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  1. #1
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    Default An Option Towards Developing Treatment-Free Bees

    Hey been working a great deal on my management plan for next year, incorporating a lot of Michael Palmers ideas. Another way of looking at it, is my clutch is broke and I have nothing better to do until the parts come in. This is something I wrote up on my blog today about an idea I had, not something I am currently practicing, but if you write something down its much easier to remember it down the road. You can see a better formatted copy at http://honeydrunkapiaries.blogspot.ca/ but anyway here it is.

    An Option Towards Developing Treatment-Free Bees

    Being a treatment-free beekeeper is a marathon, not a sprint. First you must learn how to keep bees, and keep them alive. Secondly, you must acquire the genetics that are resistant, or otherwise cope with the varroa mite. This second option can take a great deal of time. Many of the “successful” treatment-free beekeepers have been breeding their own stock for thirty years or better. It is possible to get their stock, but it is unlikely Dee Lusby’s or Michael Bush’s bees will survive a tough Canadian winter –if we even could import their stock, which we cannot. Finding survivor bees is actually the easy part of the equation. If they survive winter you don’t really have a choice but to breed from the bees that survive. Mites however, are not that easy.

    Many people ascribe to the “Live, and let Die,” Bond philosophy of beekeeping. Let nature take its course of natural selection and what you are left with are your survivor stock. The largest problem with this philosophy is that you must ask yourself “Where do the mites go?” Weak colonies or dead outs will simply get robbed out, and the robbing bees will take them back to their parent colony. Perhaps that colony was a survivor stock until those robber bees brought back a disproportionate amount of mites, and will now also die because they have exceeded their mite threshold

    “A key point to remember is that the relative infestation (percent, or mites per 100 bees) is more important than total mite population—a large colony can handle more mites than a small one. At much above a 2% infestation in spring, honey production drops off severely. At much above 5% in fall, colony winter survival suffers (although the fall “economic injury threshold” numbers by various authors range from 1% to 11%) (Currie & Gatien 2006). “
    (Randy Oliver, IPM 3 Fighting Varroa 3: Strategy – Understanding Varroa Population Dynamics)

    This method has a great deal of risk; you could end up with no bees at all! Also, it does not really make for a good business model in the years that it takes to get to that point.

    Another method is to treat your bees every spring and fall, do mite counts and breed from the bees with the lowest mite counts. This method gives the bees a bit of a crutch; are they surviving because of the treatment, or genetics? There is also not a 100% they will survive despite the treatments. Testing for hygienic behaviour can also be a key marker for your breeding selection. Hygienic behaviour also reduces other diseases like American Foulbrood, and Chalkbrood.

    The purpose is then to develop a system creating a balance between two opposing ideologies: sustain a sound productive apiary whilst developing mite tolerant survivor stock; as well as keeping true to a more natural method of beekeeping.

    My proposal is this. Do not treat your bees prophylactically; let them have normal and acceptable pressures on them at all times. However, if a hive is in danger of mite related collapse treat it as to not contaminate the hives around it. Keeping chemical contaminated comb, honey and stock out of your developing resources is important.

    How do we approach this?

    There is a hive in danger of collapse, being robbed out and spreading mites. Treat it with an organic acid, mark the hive body and all the frames so that you know those hives have been exposed to this chemical. Once the mites have been ‘knocked down’ let it overwinter. If it successfully overwinters, split that hive up into nucleus colonies giving each a queen cell from the breeding survivor stock. A queen cell as opposed to a laying queen is important; it allows a short brood break to reduce the mite population, and give the new queen a chance to prove herself. Swarm cells in the spring should be rather easy to find.
    The marked frames (contaminated,) are then pulled as time will allow and the wax is rendered. That wax is then put in a separate stock from your uncontaminated wax and used for purposes other than foundation.

    What we will have accomplished is:

    We have not endangered our existing hives by allowing them to rob out the infested hive
    We have created nucleus colonies from a hive that would have otherwise died
    We have perpetuated the genetics of our survivor stock
    We have isolated any chemical contaminates from our treatment-free operation


    How can we model this into our existing apiary management?

