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  1. #1
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    Jan 2009
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    Grosse Ile, Michigan, USA
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    Default definition of "survivor bees"

    The term "survivors" when applied to a colony no doubt has many interpretations, I have used it myself in the past to label some of my hives, but lately I have begun to question whether there is such a thing at all. If you feel there is reason to call a colony a "survivor" what characteristics are present that differentiate it from any other colony that exists for several seasons at least. John

  2. #2
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    Feb 2006
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    Herrick, SD USA
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    Default Re: definition of "survivor bees"

    Quote Originally Posted by jmgi View Post
    The term "survivors" when applied to a colony no doubt has many interpretations, I have used it myself in the past to label some of my hives, but lately I have begun to question whether there is such a thing at all. If you feel there is reason to call a colony a "survivor" what characteristics are present that differentiate it from any other colony that exists for several seasons at least. John
    Good point John. Once your first hive dies then all others are, well, survivors....right? To me a "survivor" is a hive that survives what our operation and the weather put it through in any given time frame.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  3. #3
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    Jul 2010
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    jackson county, alabama, usa
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    Default Re: definition of "survivor bees"

    another good question john.

    for me, 'survivor' means an unmanaged feral colony that propagates swarms year after year, and doesn't die out. some folks question whether or bees surviving in the wild on their own exist. granted, it would be hard to find and regularly observe these wild hives to verify they did not die out and weren't just replaced with swarms. i believe they are out there in my area.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
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    Saint Louis, Missouri
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    40

    Default Re: definition of "survivor bees"

    Em... A queen that has not been allowed to issue a swarm, that overwinters, lays a solid brood pattern for at least two to three years is a 'survivor' for the local area.

    I have had very productive queen who swarmed high in the fifth season and got away, but other three or more year colonies reside in the same apiary. That fiver produced splits and her daughters mated with drones from other survivor stock to a frequency that I can accept as 'survivor stock'.

    FYI: Starting stocks are from the entire range of sources (mail order, cut-outs, swarms, etc.), approaching 20 hives, 9th year, not a breeder, but have sold some splits.

  5. #5
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    Feb 2004
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    Raymond, Mississippi, USA
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    177

    Default Re: definition of "survivor bees"

    For the average hobby beek... how often do you replace a queen? Is it based only only laying patterns... after a specific time ( 2 years is what most that I knew replaced after )... I have not heard of people keeping queens for many years.. but is this common?
    Thanks

  6. #6
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    Jul 2009
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    nashville tn usa
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    Default Re: definition of "survivor bees"

    WCubed can give a good answer to the question

  7. #7
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    Jan 2005
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    Southern Oregon
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    Default Re: definition of "survivor bees"

    Good question. Here is what I look for in a breeder queen:
    Productivity- Can the hive produce surplus of all three; honey, bees, and Pollen? Don't settle for just one.

    Mite tolerance- Can the queen make 2 winters or more without a acaricide and remain productive?

    Hygienic behavior- Can the colony achieve a 100% clean out on freeze killed brood test on at least two occasions?

    Early build up- Can the colony easily make the grade for early pollinations like almonds? We must pollinate to get the bills paid so they have to be suitable to the task.

    If I can answers yes to all 4 criteria then I would suggest that the bees in question would fall into the category of "survivor bees". Some may take umbrage with managed bees even being considered, however we need bees that are stable and sustainable enough to pay the bills. We always welcome some ferals to participate in the challenge every year.
    John B Jacob www.oldsolbees.com

  8. #8
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    jackson county, alabama, usa
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    Default Re: definition of "survivor bees"

    good point john, it might be argued that managed bees have to be even 'tougher' than wild bees.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
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    hinesville ga usa
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    403

    Default Re: definition of "survivor bees"

    Quote Originally Posted by squarepeg View Post
    another good question john.

    for me, 'survivor' means an unmanaged feral colony that propagates swarms year after year, and doesn't die out. some folks question whether or bees surviving in the wild on their own exist. granted, it would be hard to find and regularly observe these wild hives to verify they did not die out and weren't just replaced with swarms. i believe they are out there in my area.
    I agree, and in my area I am convinced, because I am in an area that has only one other beek, and he has Italians, yet there are large black drones that visit my hives, and I have caught a couple of swarms of dark bees. The queens from these behave like dark bees, they cut back production of brood in the winter and winter with smaller numbers of bees. They also go to work well below 57 degrees. Back in the eighties an outfit out of Jesup Ga. kept a large number of Midnight ( or Midnite ) bees nearby. These were dark bees, I am working to develope a bee that will work at lower temps and exspand the brood-nest in mid winter. I firmly believe these bees have survived in the wild for over twenty years.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
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    Calvert, Md,USA
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    1,701

    Default Re: definition of "survivor bees"

