Another mite resistant bee breeding project
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  1. #1
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    Default Another mite resistant bee breeding project

    Friend of mine is trying for his own bee breeding project.
    Just about 30-40 miles away from this keyboard.

    Unsure where it will end up in the planned 3-5 year run, but might as well keep track of it as it just started.
    I might provide some inputs too when I have some excess queens and such.

    Here it is:
    https://lowtechinstitute.org/2019/09...rant-proposal/
    Last edited by GregV; 04-27-2020 at 02:15 PM.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Another mite resistant bee breeding project

    I wish them success, however they are just doing the same thing that already thousands of beekeepers have done, some succeeding, some failing. What they will do is not new, only difference, they want to be paid for it.
    "Every viewpoint, is a view from a point." - Solomon Parker

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    Default Re: Another mite resistant bee breeding project

    I have seen worse proposals. The use of the term colony collapse disorder is a bad omen. I would not want a live and let die bee operation anywhere near me. An apiary with 70 to 90 percent mortality is not a healthy place to bee. Using the Gotlund experiment through to the present situation is not much of a recommendation to how complete their reality checks are. If survival is the only criteria it leaves out a lot of other characteristics a successful bee would need to have.
    Frank

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    Default Re: Another mite resistant bee breeding project

    Quote Originally Posted by crofter View Post
    I have seen worse proposals. The use of the term colony collapse disorder is a bad omen.
    Re that, the whole thing is full of buzzwords and buzz lingo, and they seem to have pre determined the result in terms of how long it will take to reach each stage of the journey. I'm pretty sure they are new or inexperienced beekeepers with a few hives who have read some TF internet literature where a neat little formula has been promoted where you don't treat and first year lose x percent of the bees, second year lose x-1 percent, and about year 3 or 4, bingo, you have treatment free survivors.

    This has worked for some, but not others. It may work for them. Pretty much it will succeed or fail not on what they do, but what the surrounding bees are.

    They say they will go on to educate the rest of the world about their success. Lots of people have been trying to do that. Where it has fallen down and why there are a lot less TF beekeepers than there used to be, is because other beekeepers have judged them not on what they say, but on their results.

    Something I have noticed is that other TF beekeepers who have been doing it many years have been saying for years that they will arrive at a treatment free bee. But best I can tell, they are still losing just as many bees as they always have.

    Kirk Webster for example has had another massive crash losing something around 90% of his bees this last season. Kirk has been practising bond for quite a few years but it does not seem to have produced any improvement.

    Having said all that, best of luck to them, they may get lucky. But i think their real purpose is to build their business, while having someone else pay them to do it.
    Last edited by Oldtimer; 04-27-2020 at 09:28 PM.
    "Every viewpoint, is a view from a point." - Solomon Parker

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Another mite resistant bee breeding project

    Quote Originally Posted by Oldtimer View Post
    ..I'm pretty sure they are new or inexperienced beekeepers ....
    Some additional context.

    The project leader bought his first package of bees (and only ever) 5 years ago; some Italians.
    Still runs this exact line after 5 years - of course with about normal attrition for a TF yard (this year it is 1 survivor out of 4, I believe - 25%).
    Bees are really a part of the homestead consumption.
    Has pretty good isolation.

    I shared with them the exact survival records of my own that I posted publicly here and, hopefully, affected some expectation.

    PS: he has PhD in archeological field with a couple of books published based on their research and is capable enough in that regard;
    not an amateur in the research, however not a biologist by training;
    currently running this project - https://lowtechinstitute.org/;
    so - I am a fan and a collaborator in some of the homesteading projects, not just the bees.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Another mite resistant bee breeding project

    Well good luck to him, please update the thread in due course.
    "Every viewpoint, is a view from a point." - Solomon Parker

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    Default Re: Another mite resistant bee breeding project

    So, I’m pretty uneducated when it comes to TF beekeeping. I’ve been keeping bees awhile now and have read quite a bit about general beekeeping. I pay attention when I hear things about TF, but haven’t done much specific research. I heard about the Gotlund experiment and read Seeley’s latest book where he says the feral bees in the Arnot Forest adapted to mites relatively quickly.
    So, my understanding was that the largest challenge to developing treatment free bees was the lack of isolation. I thought that the major problem was getting true selection with the promiscuity of queens and the inability for anything resembling isolation in queen breeding. I always thought the sheer dominance of commercial bees was the hurdle to meaningful selection of locally adapted or TF bees. If that’s the case, something like this project would have the potential for success. Apparently some of the previous posters are saying that’s not the case. What am I missing?

