May 24 Science Friday broadcast on bees
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  1. #1
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    Default May 24 Science Friday broadcast on bees

    I'm wondering what those that heard it thought? I found it interesting that the research is showing that we need to stop treating varroa to save beekeeping in the long run. Like other medications in human and animal history, the mites are adapting to our chemicals. Areas that have not treated are the areas that have healthy bees that can withstand the problems brought by the mites. The story about the group in Wales was particularity interesting.

    My thoughts then move to how to get other beekeepers willing to take the short term hit for the long term good.
    Beek since 2016: Hardiness Zone 9a: in NW Florida

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: May 24 Science Friday broadcast on bees

    Quote Originally Posted by Jadeguppy View Post
    I'm wondering what those that heard it thought? I found it interesting that the research is showing that we need to stop treating varroa to save beekeeping in the long run. Like other medications in human and animal history, the mites are adapting to our chemicals. Areas that have not treated are the areas that have healthy bees that can withstand the problems brought by the mites. The story about the group in Wales was particularity interesting.

    My thoughts then move to how to get other beekeepers willing to take the short term hit for the long term good.
    I do some research on evolution as part of my day job, teach about antimicrobial resistance as part of that job (e.g. I understand evolution quite well), and I have to say that I was deeply unimpressed by the podcast. Resistance to a treatment - man-made or otherwise - is inevitable. Proper use of the treatment methods (which, IMO, is a huge issue in beekeeping that is also poorly researched) can delay the evolution of resistance. But even with optimal use, resistance will eventually arise. That's the nature of evolution.

    The problem with the claims in the podcast is that they ignored the fact that chemical resistance is not the only resistance that can evolve, and that resistance to bees natural/evolved anti-varroa mechanisms will also occur - and is equally inevitable. And delaying the evolution of varroa to bee's intrinsic resistance mechanisms is far more difficult, and will fail far faster, than delaying resistance to chemical treatments. The reason for this is two fold: 1) gene flow - e.g. resistance genes will be "diluted out" as resistant bees breed with non-resistant bees or bees resistant via a different genetic mechanism, and 2) generation time - bees have 1 or 2 generations/year (e.g. newly established colonies &/or replaced queens); varroa has a new generation every 11 days or so. Evolution takes place over generations, not absolute time, giving varroa a huge leg up on bee's.

    In nature, one of three things tends to happen when a parasite/disease jumps to a new species (which is what varroa has done with European honey bees; its original host being Asian honey bees). Either the new target species goes extinct (not a great option for our bees), the parasite files in its species jump (that ship has sailed), or the parasite and its new host co-evolve to reach a less harmful equilibrium. One cannot concentrate on one side of that equation and hope the other falls into place; extinction, not co-evolution, is the more common outcome of these sorts of evolutionary interactions (there is a reason why >99.9% of all species that have existed on earth have gone extinct).

    That's not to say that evolution/breeding doesn't have value in the fight against varroa - it does. But its not a panacea, no more so than the chemical & management options available to us. Ultimately, we're going to need a combination of chemical, managerial and genetic controls.

  4. #3
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    Default Re: May 24 Science Friday broadcast on bees

    Interesting point. How do you explain areas like Puerto Rico and other isolated areas where there isn't an influx of other bee genetics or use of chemicals and bees have evolved to a point of coexistence without the use of chemicals? Seems that the issue in many areas is human interference that props up poor genetics. How much improvement has there been with decades of chemical use vs areas that were able to maintain untreated bees?
    Beek since 2016: Hardiness Zone 9a: in NW Florida

  5. #4
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    Default Re: May 24 Science Friday broadcast on bees

    Not much to explain; Puerto Rico bees received resistance by crossing with Africinized bees (which have an intrinsic degree of resistance). This resistance isn't great (infestation is not prevented, but the effect on hives is less). Varroa is already showing signs of evolving resistance to Africinized resistance traits in other Africinized populations, so its likely only a matter of time before resistance emerges:

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19851876

  6. #5
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    Default Re: May 24 Science Friday broadcast on bees

    Thanks for sharing the link
    Beek since 2016: Hardiness Zone 9a: in NW Florida

  7. #6
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    Default Re: May 24 Science Friday broadcast on bees

    Quote Originally Posted by SuiGeneris View Post
    I do some research on evolution as part of my day job, teach about antimicrobial resistance as part of that job (e.g. I understand evolution quite well), and I have to say that I was deeply unimpressed by the podcast. Resistance to a treatment - man-made or otherwise - is inevitable. Proper use of the treatment methods (which, IMO, is a huge issue in beekeeping that is also poorly researched) can delay the evolution of resistance. But even with optimal use, resistance will eventually arise. That's the nature of evolution.

    The problem with the claims in the podcast is that they ignored the fact that chemical resistance is not the only resistance that can evolve, and that resistance to bees natural/evolved anti-varroa mechanisms will also occur - and is equally inevitable. And delaying the evolution of varroa to bee's intrinsic resistance mechanisms is far more difficult, and will fail far faster, than delaying resistance to chemical treatments. The reason for this is two fold: 1) gene flow - e.g. resistance genes will be "diluted out" as resistant bees breed with non-resistant bees or bees resistant via a different genetic mechanism, and 2) generation time - bees have 1 or 2 generations/year (e.g. newly established colonies &/or replaced queens); varroa has a new generation every 11 days or so. Evolution takes place over generations, not absolute time, giving varroa a huge leg up on bee's.

