Morphological measurements of our Queens
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  1. #1
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    Default Morphological measurements of our Queens

    In the cattle business we use EPDs (Expected Progeny Differences) calculate vast amounts of data collected on economically important traits which we use to breed in or out very specific traits in our livestock.
    I manage the apiary, not our livestock so I don't study these numbers on our farm, but Andre does and we use these numbers to help select the type of breeding stock our customers need to suit their cattle herd. Selection for improvement of specifics faults within the herd or selection for simply calving easy, or selection for high performance, to name the top few, these numbers lay out a map for cattlemen to follow.

    I brushed against this reading an article published by Joe Latshaw in BeeCulture. He'd provided a report from NC State Apiculture Program which provided a series of specific thorax and head measurements and I assume concluded larger equils better.

    I'm interested in who physically measures their breeder queens, what those measurements represent and what other physical measurements you do in determining a "good looking queen"

    Behaviour aspects aside, I'm just interested in feedback related to physical aspects .... if done at all .

    Also do Queen breeders use "EPDs" ? If at all possible, and if so what does it look like and what pool of physiological and behavioursl accumulated information are you or they digging into to determine these associated values ?

    Kind of a loaded question, but ya, shoot away
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Morphological measurements of our Queens

    BeePro was raising some big headed queens last summer.

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Morphological measurements of our Queens

    I am not sure I would classify the measurements as bigger is better, but rather a relative quality assessment. The size is not used as a directional selection metric, but bigger queens generally have more ovarioles, which means more eggs and more bees.

    I realize you raise beef cattle, but it would be like saying in the dairy industry bigger is always better and compare a Jersey to a Holstein. They each have their good qualities.

    The measurements David Tarpy uses are old standbys because they do not change over time. Relatively speaking bigger is better in the sense that the morphometrics of a queen is compared against that of other queens. But keep in mind the queen is genetically similar to a worker, but the expression of phenotypic characteristics is influenced by diet and environment. It can be a gradient from worker to queen phenotype.

    I do not know of anyone using EPD's in honey bees. I would speculate that short generation time and multiple mating make it challenging. David Tarpy's lab can provide additional evaluations which are interesting and useful and to some extent I use progeny testing. But again, much of this is limited due to a short generation time and the inability to effectively store eggs, sperm or embryos. People are working on this though.
    Breeder Queens & Honey Bee Nutritional Supplements
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  5. #4
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    Default Re: Morphological measurements of our Queens

    That's kinda my point in a way. With dairy specific physical characteristics do relate specific production qualities, but not related to just size, more so relating specific attributes to specific production characteristics. All focused upon a dairy parlour industry. Bigger is not better in the livestock industry

    In my eye, that thorax measurement is important... because if it means larger abdomen then than will mean less queens getting uptop through the excluder.
    There is an example of that specific measurement translating into useful info to address specific problem.

    I know our bugs are too variable to track as they do in the livestock industry. And as you say, control of the traits is key

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Morphological measurements of our Queens

    My queen rearing apiarist talks about wing size in camparison to abdomen length. She feels those smaller type queens which develop shorter abdomens don't mate aswell. She describes it as the virgin wearing a nice neat skirt, not a mini skirt, not a dress, just a nice sexy skirt.
    Abdomen size holds a lot of weight in linking it to good performance for many reasons

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Morphological measurements of our Queens

    I think the main differences are the end use as well. We don't really need any physical attributes the queen offers other than being able to lay well, which may or may not be hindered by physical size. Colonies are judged as a super organism which does stem from the queens genetics, but also the drones she mated with and most of the traits we look at are behavioral not anything that is heavily attributed to physical traits.

    I think a standard approach of creating parental groups or even 'heterotic' pools would work well. Again though, most traits are behavioral so it's really just depends on phenotypic selection and creating the best possible conditions you can for when queens are being produced.

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Morphological measurements of our Queens

    So it begs the question, if physical attributes don't actually mean anything other than it probably means it's a well developed queen, why bother measuring the head and thorax differences of 3mm?

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Morphological measurements of our Queens

    Quote Originally Posted by Ian View Post
    So it begs the question, if physical attributes don't actually mean anything other than it probably means it's a well developed queen, why bother measuring the head and thorax differences of 3mm?
    Because it tells you if she can fit thru an excluder. In your operation, that alone should be grounds for culling, I've seen your photos of a box in the hot room that seems to have arrived with a brood nest rather than honey. It turns into a major distraction with an ultimate cost (labor etc) ultimately higher than the revenue from that colony.

    But here then is the real question. What costs more ? Taking the calipers to every queen as they are harvested, or, dealing with an occaisional brood nest that ended up on the truck and hauled into the hot room ? You either spend it on the time it takes to do the measurements, or, you spend it dealing with the hassles of bees in the honey house.

    Which brings on another question, after some experience measuring each and every queen as they are harvested, will that person develop an eye for the result to the point the calipers aren't really neeeded any more ?