    Also, it seems like it would be helpful to start this project with the ‘best’ genetics possible from lines that have been showing promise as TF or mite tolerant to increase the chance that the gene pool even contains traits to be selected for and to speed the selection process.

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Another mite resistant bee breeding project

    There has been some criticism that the Gotlund bees resistance is very delicate and that too much in the way of productivity is given up. The problem of immediate dilution by their essential breeding system seems to be a strong deterrent to solidifying some of the essential traits that are not strongly dominant.

    The arnot forest bees resistance may come from their small colonies and multiple swarminess. Are the tradeoffs worth it. If it wont sell or if it takes perpetual balancing to maintain, like a unicycle, it is going to be hard to bring to dominance.

    Starting out with the premise that it will happen if only your faith and determination is strong enough, is motivation for some people to engage, but for others it is a dead put off.

    Oldtimers appraisal of the proposition checked off a lot of boxes. The thread "a few giggles" refers to a similar concept by someone imbued with its certainty but it just wont fly for him.
    Frank

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Another mite resistant bee breeding project

    Toadman,
    Gotland eventually faild and they had to be treated, were highly agressive. When stock was tryed in outher locations f-1 out crosses had restiance, f-2 didn't
    The Arnot Forest bees fail when managed in full sized equipment and or if they don't swarm
    both stocks are useless for bee keeping and have not been propagated... outher wize seeley would be a top queen breeder

    while endlessly talked about on the net, "split what lives" doesn't see anywhere near the level of success people say it "should" have do to too many "just good enuf to live 1 winter" hives being propagated and passing along poor gentnics that flood out the good ones.. as they say on project web site "Breeding bees is not as easy as, say, cows, where a single bull can be put into a breeding pen with the desired cows." the problem with split programs like this is you puting ALL of you bulls and ALL of you cows in the same pen...
    https://www.beesource.com/forums/sho...79#post1768979
    Greg's thread is a great read on what happens to many(almost all) who go down that path

    now this project may have the isolation needed,(but their hive count is tiny ) the issue is IF they succeed the is a very high probilty that when moved the stock will lose its resistance, like most/almost all of the attempts before...
    If it was as simple as putting 60 hives isolation and spliting what lives we would have been done with this issues decades ago.
    It feels like these people don't have the experience to run a program of this size and I see it problematic as thier site is tied to a pollination contract
    if they take thier 70-90% projected loses, how are they going to pollinate? if there are just 6 hives come spring is the land owner going to feel they are getting thier 3k$ worth?
    best of luck to them....but
    Last edited by msl; 04-29-2020 at 10:36 AM.
    "oh well, let us stick to science. let them have their beliefs and intuitions!" -Medhat Nasr

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Another mite resistant bee breeding project

    Thanks, I was aware that the resistance was fragile and it seemed most traits were recessive and hard to maintain, which is why I thought isolation was the challenge. Even a bit of contamination would bring down the whole project. Granted, this might not produce viable bees outside the system, but shouldn’t it still allow a closed system to survive?

    I was also aware of the other downsides to this, such as low productivity and aggressiveness, which I think the intent was to deal with later via selection for other traits once survivability was established. Again, I realize this might be useless for widespread use or any commercial keepers, but if your only goal was to have bees that survive ... ?

    And sure, if the trait that was selected for in the Arnot Forest was small hives and swarminess, that wouldn’t be particularly useful, even if it is a trait that leads to TF bees, since it can’t easily translate to bees in the management people want. If the process for selecting is using langstroth hives of normal size, it would discourage this as the mechanism that is selected for and at least select for a mechanism that works in managed hives (if such a mechanism exists)

    I’ll have to read the link more closely, but it seems counterintuitive that 50% losses wouldn’t be enough to shift the genetic makeup over time in a closed system. Granted there are a lot of factors, but losses that high should make a difference. I realize that bee genetics and breeding are very different from mammals, but even with random breeding, if I culled the 50% smallest dogs, it wouldn’t take long before the average size increased. I’m guessing that, because of all the factors involved in overwintering success, the problem is that overwintering isn’t efficiently selecting for anything specific and heritable?

