait. This effort is in response to the retirement of Tom and Suki Glenn. I will select parents based on the ability to remove mite-infested brood from a comb (one of the USDA standard techniques), but we will also select for high honey production, low defense behavior, and maintenance of a good brood quality throughout the entire year. This last characteristic is important to help offset the tendency toward inbreeding. So, I don't know if others are measuirng VSH-related variables (e.g. percentage of infertile mites), but we intend to measure VSH behavior directly. The goal is to produce a VSH stock of bees that expresses VSH behavior at a level higher than currently available in the hybrid VSH colonies AND one that expresses the other desirable characteristics of Italian bees at reliable and predictable levels year after year. It will take years to produce a stable product, but it seems important to try and preserve the VSH trait in a stock rather than in selected lines (which are difficult to maitain, and they are inherently narrow in genetic base).

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    Default Re: VSH Breeding?

    very cool stuff jwh, please keep us posted!
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

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    Default Re: VSH Breeding?

    Welcome Jeff.

    Do you think it is possible to incorporate VSH into a “stable” production line? If so, how do think a trait such as VSH would reach a stable equilibrium within a population and not present such a high energetic cost to the colony.

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

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    Default Re: VSH Breeding?

    Hello Joe,

    I do think that VSH can be made more useful, but the question of stability is interesting. I see it as stable as any other selected trait -- when selection is released, the trait will likely equilibrate to some level significantly lower than what is selected. For example, if any breeder stopped selection pressure on a closed population, it would slowly divert to something less than desired (most likely). This is the problem with bee breeding -- or maybe animal breeding in general -- it takes a sustained effort. There are many examples -- yourself, Sue Cobey, and many of the California queen breeders. All have stocks of bees with desired characteristics -- low defense behavior being an obvious characteristic of some stocks. As soon as the selection pressure is eased, genes will gradually drift from the selected level. So, breeding is certainly a long term commitment.

    However, I do believe that VSH can be made higher than is found in hybrid colonies and lower than parental lines, and the resulting colonies will be nice and well liked bees. I am not going out on a limb here; Garrett Doods of the USDA Honey Bee Breeding Lab tinkered with developing a closed population breeding VSH-Italian stock for a few seasons. He was producing some nice bees when the effort was dropped for more pressing issues. He modeled the breeding after Sue Cobey's New World Carniolan program (but on a much smaller scale). His results encouraged my current effort.

    As a sideline, Garrett was shifted to producing VSH bees (with his boss Dr. Bob Danka) to produce the Pol-Line bees -- which are an Italian based VSH line that performs l in migratory pollination. My breeding will focus on stationary apiaries. So, we will likely have similar stocks, but my selection methods will be patterned more after what Sue has done for many, many years.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: VSH Breeding?

    A great thread...love to hear from Jeff on VSH: thank you for all your
    work Dr. Harris!

    VSH in a population can reduce mite levels and associated problems
    (vectored virus, other ones). Large commercial honey producers who run 10's
    of thousands of colonies and large commercial queen producers feel that VSH
    expression is helping their bee population's vigor. VSH is certainly not
    the only answer to honey bee health in apiculture but it is a simple and
    effective way to add robustness in the face of hostile pathogens and tough,
    stressful management.

    Selecting for VSH behavior isn't that hard, it just takes time and one has
    to be committed to performing the test.

    Link:
    http://www.extension.org/pages/30984...sitive-hygiene

    The "Mite Infertility" test is the most straightforward.

    We will be using this test scenario and an alcohol wash test scenario to asses
    VSH levels in our breeding colonies.

    Alcohol Wash Link:
    www.vpqueenbees.com/awa

    We also run a completely treatment free operation, so simply, the colonies
    that perform well meeting our breeding standards are used to make breeder queens--some of them have known VSH
    expression levels (as they were obtained from germplasm from the USDA and crossed using AI), others do not, but
    assuming they are alive and thriving, they are doing well somehow.

    All our future breeding stock will be vetted using both tests, in addition to our suite of performance testing.

    One of the goals the USDA hopes to achieve with the VSH program is for
    breeders and queen producers to learn how to test for the behavior. The
    chance the behavior is in your bee population is fairly good: finding it
    and breeding from those queens that show it, is more difficult.

    On the VSHBreeders forum (www.vshbreeders.org), most posters are using VSH stock and
    just getting into queen breeding. Our operation and Tom Glenn's operation
    as well as a few other breeder's there all obtained germplasm from the USDA
    program--then it has been up to us to make something from the material.

    It is encouraged to trade stock on the forum, and by joining and contributing, one
    might find really excellent bee stock to make queens from. Commercial operators trade stock all the time--it's a great way to keep
    one's diversity high while testing new blood.

    VP Queen Bees will offer pure VSH breeding stock, Pol-line stock, and VSH expressing
    Carniolan/Italian stock like Tom Glenn did: we will be partnering with the USDA Lab at Baton Rouge.
    We plan to continue producing VSH breeding germplasm for folks to use and incorporate into their operation.