    Firstly, you have to monitor for mites. Whether it is a sticky board, an alcohol shake, it doesn’t matter. You need a baseline to know which of your hives have a mite problem and which don’t. Which are candidates for breeder stock, and which hives are going to need help?

    Secondly, hygienic testing; either begin testing for hygienic behavior or buy bees from breeders who are selecting for these traits and breed from them.

    Fall I believe may be the best time for integration: the mite populations are at their peak, struggling hives will be apparent, and winter is coming (had to throw the Games of Thrones reference in there). You take your surplus honey off. At this point we are still treatment-free. We isolate which hives are over their mite threshold and apply a treatment. Those hives/frames are clearly marked, I am thinking green paint marker for plastic frames, or green thumb tacks (green kind of has a chemical connotation to it). Feed and maintain those hives as regular and let them overwinter.

    Spring has come. Your non survivor stock has died through the great selector –winter. If your isolated hives have survived split them into as many nucleus colonies as you can, giving each brood, honey, and feed. Acquire queen cells by either: harvesting from survivor stock, or buying new genetics from a breeder. If you let them raise their own queen, you will simply be perpetuating unwanted genetics and you have just exponentially increased them by the amount of nucleus colonies you have made. By giving them a queen cell you create a brood break. This allows the mites developing inside the brood to hatch out, and gives the existing mites no larvae or eggs in which to create more mites. It will not get rid of the mites, but it will decrease their numbers. By the time the queen hatches, mates, and begins laying 16 days +/- will have passed where no eggs have been laid, and the majority of mites will be in the phoretic stage. Nucleus colonies generally do not suffer the effects of mites as severely as large colonies (more bees = more mites). The queen can be evaluated, and the nucleus colony can be put to various other uses.

    Summer is business as usual more or less. Monitor mites, and test for hygienic behavior. This is also the time you want to start removing that contaminated comb, melting down the wax, and using it for anything other than new foundation. Any honey harvested from these frames can be sold commercially, but cannot be sold as treatment free honey, or fed to your own bees. Basically treat any product of that frame as like chemical waste, isolate it, get rid of it; minimize the chances of it re-entering your treatment free operation. Remove the marker from the frame and put it back into circulation.

    Next fall, rinse and repeat.

    Incorporating this into your treatment-free operation will allow you to remain profitable, sustainable, and still retain your core philosophical beliefs without vicariously endangering it by allowing mites to spread from dead hives.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: An Option Towards Developing Treatment-Free Bees

    How do you "test for hygenic behavior"?

    And what do you do with the queen in the treated hives? Pinch her?

    And about the drones (from these hives)-how do you make sure their genetic contribution to the newly installed, or created, queens doesn't simply perpetuate whatever genetically-borne, pro-varroa characteristics that the original queen had? (The drones would be the orginal queen's sons, right?)

    Somehow, I am skeptical of the notion of hygenic bee-breeding our way out of the varroa crisis.

    And as an aside: I have three hives. All three were 2013 swarms that were then cut out of my barn walls in late June. (I apparently have a swarm-magnet barn!) Two of the three lost their queens in the cut-out or ensuing trouble I had keeping the bees in their new digs after the cut out. The other queen also didn't like her new hive, but survived, though she stubbornly remained living outside the hive for another ten days - no matter how many times I re-captured her and re-installed her bees and their newly-drawn combs back in the hive. (Eventually she tired of the game and let me "win".).

    So I had an unusually long brood break on the two almost queen-less hives that only barely had time to convert previously laid eggs into queen cells.

    Of the three colonies can you predict which one(s) the developed a varroa problem in the late Fall?

    It wasn't the one that didn't have a brood break. It was the other two.

    So I'm also somewhat skeptical about the powerl of brood breaks as varroa-vanquishers. I think it may just annoy them or reduce their numbers, but I don't think it's as effective a tool as we may (wish to) believe. Varroa are wily beasts.

    I treated the two brood-broken hives last Fall with only moderate success (with Apiguard). The one that never had a brood break still has almost no varroa and I haven't treated that one at all.