  12. #11
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    Default Re: Another mite resistant bee breeding project

    I find this PDF of interest in terms of "breeding bees on a small scale" which is applicable here.

    The ref is courtesy of little_john:
    http://bibba.com/wp-content/uploads/...-Pritchard.pdf
    Last edited by GregV; 04-29-2020 at 11:16 AM.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  13. #12
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    Default Re: Another mite resistant bee breeding project

    I’ll have to read the link more closely, but it seems counterintuitive that 50% losses wouldn’t be enough to shift the genetic makeup over time in a closed system.
    loaded question that may help you... In a stable population of wild honey bees what is the survival rate?

    if I culled the 50% smallest dogs, it wouldn’t take long before the average size increased.
    corect
    but thats a change in pressure, providing stronger and stronger human section pressure, akin to next year only grafting off hive that lived 2 years, after a few years later only grafting of hives that lived 3 years

    The winter survival is akin to culling all dogs under 12 inches(the selection pressure dosent change) when you want to breed 48"... you may get a few but when they cross with the smaller dogs in open mating you lose height

    a "proper" program would be culling all dogs under 12" (winter kill or removed form the program and treated) and breeding the few big ones and implanting their embryos in anything under 45" (re queening survived but poorly performing hives based on objective metrics...using mite counts as your ruler)
    Last edited by msl; 04-29-2020 at 11:27 AM.
    "oh well, let us stick to science. let them have their beliefs and intuitions!" -Medhat Nasr

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    Default Re: Another mite resistant bee breeding project

    Deleted.
    Something is screwed up.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  15. #14
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    Default Re: Another mite resistant bee breeding project

    So, I expect a wide range of survival rates among wild honeybees. It also depends how you measure survival rates. Seeley’s showed that there are significantly different rates for established hives and 1st year hives. But basically, survival rates will equal reproduction rates in a stable population. Otherwise the population would either increase or decline. Wild survival rates, however, are depressed by lack of forage, habitat, etc. until the stable population equals the carrying capacity of the landscape regardless of the fitness of individual hives. Theoretically all hives would be capable of surviving if they found the right accommodations. Competition for resources is the limiting factor, which leads to evolution of ways to out compete with others. Managed honeybees can bypass some of these restrictions by having nesting sites and food provided to them by the beekeeper. In this system, the bees are being selected for survivability in our hives rather than competitive advantage vs other bees, because our management removed many losses due to insufficient locations, food, etc (while likely introducing new hardships)

    I like you’re analogy, but why are we selecting for 48” dogs by culling 12” dogs? If our selection criteria and desired outcome are the same (survivability), isn’t that more akin to selecting for dogs over 12” by only allowing dogs over 12” to breed? As you suggest, once we have bees living through one winter, it would make sense to select even more specifically to hives that have survived multiple winters.

    Again, I’m guessing the problem here is that ‘survivability’ is too nebulous a criteria to select for when too many non-genetic factors play an important a role? Even using your analogy, selecting for bees that survive 2 winters, is not really a continuation of surviving one year in the way that a 36” dog is just bigger than 12”. Which, of course, is why selecting for specific measures such as mite levels can be achieved more quickly. The problem then becomes identifying which of those measurable traits actually translates to better survivability and not losing any other important traits in the selection process. For me the appeal to ‘natural selection’ is that it is selecting for survivability as a whole. This would leave the specific mechanism for survival open and would have less risk of losing other important traits.

    I should say that I am not a treatment free beekeeper, and while TF sounds ideal, I would be happy with highly survivable bees that required modest treatments. The idea of having an isolated location to select for my favorite bees, sound very appealing, though. Over time the bees would slowly move towards everything I like about bees

    I suppose the question is whether traits actually exist in bees to cope with mites in a manner that is consistent with our desired management techniques. If they do, we should be able to select for them. If not, no amount of selection (whether natural or unnatural) will be able to produce the desired outcome.

  16. #15
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    Default Re: Another mite resistant bee breeding project

    Quote Originally Posted by T0ADMAN View Post
    <SNIP.>

    I suppose the question is whether traits actually exist in bees to cope with mites in a manner that is consistent with our desired management techniques. If they do, we should be able to select for them. If not, no amount of selection (whether natural or unnatural) will be able to produce the desired outcome.
    Now that is reducing things to the basics!

