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  1. #1
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    Default I think we're barking up the wrong tree,

    Keith Delaplane on queen rearing:

    Recently, he's been exploring commercial honeybee breeding practices and has uncovered evidence that he hopes will take bee breeding in an entirely new direction. Breeders have been trying with limited success to select specific traits such as honey production or resistance to the Varroa mite - suspect No. 1 in colony collapse disorder. But that's the opposite way to go with bee colonies, which are what scientists call a "superorganism," Delaplane explained.

    The hive's honey is like fat, a stored-up food supply; the bees' group decision-making is like the brain; and beeswax is like the liver of a single animal. The unit of natural selection with bees is the hive, not the individual, and hives strive for genetic diversity, he said. When Delaplane experimented by introducing more genetic diversity into hives instead of trying to narrow it, he found that everything improved - resistance, honey production and general hive health.

    "I think we're barking up the wrong tree," he said. "You can't do it like other animals. The colony resists genetic narrowing."
    from:
    "Bee researcher inducted into British order"
    http://www.greenwichtime.com/

  2. #2
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    Default Re: I think we're barking up the wrong tree,

    interesting pete. how would you describe the 'right tree' that we average beekeepers should be barking up instead?
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  3. #3
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    Default Re: I think we're barking up the wrong tree,

    Well, now, this is the beginning of a long conversation we could have. Folks seem eager to get short answers, but never mind that. I was just looking for a reference to Keith's recent honor in being "inducted" when I stumbled upon his suggestion that we are "barking up the wrong tree" regarding bee breeding. I have been thinking this myself for a very long time. However, I don't have the resources to really ascertain whether or not this has a practical application.

    Now, for centuries honey bees have been selected for one trait or another, often at the expense of other traits. This phenomenon is well known in convention breeding. Nature, on the other hand, rarely selects for one particular trait. In fact, surviving organisms usually exhibit flexibility as well as vigor. These are presumably based upon multiple genetic contributions, rather than being a single trait based on a small stretch of the genome.

    Going the other way, it may be that flexibility and vigor is a combination of traits, many which are latent and only become active under certain circumstances. That would be like a mechanic who has thousands of tools, most of which he doesn't use on a regular basis, but which he can pull out for a specific job. This would enable him to be able to work on any task, where someone with less resources might be stumped.

    What this means for bee breeding is anybody's guess. But there examples. Large populations of feral bees, like those in Brazil or Africa, have diverse gene pools, the exact opposite of inbreeding. Closer to home, Danny Weaver claims that his bees are a mixture of all the various lineages (M, C, A, and O).

  4. #4
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    Default Re: I think we're barking up the wrong tree,

    i haven't the experience, time, nor desire to perform testing of specific traits for use in breeder queen and/or drone selection. my back up plan is to select from the colonies in my apiary that show vigor, productivity, and survive winter. this was accomplished by splitting the strongest in the first years, and then with grafting from the best last year. the results are palpable, and i would assume that this how it has been done from the beginning so no news here.

    but i guess the point of your original post has more to do with commercial queen rearing and the bottlenecking that is occurring there. perhaps the 'tree' is that more beekeepers should be selecting from their best instead of relying on commercially available queens?
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  5. #5
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    Default Re: I think we're barking up the wrong tree,

    but i guess the point of your original post has more to do with commercial queen rearing and the bottlenecking that is occurring there.
    No, I am not thinking about this and not that. I am thinking about all of it. The goals of beekeepers are similar whether large or small. We all tend to want consistent dependable results. And traditionally, the thinking was that by selecting bees with specific traits, those traits could be propagated. And it is true for some traits, like color or rapid buildup. But we are at the very beginning of understanding the genetic basis for complex traits.

    Even in monogamous organisms, the genetic bases of behavioral traits have not been identified. And then when you add the multiple mating of honey bees PLUS the fact that the colony contains thousands of individuals forming a "super-organism" it's plain that an oversimplified plan may not yield the proposed results. But as I said, we are at the beginning of a long conversation we could have, depending on the stamina of the participants.

