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Thread: VSH Breeding?

  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'

  2. #2
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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.

  3. #3
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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

  4. #4
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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

  6. #6
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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

  7. #7
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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)

  8. #8
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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'

  9. #9
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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'

  10. #10
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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

  11. #11
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    Default Re: VSH Breeding?

    Good Read Rusty Hills, thanks for that.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: VSH Breeding?

    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.
    But if I may play devil's advocate here, how is this any different than all the queens that are hyped as being "survivor bees"? Anybody can call anything whatever they want. There are very few "tests" for any of it. Mostly it boils down to what is happening in a given box--with no guarantee that just because it IS working in this box, it is going to work in somebody else's box. At least with the VSH queens, one CAN go back to USDA and hope to get a reasonable facsimile of what they expect to get. But with Joe Blow's queens, who knows what you are getting, since there are no guarantees that because they work for him, they'll work for you. I don't mean Joe Blow is misrepresenting his bees, only that the bees themselves work or don't work based on where they are as much as how they are bred or handled.

    I think the bees are ALL locally successful or not, no matter how they are bred or by whom, based solely on their ability to survive in THIS place as opposed to that one. Every time you buy a queen, you are getting a-pig-in-a-poke. The VSH/Pol-line are no different in that regard.

    At lease that is what I am taking away from all this. Remember now, I am small potatoes and productivity does not affect my bottom line. For me they are just an interesting hobby. One that is starting to make me a little crazy, but then I suppose you have to be a little crazy to get so wrapped up in a bunch of bugs in a box!

    Bottom line for me is that I can spend my money on a package/nuc/queen that is supposed to be survivor or one that is supposed to be hygienic. I see it as a total gamble either way.

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

  13. #13
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    Default Re: VSH Breeding?

    that's the way i see it too rusty. and that's the main reason i want to try my hand at raising my own queens. i had pretty good luck making splits from my best colonies these past two years. i hope to end up with good hearty feral mutts that will be of use to me and maybe others in my area.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  14. #14
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    Default Re: VSH Breeding?

    Yep. That's the direction I am heading as well. I will start with the best I can find and hope to use them to develop some gals who do well right here. LOL I have been driving myself a bit batty over this, but now that I've had some time to cogitate a bit, that is the direction I am heading, too.

    And I really like that phrase "good hearty feral mutts"! That sums it up perfectly.



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

  15. #15
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    Default Re: VSH Breeding?

    walker county is pretty rural, as is jackson. do you have a generous supply of wild bees nearby?
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  16. #16
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    Default Re: VSH Breeding?

    Actually, no. I rarely see ANY bees, which is how I got started on bees again. I have a garden and a small orchard and in the 7 years I've been here, I've only had one season where I saw any bees at all, and then never again after that season 2 years ago. Which seemed sad to me, so next thing I knew there I was reading the old books and hunting online and--oops, now I'm building boxes again!



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

  17. #17
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    Default Re: VSH Breeding?

    I was going to say the same thing Rusty and Square. Bring in genetics you like, select for colonies that do well. I think most of the success comes in how good people are at selecting 'healthy' and 'strong' colonies and knowing a dog when they see one. I think what we're leading to is what to do after those queens get replaced a couple times and how often should new genetics be brought in or if it's even necessary at all. Just keep raising your own queens from what you have and don't look back.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: VSH Breeding?

    interesting. i'm pretty sure i have some around here. the way i can tell is that i have had a couple of cases of robbing, and the robbing bees were coming and going from the woods and i'm pretty sure there are no kept bees nearby in that direction.

    also, i have put wet supers out to get cleaned up, and these wild bees have shown up then. their color and markings a little different than the ones in my yard.

    there were beekeepers around me many years ago that managed quite a few hives. i'm guessing that their old swarms are now my feral bees. plus, i have let several swarms fly these past three seasons, in hopes that they might get established in the woods.

    the hope is that if they are making it in the wild on their own, that they might have decent survivor genetics, and their drones will be around come mating season.

    the other thing is that the bees i have purchased were bred from cut outs from the woods on the next ridge over from me. it has been twelve years since that breeder started these, and they have never been treated.

    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  19. #19
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    Default Re: VSH Breeding?

    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.
    I think grooming behavior might be as important [maybe more important] than VSH. I try to observe that in my hives and I find that the lowest mite counts are coming from those hives that express this. I also try to use 1st generation VSH queens. This year I'm going to try some queens which seem to express strong grooming behavior. They are from survivor queens which have not been treated for a few years.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: VSH Breeding?

    Camero, that's a good point. I noticed with hopguard, it really made the bees groomy, and perhaps that has something to do with it's effectiveness as well.

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