    I wish that I had authored those words.
    Frank

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    Default Re: Another mite resistant bee breeding project

    Sadly, the environment most of us are in does not include isolation, so if someone somewhere succeeds in breeding bees that survive in isolation, that doesn't help us. We need bees that survive when the neighbors include commercial apiaries that send colonies to Cali every year and then drag home every new virus out there, and the most aggressive and fecund mites.

    I suspect that today's bees are better at fighting mites than the bees of 40 years ago, but the mites and viruses are evolving too. As long as we have migratory beekeeping, TF is a long shot. I am trying, but success has been low. Goal for this year is to make a lot of splits and have 50% survive next winter. That's 'sustainable'.

  18. #17
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    Default Re: Another mite resistant bee breeding project

    But basically, survival rates will equal reproduction rates in a stable population.
    ding...
    and given most wild hives will issue a swam + a cast or 2 in the spring + another swarm later in the year we can see "wild losses" are 75+%

    I like you’re analogy, but why are we selecting for 48” dogs by culling 12” dogs? If our selection criteria and desired outcome are the same (survivability), isn’t that more akin to selecting for dogs over 12” by only allowing dogs over 12” to breed?
    yes but if you want 48" dogs why are you allowing 13" dogs to breed with your bigger dogs?
    its a fairly easy mater (in the over all scope of things) to get a TF hive threw one winter, happens all the time... getting it threw the 2nd-3rd-4th is a way different matter..
    after year one it needs to return to its baseline mite level to live...
    example numbers only!!! you start a swarm in may and it has say 200 mites, june its 400, july 800, aug 1600, sept 3200 at 40k bees thats a 8% mite load, not great but surivabul for some stocks so you lose some and some live
    say the winter brood break kills off 90% of those mites, great right?
    nope
    brooding starts in april with 320... may its 640 mites, june 1280, july 2560, aug 5120, sept 10240 25% mite load and a dead hive.

    but it lived a year, so you split it 3 ways
    each states with 1/3 of the mites
    April 106, may 213, june 426, july 853, aug 1706, sept 3413 ... a few make it a bunch don't but you have more hives so it must be working right?

    the problem is all these unless genetics that can't get bigenuf to make honey or be effective pollinators with out crashing are throwing drones, and your propagating thier queens witch throw more drones.. this causes you to flood your mating area with poor genetics and mite bomb gentinic that would have outer wise lived.

    the simple answer is alive doesn't make breeding stock... d

    you have to rember how the bell curve and standard devasiton works.
    I wrote this for the local club and it is bit over simplfided

    ets just say we use "alive" as our traite
    average loss is 50%
    below average performance is 75% loss
    well below average is performance 90% loss
    above average is performance 25% loss
    and well about average performance is 10%

    on the curve 68% of the hives are “average” at the start, so at 50% losses 68% of what lived isn’t any better then 68% of what died. So to improve local stocks.. Yes, we need to stop importing a whole bunch of queens, but we also need to be making queens from at a minimum the top 32% that overwintered, and realy it should be closer to the top 2-5%. Then with those queens make your increase/replacements AND requeen the bottom 68% of what lived so those hives throw improved drones..

    if you make queens form every thing that lives (or mate with those drones) you get 68% of average bees (50% will die the 1st winter) 16% crap bees, and 16% that are above average
    out of 100 you get (68*.5)+(16*.75)+(16*.25) (34+12+4)=50... 50% losses

    but if you propagate form the above average overwintered stock(queens and drones)
    you get 14% well above average, 68% above average, 14% average, 2% below average. you have shifted the bell curve
    out of the 100 you get (14*.9) +(68*.75)+(14*.5)+(2*.25) (12.6+51+7+.5)= 29% loses
    you have shifted the bell curve to the right.

    This is why people graft and requeen with there best, then the hives are casting better drones for your better queens to mate with..
    "oh well, let us stick to science. let them have their beliefs and intuitions!" -Medhat Nasr

  19. #18
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    Default Re: Another mite resistant bee breeding project

    Msl; I am thinking that continuing deselection of the lesser desireable traits would always have to be maintained, as well as the positive selection, even after a satisfactory target was attained. Would inbreeding depression start to occur in this scenario without bringing in external genetics? Maybe in other words, could a stable population of desirable bees come to exist by then just letting said bees, bee bees?
    Frank

  20. #19
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    Default Re: Another mite resistant bee breeding project

    Quote Originally Posted by AR1 View Post
    Sadly, the environment most of us are in does not include isolation, so if someone somewhere succeeds in breeding bees that survive in isolation, that doesn't help us. We need bees that survive when the neighbors include commercial apiaries that send colonies to Cali every year and then drag home every new virus out there, and the most aggressive and fecund mites.