    I have no idea where my swarms orginated from so their genetics are a mystery: they could be true ferals or simply first or second year elopers from other bee-yards. On one hand I could surmise that the un-treated, non brood-broken, almost no varroa, hive has some superior genetic make-up, but I'm doubtful of that. I think it most likely is some other (probably combination of) factor(s). But darned if I can tell what that might be. (I try to treat all my bee-children the same, like any good parent.) Perhaps it's the color of that hive: purple!

    Enj.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: An Option Towards Developing Treatment-Free Bees

    How do you "test for hygenic behavior"?
    Liquid nitrogen testing, here in Ontario they do have a program for that where people will come out and do it for you. It is however much cheaper to do it yourself.

    And what do you do with the queen in the treated hives? Pinch her?
    "requeening" is a nice way of saying pinch her, yes.

    And about the drones (from these hives)-how do you make sure their genetic contribution to the newly installed, or created, queens doesn't simply perpetuate whatever genetically-borne, pro-varroa characteristics that the original queen had? (The drones would be the orginal queen's sons, right?)
    Nucleus colonies typically wont make alot of drone comb, and youve already requeened her anyway. If you are doing this in the fall chances are you arent doing any breeding, as it is too late.
    Somehow, I am skeptical of the notion of hygenic bee-breeding our way out of the varroa crisis.
    I dont think it is THEE answer either, but it is part of the equation. You may not believe it will cure varroa, but hygienic behavior will help prevent chalkbrood, as well as AFB http://www.apidologie.org/articles/a...ak/spivak.html

    I think at the end of the day, between mites, the weather, etc sometimes it really is just a roll of the dice. I am just trying to present a model that I am thinking of adopting. The big thing that got me thinking was the transfer of one hive to another while getting robbed out, and the possibility of infecting (largely through neglect) the rest of your colonies. I think it is probably the colour of hive

  4. #4
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    Default Re: An Option Towards Developing Treatment-Free Bees

    Or you could take a different approach and find bees similar to mine that have a bit of Apis Mellifera Mellifera genetics. They overwinter better than Carniolans and some of them have decent levels of mite tolerance.

    The major item I see missing in your plan is management of drones and management of a mating area so the number of mite tolerant colonies can be dramatically increased in 2 or 3 years. Also, in my experience, finding a mite tolerant colony usually involves a lot of unwanted genetics that take years to reduce to a tolerable level. I found a queen whose colony was mite tolerant in 2004/2005. The unwanted genetics turned out to be a very high level of hive defensiveness. They could not be worked without a suit. And no, they were not Africanized, they were just typical AMM stock for the area. It took 7 years to get them toned down enough to work in short sleeves.
    DarJones - 44 years, 10 colonies (max 40), sideliner, treatment free since 2005, 11 frame broodnest, small cell

  5. #5
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    Default Re: An Option Towards Developing Treatment-Free Bees

    For the sake of argument, I will say your answers here are likely to be biased. Your plan, which I don't think is foolish in the least, involves treatments (to at least some of your hives). This runs directly counter to the purpose of the treatment free section. Most, if not all, that post in this section have a problem with treatments (hence the name). I've had many discussions here before about using treatments as a method of getting to a treatment free status. Most of the time the conversations don't end well. Just throwing that out there.

    But, being as it may, I think your system would need to be run by someone who is very capable of keeping EVERYTHING of the two apiaries (treated and non-treated) separate. I applaud you if that's your approach, as it would involve alot more note taking and work than I'm willing to put into it (honestly).

    But you would need to make sure that your treated and untreated hives don't mix, not only equipment wise, but location wise. If you have a treated hive collapse (for whatever reason) and a treatment free colony robs the dead out, taking the honey (that was stored in comb that was contaminated with treatments) it may skew your results. I don't think much, but I'm not one of the people on here that think so low of treatments. That would likely result in at least two apiaries, probably more. One that is pure treatment free, one that is treated (as needed) at a minimum, and likely at least a third for your "transition" nucs (the ones that were treated, but requeened with a TF queen, as the combs are contaminated with treatments, as are the bees, but you are working to get the treatments out). Just some thoughts.