    P

  6. #6
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    Default Re: I think we're barking up the wrong tree,

    Peter,

    I have suggested the same concept for a while now and actually use it in my breeding program. It is easier for beekeepers/researchers to focus on a single trait for selection efforts, but too much other material is lost in the process. One queen has little value, but rather it is the population of queens in a breeding program that contain the value and the tools of adaptability over time.

    Joe
    Breeder Queens & Honey Bee Nutritional Supplements
    www.latshawapiaries.com

  7. #7
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    Default Re: I think we're barking up the wrong tree,

    Quote Originally Posted by peterloringborst View Post
    But as I said, we are at the beginning of a long conversation we could have, depending on the stamina of the participants.
    understood p. i am eager to learn more about this and would be interested to follow said conversation, but i'm afraid my contribution would mostly take the form of asking questions.

    it's a fascinating topic and germane to all here, i hope you'll take the time to develop it.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  8. #8
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    Default Re: I think we're barking up the wrong tree,

    Quote Originally Posted by peterloringborst View Post
    No, I am not thinking about this and not that. I am thinking about all of it. The goals of beekeepers are similar whether large or small. We all tend to want consistent dependable results. And traditionally, the thinking was that by selecting bees with specific traits, those traits could be propagated. And it is true for some traits, like color or rapid buildup. But we are at the very beginning of understanding the genetic basis for complex traits.

    Even in monogamous organisms, the genetic bases of behavioral traits have not been identified. And then when you add the multiple mating of honey bees PLUS the fact that the colony contains thousands of individuals forming a "super-organism" it's plain that an oversimplified plan may not yield the proposed results. But as I said, we are at the beginning of a long conversation we could have, depending on the stamina of the participants.
    Circling back: a number of apparently successful treatment-free practioners have emphasised the following two points:

    First; selecting (from among untreated, and unmanipulated hives) for the quality of productivity over a reasonable timespan - say three years - wraps up all the possible contributory factors in one go. You've found the ideal combination of mite resistance, general disease resistance, suitability to local climate and forage, and energy-gathering capacity in a single measure. As a general principle this seems to me to speak to your ideas Peter.

    Secondly (and related) John Kefuss emphasises the point: you don't have to know why it works to know that it works. (He uses as an example an aeroplane)

    An observation on these two ideas: together they represent a management system very close indeed to that at the heart of what its fair to call 'traditional husbandry'. In earlier times, when the nature of diseases were poorly understood and treatments unobtainable, health in stock was maximised by propagating only from the strongest, largest (and yes, most desirably featured) individuals.

    The principle mirrors natural selection for the fittest strains very closely by ruthlessly removing the weaker from the breeding pool always, and using only the very strongest few males as sires.

    I've bolted that reminder on the bottom of my double point because... its something that should always be uppermost in any breeder's mind. And if and when it is, the complications of selection tend to fall away as its realised that .. stand-alone strength (and productivity) are two traits that you must not compromise. And that if you work from that principle, the rest falls into place - and you can adopt a Kefuss-like approach: I don't know what the mechanics are and I don't care. It works.

    Mike (UK)
    Anti-husbandry: Medication + Reproduction = Continuing Sickness
    http://www.suttonjoinery.co.uk/CCD/

  9. #9
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    Default Re: I think we're barking up the wrong tree,

    Quote Originally Posted by peterloringborst View Post
    Keith Delaplane on queen rearing:
    from:
    "Bee researcher inducted into British order"
    http://www.greenwichtime.com/

    Hi Peter,
    Is bee-l slow?

    Thanks for some of Keith Delaplane's Wise thinking.
    Selecting within regional breeding populations would be good, although there are so few real "regional breeding populations".

    Adam
    vpqueenbees.com

  10. #10
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    Default Re: I think we're barking up the wrong tree,

    Is bee-l slow?
    Hah! Seems to be stuck on neonics and the precautionary principle. Decide to throw caution to the wind ...

