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Thread: VSH Breeding?

  1. #21
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    Default Re: VSH Breeding?

    Lots of good comments here. I've dabbled with the VSH bee for the past two years, starting with breeder queens from Glenn in 2011 and then more in 2012. I've had 3 pure VSH and 2 Pol-line II queens. I used these queens to make lots of queens, mostly for myself, but with limited local distribution. I do not rigorously test for "VSH traits" in daughters. However, I do assess these queens as one would for any other type of queen. My assessments are pretty simple, and suited to my objectives of: high honey yield, mite resistance, and gentleness. Overall, my luck with the pure VSH was very poor. Honestly, I simply couldn't keep them from dwindling away, which was very disappointing and costly, even F1 daughters of pure VSH were poor - maybe this was simply bad luck. However, I've tried F1 daughters from other breeders with similar results. I know others have had success with VSH and I'd like to hear more about that.

    The Pol-Line bees were completely the opposite - fantastic bees! Without a doubt the best bees I've ever used - and I've tried a LOT of different breeds and breeders. Again, my evaluations are simple: honey, mites, and gentleness. Honey and gentleness are simple to assess, with the results of the Pol-Line being much better than other bees I've had and better than others in my local area. For mites I routinely monitor using sugar rolls, sticky boards, drone uncapping, and visual evidence. The Pol-Line (breeders and F1 daughters) have consistently shown very low mite counts. How do these traits hold up without additional infusion of pure genetics, well that's a continuing story for which I'll have more data this season.

    I realize that this doesn't address the main point of the thread, but a point to consider here is if you buy F1 daughters and they (and any potential daughters) last 2 or 3 seasons, wouldn't that represent good value? Sure VSH traits may not be lasting, but bees that survive and produce are certainly worthy of integrating into a breeding program.

  2. #22
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    Default Re: VSH Breeding?

    hmmm, grooming (and autogrooming) is something i see on the landing boards fairly often. i thought is was fighting at first but it was definitely grooming instead. i think it may be worth journaling that observation......
    beekeeping since june 2010, +/- 20 hives, tf

  3. #23
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    Default Re: VSH Breeding?

    Astro, I really wanted to get one of the pol line queens but was planning on next year (which is now, 2013), guess I should've just pulled the trigger in 2012. I would agree with you, if you get 2-3 years out of the queen I think you've done well. Your mite population should've been kept down and if they were productive, worth the cost.

  4. #24
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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).

  5. #25
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    Default Re: VSH Breeding?

    very cool stuff jwh, please keep us posted!
    beekeeping since june 2010, +/- 20 hives, tf

  6. #26
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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

  7. #27
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    Default Re: VSH Breeding?

    Quote Originally Posted by JRG13 View Post
    I really wanted to get one of the pol line queens
    I wish I had bought about a dozen.....

  8. #28
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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.

  9. #29
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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

  10. #30
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    Default Re: VSH Breeding?

    adam, i'm set up for the alcohol washes, but not sure exactly how to measure infertility.

    would pulling a frame of capped drone brood just prior to emergence work? how many pupae would one need to inspect? what is a good percentage of infertility?
    beekeeping since june 2010, +/- 20 hives, tf

  11. #31
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    Default Re: VSH Breeding?

    Quote Originally Posted by squarepeg View Post
    adam, i'm set up for the alcohol washes, but not sure exactly how to measure infertility.

    would pulling a frame of capped drone brood just prior to emergence work? how many pupae would one need to inspect? what is a good percentage of infertility?

    You use worker brood. Specific aged brood, 100+ cells. Count degree of infestation per cell. % of single mites per cell in your sample is what you want to be higher with VSH Expression.

    This links pretty much goes over the whole test.

    http://www.extension.org/pages/30361...e-reproduction

    http://www.extension.org/pages/30984...sitive-hygiene
    Select on Mite Infertility


    Adam Finkelstein
    www.vpqueenbees.com

  12. #32
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    Default Re: VSH Breeding?

    got it! this is new info for me. looks like i've got some homework to do!

    the mississippi campus is not that far from me, but the alabama a & m is even closer. are there labs with colonies that one can visit?
    beekeeping since june 2010, +/- 20 hives, tf

  13. #33
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    Default Re: VSH Breeding?

    just watched the video of dr. harris' lecture on the extension.org site. i wasn't aware that the hygienic behavior involved multiple uncapping and recapping of brood. fascinating.

    adam, do you have a benchmark for threshold infestation rate and colony survival in your treatment free bees?

    what is your approach to managing colonies in which that threshold is exceeded?

    many thanks.
    beekeeping since june 2010, +/- 20 hives, tf

  14. #34
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    Default Re: VSH Breeding?

    Jeff,

    I agree, artificially selected traits revert to a much lower equilibrium once the selection pressure is removed. However, if Varroa is the issue or selection force on honey bee survival that we believe it to be, it may suggest that VSH should be greatly favored in selection if it is beneficial for survival. I agree that VSH does reduce Varroa levels, but at a huge cost to overall colony fitness. Does this provide some insight as to where VSH appears at such a low frequency in unselected populations? I believe Adam’s statement that VSH has added “vigor” to commercial operations is inaccurate. That has not been my experience each time I have attempted to incorporate the trait. Hybrid vigor appears to confound a perceived benefit to colony health and fitness when pure VSH lines are outcrossed. The initial outcrosses can be productive, but again the trait does not appear to stabilize in the sense that an “ideal” level can be identified and targeted. This in itself makes such a trait challenging for commercial beekeepers to rely on as a method of control. I am not aware of commercial operations using VSH stock on a large scale. It also makes me wonder why Bob Danka would solicit feedback from beekeepers as to what “soft treatments” they use in conjunction with their VSH stock. I don’t treat my stock either, but I do not advocate this approach to commercial beekeepers that rely on their colonies in a production environment, which is a different animal all together.

