survival of individual colonies
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  1. #1
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    Default survival of individual colonies

    One of the things that concerns me with the so called treatment free beekeepers is the lack of interest in tracking survival of individual colonies. Many point to the fact that they "still have bees" or such and such a colony has survived for decades, etc. Here the actual survival of nearly 600 hives was followed:

    > The survival and performance of 597 honey bee colonies, representing five subspecies and 16 different genotypes, were comparatively studied in 20 apiaries across Europe. Started in October 2009, 15.7% of the colonies survived without any therapeutic treatment against diseases until spring 2012.

    The influence of genetic origin and its interaction with environmental effects on the survival of Apis mellifera L. colonies in Europe. Journal of Apicultural Research 53(2): 205-214 (2014)

    PLB

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: survival of individual colonies

    Peter - Do you have a link? I'm out on a remote loc, with shared satellite link, and connection is super slow/intermittent, so tracking is tedious, at best...
    After 40 years of beekeeping, I've come to realize that the bees can fix most of my mistakes.

  4. #3
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    Default Re: survival of individual colonies

    Quote Originally Posted by Colobee View Post
    Peter - Do you have a link?
    This and other articles are open access at:

    http://www.ibra.org.uk/articles/JAR-53-2-2014

  5. #4

    Default Re: survival of individual colonies

    What is the definition for individual colony? The queen? The hive?

  6. #5
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    Default Re: survival of individual colonies

    Quote Originally Posted by BernhardHeuvel View Post
    What is the definition for individual colony? The queen? The hive?
    I don't know if this is a serious question. On the outside chance it is, I will respond.

    The colonies were started as package bees or nuclei and initially treated against V. destructor, ensuring uniform starting conditions in terms of strength and infestation level of all colonies within each location. Queens were produced either by the partner institutes or commercial partners and delivered by hand or express mail to the allocated partners. Queen introduction was completed on 1 October 2009 which was therefore defined as starting date for the survival test.

    The colonies were managed by the partner institutes according to a standardised common protocol until 31 March 2012 and were not further treated with chemical substances for the control of V. destructor or other diseases. Colony and queen survival were recorded at least three times a year (in spring, summer and autumn) together with other traits and parameters.

    When colonies collapsed, the presumed cause of death was noted and classified based on analysis of previously collected samples and / or easily detectable symptoms. The classes were: varroa, nosema, queen causes (queenlessness, drone laying queen, swarming without successful queen replacement, etc.), other (like American foulbrood, weakness, starvation, winter loss, robbing, apitechnical reasons), and unknown.

  7. #6
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    Default Re: survival of individual colonies

    (Thank you, Peter)

    more from the abstract - 'not sure I can DL the PDF ( dang it - no)

    " The survival duration was strongly affected by environmental factors (apiary effects) and, to a lesser degree, by the genotypes and origin of queens. Varroa was identified as a main cause of losses (38.4%), followed by queen problems (16.9%) and Nosema infection (7.3%). On average, colonies with queens from local origin survived 83 days longer compared to non-local origins (p < 0.001). This result demonstrates strong genotype by environment interactions. Consequently, the conservation of bee diversity and the support of local breeding activities must be prioritised in order to prevent colony losses, to optimize a sustainable productivity and to enable a continuous adaptation to environmental changes."
    After 40 years of beekeeping, I've come to realize that the bees can fix most of my mistakes.

  8. #7
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    Default Re: survival of individual colonies

    Quote Originally Posted by peterloringborst View Post
    One of the things that concerns me with the so called treatment free beekeepers is the lack of interest in tracking survival of individual colonies.
    Why is the survival of an individual colony (however the word colony is defined) a treatment free issue? If counting/tracking individual colony survival is important for treatment free beekeeping, isn't counting/tracking individual colony survival equally as important for those who treat?
    Graham
    USDA Zone 7A Elevation 1400 ft

  9. #8
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    Default Re: survival of individual colonies

    Quote Originally Posted by Rader Sidetrack View Post
    If counting/tracking individual colony survival is important for treatment free beekeeping, isn't counting/tracking individual colony survival equally as important for those who treat?
    Sure, why not?