    In nature, one of three things tends to happen when a parasite/disease jumps to a new species (which is what varroa has done with European honey bees; its original host being Asian honey bees). Either the new target species goes extinct (not a great option for our bees), the parasite files in its species jump (that ship has sailed), or the parasite and its new host co-evolve to reach a less harmful equilibrium. One cannot concentrate on one side of that equation and hope the other falls into place; extinction, not co-evolution, is the more common outcome of these sorts of evolutionary interactions (there is a reason why >99.9% of all species that have existed on earth have gone extinct).

    That's not to say that evolution/breeding doesn't have value in the fight against varroa - it does. But its not a panacea, no more so than the chemical & management options available to us. Ultimately, we're going to need a combination of chemical, managerial and genetic controls.
    Thank you for explaining this so well.

  8. #7
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    Default Re: May 24 Science Friday broadcast on bees

    Added thought, is it really the varroa that the untreated bees have adapted to or have their genetics for resisting the diseases varroa carry been the key? From what I have read, many of the resistant bees have high varroa levels, indicating that it is the disease they have adjusted to. If that is where the biggest survival jump has been made, does it really matter that the varroa have faster life cycles? Other traits are being targeted such as grooming, but as mentioned above those may not be successful in the long term. Genetics studies associated with areas in England that were decimated by bubonic plague come to mind. Hundreds of years later, those with ancestry from that area still carry genetic markers of plague resistance.
    Beek since 2016: Hardiness Zone 9a: in NW Florida

  9. #8
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    Default Re: May 24 Science Friday broadcast on bees

    what many of the varroa resistant populations have in common is that those populations are somewhat isolated, aren't experiencing very high hive densities, and aren't getting moved and mixed and exposed to outside influences like the bees do here in the u.s.

    these populations are much like the thriving ferals we have (had?) around here in that they achieve and demonstrate (in relatively short time) host/parasite equilibrium, including equilibrium with the bacteria and viruses.

    as has been pointed out, bees like this often fail to thrive when removed from their locale and moved to other locales where they become exposed to different populations of other bees and different populations pests and pathogens.

    i am dealing with the opposite scenario here. i.e. bees not having resistance and laden with novel pathogens are being introduced en masse into our local resistant population, mostly by entry level beekeepers purchasing packages to start their apiaries with.

    i've been tracking my treatment free survival/loss very closely for a number of years and it has been as good or better than what folks utilizing conventional methods were getting. i've reported an uptick in losses these past two winters and i am currently in the middle of an efb epidemic. i thought it might be the pendulum swinging but all of this coincides with a large number deadouts that occured near my bees over these past three winters that i didn't even know about until recently.

    i don't think there is much likelihood that dynamics in play all the way from the large commercials to the beginning hobbyists are going to change, but in my opinion it is these dynamics that are contributing to the stalemate we have in the u.s. with varroa.

    that there are many examples of populations that have achieved host/parasite equilibrium is encouraging and teaches us that if the circumstances allow it can and probably will happen. we just don't have those circumstances here and now. frankly, it may be impossible to achieve them.
    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

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    Default Re: May 24 Science Friday broadcast on bees

    Quote Originally Posted by squarepeg View Post
    i don't think there is much likelihood that dynamics in play all the way from the large commercials to the beginning hobbyists are going to change, but in my opinion it is these dynamics that are contributing to the stalemate we have in the u.s. with varroa.

    that there are many examples of populations that have achieved host/parasite equilibrium is encouraging and teaches us that if the circumstances allow it can and probably will happen. we just don't have those circumstances here and now. frankly, it may be impossible to achieve them.
    That is my concern. Without a coordinated effort from all beeks, the bees unable to withstand the diseases will be propped up through chemicals and continue to spread their inferior genetics.
    Beek since 2016: Hardiness Zone 9a: in NW Florida

  11. #10
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    Default Re: May 24 Science Friday broadcast on bees

    Quote Originally Posted by Jadeguppy View Post
    Added thought, is it really the varroa that the untreated bees have adapted to or have their genetics for resisting the diseases varroa carry been the key? From what I have read, many of the resistant bees have high varroa levels, indicating that it is the disease they have adjusted to. If that is where the biggest survival jump has been made, does it really matter that the varroa have faster life cycles? Other traits are being targeted such as grooming, but as mentioned above those may not be successful in the long term. Genetics studies associated with areas in England that were decimated by bubonic plague come to mind. Hundreds of years later, those with ancestry from that area still carry genetic markers of plague resistance.
    Most studies I've seen of varroa resistant bees have found lower infestation rates (e.g. mites/colony), which suggests at least part of the resistance is due to better mite control. But even if we are seeing evolution of resistance to pathogens, the pathogens of bees also evolve (and in most cases, even faster than varroa) so the issues remain.

  12. #11
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    Default Re: May 24 Science Friday broadcast on bees

    Quote Originally Posted by SuiGeneris View Post
    But even if we are seeing evolution of resistance to pathogens, the pathogens of bees also evolve (and in most cases, even faster than varroa) so the issues remain.
    yes. it is, always has been, and always will be a moving target.

    in the natural setting where hive density is far lower than in our apiaries selection favors the less virulent non-host killing parasites and pathogens.

    just the opposite when there is a virtually unlimited supply of host, especially when coupled with the bees' behavior of robbing out collapsed and dead out colonies, as randy oliver has pointed out over and again in his articles.
    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

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