    Please feel free to contact me or Kelly about VSH stock and please surf
    over to VSHBreeders.org and see what's going on.

    Stock trading for free with others who have similar goals, is a pretty good deal!


    Adam Finkelstein & Kelly Rausch
    www.vpqueenbees.com

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    Default Re: VSH Breeding?

    If i may, I'd like to go back to my original post.

    Quote Originally Posted by deknow View Post
    I've read the postings over on the VSH Breeders website/forum, and I can't tell if (outside the formal USDA program) anyone is actually testing for VSH.
    I ask this question again. I think what we've read here is that the USDA program does test for VSH.

    It doesn't seem that Glenn is testing for VSH, but that he is using USDA genetics in such a way that he is assuming that his stock is high in VSH expression.

    Adam appears to be saying that he will start testing for VSH this season. His stock is advertised on his website as "All Our Queens Are Bred From Untreated Survivors and Selected for VSH Behavior
    ".

    As far as I can tell, even the Pol Line queens are a few generations out of known VSH expression levels.

    It does seem that virtually no one is actually testing for VSH expression, even close to the source of known VSH expression (the USDA).....extrapolate that down to the folks selling offspring (or offspring of offspring of offspring) and advertising VSH stock.

    If any of this is innacurate or mistaken, please correct me...I'm not trying to accuse anyone of anything, just trying to figure out what is going on.

    We know that HYG and VSH will not persist in the population unless they are constantly selected for generation after generation.
    Is there any data out there that refutes this (either a study or multigenerational breeding records where VSH has been measured but not specifically selected for)? I understand this to be a characteristic of such "hypertraits", and outside of very controlled breeding and/or testing/selection for VSH, it will not persist at an artificially high level over time.

    ...so how are breeders (that are not just propagating USDA stock) qualifying their bees as VSH? How are they able to provide VSH behavior without testing? How many generations have these stocks gone since they have been properly evaluated for VSH?
    This question remains. I'm all in favor of selecting bees for survival, productivity, temperament, etc....but none of these selection criteria (nor does freeze testing) seem to also select for VSH behavior...do they?

    I'm all for selecting good stock. I'm all for selecting from untreated survivors. I'm not implying that anyone (named or not) is selling anything substandard.

    I think that if VSH does deter mites, that by focusing on it (and using it as a "hypertrait"), that we select against other mechanisms that bees use to fight the mite.

    I think that if VSH is introduced into an operation, that in order to maintain VSH expression, that it has to be constantly brought in, or constantly selected for. In other words, If VSH is working for you, it will stop working over some number of generations.....not because the mites have adapted, but because the high expression of VSH will dissipate. Thus, bringing in VSH genetics to start or boost a local breeding program is folly....it is a trait that will not persist.

    Using VSH properly is a commitment to either testing for VSH behavior, or buying stock from someone who does. This is a terrible tool for "local breeding"....it may well be a great tool for performance on a colony level, but it seems to fall flat when considered at a population level.

    I don't really have an opinion on how well it works in specific circumstance (as I haven't used VSH queens), I'm just trying to untangle some of the marketing, hype, and facts....mostly wrt helping beekeepers start raising and breeding their own queens.

    It is worth noting that on the vshbreeders.org forum, that there is little to no discussion on evaluating VSH behavior. It is also worth noting that almost no one anywhere talks about actually performing VSH testing.

    I'm not sure there is a formula that can tell you the amount of VSH expression based upon starting with "pure" stock, and outbreeding and backcrossing....it seems that such a formula is assumed by those selling high vsh expression based upon the crossings...but has anyone ever tested it?

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

  18. #18
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    Default Re: VSH Breeding?

    I think that if VSH does deter mites, that by focusing on it (and using it as a "hypertrait"), that we select against other mechanisms that bees use to fight the mite.
    I agree to a certain extent. I don't raise my own queens at this point, but I do only buy queens that are advertised as VSH. I find that grooming behavior might be as important. I notice that some hives excel at this behavior and always have lower mite counts. I do see some uncapping behavior in all my hives, but this fall my mite counts were quite high. I do treat all my production hives. I do not treat my nucs.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: VSH Breeding?

    DeKnow, The loss of VSH traits over successive generations could be for at least a couple of factors. First it being a recessive trait prone to being lost if any non VSH gene is introduced due to successive matings. it is a black and white situation as I understand it. You either have VSH or you don't and it requires more than one set of genes to remain pure.

    Second would be the inbreeding situation of honey bees in a more closed breeding situation of a small apiary. Evidence not by the loss of VSH but the loss of the bees entirely.