    Quote Originally Posted by honeydrunkapiaries View Post

    “A key point to remember is that the relative infestation (percent, or mites per 100 bees) is more important than total mite population—“
    (Randy Oliver, IPM 3 Fighting Varroa 3: Strategy – Understanding Varroa Population Dynamics)
    Quote Originally Posted by honeydrunkapiaries View Post
    Nucleus colonies generally do not suffer the effects of mites as severely as large colonies (more bees = more mites).
    For the sake of editorial purposes, I understand what you are trying to say, but the two statements appear to contradict. I would agree that Nucleus colonies generally don't suffer AS MUCH of the effects of mites as large colonies. I have had nucs collapse from mites though. It happens, not when the number of mites gets too high, but when the % of infestation gets too high. This lack of collapse doesn't happen because nucs have less bees (and thereby less numbers). It usually happens because nucs are brood making factories, and generally speaking they increase larger than the mites do, keeping the % of infestation within manageable levels. When you transfer the nuc to a full size colony, eventually the brood rearing levels off. But the mites continue to reproduce. This is what causes the % infestation to rise, and why more colonies can collapse from mites than nucs. At least my observations.

    Quote Originally Posted by honeydrunkapiaries View Post

    Secondly, hygienic testing; either begin testing for hygienic behavior or buy bees from breeders who are selecting for these traits and breed from them.
    Selecting for hygienic behavior is important, but I wouldn't say it's the magic bullet. If you have a conversation with Marla Spivak ("creator" of the Minnesota Hygienic strain) she'll tell you that VSH and hygienic behavior are not the same thing. They are similar, but if you select for hygienic behavior your are not, from a genetic perspective, selecting for a mite resistant stock. You are instead selecting for a "cleaner" bee. They will clean out noticeable diseases faster than a non-hygienic bee, if they can.

    Mite resistant stock is a complicated area, that involves a number of behaviors. Those that have mite resistant stock don't usually know why, and quite honestly don't care why. But it has been found that there are a number of characteristics that can lead to mite resistance, including VSH qualities, hygienic behavior, "mite chewing" behavior, forager grooming behavior, increased swarming tenancies, increased absconding tenancies, and shorter brood gestation periods are just a few. Most don't want the latter three (usually found in AHB colonies, although not necessarily). Selecting for one of the above traits may improve your selection process. But you may select for hygienic behavior to the determent of breeding against grooming behavior. Just a word of caution, as I don't think hygienic behavior, while it is important, is the golden bullet to the mite problem.

    Quote Originally Posted by enjambres View Post
    I have three hives. All three were 2013 swarms that were then cut out of my barn walls in late June.

    . . .

    So I'm also somewhat skeptical about the powerl of brood breaks as varroa-vanquishers.
    Brood breaks don't "vanquish" the mites. It just helps keep their % infestation below acceptable levels. I wish I had a chart showing the increased populations of mites and bees over the course of the summer. I've seen it around, but can't locate it at the moment (last saw it at 2012 EAS). But generally speaking, mite levels increase as bee populations increase, although right behind them in the spring. As more bees are reared, more mites are able to be reared. Eventually, at some point in the summer the colony hits critical mass (so to speak). The population of bees starts to slow down, if not level off. Eventually the bees will raise enough brood to maintain their colony size, if not increase it slightly, rather than increase it exponentially. But the population of mites continues to increase as long as brood is reared. During this slow down, the mite % investation skyrockets, as you have more mites but fewer cells for the mites to hide in. This results in multiple mites to be found in every cell (if left untreated) which can cause a collapse.

    The brood break doesn't work if it is done too soon. It also doesn't work if it is done too late (as the mite levels have already increased too much). It only works when you can hit it on the upswing. As the levels of brood are increasing, and so are the mite levels, you stop brood rearing for a window of time. This causes the mites to become exposed, allowing the bees to (hopefully) harass them. The mites (in theory, at least some of them) will die or leave the colony. Then when the bees start ramping brood production back up, to levels equal to or greater than they were pre-brood break, the mites don't have populations large enough to pick right back up where they were before. But again, if done too early or too late, it doesn't work.

    I would suggest giving it more of a chance than to two out of three hives in one summer (and probably not actually timed that way, just happened).