  10. #9
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    Default Re: survival of individual colonies

    What I think is interesting is that I have seen almost the same rate. In 2011 I had 8 colonies, one survived the winter. Then I divided and had 8 colonies again. Of those, six went into winter and one survived, barely (16%). I couldn't divide it so I bought some bees and divided them. Back to ten colonies. So if you look at my summer numbers, I am gaining. This is with no treatments except drone brood removal and resistant stock.

  11. #10

    Default Re: survival of individual colonies

    Sure this was a serious question. If I requeen all of my hives (or near so) on a yearly basis, that means a 100 % loss if a colony is defined as a certain queen. If a colony is just a box of bees and that hive swarms every year, doubling the number of hives and loosing half of the hives a little later - does this really mean zero losses? It is difficult to define, what the hive is. For a queen breeder it is the queen. For a honey producer all that matters is that there are enough bees in that box. If it comes to longevity...what is it, that really matters? How do you measure it?

  12. #11
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    Default Re: survival of individual colonies

    Quote Originally Posted by BernhardHeuvel View Post
    Sure this was a serious question.
    Then ... did you read my reply? I think I answered the question already. Colony established in hive, no treatment, no requeening, monitor till it fails. Simple.

  13. #12
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    Default Re: survival of individual colonies

    In my work on occurrences of rare plants, demography (survival of individuals) is a preliminary, but requisite, first step to understanding whole populations.

    The same is true of honeybees, but the discussion tends short-circuit at estimates of cold-winter overwintering fraction. Solomon Parker and Sam Comfort, for all their uncompromising fierceness, have a key understanding in the concept of "Expansion Model Beekeeping".

    The survival data shows that colony death occurs relatively linearly. (Delete) The colonies were tracked from April 1, so the plateau in mortality was winter, and peak death was during the summer-fall transition. Corrected: Paper tracks survival from October 1. So peak death rates are in very late winter. (Now, obsolete) I observe this very same pattern in my untreated experiment -- Varroa (and its associated diseases) peak in September.


    Constantly rolling forward demographic recruitment (whether it is by purchase of Georgia packages, capturing swarms, a full queen rearing option or walk-away splits) is a population-level maintenance component. The economic cost or "sustainability" of the various strategies can be compared to some degree. The "overwintering fraction" obviously is a key component as it robs potential value production (due to replacement demands). Its shorthand, but not the full picture.

    In agricultural practice, dollar-and-cents economic budgeting measures the cost of replacement. The intangible costs and benefits of practices has been subsumed into measures of "sustainability". Sustainability has the weakness that quantification is undefined and results are incomparable. Attempt to quantify "sustainability" practices are subject to enormous ideological biases in valuation.
    Last edited by JWChesnut; 06-10-2014 at 01:48 PM.

  14. #13
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    Default Re: survival of individual colonies

    Constantly rolling forward demographic recruitment (whether it is by purchase of Georgia packages, capturing swarms, a full queen rearing option or walk-away splits) is a population-level maintenance component.
    This is a confusing statement, but I gather you are saying that one must constantly be acquiring new colonies if one wants to stay at a certain level. This has been known for centuries, establishes nothing new. I already described this in my post, where I rebounded from 85% loss by splitting the remaining bees. However, this is not a model for profit. Especially if the cost of replacement exceeds the income from honey sales, etc.

    However, if one is favorably situated to collect swarms, it's a perfect way to stay in business. In my area in upstate NY swarm calls are not frequent. I caught two last year with bait hives but one was so small it fizzled out. The rest of the bees died over the brutal winter. I manage another yard which I treated for mites and the winter loss was the reverse, only lost about 15%.