    Do they have to live "in the wild" to be feral? And, if they are not "managed" but still make their home in a lang, given the criteria, are they not survivors? There are those that do nothing but add supers then take the honey. My friend and I have two hives that are basically yard ornaments. He at least takes some honey. I have not. Started this two seasons ago, third coming. Probably have swarmed. They are strong vigorous hives. No treatments. ( reason we did it ) I guess some might say they are just un managed, we are lucky so far,,,, maybe
    I have one queen that if she makes it this winter, this spring will be her fourth season. I put her in a nuc early each year and let the hive make a new queen. I do not routinely re queen. JMO.
    2 cents
    Rick

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
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    Citrus County, Florida, United States
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    260

    Default Re: definition of "survivor bees"

    Good article about the subject in Bee Culture, Nov. 2012, Father Time Tested Mother Nature Approved, by Melanie Kirby

    "Dr. Marla Spivak in her Keeping Bees in Northern Climates workshop states that it takes 18 months for Varroa to infiltrate and kill a hive. It is therefore plausible that survivor bees must be able to overcome that threshold--meaning survive past 18 months."

    "the minimum age for establishing any lineage of survivor stock should be at least 18 months and I recommend even older- at minimum two years of age. This passage of time not only reflects the ability of a ccolony to deal with Varroa, but also its ability to establish its Overall Lifetime Merit, the OLT as I call it, which tells how well a colony holds up to other various pests and diseases, maintains gentleness and productivity."

    The OLT is her naming of a "pedigree" system with longevity being one of her selection criteria. No doubt, time is a factor. "Survivor bees" have no connotation or association with their source such as "feral". The article also goes on to stress "local" and the reality that a survivor bee in the Northwest isn't going to necessarily be successful in say Michigan or Maine, but there is merit to the idea of regional sharing or breeding among know survivor stock. How colonies deal with dearth and other stresses are discussed. Taking the nature of the criteria being discussed and the "survivor" trait, standard management practices such as feeding would have to be called into question and a more "holistic" approach would need to be taken to determine "survivor stock".

    "This holistic approach relies on quality nutrition. And quality nutrition relies on the environment. The main requirement of nutrition is diversity and saturation, but, another crucial aspect of nutrition is dearth and compromise."

    Basically, the factor being stressed here is the ability of the hive to handle the dearth periods through brood minimization which gives the mites less opportunity at reproduction. Also the "frugality" of the bees would be important here. Again, surviving over time seems to be the critical factor (yes, productivity and gentleness are also criteria) with source ("feral" vs commercially bred) being of no importance. An interesting take with some very concrete methods/criteria on the whole "survivor bee" topic.

  12. #12
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    Sep 2012
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    Saint Louis, Missouri
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    40

    Default Re: definition of "survivor bees"

    Quote Originally Posted by Nature Coast beek View Post
    Good article about the subject in Bee Culture, Nov. 2012, Father Time Tested Mother Nature Approved, by Melanie Kirby
    Melanie is the only breeder that I know of that monitors for longevity. It seems like an important trait to me.

  13. #13
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    Feb 2004
    Location
    Raymond, Mississippi, USA
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    177

    Default Re: definition of "survivor bees"

    Very good info here for me... am still formulating some deeper questions about the matter and will ask later... but just quickly... as for longevity.. 18 months.. etc... This may be important to smaller beeks.. or hobby beeks... but I was always taught to believe that Commercial beeks routinely requeen every 2 years. They don't usually have the time to do extensive evaluations on each and every hive when they are running 1000-10,000 hives... so they just requeen every other year. Obviously if 18 months is the time for Varroa to kill a hive... production will decrease far earlier than the hive death... but do commercial beeks really care if the hive/queen is going to last 2+ years? As a production queen breeder I think you would definately WANT to maintain the oldest surviving stock you have to try and maintain that genetic trait... and you would breed production queens from them.... but is a commercial beek going to watch his queens for 2+ years to see how they survive? I don't know... and that is why I am asking.... what does a commercial beek want in a production queen that they buy? How much intervention can a queen producer do to a hive before he really can't make the survivor claim? According to Dr. Spivak.. even feeding your bees would automatically deduct from your ability to make a survivor claim. So... what do commercial beeks who buy 1000's of queens expect or want?
    Thanks

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
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    Southern Oregon
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    1,168

    Default Re: definition of "survivor bees"

    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Klein View Post
    Melanie is the only breeder that I know of that monitors for longevity. It seems like an important trait to me.
    We also monitor for longevity.
    John B Jacob www.oldsolbees.com

  15. #15
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    Jan 2005
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    Southern Oregon
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    Default Re: definition of "survivor bees"

    Sippy: "According to Dr. Spivak.. even feeding your bees would automatically deduct from your ability to make a survivor claim."

    Are sure about that? That is not my interpretation, but I may be wrong here

    Kirby: "This holistic approach relies on quality nutrition. And quality nutrition relies on the environment. The main requirement of nutrition is diversity and saturation, but, another crucial aspect of nutrition is dearth and compromise."

