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  1. #1
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    Question Successful Treatment Free BeeKeeping = Breeding from Survivor stock

    (First Year Beekeeper)
    I have started a small 4 hive apiary this year and I have decided to practice the "Treatment free approach". I have a neighbour, less than a quarter mile up the road who has a 15 hive apiary who practices the “treatment approach”. I suspect our bees will mingle & my queens will potentially breed with his drones… Will his “treatment bees” significantly affect my efforts to succeed at Treatment Free Beekeeping?

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Successful Treatment Free BeeKeeping = Breeding from Survivor stock

    I'm not an old-timer who's been at this forever, or an expert on treatment-free bees, or on bee breeding, so take this for what it's worth. The premise of your approach is that over time, your bees will develop their own natural resistance to mites and other problems, correct? So, drones contribute 50% of the genetic material for any worker or queen that is raised by your bees. As a result, any drone that is not kept in a treatment-free scheme will 'dilute' your efforts, but not prevent you from getting where you want to go. It will just take longer than if all bees in a 5 mile radius were treatment-free.

    You might want to try 'drone-flooding' by putting a frame of drone comb in each of your hives, greatly increasing the effect of your bees on the local drone population.

    I'll be waiting to see what others think about this.
    Once the bee is inside, Mr. Veil is no longer your friend.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Successful Treatment Free BeeKeeping = Breeding from Survivor stock

    I'm no expert either, but I'm interested in what those that are have to say. My understanding is that queens come about through parthenogenesis (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parthenogenesis), and I think that makes the drone issue irrelevant. Also, my understanding is that drones and queens fly different distances to mate, so it wouldn't be drones from nearby hives that you'd need to be concerned about. Curious to read any corrections to that.

    Edit: I reviewed that again - it's the drones that are produced through parthenogenesis - so that at least was wrong.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Successful Treatment Free BeeKeeping = Breeding from Survivor stock

    I don't consider drones true parthenogenesis. Drones are haploid. You need to look a your 'breeding' practices and determine what you want to get out of it. Most people assume treated bees have inferior genetics but I'm betting most treatment free bees came out of treated stocks at some point.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Successful Treatment Free BeeKeeping = Breeding from Survivor stock

    well, polar bears came out of grizzly bear stock, but if you want the characteristics of a polar bear, you don't pick a grizzly bear.

    If you are going to puchase queens, then the drone supply in your area has no bearing on anything...the queens will come already mated, and you will replace them purchased queens if they superced in a way you don't like.

    If you are going to make "progress" with breeding bees that don't require treatments, then you need to be doing some kind of selection. If you are raising queens, you might as well raise enough for your neighbor as well....select what queens you give him/her based on what you want for drones (ie, not closely related to the queens you want to have mated).

    deknow
    The irony is free. It's the sarcasm you are paying for....ironically.
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  6. #6
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    Default Re: Successful Treatment Free BeeKeeping = Breeding from Survivor stock

    I'm a beginner, so I might be wrong, but my research and thought on the matter has convinced me that even treated bees are responding to evolutionary pressure from mites. Mites still kill treated bees. You can't breed from dead bees. So even treated bees should be getting slowly more resistant to mites. My personal feeling is that the process would move along a lot faster if no one treated, but obviously that is not a choice that someone dependent on bees for his livelihood is likely to make.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Successful Treatment Free BeeKeeping = Breeding from Survivor stock

    Quote Originally Posted by khicks12 View Post
    You might want to try 'drone-flooding' by putting a frame of drone comb in each of your hives, greatly increasing the effect of your bees on the local drone population.
    As an alternative you can run some or all natural comb. Natural comb will have much more drone brood than standard foundation. Personally I use a combination of NC and small cell with a approximate ratio of 1:2
    Dan Hayden 4 Years. 9 hives. Tx Free. USDA Zone 5b.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Successful Treatment Free BeeKeeping = Breeding from Survivor stock