  15. #14
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    Default Re: survival of individual colonies

    i've been keeping careful notes on my colonies and i do consider queen failure a loss when it comes to documenting longevity.

    i have two of the four original colonies that i began with in 2010 that have survived four winters now. other colonies in my home yard range from 1 to 3 winter's survival, and i have a couple that were started this year.

    i recently pinched the queen in two colonies that have survived three winters because they were consistently non-productive and swarmy.

    my four year winter loss average is 13.1%. i ended up with eight colonies this year that have been dedicated to honey production, and at this point it's looking like i'll average about 120 lbs. harvest per hive. the harvest from colonies that i was successful at swarm prevention with will be closer to 200 lbs., and vice versa.

    in addition to not using treatments, i also do no use supplemental feeding. the bees are locally adapted hybrids.
    'no wise man has the power to reason away what a fool believes' - the doobies

  16. #15
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    Default Re: survival of individual colonies

    Peter,
    No, I am not saying anything new, but I am reiterating a point that is often lost in the hocus-pocus of TF rhetoric.
    Where do these colonies that must constantly be acquired come from, and what are costs of appropriating these. Are the global costs of a particular TF colony flow greater, sustainable or less than alternative models.
    My point is the various methods of increase can be compared for tangible and intangible costs, and that comparison is useful for demystifying much of the TF mythology.
    I find, locally in my area, that many of the "treatment free" apiaries make increase by sub-economic methods (one reason these enterprises tend to come and go with predictable velocity).

  17. #16
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    Default Re: survival of individual colonies

    No, I am not saying anything new, but I am reiterating a point that is often lost in the hocus-pocus of TF rhetoric.
    Hey, that's exactly the point I have been trying to make.

    Beekeepers generally don't track individual colonies and keep replacing them as needed. That's traditional beekeeping, nothing unique about it. But as you say, TF seem disingenuous about the losses and the cost of replacement.

    In the Imperial Valley beekeepers have been losing 50% or more of their hives every summer due to the extreme heat. And it is a pretty simple matter to double your numbers in spring, in time for a summer flow. That is cost effective.

    However, to lose 80%, to build them back up during a three month season we have, and hope to make some income, that's what we face here. It's doable but requires a pretty high level of skill

  18. #17
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    Default Re: survival of individual colonies

    If you recalibrate survival at the second spring (see photoshopped image below with local/non-local curve offset) much of the papers reported detected differences in survival significance vanish.

    This both supports a repeated anecdote on TF apiary management --- TF goes through an winnowing period, and subsequently normalizes. The death rate in the 2nd season is steeper than the first season (not surprising), but post first -year selection; survival has converged on similar trajectories across categories.



  19. #18
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    Default Re: survival of individual colonies

    Quote Originally Posted by JWChesnut View Post
    This both supports a repeated anecdote on TF apiary management --- TF goes through an winnowing period, and subsequently normalizes.
    But the experiment was ended, in this case. They were down to 15% of the original 600. For a ten hive beekeeper, that's 1 1/2 hives. And the chances are at least one of those will die the following winter, meaning SOL. So this is not a leveling off, it's a dropping off the map. Unless one is bringing on new colonies all the time. The notion of breeding from survivors entails having survivors ...

  20. #19

    Default Re: survival of individual colonies

    Quote Originally Posted by peterloringborst View Post
    But the experiment was ended, in this case. They were down to 15% of the original 600. For a ten hive beekeeper, that's 1 1/2 hives. And the chances are at least one of those will die the following winter, meaning SOL. So this is not a leveling off, it's a dropping off the map. Unless one is bringing on new colonies all the time. The notion of breeding from survivors entails having survivors ...
    I would not call myself a TF beekeeper, if I had to collect swarms or buy bees. That would be misleading.

  21. #20
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    Default Re: survival of individual colonies

    Quote Originally Posted by Juhani Lunden View Post
    I would not call myself a TF beekeeper, if I had to collect swarms or buy bees. That would be misleading.
    I would think TF is about how you manage your managed hives, regardless of origin.

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