    Nutrition is a key component in good animal husbandry. To not supply it, survivor bees or not, is simply asking for trouble.
    John B Jacob www.oldsolbees.com

  16. #16
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    Jun 2012
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    Citrus County, Florida, United States
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    260

    Default Re: definition of "survivor bees"

    @SippyBees

    Here in Florida, the BMP (Best Management Practices) for ALL registered beeks (commercial included) is to re-queen every 6 months unless queens are marked or wings clipped. Even the specified (voluntary) plan for queen breeders is:

    "11. Recommend re-queening with European stock every six months using marked or clipped queens or
    produce a bill of sale from a EHB Queen Producer.
    " -- General Information & Best Management Practices section: http://www.freshfromflorida.com/pi/p...ry/apiary.html

    With this voluntary state BMP, producing "survivor bees" would be even more challenging. As far as commercial beeks, I'm not one nor do I personally know any, but you have to realize that most of them are on a production model and the extensive use of prophylactic treatments seems to be standard operating procedure. This is one of the biggest hurdles to the system from what I can see-- the proverbial treadmill. I think that the scope of "survivor bees", at least right now, is geared more towards the hobby beekeeper and maybe sideliner. Disabusing large production commercial beekeeping operations of their current practices wouldn't be a goal of a "survivor bee" program, at least at current stages from what I have read/learned.

  17. #17
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    Sep 2012
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    Saint Louis, Missouri
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    40

    Default Re: definition of "survivor bees"

    Quote Originally Posted by JBJ View Post
    We also monitor for longevity.
    Excellent!

    Sippy, This is a brood pattern from a third season queen... a keeper, IMO.
    http://www.isabees.com/gallery_honeybee_brood.html

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    Raymond, Mississippi, USA
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    177

    Default Re: definition of "survivor bees"

    To JBJ.. Am only taking the description of "survivor" to the extreme.. meaning, ANY intervention a beek gives to his bees.. even feeding... could reduce the strength of your claim they are survivors. Had you not fed them MAYBE they would not have survived. And I used feeding only because of the quotes Nature Coast posted before from Spivak
    "Taking the nature of the criteria being discussed and the "survivor" trait, standard management practices such as feeding would have to be called into question and a more "holistic" approach would need to be taken to determine "survivor stock".
    REGARDLESS of what may eventually come to be defined as "survivor" bees... I will try to help my bees to not only survive but to thrive also... WITHOUT the use of poisons/pesticides/or any thing that could eventually hurt a person. I am still not sure if I will use softer treatment such as FGMO or the likes.... but if I DID treat them with ANYTHING to help them.. can I still say my bees are survivors? Honestly?

    To Nature Coast.. Thank you also for the info you share.... is kind of what I was asking. Although survivor bees may be stronger from the beginning... can maintain production longer... better winter survival traits.. etc etc... as far as I know... a commercial Beek is not going to care if that Queen is still producing in year 3 or 4 years. Have never heard of requeening every 6 months though. Because the BMP quote you write INCLUDES the term EHB stock... I am wondering if this recommendation is to prevent propogation of AHB bees.. since you are in Florida.
    AHB has been found in Mississippi... and is only a mater of time before I myself have them to seriously consider. It is my plan to get formal training to II my queens... to guarantee my stock. Maybe the weather advantage that southern queen producers have had forever will eventually be matched by the northern queen breeders ability to maintain stocks free of AHB genes... that southern breeders will eventually need and want.
    It seems to me there are no CLEAR and absolute definitions.. or ways to measure.. what we normally see being called survivor bees. I was surprised after 5 years to find even 6 hives still alive here.. especially after SHB... MANY of my dead boxes I saw evidence of SHB that killed them. I will be doing some of the prescribed tests on my "survivors" this summer to see if they show any REAL kinds of behaviors.... or to see if I just got lucky. Is many breeders out there selling queens..... so WHO really has the best queen? I will buy them... I just want to know they are REALLY what they are claimed to be. And if I ever did sell a queen... I would want to know as BEST i could that what I am claiming is also true.

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
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    Ft. Collins, Colorado
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    605

    Default Re: definition of "survivor bees"

    Curious, but if you take off the honey crop in the fall, and then come spring, noticed the hive has a nice cluster but was is in danger of running out of stores. If you feed that hive either syrup or surplus honey, is the hive, colony, still considered survivor stock???

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    Raymond, Mississippi, USA
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    177

    Default Re: definition of "survivor bees"

    Personally.. I would not take feeding.. or any other kinds of management of a beehive to take away from the idea that they are survivors... but that is just ME. I was just wondering what the consensus was among all other beeks. Maybe feeding could be considered an artificial intervention... but to me... I think we ALL just want to get off the pesticide treadmill if at all possible. I have much respect for the people who started to go chemical free 10+ years ago when most people just used whatever kept their bees alive. Those first survivor breeders/ experimenters probably took HUGE losses in bees and financial losses.... but today.... maybe they have found something that we can all really believe in now... SURVIVOR bees.

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