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  1. #1
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    Default Isolated Matings without owning an island. mondscheinbegattung method.

    We always have questions posted about isolating lines and breeding pure bees etc. It is true that most commercial queen breeders in this country are open mating and there is a high probability that the offspring of the queens may have some crosses mixed in.

    Most of us cannot afford to own a remote island and there are very few areas remote enough to isolate matings without high fuel bills involved.

    The European Buckfast Breeders association uses a method developed in Germany called mondscheinbegattung which basically means moonlight mated.

    They literally open mate their queens at night. I have not tried this yet and from what I have been told and read it takes some very careful timing to do successfully. The virgins must be ready to mate on or near the full moon, so your grafting needs to be corresponding with the moons time line. The nucs that house the virgin queens are placed in a cool dark place, use AC units if necessary. The drone colonies are also closed up during the day and kept cool. On the afternoon that the queens are to be mated, the drone colonies are taken out at dusk and opened up first, this gives them the chance to get to the congregation areas before the queens. The queens are taken outside and released later. The change in temp from the cool storage place to the outdoors it very important as this is what stimulated the virgins and drones to fly at night.

    From what I have read (my German is poor) this method does not get 100% of your queens mated, but it will get them mated with the drones you want them mated with. It is used to propagate lines only and mondscheinbegattung queens bring breeder queen prices because of the high failure rate.
    Always question Conventional Wisdom.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Isolated Matings without owning an island. mondscheinbegattung method.

    The idea reeks of German innovation.

    I would imagine this takes place with multiple hives and over several apiaries.

    Does this work only on moonlight nights?

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Isolated Matings without owning an island. mondscheinbegattung method.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mbeck View Post

    Does this work only on moonlight nights?
    The bees will not fly if it isn't a bright night.
    Always question Conventional Wisdom.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Isolated Matings without owning an island. mondscheinbegattung method.

    Did you ever hear the old saying, too much sugar for a dime? This would fit that catagorie. There are too many variables. #1 weather, #2 weather, #3 weather, and many other problems that could throw a monkey wrench in the plans. Who is telling the queens where the drones are? Who is telling the other drones in the area that they don't fly when it is a full moon? After all drones do sense/smell a virgin queen and will in a cloud fly after one.
    I do agree, and understand that anything but a II queen will have a likelyhood of being mated with unwanted drones. Hey but some time ago I accepted bee breeding as not an exact science. When I bought the pure Russians (worst mistake I've made in beekeeping) I knew that they were required to be pure. I think if I remember it as 91-95% tested pure. From what I saw of the queens from differient suppliers, some where black, but some were dark orange. So give me a break, even though I might have been born at night it wasn't last night, and even though they still acted alike they couldn't have been all pure and only mated to pure Russian drones. I will continue to depend on a reputible breeder/breeders to supply me with the mated queens I need and hope for the best, which is still what the Germans are doing. Or raise my own and still hope for the best. Isn't beekeeping totally hoping for the best?
    So much to learn, so little time!!

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Isolated Matings without owning an island. mondscheinbegattung method.

    No new advancements are made in beekeeping if somebody isn't willing to try something new

    Brother Adam once wrote that US stock was some of the poorest example of honeybee stock he ever saw due to our commercial breeding practices. this method isn't going to be for somebody trying to mate 500 20.00 queens, but it may be something useful for somebody attempting to improve their own stock, somebody who doesn't mind getting a handful of queens out of dozens successfully matted with the drones that they selected for them to be matted with.

    This is an alternative to AI or running isolated yards... I figured it was information that may be useful and of interest to somebody here. Do with it what you will.
    Always question Conventional Wisdom.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Isolated Matings without owning an island. mondscheinbegattung method.

    I read of a similar technique, though performed in the late afternoon, around sunset - rather than a moonlit night. I believe it was discussed in one of the queen rearing books that Michael Bush has made available on his website. It may also be discussed at Dave Cushman's website.
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
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  7. #7
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    Default Re: Isolated Matings without owning an island. mondscheinbegattung method.