    Depends on whether you are thinking of effects from his bees genetics altering that of your bees. Are your bees from tested hygenic or mite resistant stock? Will you be bringing in new queens from such stock or plan to grow from open mating of your present stock? Unless there is significant genetic difference between his and your bees I think they will not change the outcome from the genetics angle. His bees will certainly rob out any hives that get weak though! You will have to be on top of any thing that is a drag on your bees.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Successful Treatment Free BeeKeeping = Breeding from Survivor stock

    Good luck w/ that. I'd suggest you treat a few and not treat a few. Chances are you will be fine this year if they are first year colonies but next winter you will be wishing you treated for mites. Just because bees are treated does not mean that their drones don't have good alleles to offer the population. Treating does not select against more robust treatment free traits, just allows inferior traits that require periodic treatment to remain as well.

    With four hives I don't think you have enough to try to go 100% treatment free. If you had 100 then maybe you'd have a shot at having a few starters that can make it through. Better approach is to treat a portion and then try to wean off over the course of a few years once you have hives surviving PAST two years. I have 4 too and treated one. One hive is supposed to be mite resistant but they have quite a few mites so we'll see how resistant they really are.

    Queens are not produced via parthenogenesis. They are diploid, 50% related to their queen and 50% to a drone sperm. Same with all workers. Males are haploid so are 100% related to their queen. As a result, workers are more related to their sisters than their own offspring (average 75% vs 50%)--except for males. This is why nature has "allowed" them to raise sister queens as opposed to raising their own daughters and also leaves an incentive for laying drone eggs--hence drone-laying workers if not suppressed. This is at the heart of one theory as to how sociality evolved in bees, ants, and wasps.

    Anyway, I'd worry less about mating right now and more about varroa because there is some pain ahead.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Successful Treatment Free BeeKeeping = Breeding from Survivor stock

    Quote Originally Posted by JClark View Post
    Just because bees are treated does not mean that their drones don't have good alleles to offer the population. Treating does not select against more robust treatment free traits, just allows inferior traits that require periodic treatment to remain as well.
    Most traits that provide for resistance of any kind (chemical, parasite, predator) are metabolically more expensive (requires more energy). If you start with a mixed population (some resistant, some not) and treat them all, the resistant individuals are at a disadvantage because they are expending the energy to maintain these traits, but gain no advantage over non-resistant because the threat is chemically eliminated. Those expending less energy (the non-resistant individuals) have a clear advantage in either natural selection or beekeeper selection.

    deknow
    The irony is free. It's the sarcasm you are paying for....ironically.
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  11. #11
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    Default Re: Successful Treatment Free BeeKeeping = Breeding from Survivor stock

    Ray, I think that is like saying that humans are becoming less dependant on eye glasses over time because people who need them to see well have access to them.

    deknow

    Quote Originally Posted by rhaldridge View Post
    I'm a beginner, so I might be wrong, but my research and thought on the matter has convinced me that even treated bees are responding to evolutionary pressure from mites. Mites still kill treated bees. You can't breed from dead bees. So even treated bees should be getting slowly more resistant to mites. My personal feeling is that the process would move along a lot faster if no one treated, but obviously that is not a choice that someone dependent on bees for his livelihood is likely to make.
    The irony is free. It's the sarcasm you are paying for....ironically.
    -Felicity Jones in "Chalet Girl"

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Successful Treatment Free BeeKeeping = Breeding from Survivor stock

    Quote Originally Posted by deknow View Post
    Ray, I think that is like saying that humans are becoming less dependant on eye glasses over time because people who need them to see well have access to them.

    deknow
    That's about as ridiculous as suggesting that people are seeing better over time because those who need glasses are not getting them! Neither argument holds water and both have absolutely nothing to do with treating or not treating. All we really know for sure is that bees died by the millions when varroa first arrived and now not so many are dying. Is it because we are treating or is it because we are not treating? I don't think anybody on this board can prove it either way. The best we can do is take other people's word on the matter. But whose? There in lies the crux of the matter.

