Re: Breeding for "Success"
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.
It takes a great deal of observation, evaluation, and records to slowly develop and shape a population within a given set of parameters.
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.
DarJones - 46 years, 14 colonies (max 40), sideliner, treatment free since 2005, 11 frame broodnest, small cell