    Bluegrass,
    I didn't mean to totally squash the idea, however I guess I did. You are right that new things must be tried. However I think that would agree to my theory that beekeeping is hoping for the best. I still believe that the only sure way is II, with island isolation, or some other fairly foolproof isolation are next best ways. There are now several drone genetics that will fly on a brightly moonlit night, or so some are claiming.

    Joseph,
    I would love to hear your thoughts on what I've posted. I'm not set in concrete on anythng.
    So much to learn, so little time!!

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Isolated Matings without owning an island. mondscheinbegattung method.

    Translated and sent by a friend of mine.


    I also came across someone with a less refined variation of this method in Australia who used it to breed US Buckfast bees.

    My guess is that it's the bringing out virgins from a few days in a cool place to a warm place that's the key. Maybe it simulates a bad weather week, with a fine patch of weather?

    Maybe being released later in the day might mean they don't fly as far as well?



    "Moonlight mating.

    While their pals take to the drone congregation areas, the drones of the ten colonies selected by Joe Horner are banned from flying.
    A barrier fence along the floor boards preventing them from flying out.

    The mating apiary of the Australian breeder is surrounded by forests, in which numerous colonies thrive thanks to the lack of varroa.

    However Horner wants the 2000 Queens he raises a year to be mated from its only breeding colonies of the drones.
    For this Instrumental Insemination is too expensive.
    He uses the Koehler Method (see P. 30-31) in refined form, (his setup allows up to 240 queens to be control mated on a single day.)

    One system, many names.

    Over time, his operation has become known within Australia, as the Horner System.

    In Germany this method is mainly in use by keepers of the dark bee, who use it as a way to keep pure the native bee when surrounded by Carnica.
    Here the name used is a playful "Moonlight mating station”, even if it's not likely to be a romantic rendezvous for the bees.

    Whether called the Koehler Method, Horner's System or Moonlight mating station - the method has significant advantages over Instrumental Insemination aside from the financial one.

    Other advantage: In the natural mating must each drone at the meeting place compete against its competitors.
    This is a natural selection amongst the drones, since usually only the fittest males have a chance with the queen.

    Horner encourages the prolific production of drones in his selected colonies by introducing drone combs into these colonies 40 days prior to a planned mating.

    Prior to mating, selected drone pupae from 3 drone mother (DM) colonies are transferred to a single drone source (DS) colony to mature. The DS colonies are furnished with a queen excluder, which allows workers (but not drones) to have constant passage from the hive.
    Horner uses 10 such DS colonies with males from a total of 30 DM colonies for each controlled mating.

    Queen cells are introduced to standard 4-way mating nucs (i.e., the hive box is divided 4 ways, with entrances facing in 4 directions). Each virgin is confined to her mating nuc by a queen excluder. Two days prior to the virgins’ mating flight, the colonies are placed in a darkened shed at 13–15 C.

    The mating nucs are on several trolleys that slide on rails, so they can easily be pushed by one operator from the cold room out into the open.

    The day before the nuptial flight, he brings the mating nucs out for two hours in the late afternoon, so that the queens can perform their orientation flights.

    The next day the Horner waits until after the time of natural flights which is usually between noon and 17 clock.

    To be on the safe side Horner determines the precise time of queen and drone release using a control hive.
    Horner observes the flight of drones from this hive and waits 30 min after drones are no longer seen exiting the hive before releasing his virgins and drones (ca. 1800 h).
    To release the virgins he brings out the mating nucs to the same position they had been the day before and opens the entrance.

    Now the bees can go about their businesses, including nuptial flight in the remaining hours of the day.

    To increase operator efficiency and the accurate positioning of mating nucs, there are 6 rail tracks that run out of the shed into the mating apairy.

    There are 10 hives on each track, connected by chains. When the hives are pushed out of the shed, each one ends up precisely positioned. Individual mating nucs are marked with conspicuous colours and patterns, and the apiary itself has large orientation cues provided.