    I suspect that today's bees are better at fighting mites than the bees of 40 years ago, but the mites and viruses are evolving too. As long as we have migratory beekeeping, TF is a long shot. I am trying, but success has been low. Goal for this year is to make a lot of splits and have 50% survive next winter. That's 'sustainable'.
    Yeah, like I said, just because it might be successful in this isolated location, if the traits are recessive, it might not be any benefit to anyone else, or to the beekeeping community at large. But, might still be nice for that beekeeper and location.

  21. #20
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    Default Re: Another mite resistant bee breeding project

    First, thanks for the discussion. I hope I am not seeming confrontational, I am enjoying the learning and back and forth.

    Quote Originally Posted by msl View Post
    yes but if you want 48" dogs why are you allowing 13" dogs to breed with your bigger dogs?
    I don't need 48" dogs. I only need 13" dogs. If I needed 48" dogs, I would use that as the cutoff for breeding. That is my point. The criteria for selection also meets the desired outcome. Of course, If I only needed 13" dogs, but still only bred 48" dogs I would exceed 13" much more quickly. So, yes, harsher selection will move the needle much more quickly and allow less backsliding. My worry, however, is that we are looking for 13" dogs but only breeding dogs that weigh more than 30#. Sure, there is some correlation, but we aren't actually precisely selecting for the desired outcome.

    Quote Originally Posted by msl View Post
    its a fairly easy mater (in the over all scope of things) to get a TF hive threw one winter, happens all the time... getting it threw the 2nd-3rd-4th is a way different matter..
    after year one it needs to return to its baseline mite level to live...
    You make a good point, but why do we assume the original swarm starts with lower mites? Did these bees get treated, or why are they lower than future generations? Obviously, your example is simplified and slightly flawed, as the total number of mites is irrelevant; the mites per bee is what is important. Your point, of course, is still valid. But, it assumes that there is some mechanism reducing the number of mites for the first year and for subsequent splits. Brood breaks would be logical explanation for this and would be backed up by research such as Seeley's suggesting high swarm tendencies are adaptive for tolerating mites. It also explains why models such as GregV, who split intensely are able to maintain a 'stable' apiary year after year without treating. They are mimicking the brood breaks of Seeley's wild bees, without making progress genetically (no isolation for actual selection)


    Quote Originally Posted by msl View Post
    you have to rember how the bell curve and standard devasiton works.
    I wrote this for the local club and it is bit over simplfided ...

    … on the curve 68% of the hives are “average” at the start, so at 50% losses 68% of what lived isn’t any better then 68% of what died.
    Why do you assume that they are no better? Just because they fall into the same labeling range as the 'average producers' that died does not mean they were truly the same. Theoretically the lower half of the average survivors died while the better half survived. Even if they are all the same, the population now pairs those average bees with the above average performers, while the below average have been eliminated. Also, not everything that survives is equal. The stronger the hive is when it survives, the more splits that can be made from it, increasing it's genetic representation in the population. Surely this type of selection will have an impact over time. Even just removing the bottom 10% repeatedly would move the needle over time in a closed system. Granted, we are probably too impatient for this slow selection. So, yeah, the intensity of selection must be sufficient to meet our timeline for progress. Or am I missing something here?

    Of course this all assumes the availability of necessary traits. And it might all fall apart if you have hives that are surviving based on different mechanisms. Once they start crossbreeding in subsequent years, they might cancel out their advantages and end up undoing all the work the original selection has done. Of course, you also have the possibility of magnifying their advantage by combining different mechanisms (if they can work together).

    Hmm, the more we discuss this, the more I wonder if survivability might just be too complex with too many non-genetic factors for a small breeding project to be successful. I wonder if the limited genetic diversity found in commercially available bees has what it takes. Even if it does, it seems there may be high risk of inbreeding with the likely high mortality during initial selection. Of course starting with a strain that has undergone specific selection would help.
    Anyway, I think it is an interesting experiment and I look forward to seeing what happens. Maybe if it doesn't work, the isolated setup can be used for working on a strain of treated bees or something. It just seems like a really good setup to do some interesting work.

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