    Quote Originally Posted by Fusion_power View Post
    Or you could take a different approach and find bees similar to mine that have a bit of Apis Mellifera Mellifera genetics.
    I've found alot of people that claim to have pure, or close to it, AMM genetics in the states. I've never found anyone that can substantiate this claim other than based on "looks" or conjecture. One person appeared to support his claim of having almost pure AMM genetics, based on years of selection and back crossing. It ended up this person was running a fraudulent enterprise (and was probably a borderline Ponzi scheme), wasn't breeding any of his own stocks, and was buying stock from halfway across the country, relabeling it, and reselling it as something else (if he wasn't pulling queens out of local hives that didn't belong to him of unknown genetic makeup).

    So, I'm skeptical to anyone who claims to have AMM stock, or a large makeup of it, unless they have a reason to support it (other than they are "dark" and "mean"). Not lumping you in that category, just explaining my skepticism.

    So, how did you come to the conclusion that your local stock is AMM?

  6. #6
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    Default Re: An Option Towards Developing Treatment-Free Bees

    Quote Originally Posted by Specialkayme View Post
    Your plan, which I don't think is foolish in the least, involves treatments (to at least some of your hives). This runs directly counter to the purpose of the treatment free section.
    I've updated the unique forum rules to reflect what I've always considered acceptable treatment discussion here.

    "Any post advocating the use of treatments, according to the forum definition of treatment will be considered off topic and shall be moved to another forum or deleted by a moderator, unless it is employed as part of a plan in becoming treatment free."
    Regards, Barry

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    Default Re: An Option Towards Developing Treatment-Free Bees

    Helpful Barry. Thanks.

    Lets hope the comments are as helpful and supportive.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: An Option Towards Developing Treatment-Free Bees

    So, how did you come to the conclusion that your local stock is AMM?
    Observation of traits.
    1. Flying and foraging at low temps and very late in the day, specifically @45 degrees on a bright sunny day.
    2. Excessive stinging behavior, typical AMM, sting if you get within 20 ft of the colony.
    3. Highly aggressive when the colony is manipulated, not like Africanized, just hotter than any other bees around.
    4. Overwintered on less than 20 pounds of honey, foraged early, still built up faster than any other colony I had.
    5. Very fast to swarm, typical of AMM, not typical of Italian or Carniolan.
    6. Very good tolerance to mites which is NOT typical of AMM and tells me they were crossbred.

    I am not claiming they were pure AMM, just that they had some in them. I caught them as a swarm near Rainsville Alabama in an area that I have caught AMM for years. I used them to produce queens that were mated to drones from queens I got from Purvis. In other words, I mated a mite tolerant queen to mite tolerant drones, then let them sort out over the next several years.
    DarJones - 44 years, 10 colonies (max 40), sideliner, treatment free since 2005, 11 frame broodnest, small cell

  9. #9
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    Default Re: An Option Towards Developing Treatment-Free Bees

    Or you could take a different approach and find bees similar to mine that have a bit of Apis Mellifera Mellifera genetics. They overwinter better than Carniolans and some of them have decent levels of mite tolerance.
    As far as survival and overwintering go, I am not as worried about the race of bee. Italians overwinter just fine. My current bee was developed by Tibor Szabo over the past 40+ years from feral stock. My guess is that it is predominately Italian, but he was a scientist and wrote the book on colour and bee genetics... so who knows? I have ordered a few Olivarez queens for early splits this spring. I know a very good breed who says they dont have problems overwintering, good genetics, but he still prefers to develop local stock. If I could find a Apis Mm, I would love to try them out even just for curiosity sake -however, I dont believe it is to be readily found.

    The major item I see missing in your plan is management of drones and management of a mating area so the number of mite tolerant colonies can be dramatically increased in 2 or 3 years
    .

    Always the other half of the equation! Other then artificial insemination, or owning your own private island you cannot be 100%. The theory is that the hives that are doing well, are TF, are the big hives and will produce more drones. You have split the weak colonies up, by the time the queen emerges from her cell those weak genetics will be far and few. Over many years I think the genetics, and drones would get better. I dont think any part of this is an 'overnight' thing.