    Each time I have attempted to stabilize the VSH trait, things look good for the first initial cross or two. Once the frequency/expression of the trait is increased the negative aspects of VSH appear, as what is seen in the parental lines. I am not certain it is a matter of maintaining a larger population modeled after Page and Laidlaw. It does not appear to be an issue of inbreeding, but rather a consequence of the behavior itself

    Jeff, you may understand this trait better than anyone, but I am at a loss as to how or why it would be beneficial to incorporate such a trait into a production line. I believe there have been many attempts over the many years to incorporate VSH into programs, but it does not appear to be functional.

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

  15. #35
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    Default Re: VSH Breeding?

    Joe,

    It almost sounds like the VSH lines express the hybrid vigor, at least for mite control. Is this a case where the most productive, commercially, queens are daughters of a VSH queen?

    Is a classic type of hybrid vigor seen when honey bee races are crossed? Are they homogenous enough?

    Tom

  16. #36
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    Default Re: VSH Breeding?

    Tom,

    Jeff is the expert on the intricacies of VSH. In my experience, lines that expressed a high level of VSH behavior were very poor colonies. Daughter queens raised from highly selected lines still retain approximately 50% expression of the behavior. However, I think the daughter queens were also getting a boost from hybrid vigor as well because it appeared that in order to get a high frequency of VSH, inbreeding was necessary.

    I think this gets back to Deknow’s initial post about who is actually selecting for VSH and how does the beekeeper know what he or she is buying. In my experience, the assumption is that good production queens actually expressed a notable level of VSH behavior. However, when I evaluated crosses, colonies with high level expression of VSH were often times not very viable, especially the longer the colony was intact. Jeff commented that one of his goals is to develop a line with “good brood quality throughout the entire year”. I think that is the key.

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

  17. #37
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    Default Re: VSH Breeding?

    Quote Originally Posted by JSL View Post
    Jeff, I believe Adam’s statement that VSH has added “vigor” to commercial operations is inaccurate. That has not been my experience each time I have attempted to incorporate the trait.

    Each time I have attempted to stabilize the VSH trait, things look good for the first initial cross or two. Once the frequency/expression of the trait is increased the negative aspects of VSH appear, as what is seen in the parental lines. I am not certain it is a matter of maintaining a larger population modeled after Page and Laidlaw. It does not appear to be an issue of inbreeding, but rather a consequence of the behavior itself
    Joe,
    there's a very good demand for VSH stock used by breeders and producers.
    Many are using the VSH suite in sub-populations and are currently testing.
    I would not state that VSH is helping to provide vigor in stocks
    if I did not have the actual demand for VSH breeding stock from
    queen breeders. Maybe their breeding programs are different then
    yours?


    Regarding Jeff's mention of his breeding program, The concept of
    a VSH Italian type bee, productive and showing mite-resistance,
    has been conceptualized and implemented with the Pol-line program.
    Jeff's mention of using selection colonies based on static operations
    is another take on this. Many queen breeding programs have as their
    final goal, a queen type that is both productive in a commercial
    management scenario and resistant to mites and associated pathogens
    enough to need fewer annual chemical treatments. This is what we
    all want! It is a work in progress.


    Adam Finkelstein
    www.vpqueenbees.com

  18. #38

    Default Re: VSH Breeding?

    Great to see Jeff on this forum. He is truly the expert in this area and a great resourse for our industry. Glad to hear that you are continuing your great work that you did at the USDA. I have purchased three years of VSH breeders from Glenn to add to our operation and have seen a real improvement in our overall stock. Go Hummingbirds

  19. #39
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    Default Re: VSH Breeding?

    rainesridgefarm,

    How long have your had VSH in your yards? Which breeders did you get from Tom? How strong (good brood patterns and good populations) are your colonies that are breeder or F1 daughters?
    Horseshoe Point Honey -- http://localvahoney.com/

  20. #40
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    Default Re: VSH Breeding?

    Adam,

    I agree there is demand for inseminated breeder queens. However, I do not agree that VSH is a productive part of that demand. Deknow’s original point was that a lot of people use the term VSH, but how many are actually selecting for it. My contention is there are a lot of queens sold as “VSH” that do not express the behavioral characteristic at a beneficial level. If the stock was expressing VSH at a beneficial level, beekeepers would see just how energetically expensive and detrimental the trait is to colony survival. This is why I suggested the “VSH breeder queens” and the performance of their daughters are confounded by heterosis expressed in subsequent generations, with no apparent benefit or expression of VSH. Please correct me if you disagree, but I believe you as well as Tom and Suki were constantly making outcrosses to maintain the vitality of the lines.

    You mentioned the Pol-line program. Perhaps Jeff can share further details, but I would hardly call that a program by any standard. My understanding of the development of the “Pol-line” was that daughter queens from a single VSH queen were free flight mated in a larger commercial operation that I have worked with and supplied stock to for many years. The free flight mated queens were then tracked through the operation and the best later became the foundation for semen supplied to Tom and Suki. Again, I think this was an outcross attempting to increase vigor and mask the detrimental effects observed when a high frequency of VSH is observed in a population.

    I think it is important that beekeepers know what they are actually buying. It takes many years to establish and test lines. Simply making a cross and putting a label on it does not constitute a breeding program. Again, I think this is Deknow’s actual point.

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

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