    Horner is very satisfied with his system, which has a mating success rate of 60-80%.

    But scientists at the University of Sydney wanted to know how safe this procedure really is. Twice they took paternity tests with randomly selected colonies whose queens were inseminated on Horner's mating station.

    The researchers demonstrated that the procedure provides a safety margin of around 85%.
    This means that in 85% of pairings, the drones were from Horner's mating station.

    Normally, only 15-25% of drones mate with queens from the same apiary if they are not geographically isolated – other drones also come to the congregation area from their colonies up to 15 km away.

    Colour Test

    Horner has a simple method of monitoring incorrect matings. His bees
    are fairly uniformly coloured.

    Colonies with have workers of a different colour have the highest probability that the queen
    probably also mated with foreign drones.

    The results show that a consistent implementation of Kohler Method can increase the safety of natural matings clearly, without a isolated state being necessary.

    Otherwise one must accept the disadvantages of Instrumental Insemination in cost.

    This method however doesn't obtain 100% security in mating.

    The results of the investigation were in the Journal of Heredity 101 (3)."

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Isolated Matings without owning an island. mondscheinbegattung method.

    Thanks for the Article Pete... Good summer of the procedure.
    Always question Conventional Wisdom.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Isolated Matings without owning an island. mondscheinbegattung method.

    And there was an article about Joe Horners work in August 2013 ABJ complete with some pics of the little railway
    kev www.sarumbeesupplies.co.uk

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Isolated Matings without owning an island. mondscheinbegattung method.

    I have thought of attempting closed breeding someplace like this.
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  12. #12
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    Default Re: Isolated Matings without owning an island. mondscheinbegattung method.

    Don't forget bees need water, pollen and nectar in abundance for queens to be reared and mated

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    Default Re: Isolated Matings without owning an island. mondscheinbegattung method.

    I think it was Hopkins (and he might have been quoting Alley) who suggested you have some queenless hives in the fall when other hives are kicking out drones so you keep some drones and then mate your queens when most drones have been killed off for the year. Or you artificially stimulate your hives to rear drones very early (feeding syrup and pollen etc.) and mate your queens then.

    In my experience the ferals keep their drones longer and often have some left from last fall, in the spring, so both times are not too bad for getting the drones I want. The problem is getting the bees to be enthusiastic about rearing queens at those times...
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Isolated Matings without owning an island. mondscheinbegattung method.

    and in this country with our very un predictable weather it would be a big gamble as if you can get the bees to raise queens the quality of them is usually not as good as mid season when its their instinct to raise queens.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Isolated Matings without owning an island. mondscheinbegattung method.

    sounds like a pain. Would work for specialty queen markets but is it that critical to isolate completely? Rather why not flood the area with quality drones and throw your genes out to other nearby colonies and get the majority of your queens mated with your own.

    Neat technique though. Learn something new everyday.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Isolated Matings without owning an island. mondscheinbegattung method.

    A pain is right! It might work in the desert southwest and similar climates where rainfall is more predictable. I wonder though if there are any issues with bringing the queens and drones out of a "lunar" mode of activity. Workers too for that matter. Perhaps a large closed greenhouse would work better?
    A man is worth just as much as the things about which he busies himself- Marcus Aurelius

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Isolated Matings without owning an island. mondscheinbegattung method.

    Quote Originally Posted by TalonRedding View Post
    A pain is right! It might work in the desert southwest and similar climates where rainfall is more predictable. I wonder though if there are any issues with bringing the queens and drones out of a "lunar" mode of activity. Workers too for that matter. Perhaps a large closed greenhouse would work better?
    Large greenhouses have been tried before with no result, not enough free flying space was i think the reason given, the evening mating system must work otherwise no one would be doing it, if you just want queens mated then there is no problem, this system is to aid controlled mating with
    out the luxury of isolated mating stations or II kit

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