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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    New Albany, Ohio, USA
    Posts
    339

    Default Breeding for "Success"

    JRG13,

    I think operating a successful beekeeping business entails many aspects. Stock selection is just one of the components. I like the saying, “all things in moderation”. I do not believe the challenges we face as beekeepers will be solved by selecting for a single “ultimate” characteristic, but rather developing a comprehensive system that functions as we would like it to most of the time.

    In selection, I think it is important to be cautious about identifying specific traits or characteristics and making assumptions about their overall value of fitness to a honey bee colony. Just because a trait is observed at some low frequency in a population, does not mean that it will provide greater fitness at a higher frequency.

    Traditional animal and plant breeding makes the greatest progress when a trait is identified that is measurable and heritable. That trait can then be emphasized or reduced quickly. The same is true in honey bees, but for me, it is challenging to identify specific mite resistance mechanisms. While it is not clean and clear cut by any means, I prefer to look at overall production and survival traits without zeroing in on specific traits that I assume impart some level of added fitness in the long run. It takes a great deal of observation, evaluation, and records to slowly develop and shape a population within a given set of parameters.

    Management is also a very important part of getting the most out of a stock. Small isolated apiaries have completely different functions and stresses than large concentrations of commercial apiaries. I think this alone plays a big role in the success of some of the smaller more isolated operations. But at the end of the day, every successful operation will develop a system of managing mites, diseases, and replacing colonies to maintain numbers. They will do this by finding a stock that meets their needs with the characteristics their desire. That is one of the fascinating things I get to see in working with beekeepers. When new customers first contact me, I try to learn about their operation, how they run things, what cycle they follow, what stock they currently work with and what they hope to achieve.

    I look at breeding as an attempt to stay in the race a little longer, and perhaps hold the lead from time to time. But, I also realize every other pest, predator and disease if fighting just as hard, if not harder. After all, they are fighting for their life too.

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

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    jackson county, alabama, usa
    Posts
    4,235

    Default Re: Breeding for "Success"

    very well stated joe, and many thanks.

    i'm a sideliner who is interested in sustaining my own operation and selling a modest number of queens and nucs. but, i am more interested in quality than quanity.

    and now, the $60,000 question for me is:

    for breeding purposes, what parameters should i be taking record of? how would i use that information to end up with the most robust, workable, productive, and resistant bees possible?
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Sacramento, CA, USA
    Posts
    2,676

    Default Re: Breeding for "Success"

    Thanks Joe,

    That was well said to say the least. I was just curious if anyone was noticing how their bees were handling mites other than hygenics. Most of us lack any means of quantifying traits in any meaningful manner (i.e. marker mapping). I may dabble with producing queens one day and was just thinking about what strategies to use to produce stable performing lines but it seems it may be simply breeding from the best as done in typical fashion is still the best way to go. Til then, guess I just need to save my pennies to make a breeder queen order from you

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    Raymond, Mississippi, USA
    Posts
    177

    Default Re: Breeding for "Success"

    I also had the same question as JRG13.... and you answered it as I expected. If I understand correctly... Specific traits can be bred into a population... but the overall success as a population may or may not be successful if based on this sole characteristic you are breeding into the population.... as your experience with the VSH behavior. Are there any other observable or noted characteristics that can be bred into the population that ALSO affect mite resistance? Are there other traits that folks with "survivor" bees are getting that are different than what breeders are getting in VSH behavior? If breeders did nothing to narrow genetic behaviors... would natural selection eventually give us the same result? If an apiary had hives of bees that have had ZERO treatments or any other controls to help maintain that hive for many years... would or could you say that these survivor bees are demonstrating the same behavior as a closed VSH population? Or are there other factors that would cause survivor bees to flourish without treatments for so long? Thanks.. I, and I am sure everyone else who reads these threads appreciate your input immensely.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    Raymond, Mississippi, USA
    Posts
    177

    Default Re: Breeding for "Success"

    I also wanted to ask about your statement
    quote: " I look at breeding as an attempt to stay in the race a little longer, and perhaps hold the lead from time to time. But, I also realize every other pest, predator and disease if fighting just as hard, if not harder. After all, they are fighting for their life too."
    Are universities/research facilities looking in such a way to find something a mite likes BETTER than a beehive? I have personally put bait/ lure outside hives to find the food being taken by SHB... and I am assuming they came OUT of the hives to get something they wanted more than what was inside the hive. Could a type of approach in this regard be used for a mite? Could more in-depth study be done to find what is most attractive for SHB?
    Was just wondering if things like that are being evaluated. I remember when SHB was just getting bad in Florida.. before they were in Mississippi... saw Jerry Hayes/ Florida apiary inspector give a lecture at a MS state beekepers meeting.. stated that a SHB can smell a beehive 10 miles away... so I wonder if there is something a SHB or a Varroa mite likes MORE than a beehive. Hope this question is not too far off topic... Thanks

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Sacramento, CA, USA
    Posts
    2,676

    Default Re: Breeding for "Success"

    I only asked the question to really just ask it. I'm not wanting something to select for but was just wondering with all this survivor talk that's not associated with VSH, what else are the bees doing.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    New Albany, Ohio, USA
    Posts
    339

    Default Re: Breeding for "Success"

    My honest response is I don’t really know what is providing “resistance” in survivor populations.

    I believe there are many things that play into the success of beekeepers that advertise survivor stock. May I suggest reading some of Tom Seeley’s work on feral bees? He has looked at this question from many different perspectives. As to specific measurable traits, grooming behavior is the most recent one that comes to mind. Greg Hunt, out of Purdue has been looking at this and doing some selection work in that area. I believe European researchers also did some of the initial work on with grooming behavior.

    I think management plays an important role in living with Varroa. While not a cure all, learning how to efficiently replace losses quickly and with the least amount of effort enables apiaries to sustain their numbers, although individual colonies may die over time.

    For me, I try not to focus on individual characteristics that I think may impart resistance. I rely on working with a large population and making repeated measures of production over time. For example, say I start with two colonies one produces 150 pounds the first year, but barely survives the first winter. The second colony produces 100 pounds but comes through the winter in good shape. If it is all about production the first year then I go with the 150 pounder as my breeder, but if I take it out even longer and look at the average production over 2,3,4 years, then the picture may look very different. I tend to favor queens that have good production over time. This helps to provide repeated measures over time that better illustrate a queen’s actual potential in a population. It also suggests to me that the characteristics I am measuring may have an underlying genetic influence that may be passed on in subsequent generations. One good queen does not make a population, so think on a larger scale searching for lots of queens that perform well, but realize it will only be a small percentage of the population that excel.

    It is or will most likely be a suite of mechanisms that impart some level of resistance, I just don’t know which ones. The mechanisms may also be expressed at relatively low frequencies working in conjunction with each other, or at different times. This is the reason I removed treatments from my population. In order for bees to develop “resistance”, if it will develop, bees need to be challenged. Again, I cannot advocate such an approach to my commercial friends as the results can be devastating, but then again my interest is in selection to provide good stock for commercial beekeepers.

    An interesting side not… “Resistance” can come in most unexpected forms. In school I had a friend from South Africa. We were talking about resistance mechanisms and he shared an interesting one about mosquitoes and DDT. They used to coat the walls of their homes with DDT to kill the mosquitoes. Originally this population of mosquitoes would take a blood meal and then land on the walls to digest their meal. DDT became less effective. When they looked at why DDT was becoming less effective, they discovered the mosquitoes were not landing inside, but rather taking a blood meal and flying outside to rest. How simple and elegant is that?

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

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