    JMO

    Rusty
    Rusty Hills Farm -- home of AQHA A Rusty Zipper & Rusty's Bees ( LC and T)

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Successful Treatment Free BeeKeeping = Breeding from Survivor stock

    If no one had glasses (or some way to compensate for poor eyesight), people with poor eyesight would be at a competitive disadvantage (as far as survival and reproduction). Giving people glasses significantly narrows this gap in survival and reproduction.

    deknow
    The irony is free. It's the sarcasm you are paying for....ironically.
    -Felicity Jones in "Chalet Girl"

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Successful Treatment Free BeeKeeping = Breeding from Survivor stock

    Also, save for an attempted treatment after "the point of no return", mites don't kill treated bees if the treatments are effective at killing the mites.
    Quote Originally Posted by rhaldridge View Post
    I'm a beginner, so I might be wrong, but my research and thought on the matter has convinced me that even treated bees are responding to evolutionary pressure from mites. Mites still kill treated bees. You can't breed from dead bees. So even treated bees should be getting slowly more resistant to mites. My personal feeling is that the process would move along a lot faster if no one treated, but obviously that is not a choice that someone dependent on bees for his livelihood is likely to make.
    The irony is free. It's the sarcasm you are paying for....ironically.
    -Felicity Jones in "Chalet Girl"

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Successful Treatment Free BeeKeeping = Breeding from Survivor stock

    This spring will make me five years treatment free, but I think a big reason is there are almost no other hives in my area, so I don't get a lot of cross-contamination. If I had a neighbor that had fifteen hives I may have lost all mine already. I am hedging my bets by keeping one yard that I treat and one that I do not treat. The bee inspector just gave me a clean bill of health on the treated yard and knows that I keep a yard where I do not treat about eight miles away. If you can, you may try placing two of your hives in another location, that way you will have some live bees to borrow brood, stores or whatever from in case the mites start winning. Just saying might not want to put all your eggs in the same basket.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Successful Treatment Free BeeKeeping = Breeding from Survivor stock

    I was involved in an effort to breed an improved avocado (as a supplier of the pollinator). The project is 15 years old. Selected crosses were planted at 5x10 spacing on 80 acres (>60,000 sports). Sports were grown to evaluation (freeze tolerance, fruit quality, resistance to armored and soft scale insects), plowed under and reselected against the qualifying F2. We are now at F4 with 60,000 sports per generation. When the selection is made, it can be propagated ad infinitum clonally. (Hass avocados are famously a backyard sport).

    I tell you this because a backyard beekeeper with four hives is not going to affect honeybee genetics. Queens are obligate and wild outcrossers. Hygenic behaviour is associated with 17 trait loci. The swarm queen (F1) from a "selected colony) will breed, and 50% of those trait loci will carry on to the F2 workers of the new hive. She will breed with 20 fathers. In 17 Traits that are heterozygous, 1 in 131,000 F2 queens will have the same as the F1 combination from the mother. And any two queen cells have only a small chance or sharing the same father, so the liklihood of any two F2 daughter queens being the same genetic combination is small (on the order of 1 in 2 million). The epigenetics (the combination of the 20 fathers) that yields the most diverse and appropriate combination of worker types within the hive (only partially related to the mother queen) must be optimal. That involves the selection and reselection of 20 haploid (drone) resortments of the genetics of queens from a community-wide scale.

    A backyard beekeeper could have a perfect hive, but will not be able to reproduce that genetic line under any realistic scenario. A Treatment-Free colony is very likely to suffer higher mortality and higher supersedure, so the likelihood of death of the genetic line is very high, making all previous effort for naught. If you could "clone" your queens the possibility of genetic improvement at the backyard level might be considered, but (as per the real-world avocado example) the effort and scale of a directed selection when the colony fitness is expressed in community scale epigenetics of an F2 is massive and decades long.