    If testing such as freeze testing is not considered testing. Can you be more specific on what you consider is. mite counts. brood removal and many other "Tests" are done to measure VSH. Are they effective in determining VSH is still a question. I agree that freezing and killing brood is not the best of tests when you want to know if bees remove mite infested brood. mite infested brood is not dead or frozen. Are mite counts reliable. they vary from season to season dramatically. Colonies that would pass the test in June may fail miserably in October. What about the pin prick test. Again the brood is killed. a significant difference to me. As far as I know all bees remove dead brood... eventually. But do they remove it in 24 hours?

    It does seem to me that standard and effective methods need to be established for testing for VSH. I have sen some discussion on the issue but nothing that looks like unity.

    Marketing hype. there is no way around that money is in the issue. and that money maters have their effect. Beekeepers want a product they can trust but are leery about promises. I firmly believe that the resistant bee could be produced and beekeeping in general would not accept it for this factor alone. Yeah right another one with the better bee. Sceptacism. disappointment and distrust all combine to make an atmosphere that will have to be addressed as an issue to be overcome. Due to this I think that offering the VSH queen in it's incomplete form may be a mistake. To many will just see it as another false promise. Which to some degree it will be. In short VSh needs to be VSH not some degree of chance you have a queen that will produce a VSH colony. The problem is the development of VSH is expensive, so who is going to foot the bill? But that is trailing off the issue.

    Best case I see is that VSH traits become connected to a visible trait that can be verified. such as Sex links in poultry. When poultry producers needed to be able to tell a male from a female chicken at the time it hatched. they bred visible indicators of a chicks sex into them. and only a male or a female carries that mark. They not only have done this they have done it in multiple ways. one breed of chicken the chicks are all yellow except the males have a small dark spot on top of their heads. in another bred the primary flight feathers are slightly longer than the secondary for the first few hours after hatching on the males. In another gene linked short legs on another breed of chicken is an indication that chick possesses a lethal gene and will be dead within days to weeks. Not a link you are looking for but another case where the seen is proof of the unseen.
    Stand for what you believe, even if you stand alone.

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    Default Re: VSH Breeding?

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Y View Post
    DeKnow, The loss of VSH traits over successive generations could be for at least a couple of factors. First it being a recessive trait prone to being lost if any non VSH gene is introduced due to successive matings. it is a black and white situation as I understand it. You either have VSH or you don't and it requires more than one set of genes to remain pure.
    This is not accurate at all.
    All populations have _some_ expression of VSH. It is not a single trait. When VSH is described as a trait, it is the hyperexpression of an observable and measurable behavior that is being described. VSH is not binary....not "present" or "not present"....it is a continuum, not black and white. As to the level of expression required to be effective, it may be a brink type of effect (HYG behavior and AFB are of this type of effect).

    Second would be the inbreeding situation of honey bees in a more closed breeding situation of a small apiary. Evidence not by the loss of VSH but the loss of the bees entirely.
    There may be some inbreeding at work here...but there is inbreeding in all selected populations. I don't have any evidence that it is any worse in VSH populations than in others.

    If testing such as freeze testing is not considered testing. Can you be more specific on what you consider is. mite counts. brood removal and many other "Tests" are done to measure VSH.
    Freeze testing is a valid test...for HYG, not for VSH. http://www.extension.org/pages/30984...sitive-hygiene has been posted by Adam. What we don't appear to have is a really great (even if cumborsome) way to directly evaluate VSH behavior (this would give us something to compare these other methods to as a way to guage their accuracy). My reading of things is that VSH is supposed to cause the bees to uncap brood cells containing varroa. Giving the bees a frame of capped brood under somewhat controlled conditions (known mite levels in brood, similar hive strength, similar foraging conditions, etc) would be a direct measure I think.
    Are they effective in determining VSH is still a question. I agree that freezing and killing brood is not the best of tests when you want to know if bees remove mite infested brood. mite infested brood is not dead or frozen. Are mite counts reliable. they vary from season to season dramatically. Colonies that would pass the test in June may fail miserably in October. What about the pin prick test. Again the brood is killed. a significant difference to me. As far as I know all bees remove dead brood... eventually. But do they remove it in 24 hours?
    These are methods for determining HYG. The VSH folks claim that VSH is different, and therefore requires different tests.

    It does seem to me that standard and effective methods need to be established for testing for VSH. I have sen some discussion on the issue but nothing that looks like unity.
    Standards aren't always good. I'd settle for seeing that those selling VSH stock were doing something to measure VSH expression.

    Marketing hype. there is no way around that money is in the issue. and that money maters have their effect.
    I see nothing wrong with marketing hype, per se. I also see nothing wrong with VSH bees, Pol Line bees, survivor bees, VP bees, JSL bees....there is nothing wrong with any of them. What I object to is the use of VSH bees to start what are planned to be local breeding programs (by beekeepers that are not going to select based upon VSH or keep purchasing VSH stock). I also object to unverifiable claims of VSH expression....especially when more traditional selection criteria is really what is at work.

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

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