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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
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    New Albany, Ohio, USA
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    368

    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
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    4,645

    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
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    2,925

    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
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    Sacramento, CA, USA
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    2,925

    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
    368

    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

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Knox Co, Ohio, USA
    Posts
    857

    Default Re: Breeding for "Success"

    Joe,

    When a small, stationary, beekeeper is looking to bring in different gentics to improve their bees would daughters raised from her or drones produced by her have the biggest, long-term impact? Or, should both be done to get the biggest 'bang' for your buck?

    Can a small beekeeper have a significant impact on a local area? By small maybe 15-30 colonies in 2-3 apiaries in a 10-mile radius.

    Tom

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
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    jackson county, alabama, usa
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    Default Re: Breeding for "Success"

    good question tom, and in that scenario, how much is too much when it comes to most of the genetics in a given apiary descend from one or two queen mothers?
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Philadelphia, MS, USA
    Posts
    632

    Default Re: Breeding for "Success"

    Tom, I think that is a stationary beekeeper is in an area without other beekeepers he will quickly saturate the area with his genetics.

    In my instance there are no other beekeepers within a 20 mile radius of my yards. The only other bees out there are ferel, and they are few and far between. The ferel bees either die off and are replaced by swarms from my hives or produce queens that mostly mate with my drones. Either way within a cpl years there are no ferel bees out there.

    Johnny
    "Suppose you were an idiot and suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself." - Mark Twain

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Hamilton, Alabama
    Posts
    1,212

    Default Re: Breeding for "Success"

    It takes a great deal of observation, evaluation, and records to slowly develop and shape a population within a given set of parameters.
    The primary objective should always be to assemble production traits first and then to slowly add in minor but important secondary traits such as mite tolerance. The reason for this is because the production traits are highly observable and easily meaured by comparison with mite tolerance. You can also go broke very fast trying to select mite tolerance in a population that has very little to start with.

    Trying to concentrate traits that are low in observable effect is like trying to push a string. The analogy I use is that breeding work is kind of like a tall pyramid of apples. You need to put one more apple (trait) on top of the stack. To do so, you must first build an entire side layer to the pyramid and then finally place the top apple.

    If you keep bees in a reasonably isolated area, within 3 years the genetics will mostly be from your queens. If there are 3 or 4 nearby beekeepers who are maintaining typical commercial stock, then you might never achieve a high level of whatever trait you are trying to emphasize. They have no qualms about bringing in outside stock where you must maintain a breeding population with specific traits. My solution to this problem was to encourage my bees to swarm heavily a few years ago. The result was saturation of the area with mite tolerant genetics. It was an expensive solution, but in the long run, it has been worth it.

    I added a good list of breeding traits into the wiki on honeybees. It is just a very broad list of traits but will give some idea of the possibilities.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apis_mellifera

    DarJones
    DarJones - 44 years, 10 colonies (max 40), sideliner, treatment free since 2005, 11 frame broodnest, small cell

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    New Albany, Ohio, USA
    Posts
    368

    Default Re: Breeding for "Success"

    Tom,

    There is an older article, that I think was published in ABJ or Bee Culture, by Kim Fondrk. This may go back 15-20 years… Kim is Rob Page’s technician (right hand man). He is an excellent beekeeper and geneticist. He wrote the article about selecting for increased honey production with only using naturally mated queens. He showed progress could be made, but slowly.

    A number of years ago the recommendation to control drones in smaller apiaries was made. I was skeptical that smaller beekeepers could have much control over matings with a limited number of colonies. In my area, there are lots of beekeepers that keep a hive or two in their back yard. I set up what I thought was a reasonable perimeter of yards with my Aurea line which carries the cordovan color marker. I then free flighted queens from a yard within the perimeter. Matings were all over the place. Some queens mated fairly well with the intended cordovan drones, while most did not mate with many, if any cordovan drones. It all depends on the area and how isolated a beekeeper really is.

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

  13. #13
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Knox Co, Ohio, USA
    Posts
    857

    Default Re: Breeding for "Success"

    Joe,

    That is interesting, not surprising.

    My area is similar to yours in that there are a number of small hobby beekeepers, including me!

    So, extrpolating form your post above I can have the most corntrol by grafting queens I bring in or select. Increasing drone production will have an unmeasurable impact.

    Tom

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    46,341

    Default Re: Breeding for "Success"

    >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.

    Absolutely.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

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