    I think your system would need to be run by someone who is very capable of keeping EVERYTHING of the two apiaries (treated and non-treated) separate. I applaud you if that's your approach, as it would involve alot more note taking and work than I'm willing to put into it (honestly).

    But you would need to make sure that your treated and untreated hives don't mix, not only equipment wise, but location wise. If you have a treated hive collapse (for whatever reason) and a treatment free colony robs the dead out, taking the honey (that was stored in comb that was contaminated with treatments) it may skew your results. I don't think much, but I'm not one of the people on here that think so low of treatments. That would likely result in at least two apiaries, probably more. One that is pure treatment free, one that is treated (as needed) at a minimum, and likely at least a third for your "transition" nucs (the ones that were treated, but requeened with a TF queen, as the combs are contaminated with treatments, as are the bees, but you are working to get the treatments out). Just some thoughts.
    I think you would definitely have to develop a system of marking, or keeping track for sure. Multiple locations would be helpful, if you were creating your splits in early spring it makes sense to move them to a new location anyway. However, I wouldn't put too much stock into robbing out treated colonies if they steal contaminated honey it will be either in the spring, or late fall and that honey is going to get used up. It will not be sold AND you probably havent applied treatments by then. Sure doesn't sound optimal but nothing about beekeeping is 100%, It would be no different then your TF bees robbing out another apiary.

    Woodenware I could care less about contamination, the chemicals are not stored as they are in the wax.

    I do however thank everyone for the positive input and it is helping me develop and hone this idea. Where does this idea come from? Well I have a very small apiary in Ontario, I have however decided that I would rather keep bees then slug it out in work I loathe so I need to think about how to increase my numbers, stay profitable, and stay true to my philosophy. Currently all my hives are treatment-free. Last year was a bad year for bees up here. The fall flow was a dud and the goldenrod did not come through (which is a big flow here), and we had a warm autumn so the bees despite no pollen and nectar remained prolific. I left a ton of honey on the hives thinking that would do them for winter, by October it was all gone. We have also had an exceptionally cold winter. Many beekeepers around here I know are estimating a 70% die off. Because of the pesticides bee breeders are charging an absolute mint for nucleus colonies. I cannot afford to let hives die off, and buy more to make my increases. Michael Palmer's presentations gave me a great deal to think about, and next year I will set myself up to mimic his system on a smaller scale the year after.

    I've updated the unique forum rules to reflect what I've always considered acceptable treatment discussion here.

    "Any post advocating the use of treatments, according to the forum definition of treatment will be considered off topic and shall be moved to another forum or deleted by a moderator, unless it is employed as part of a plan in becoming treatment free."
    Thanks Barry!

    I am sorry if my answers aren't quite as satisfactory, as I am still thinking them over myself.

  10. #10

    Default Re: An Option Towards Developing Treatment-Free Bees

    Quote Originally Posted by honeydrunkapiaries View Post
    There is a hive in danger of collapse, being robbed out and spreading mites. Treat it with an organic acid, mark the hive body and all the frames so that you know those hives have been exposed to this chemical. Once the mites have been ‘knocked down’ let it overwinter. If it successfully overwinters, split that hive up into nucleus colonies giving each a queen cell from the breeding survivor stock. A queen cell as opposed to a laying queen is important; it allows a short brood break to reduce the mite population, and give the new queen a chance to prove herself. Swarm cells in the spring should be rather easy to find.

    Firstly, you have to monitor for mites. Whether it is a sticky board, an alcohol shake, it doesn’t matter. You need a baseline to know which of your hives have a mite problem and which don’t. Which are candidates for breeder stock, and which hives are going to need help?

