It has been hard for me to judge because we have been in a dearth and the colonies at home have slowed brooding way down, but we have had some recent rain and the first of the summer pollen sources (i.e. Jewelweed and Sneezeweed) are coming in so the colonies have shown a big uptick in pollen gathering.
The bee tree... not so much.
Given that it has been almost a full eight-weeks since I took their queen (May 23rd) is there any sense in investing an open frame of brood on them or should I unfortunately write them off?
to keep the genes you would need to add a frame from the bee tree queen, BTW else you are putting a re queen/re-gene on the bee tree colones.
At this time of the year I would let it slide and consider it you are now managing the bee tree queen and hive. Have comfort that they can have more room , and have you to Guide them thru the winter.
I suppose my fond visions of annual starts from the 'bee tree' are falling down around my ears...
You might be surprised come spring with the tree. If they had a chance at all, they would have still made a queen. They would have gathered stores during that process. If she made it back, they may be inactive due to room. They may be inactive cause they are making another cell and getting ready to swarm.
I would not spend more time at this time of the year cause I am lazy and also hopeful. Either way, it will be interesting to watch it to the end. Not sure you could have did anything different anyway.
It is much too hot here to be doing much bee work.
In what I would categorize as a research-based opinion piece, Dr. Tjeerd Blacquière, Senior Scientist with Wageningen University & Research (Netherlands) makes the case for the further use of Natural Selection techniques (i.e. ‘Darwinian Beekeeping’) in managed apiaries in a paper entitled, ‘A Plea for Use of Honey Bees’ Natural Resilience in Beekeeping’:
In the article he attempts to make two main points (which are oft debated in beekeeping circles):
1. Honeybees possess latent genetic resources which can be actively expressed in response to selection pressure when allowed to ‘let nature take its course’.
2. Some common apicultural management techniques run afoul of these internal resilience processes.
These points might be summarized as follows:
‘Our European honey bees naturally possess numerous traits including behaviors that make them less vulnerable to diseases and other threats in their environment. It is very important for these properties to be retained in their full genetic width, in order to sustain the colonies’ capacities to continuously adapt to new conditions. It is also important that we, as beekeepers, utilize as much as possible these adaptive abilities of the bees. This means that it may occasionally be better to follow the bees’ nature rather than to force the bees to meet our requirements.’
A few of the long-form concepts introduced in the article include:
‘Honey Bees are Endemic - Our honey bee occurs naturally as a wild species in Africa, the Middle East and Europe. Within this wide range, many described subspecies are present and well adapted to local circumstances. Additionally, there is variation within the different subspecies and the bees turn out to be strongly adapted to local conditions on a finer scale. Such local adaptation of “ecotypes” may be adaptation to the weather, to conditions and seasonality of forage, but also to local variation in diseases.’
‘The Honey Bee is a Wild Species - Where there are no active breeding and selection effort, the bees could be considered a wild species. Where more intensive selection and breeding occurs, we don’t have the level of domestication of farm animals, but we have semi-domestication, where some attributes of domestication coexist with some attributes of being a wild species. It appears that, as soon as a selective breeding for desired properties such as gentleness, low swarming tendency etc. is stopped, these traits are quickly lost. This suggests that several man selected traits are not directly beneficial to the colony fitness, as they would remain frequent in the gene pool otherwise.’
‘How Does Resilience Work in Nature? - As conspicuous as it seems, many widely accepted and used beekeeping methods counteract honey bees’ own resilience strategies.
In regular beekeeping many management measures as well as the choice of selected queens increase horizontal transmission paths and offend the development of a balanced mild host parasite relationship.’
‘Reproduction of Colonies: Vertical or Horizontal Transmission of Parasites? - Parasites depend on their hosts’ survival or on successful transmission to other susceptible hosts. Therefore, when a parasite depends solely on vertical transmission, a mild virulence is crucial.
The relationship between host and parasite might differ between the mother and the daughter colony, for good or bad.
… at each introduction of a foreign queen, the host-parasite interactions are reset. This disturbance would be minimized by introducing queens originating from the same apiary.
The research shows that beekeepers can greatly stimulate varroa infestation by: (1) preventing swarming (which leads to continuous breeding), (2) putting colonies close together in a row, and (3) keeping colonies already having a high infestation in the same apiary with low infestation colonies (so the infested colonies can collapse and be robbed by neighboring colonies, which will take over the mites). Although these results might not seem spectacularly surprising, the difference in the dynamics of colonies in a row versus scattered colonies is relevant.’
This is all about maintainable locally adapted stock, not some unsustainable gimmicks called - "bee breeds" for sale.i.e. beekeeping without queen breeding and without cultivation of breeds.
Historically "bee breeds" were exactly that - locally adapted populations, for as long as they stayed in the same place where they evolved.
Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame experimentation.
Good feedback. This idea of 'landraces' makes intuitive sense to me. The thing that has intrigued me of late is if we assume one were able to develop a stable 'landrace' of EHB's in his/her region, how does the concept of 'hybrid vigor' fit into all this? Is a phenotypically-similar local bee population also simultaneously genetically diverse? You are no doubt more studied in this arena than me.
Using the Russian semi-managed stock as an example, would this population (if given time and isolation) regress to only those expressed genetic traits necessary to optimize survival in their specific ecological niche with outcomes that might run contrary to the beekeeper's goals?
In other words, in a natural-selection genetic model in a managed setting, would it ever be appropriate once reliable survival has been established to introduce outside genetics to impart vigor and/or beneficial traits (from the beekeeper's perspective)?
It's an interesting concept to think about, even though I recognize that one most assume stable survival and genetic isolation as givens, which few can reliably establish.
To clarify - the locally adapted bees are not exactly static in space and time either - the gradual changes are always taking places to reflect gradual local change (see climate changes) and gradual migration to newly available habitat and/or from no more suitable habitat. These are the properties of long-lived and successful species.
Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame experimentation.
Thank you for your reply. Your point is astute from my perspective, and it makes sense to me that the process of natural selection will always be exerting pressure on a species to adapt to a similarly changing ecosystem around them.
Another article prepared by Dr. Blacquière and Dr. Peter Neumann, University of Bern entitled, ‘The Darwin cure for apiculture? Natural selection and managed honeybee health’ (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/...1111/eva.12448) describes the process as follows:
‘As natural selection is the key mechanism of evolution, it will enable any given stock of managed honeybees, irrespective of habitat (agro‐ecosystems, nature reserves, etc.) and/or genetic background (endemic, imported, “pure” breeding lines, hybrids [e.g., Buckfast], etc.) to adapt to each and every stressor as long as the ability to cope with the stressor has a genetic basis so that the respective heritable traits can change in this population over time.’
My general question is whether sustainable survival and beneficial colony attributes from the beekeeper’s perspective are by nature mutually exclusive?
This question is obviously an oversimplification, but the overarching question is whether natural selection inevitably moves EHB’s away from low swarming, excess honey production, docility, etc.?
The article flatly answers the question thus:
‘Commercial breeders select against swarming, defensive behavior, and propolis usage, thereby probably compromising colony defense and social immunity. Indeed, in Africa, where the majority of honeybee colonies are not kept by man and where beekeepers are mostly side users not interfering with natural swarming, queen rearing etc., the virtually nonbred local subspecies have less desirable beekeeping traits, but a superior health compared to European ones.’
If we take this as a given (and I am not necessarily saying we should), it brings me back to the question of whether it would ever be a good idea to introduce outside genetics into a stable genetic pool in an attempt to produce a suitable trade-off between survivability and beneficial managed colony traits?
Again, this is more of a thought experiment but an interesting concept to consider nonetheless.
The article goes on to make several other salient points (in my humble view), and one concept in particular stuck out to me, namely the key measures of colony health:
‘As the fitness of a honeybee colony clearly is the number of surviving swarms as well as the number of successfully mating drones (all other traits are only tokens of fitness), the selection by beekeepers for low swarming tendency of colonies and removal of drone brood, mainly to combat mites V. destructor, remain probably the key factors in limiting natural selection.’
Fundamentally, I take this to mean that from the colony’s perspective their primary motivation is perpetuation of the species and thus reproduction (not just survival) is the benchmark for success at the colony level.
The article goes on to describe how many beekeeping practices seek to mitigate natural selection to the extent that:
‘It is evident that the beekeeper is the most crucial (multi)factor driving managed honeybee health. Indeed, beekeepers play the key role in spread as well as diagnosis and control of new and established diseases.
In particular, the role of common beekeeping practices in limiting natural selection as a potential major factor governing managed honeybee health has been completely ignored so far.’
The article outlines several management factors which seek to mitigate natural selection (as graphically depicted in the attached), including:
Treating against ectoparasitic mites.
Maintaining high colony density.
Housing in large hives compared to natural nests.
Breaking the propolis envelope.
Placing stationary apiaries in areas with bad forage or by choosing the forage for the bees in migratory beekeeping.
Replacing honey stores with sugar water.
Removing drone brood.
Systematic queen renewal.
They conclude with several principal conclusions, two (2) of which stood out to me:
1. Local mating and sourcing of queens- ‘Therefore, “think globally, but breed locally” appears an adequate suggestion for honeybee breeders to take advantage of natural selection and to foster local adaptations.’
2. The important niche of the hobby beekeeper- ‘Here lies a great opportunity for beekeeping in several countries, where economic constraints are no longer leading as beekeeping has become a hobby sector, with dispersed and small apiaries being the rule.’