  11. #11
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    Default Re: I think we're barking up the wrong tree,


  12. #12
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    Default Re: I think we're barking up the wrong tree,

    This may fit in on this thread.
    Exactly. I have been impressed by the work of Brock Harpur and Amro Zayed. They and others are leading the way for a much broader understanding of breeding, evolution, and genomics. They write

    the evolution of eusociality may select for high rates of recombination, which increase genotypic diversity in workers leading to increased colony fitness. Our study also suggests that higher recombination rates increase the evolutionary rate of genes associated with worker behavior, which may fa- cilitate the evolution of worker specialization
    This is exactly what I was saying. Important traits for survival include adaptability AND a high degree of specialization, which bee colonies exhibit. Imagine having a team that included individuals that were really good at one particular thing, and being able to bring them into play when needed. This would could be better than a team which had members all of which were OK at a most things, but not great at anything in particular. It depends, of course, on what the challenges are and what are the burdens of keeping a bunch specialists at hand. For some situations one may be better than the other. There again, we know that the population of a hive vastly increase in the summer. Maybe they have a large diverse workforce in summer and trim down to a specific subset in winter.

    P

  13. #13
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    Default Re: I think we're barking up the wrong tree,

    Quote Originally Posted by peterloringborst View Post
    Keith Delaplane on queen rearing:

    "The hive's honey is like fat, a stored-up food supply; the bees' group decision-making is like the brain; and beeswax is like the liver of a single animal. "
    From that first observation, I've found it very interesting and enlightening to examine the perspective that:

    "Energy is the fundamental object under contention in natural selection"[1]

    Quote Originally Posted by peterloringborst View Post
    The unit of natural selection with bees is the hive, not the individual,
    Looking at that a different way, you might regard the colony as the 'individual', seeing the comb and workers as parts of the queen's body.

    I'm not sure 'hives' strive for genetic diversity. That is just the way the bee has evolved. But there is a point in there.

    Quote Originally Posted by peterloringborst View Post
    ...and hives strive for genetic diversity, he said. When Delaplane experimented by introducing more genetic diversity into hives instead of trying to narrow it, he found that everything improved - resistance, honey production and general hive health.

    "I think we're barking up the wrong tree," he said. "You can't do it like other animals. The colony resists genetic narrowing."
    There seems to be a tension between the idea that genetic diversity is a good thing on the one hand, and that traits are easier to fix, and more reliably expressed, in genetically narrow populations on the other.

    The second is an argument that is probably mostly made by bee breeders trying to stabilise traits - clearly a desirable thing - for them.

    However, as their sold queens will mate with a wide genetic range for the next generation, the issue becomes, at that point, at least partly moot.

    If we are looking to promote home-raising of queens (as opposed to central breeding - widely thought to be a positive as it tends to maintain genetic diversity and locally acclimatised populations) we have to acknowledge that home-breeders will want to try to stabilise their populations, and will tend to narrow diversity locally.

    Mike (UK)

    [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludwig_...s_of_evolution
    Last edited by mike bispham; 04-05-2014 at 02:00 AM. Reason: Clarification and correction
    Anti-husbandry: Medication + Reproduction = Continuing Sickness
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  14. #14

    Default Re: I think we're barking up the wrong tree,

    Not if you use Mel Disselkoen's MDA splitter method. The more I think about it, the more I try in this direction, the more I like it. Especially if you think about this:

    http://www.beesource.com/forums/show...eybee-colonies

    Queens that have been reared in a strong hive with plenty of bees and plenty of food and only few queen cells, that received a lot of attention of a lot of bees, should be better nourished, warmed and so. Better nourished means stronger, fitter and healthier.

    Which means she can fly out for mating several times, fly for a longer time and distance, thus does meet and mate with more drones. More drones, more genetics in that hive. The better the housekeeping tasks are done by the hive, the better the microbial community...and so on.