    Secondly, hygienic testing; either begin testing for hygienic behavior or buy bees from breeders who are selecting for these traits and breed from them.
    Good plan, but because I have done all this, few comments:
    1. The collapses come so quickly, that in practice, you don´t have time to react. They collapse in less that two weeks. From a top hive to dead hive. In order to this plan to work, monitoring needs to be done at least once a month.
    2. If treatments, or any other measure by the beekeeper, are done differently to so some hives, this reduces the sc. "effective size of the population"(breeding term), this makes breeding selection more uncertain
    3. Matings must be controlled. If they are not, breeding is a gamble: one step forward and two steps back. No way you can make right decisions, when selecting breeder queens , if they don´t have uniform matings. To make queens from swarm cells is a mistake.
    4. Making selection according to measured hygienic behavior, might slow down the process. All measurements have error and all assays are only the best ASSUMPTIONS, what might be important. In real life, bees don´t need good results in hygienic behavior, they just need to survive. There are no quarantines that breeding according to hygienic behavior results will get us any further, there is no breeder, who has done varroa resistant bees by having hygienic behaviour in a major role.
    Treatment free, honey production, isolation mated queens, www.saunalahti.fi/lunden/varroakertomus.html

  11. #11
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    Default Re: An Option Towards Developing Treatment-Free Bees

    Quote Originally Posted by Juhani Lunden View Post
    Good plan, but because I have done all this, few comments:
    1. The collapses come so quickly, that in practice, you don´t have time to react. They collapse in less that two weeks. From a top hive to dead hive. In order to this plan to work, monitoring needs to be done at least once a month.
    2. If treatments, or any other measure by the beekeeper, are done differently to so some hives, this reduces the sc. "effective size of the population"(breeding term), this makes breeding selection more uncertain
    3. Matings must be controlled. If they are not, breeding is a gamble: one step forward and two steps back. No way you can make right decisions, when selecting breeder queens , if they don´t have uniform matings. To make queens from swarm cells is a mistake.
    4. Making selection according to measured hygienic behavior, might slow down the process. All measurements have error and all assays are only the best ASSUMPTIONS, what might be important. In real life, bees don´t need good results in hygienic behavior, they just need to survive. There are no quarantines that breeding according to hygienic behavior results will get us any further, there is no breeder, who has done varroa resistant bees by having hygienic behaviour in a major role.
    I am currently reading your journal of your breeding program, quite interesting stuff and it is giving me a bit to think about. Thanks for writing all that stuff down!

    Being out in the beeyard is not a problem for me. It is a beautiful location, and gives me some respite from the rest of my life -I am usually out there at LEAST twice a week.
    Last edited by honeydrunkapiaries; 01-09-2014 at 12:33 PM. Reason: More to add

  12. #12
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    Default Re: An Option Towards Developing Treatment-Free Bees

    there is no breeder, who has done varroa resistant bees by having hygienic behaviour in a major role.
    This statement does not show that it can't be done, just that the two traits are probably not linked. In other words, if heavy selection is made for hygienic behavior, you may exclude most colonies that show high levels of mite tolerance. This emphasizes that VSH is not the same as hygienic trait though it is highly probable that at least 1 gene is common between them. An alternate route would be to simultaneously select for both high levels of varroa tolerance and high levels of hygienic behavior and develop two lines that can be intercrossed in the future to combine the traits.

    I would also add that when Marla Spivak tested VSH bees, she found they were highly hygienic, almost off the scale. This indicates there is significant overlap between the two traits.
    DarJones - 44 years, 10 colonies (max 40), sideliner, treatment free since 2005, 11 frame broodnest, small cell

  13. #13
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    Default Re: An Option Towards Developing Treatment-Free Bees

    I think its a good plan. Its best points are:

    A) Its an intelligent, detailed, well thought-through plan.

    B) Its based on raising resistance. Its a breeding plan.

    C) Its well informed, cognizant of the bio-evolutionary realities, rationalised according to the known relations between mites and bees and up to date research about what works and why.

    D) Its based on using locally adapted bees.

    To the remarks about drone hives I'd add: try to be remote from large treating apiaries, and be aware of the likely benefit of expanding to a good number of apiaries in order to claim more matings.

    I don't see anything other than a plan of this kind succeeding - unless 'succeed' is defined in a way that doesn't including enabling the bees to manage their own mites.

    The one caution I might have has been raised already - breeding narrowly toward a single trait. I think working toward a diversity of mite management traits might be a better aim. By mostly taking out the weakest that's happening automatically, as long as you're not pushing too hard at the other end - the strongest. I'm interested in the mite-management mechanisms but wary of interfering with nature's choices.

