Bee genetics
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Thread: Bee genetics

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2015
    Location
    Adelaide, Australia
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    150

    Default Bee genetics

    I've come across some people arguing to use bee swarms, rather than to buy queen bees. The argument was that, bee swarms have grown strong enough to be able to split off and adapt to one's local environment, whereas queens are often enough not suitable for such and tend to under perform in comparison.

    At least here in my part of Australia, people like buying queen bees from the local bee sanctuary, Kangaroo Island, which houses a pure strain of Ligurian Bee.

    Now I'm wanting to split a number of my hives to expand my operation. I have one hive that's probably the most productive of the lot (could just be because it's the oldest most established), and it's also by far the most aggressive hive. I figure that, in spite of how productive they are, I don't wish to duplicate such aggressive bees and if anything, I should try to replace the queen with more gentler genetics. I've thought about finding the queen and squishing her, then take out all the frames that have eggs/young larvae in them, and replace them with eggs/young larvae from hives that have more desired traits. I figure I can do this with any beehive that has undesirable characteristics. A number of my hives don't ever seem to perform too well. It's difficult to tell if it's just due to their current circumstances, that they just need more time, or whether the genetics of the bees is not as strong.

    This is all a pretty fascinating topic. How do you guys manage the genetics of your bees?

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2018
    Location
    London, England
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    Default Re: Bee genetics

    I'm super simple. I split my colonies into two groups: good, not so good. I raise queens from the good pile and cull the not so good pile. I'm not sure I'd go so far to say I'm managing the genetics, just selecting for meta traits I personally want.

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
    Location
    washington, vermont, USA
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    176

    Default Re: Bee genetics

    I think the argument to raise queens from your own stock as opposed to buying them from somewhere halfway across the country is pretty sound. There's a saying goes something like this, "a queen from the best stock raised in average conditions will be an average queen. But a queen from average stock raised in the best conditions (lots food and nurse bees) will be one of the greats." That's not word for word but you get the idea.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2018
    Location
    London, England
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    Default Re: Bee genetics

    Quote Originally Posted by vtbeeguy View Post
    I think the argument to raise queens from your own stock as opposed to buying them from somewhere halfway across the country is pretty sound. There's a saying goes something like this, "a queen from the best stock raised in average conditions will be an average queen. But a queen from average stock raised in the best conditions (lots food and nurse bees) will be one of the greats." That's not word for word but you get the idea.
    I swap with beekeepers I know and trust so I have a good introduction of new queens. Unless you raise queens at an industrial level or use AI I'm not sure you can control genetics that much, I just hope some of the traits I like carry through to the daughters - its a mixed bag.

    But as you saying raising your local average stock with care works well, it has had great benefits for me. And Queen rearing is just fun as well.

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Kirksville, Missouri USA
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    1,493

    Default Re: Bee genetics

    A colony will swarm when their hive area is too crowded. It doesn't have to have much to do with a health strength of a colony. But, a swarm is a new colony of bees geared towards building up fast, so they can be good wax builders to establish a new location.

    The ideal way to grow a specific line of bee queens in your own apiary would be to make up a starter and finisher hive and graft from your best queens. You'd have to read up about that.

    Another way would be to take your best hive and let it build up to warm mode, then remove the queen with a nuc of bees, and make more nucs with all the queen cells that have been made in the colony. You have a small window of time to catch them in the right stage of swarm mode, so that's a risky approach. I wouldn't recommend that unless you can follow the swarm prep signs, know the timing of making cells and swarming, and you have plenty of time to keep track of them. If you don't see the initial signs, a colony can swarm within a week or maybe less of starting queen cells. A swarm can happen fast and you'd loose a good queen.

    Another way would be to remove the queen and some frames of bees from your best colony and let that remaining now queenless colony make emergency cells. Once the cells are capped, divide them up in nucs from that colony and any other colony you care to take some frames of bees from, with as many cells as you can divide up. You can also take cells made and remove a queen you don't want out of a colony and replace it with a cell or two. The risk would be a failed queen attempt in any of the splits or colonies you removed queens from. If one split fails to make a queen they can be combined with another split to strengthen it. You'd also want to know the timing of queens emerging, mating and starting to lay, so you stay out of the hive while it's going on. Too much disturbance can cause failure.

    Swarm cell queens are known to most likely be a better made cell than emergency cells, but I have made many queens with emergency cells and they work. It's the simplest way to make your own queens.

    Whatever you do, first read, read, read about these things so you have a fair understanding of what you need to do. The real learning is when you do it, but you have to have an idea what's going on.

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2016
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    Mogollon Rim, Arizona 85933
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    Default Re: Bee genetics

    swarms are not all that great, in 40+yrs I've encountered hundreds of worthless swarm queens, I remember Barry Van Druff and his Mom always saying swarm queens are worthless, old and dirty or new and weak. He bred his own queens from strong genetic stock like all of the BEST producers do. The Van Druffs were AZ largest apiaries back in the 70's 80's 90's till varrora took them out of the business.
    Last edited by squarepeg; 01-17-2018 at 09:41 AM. Reason: removed personal attack
    Merlin, Oregon zone 8

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    Suffolk, NY, USA
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    3,268

    Default Re: Bee genetics

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidZ View Post
    swarms are not all that great, in 40+yrs I've encountered hundreds of worthless swarm queens, I remember Barry Van Druff and his Mom always saying swarm queens are worthless, old and dirty or new and weak. He bred his own queens from strong genetic stock like all of the BEST producers do. The Van Druffs were AZ largest apiaries back in the 70's 80's 90's till varrora took them out of the business.
    40+ years on earth maybe, but NOT 40+ years with bees! that's for sure.
    A year and a half ago you couldn't wait to collect or cutout the 'girls' and keep them alive.
    Some of us remember, and know better.
    "Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:........" Alexander Pope 1709

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