    From my experiments I see, that a queen that has been cared for as a larvae in a full hive, with very few queen cells, been warmed by bees in a full hive during the capped cell stage and is born into a full hive, is a much stronger and better queen than with all other methods (including natural swarms cells). You do not notice differences during the first months or so, maybe the appearance of the queen, but sure you see the difference next season. Much more brood, stronger colonies.

    So to me it seems one has to review modern queenrearing methods rather than the breeding. I think the MDA method may be a good thing. Using production hives as rearing and mating hives. The downside is the decrease of bee population within the hive because of the broodless period. What I am currently trying is to solve this by using a two queen hive. Two queens produce a larger bee population per hive, so the broodless period does not have a significant effect on productivity.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: I think we're barking up the wrong tree,

    Quote Originally Posted by BernhardHeuvel View Post
    From my experiments I see, that a queen that has been cared for as a larvae in a full hive, with very few queen cells, been warmed by bees in a full hive during the capped cell stage and is born into a full hive, is a much stronger and better queen than with all other methods
    What experiments are you referring to and how have you made a valid comparison with say queens which mate from small mating nucs.

  16. #16

    Default Re: I think we're barking up the wrong tree,

    To my own fiddling I do refer. Just intuitive try (and error). I have simply tried a wide range of methods.

    This are my mini mating nucs. The mini mating nucs are very commonly used in Germany. You simply put a cup of bees into those nucs and a ripe queen cell. Just topbars.





















    If I compare the queens to those born in full hives, next year, the full hive queens always perform much better. Although the queens, produced in mini mating nucs, do look ok and are well shaped and do lay well. But they do not perform as well.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: I think we're barking up the wrong tree,

    If I compare the queens to those born in full hives, next year, the full hive queens always perform much better. Although the queens, produced in mini mating nucs, do look ok and are well shaped and do lay well. But they do not perform as well.
    I rear a lot of queens in apideas for myself and also a queen rearing group I run and to be honest I have not noticed any difference between mating from a full colony and mating from an apidea. Some colonies do better than others and it is hard to say why but I don't see a direct correlation to where the queen mated from. I will keep looking in case I have missed something. Last August a queen of mine which mated from an Apidea was superseded in her 4th season so some of them seem to mate well from the smaller nucs.
    There are sometimes problems with queens if they are removed too early from Apideas. There is a report from Australia, by Rhodes and Denney which states that queens should ideally be at least 35 days old before they are removed from apideas, ie they have probably been laying for about 3 weeks already.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: I think we're barking up the wrong tree,

    Quote Originally Posted by BernhardHeuvel View Post
    If I compare the queens to those born in full hives, next year, the full hive queens always perform much better. Although the queens, produced in mini mating nucs, do look ok and are well shaped and do lay well. But they do not perform as well.
    Bernhard, have you read the old Jay Smith's old book "Better Queens?" I'm beginning to think that the quality of queens is much more important than lots of folks think.
    Ray--1 year, 7 hives, TF

  19. #19
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    Default Re: I think we're barking up the wrong tree,

    To intelligently discuss the genetic basis of behavior in bees, you have to read up on the current understanding

    Gottlieb argued that complex phenotypic traits, including behaviors, are
    not predetermined. Instead, they are creations of “reciprocal influences within and
    between levels of an organism’s developmental manifold (genetic activity, neural
    activity, behavior, and the physical, social, and cultural influences of the external
    environment) and the ubiquity of gene–environment interaction.”

    In other words,
    genes depend on input from the phenotype and influence behavior in a probabilistic
    rather than deterministic manner
    . The gene and its current transcriptional state are
    only part of a complex picture that involves both present and previous states of the
    genotype/phenotype interactions.

    Elucidating the Path from Genotype to Behavior in Honey Bees: Insights from Epigenomics
    Ryszard Maleszka, Research School of Biology , The Australian National University

  20. #20
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    Default Re: I think we're barking up the wrong tree,

    There has been some interesting human research done on that in Britain, on 600 sets of twins who where fostered at birth and raised in different families.

    Since Mike is from those parts I'm surprised he has never heard of this well known study.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

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