    Somebody said the record keeping was too much work. On the contrary, the plan uses marks to make notes right on the hives themselve - excellent lazy data managment after my own heart. But I think detailed records, while a chore, are good. I use numbered hives, a notebook recording origins and current states, and make a to-do list on a clipboard as I go through the hives. The to-do list gets entered to a speadsheet, priority ratings attached, sorted to bring the priorities at each site to the top; printed to take. At each site I know what's to be done (and can take stuff I need), and how important it is. This seems unnecessary in the winter, but is essential in the working months.

    The bigger benefit should be when I get to learn which of my queens is best at making good new queens - by analysing the records. That is said to be essential in breeding.

    Mike (UK)
    Last edited by mike bispham; 01-10-2014 at 10:26 AM.
    Anti-husbandry: Medication + Reproduction = Continuing Sickness
    http://www.suttonjoinery.co.uk/CCD/

  14. #14
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    Default Re: An Option Towards Developing Treatment-Free Bees

    Thanks everyone for the supportive input! I will probably be writing some more longer pieces as I try and fit this into my management plan for next year. I will be adopting some of Palmers ideas, but realistically be a few years down the road before I can truly try and mimic them. Next year is going to be all about getting to that point -and hopefully making enough honey to pay for it.

  15. #15

    Default Re: An Option Towards Developing Treatment-Free Bees

    Quote Originally Posted by honeydrunkapiaries View Post
    I will be adopting some of Palmers ideas.
    Who is he? Has he made varroa resistant bees?
    Treatment free, honey production, isolation mated queens, www.saunalahti.fi/lunden/varroakertomus.html

  16. #16
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    Default Re: An Option Towards Developing Treatment-Free Bees

    Michael Palmer, did those presentations on the Sustainable Apiary, adopting his ideas for management.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: An Option Towards Developing Treatment-Free Bees

    Quote Originally Posted by honeydrunkapiaries View Post
    Michael Palmer, did those presentations on the Sustainable Apiary, adopting his ideas for management.
    I think that while he is not treatment free, his ideas on what he calls the sustainable apiary are very well-suited to someone whose goal is TF beekeeping. He is almost certainly breeding for better resistance, by breeding from his strongest hives and using his middling hives for resources. Over time, that's bound to result in better bees or his climate in all respects.
    s
    Ray--1 year, 7 hives, TF

  18. #18
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    Default Re: An Option Towards Developing Treatment-Free Bees

    I'm not convinced about feral swarms being any more resistant to varroa than any average stock. When swarming, the bees ditch all of their brood, and thus capped varroa, in the old colony. When they finally settle up after a few days, they need to build all of their foundation from scratch. That's a pretty significant brood break. Rinse & repeat and you can easily have a lot of feral swarms prospering despite varroa, even if their genetics against them are so poor that they'd die in a single season if prevented to swarm. Same for productiveness: robbing is an easy way for a colony to increase food stores.

    As swarming is easier than managing mites and as robbing is easier than harvesting, I tend to think that while feral swarms might APPEAR to be more resistant stock, natural selection favors the easy solutions that yield the most results, in this case swarming and robbing. Two traits that are good for the bees, not for the beekeeper. On the other hand, VSH and hygienic behavior results in brood loss, and thus slower population growth. Natural selection may even work against these traits.

    This does not apply to treatment-free beekeeping, however, but it's my view on using feral swarms to start one's stock. The only advantage I see is that they are adapted to local climate, but you can get that from purchasing from local breeders...

  19. #19
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    Default Re: An Option Towards Developing Treatment-Free Bees

    Dominic, if this were true, the parent colonies would periodically die out from mite buildup in the fall. I know of several feral colonies in this area that are at least 10 years old. They have been continuously occupied for that length of time.
    DarJones - 44 years, 10 colonies (max 40), sideliner, treatment free since 2005, 11 frame broodnest, small cell

  20. #20
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    Default Re: An Option Towards Developing Treatment-Free Bees

    Quote Originally Posted by Juhani Lunden View Post
    To make queens from swarm cells is a mistake.
    .
    Juhani,

    Why do you say that?
    Lawrence Heafner
    15 hives; 15 years; TF for 10; Zone 7B

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