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Morphological measurements of our Queens

    that is a physiological attribute I select for, which simply equates to large thorax to better excluder management.
    We don't measure but we do cull according to size. Thst is how much I hate skinny queens... lol

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Morphological measurements of our Queens

    Quote Originally Posted by grozzie2 View Post

    But here then is the real question. What costs more ? Taking the calipers to every queen as they are harvested, or, dealing with an occaisional brood nest that ended up on the truck and hauled into the hot room ? You either spend it on the time it takes to do the measurements, or, you spend it dealing with the hassles of bees in the honey house
    When we talk passing on gentleness traits, it follows the drone. When we talk hygienic behavioural traits, it follows the queen.
    I look at Russians as being skinny, I think of Italians as being thick, Carni In Between. I think of queen size as having much to do with conditions throughout the development stage of that queen but obviously their size is inherently linked to queen types.
    Lots to consider. I've had skinny queens lay boxes of brood right through the excluder boxes up into the supers ... lol. I've also had fatties that have no drive.


    I think one strategy I'm going to employ is more drone saturation. I'm also going to keep better track of breeder mothers and their "particular" pedigree.
    I have some select Saskatraz queens coming in this year I want to incorporate into my op. And track specifically

    Size will be considered but basically only for a logistical reason
    Last edited by Ian; 02-06-2017 at 06:58 PM.

  12. #11
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    Default Re: Morphological measurements of our Queens

    Ian,

    I think some people equate size with quality, that is why measurements are taken. Also, size can give advantage in laying etc... as has been stated, but I think there's a point of negative return in this regard too. A large fat queen expends more energy moving around and laying eggs. Since there's a maximum rate of egg laying, being able to produce eggs that exceed this rate really isn't that useful either. I think an interesting study would be to look at colonies with exceptional brooding capacity and try to find the cause of why some colonies are able to grow quicker than others. Obviously, the first thing that comes to mind in efficiency of brooding is comb size and structure where narrow frames and small cell would really help keep egg laying at a good pace. But I think one thing to really look closely at, would be how much does the queen influence brooding rate and capacity if at all and then look at the size of queen etc... if you can correlate the benefits of bigger and possibly more robust queens.

  13. #12
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    Default Re: Morphological measurements of our Queens

    If you have 2 queens , both a Carni and an Italian cross, and the Italian coloured queen measures its thorax .5mm larger, will you draw the conclusion that that queen will perform better? Being 1/2 mm larger thorax ?
    Last edited by Ian; 02-06-2017 at 07:12 PM.

  14. #13
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    Default Re: Morphological measurements of our Queens

    Or if you had 2 breeder queens, would you cull the queen with the .5mm smaller thorax from your breeding program?
    If the answer is no, then why measure the thorax and head at all.

  15. #14
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    Default Re: Morphological measurements of our Queens

    You may find this study interesting:
    http://jinsectscience.oxfordjournals.../1/82.abstract
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  16. #15
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    Default Re: Morphological measurements of our Queens

    "Overall, and within most of the individual samples, there was no correlation of ovariole number with other morphological attributes such as thoracic width, wing length, or wet weight."

    Interesting

  17. #16
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    Default Re: Morphological measurements of our Queens

    So if you were going to buy one queen would you choose the large one or the small one?

    If you had virgins emerge in your incubator, would you select the largest ones to place first, leaving the smaller ones with a small thorax for last if mating nuc availability was lacking at the time? Sure you would.

    DO you cull out self made queens in mating nucs you find if the placed graft cell or virgin didn't take? I do. Those queens are almost always dinks.

    Sure, smaller queens can perform well, but I don't believe you will find a big queen with a big thorax and long fat abdomen reared with poor nutrition. No matter what size, they still have to have good genetics and be well mated of course. But the breeder queens, nutrition and management of cell builder colonies I do control.

    My cell builder selections and management are always a top priority all season long. I choose those that do the best job, produce the best cells & biggest queens. No matter if it is necessary or not.
    Lauri Miller.
    Carniolan Hybrids. Glenn, Latshaw & Wild lines.

  18. #17
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    Default Re: Morphological measurements of our Queens

    The thing is your not choosing for thorax and head measurements, those measures differ by .3-.5 of a mm.
    If you cull by size it would likely be selecting by abdomen size or overall queen appearance.

    Lauri can your eye tell the difference of .5mm measure on a queens head or thorax?

  19. #18
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    Default Re: Morphological measurements of our Queens

    "The relationship of ovariole number to several measures of body size, sperm count, and viral load was determined as described in Delaney et al. (2011). No correlation was found with thoracic width, head capsule width, and length of either wing, either across all sources or within sources. As expected, thoracic width was positively correlated with wing length "

    "there was no correlation of ovariole number with any other measure of queen reproductive potential. In particular, it should be noted that the overall size of the queen, whether gauged by wet weight or measures of body size such as thoracic width, was not a good predictor of ovariole number "

  20. #19
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    Default Re: Morphological measurements of our Queens

    Since smaller bees have shorter gestation times, (earlier emergence) and this is directly related to Varroa reproduction, if I were trying to measure, I would cull the larger ones.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  21. #20
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    Default Re: Morphological measurements of our Queens

    Ian, there is a larger body of research on the topic of queen quality and the correlates mentioned by Tarpy. As he wrote, the measurements are not an absolute predictor but they have been carried over from other researchers. As Lauri wrote, large queens are often favored and preferred. Where this becomes interesting is how such measurements relate to overall colony fitness and queen fecundity.
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