Since it is relatively cold and quiet in the beeyard and gets dark early now, I have more time inside to read / study various random concepts in the treatment-free realm and roll them around in my mind.
One such concept I keep struggling to wrap my mind around is the division between so-called Natural versus Artificial Selection, at least in a managed apiary. An article recently making the rounds in TF circles penned by Mr. David Heaf entitled, 'Dealing with Varroa: natural selection or artificial selection?' touches on this idea:
In it, Mr. Heaf makes the following statement: "Whereas artificial selective breeding is a justifiable approach in husbandry generally, it is questionable whether it is a sustainable approach with the honey bee, an essentially wild creature. Focusing on individual desirable traits that appeal to the beekeeper such as Varroa resistance (e.g. Varroa sensitive hygiene), docility, honey productivity etc. may displace traits for long term survival from the mix of traits that more holistic breeding by natural selection delivers. In short, in not knowing the direction in which natural selection is heading, killing colonies could be throwing away good genetics."
While I recognize that almost anything we do in relation to bees exerts some influence upon the colony and could thus technically be defined as artificial selection of a sort, what I am curious about is whether we can ever consistently and repeatably produce a bee with superior overall fitness with a grafting tool versus an innate colony-driven impulse to produce reproductive and/or supercedure cells?
One thing that has always troubled me is to read about folks who have been successfully TF for a few or several years only to experience increased rates of failure to the point it is no longer sustainable.
While I recognize there are many, many factors to consider as to what may be the root cause(s) in each specific situation I often wonder if increased beekeeper selection might be at least partially to blame in some situations?
I am way out of my depth asking this question, but part of what has me wondering this is a talk by Dr. Keith Delaplane (MSL previously posted it here) in which he spends quite a lot of time talking about the various genetic sub-families present in a diverse hive and how the colony as a whole will preferentially choose from these sub-families to develop a new queen when given the option:
The whole talk is well worth the investment in my opinion, but at about the 50:00 mark he gets into the 'Royal Patriline' concept and it runs to about the 57:00 mark. The crux as I understand it is that reproductive swarm cells (in general) produce the best overall fitness, especially as compared to supercedure cells.
So while I make no judgment upon folks breeding for traits, is it safe to assume that (in general) colony-driven reproductive swarm cells will produce the overall fittest colonies all other factors (i.e. colony health, drone encounters, etc.) being equal?
Again, I am not advocating for any particular breeding approach or method but simply trying to better understand more about the overall impact of bee versus beekeeper-driven queens.