    The claim by some of the forum participants that they can create Treatment-Free lineages in three years is ludicrous. The more documented efforts are now entering their 2nd decade with only marginal shifts in fitness (per isolated Swedish experiments) and the constant need to combat inbreeding depression with the addition of fresh genetic material. As anyone who has purchased the highly selected hygenic races knows, these rapidly revert to the wild type norm when allowed to naturally supersede.

    Selection of highly modified bees runs counter to the primary honey bee evolutionary inertia. The breeding system produces a generalist bee and resists fractioning into types with incompatible modifications. The marked inbreeding depression (eg. shotbrood) and mating system has huge emphasis on reverting the honey bee to generalist type.

    The adaption to Varroa that does seemed to have fixed into the wild is the aggressive desert bee (AHB?) of Arizona and Texas. These swarm frequently, seem to maintain multiple queens in reserve, and have other relatively simple trait responses. They overwhelm Varroa (and other bee genotypes) with fecundity: swarming, multi-queen brooding, and willingness to divide and abscond.

    These desert bees are being mailed all over the US as an 'improvement'. I'm not certain this is a good thing at all.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Successful Treatment Free BeeKeeping = Breeding from Survivor stock

    Researchers that have compared the honey bee genome with other insects remark that the HB DNA is much simpler than those they contrast it with.

    This make perfect evolutionary sense --- instead of the genetic overhead and fragility of depending on multiple alleles and loci; the honey bees depend on social organization and polyandry. The social parallel to multi-alleles are found in the mating system that emphasize multiple father (half-queens) contributing to a super-organism of half-sister worker bees. The particular fitness of these half-sisters are equivalent to multi-allele expression in a more conventional mating and solitary living system.

    Most insects are specialists -- they have co-evolved with their host-plant or prey into very elaborate and specific, very local and calendar limited lifeways. Honeybees are broad generalists-- they resist specialization. Rather than pollinating special flowers like night-blooming cereus which requires a moth tongue 20 cm long on a single night of the year, they pollinate flowers (and ensure the plants competitive advantage) that are basic, open and of a general design. The genetic basis of this resistance to specialization is the outbreeding system.

    The effort to "specialize" the bee by inbreeding a mite-resistant race is mitigating against the bees own evolutionary pattern. It will tend to produce an inbred, and hence vigor impaired colony. Bees will tend to have the highest fitness when they are in dense breeding aggregations -- the more fathers the better the colony. The better the colony, the more dense the natural population was -- a virtuous cycle. Isolating your bees is the wrong evolutionary decision.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Successful Treatment Free BeeKeeping = Breeding from Survivor stock

    Quote Originally Posted by rhaldridge View Post
    I'm a beginner, so I might be wrong, but my research and thought on the matter has convinced me that even treated bees are responding to evolutionary pressure from mites. Mites still kill treated bees. You can't breed from dead bees. So even treated bees should be getting slowly more resistant to mites. My personal feeling is that the process would move along a lot faster if no one treated, but obviously that is not a choice that someone dependent on bees for his livelihood is likely to make.
    Well said. Very pragmatic.
    Since '09-25H-T-Z6b

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Successful Treatment Free BeeKeeping = Breeding from Survivor stock

    Quote Originally Posted by deknow View Post
    Ray, I think that is like saying that humans are becoming less dependant on eye glasses over time because people who need them to see well have access to them.

    deknow
    Somewhere there is a flaw in this analogy, Dean.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Successful Treatment Free BeeKeeping = Breeding from Survivor stock

    I am neither going to comment on the eye glass analogy or the math laid out by CWC which went over my head. I will comment, though, about my experiences. I see bees now that are far less prone to collapse than when varroa first impacted us over 20 years ago. I like to think its because there have been incremental improvements in bees tolerances to varroa together with a greater understanding of treatments and IPM methods by beekeepers. This year we ended up with close to 20% of our hives that have essentially not had a treatment in over a year due to the fact that they have been treated with thymol in less than ideal treatment temps. As a group they are clearly poorer than our earlier treated bees but still lots of good hives among them. In the early 90's such hives wouldnt have had much of a chance.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

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