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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
There's been a lot of talk about breeding from the bees that make it. It's been pointed out that it's a better strategy than breeding from the dead ones. The "Bond" method of "live and let die," is often endorsed. Peter Borst pointed out that it doesn't work but I don't think anyone heard him or agreed. Just how big a study would prove this?
There are 2 1/2 million colonies of bees in the US now. This is down from nearly double that in the 50s and 60s. Don't get side tracked on the exact number, I'm not sure, but I know it's a huge number.
This is a huge country with a lot of forests that make great homes for bees. It's fair to say that there must have been a huge number of feral colonies. I'd also go out on a limb and state that no-one treated them for anything. (I'd guess 1/2 to 1 million?)
Enter the Varroa mite in the 80s. These mites weren't dropped enmass from airplanes; they made their way, at a steady pace across the country. The feral population didn't become deluged with mites all on the same day.
It seems to me that if the bees were going to adapt or evolve to manage Varroa ....THEY WOULD HAVE DONE IT! The same thing has happened in isolated island populations and is ongoing in Hawaii right now. What actually happened is that the feral bees came to a zero population.

I'm sure the battle isn't hopeless but it seems to me we need to get past just letting bees die. Where am I wrong? This is complicated by the attempts to compare smaller clots of bees to commercial yards. Since many are able to go without treatments, it is assumed by some that the same approach would work for commercial beeks. Some of my best friends are commercial beeks. They would be on this like white on snow, if it had a prayer of a chance in their yards. (One of the biggest had 4,000 colonies on small cell, at one point. PC) They require a different bee than the stationary yards.

Dickm
 

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Mite resistance isn't the only reason for breeding from survivors. In my case, I want them because they're local & have survived our weather conditions. I can treat for mites--not a lot I can do about the climate.
 

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Excellent point and one that I continue to point out to people who keep bees "naturally." I don't think there is anything wrong with it, and I benefit from it by selling bees in the spring when all their hives are empty but I don't know how many times I have said "you can't breed out starvation" or "if you notice a huge mite problem then do something about it because those bees are not going to make it. If you are just going to let them die, what's the point?

I do feed my bees and treat with EO's. My bees do great. I like keeping bees and healthy bees. I would also like to be able to breed off a queen that has good hygienics and other good traits. However, you must consider that as with any thing you may need to intervene (ie - feeding, I can understand if you don't treat and are breeding for a certain behavior). Anyway, good topic. I am sure there will be lots of different opinions, which will be nice to hear.
 

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For whatever reason you assume that people who keep bees naturally, their hives will always be empty in the spring, well, I am curious about the region you live in. I happen to know of several keeping bees 'naturally' who have bees year after year.

sounds like you want to open another argument to me.

it's not that people ignored Peter, it's mostly that many don't agree with his information or his presentation.

He is entitled to his opinions, as you are yours and I mine. Just because one has an opinion, doesn't make it an authoritative fact.

If there are methods that work for you, tremendous. Feel free to share your experiences. I for one am flat tired of anyone who manages to keep a hive over winter trying to become the bee police the next spring and force their opinions on everyone else as authoritative fact.

Breeding from survivors does indeed work as nature has been doing it that way for millions of years without the advice of us so smart humans.

Also, there is no reason to assume that just because mites are in the hives that mites must be entirely eliminated for bees to survive.

Humans have lived for who knows how long in the company of rodents, insects, plants, etc.. that carry diseases and nasties that don't help our health, yet we haven't yet completely eliminated those pests, merely manage them to the best of our strained ability.

As far as breeding for the 'perfect race' no such thing. It's been tried, on animals, insects and people.

Let's keep on just the best we can with what we have available, that's good enough for me.

Big Bear
 

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Well adaptation occurs, the question is rate.

Varroa is still a recent invasive and didn't lead to collapse initially. It seems it has combined factors with other things which have led to the precipitous decline of population.

Also while feral populations have been decimated they haven't been rendered extinct. For a similar example look at the cheetah. As a species, the cheetah has very limited genetic diversity. They estimate all living cheetah come from a pool of about 30 or so survivors of some calamity, possibly a disease in the past. Its recent enough they still haven't broadened their genetic pool with random mutation.

Similarly look at antibiotic resistant bacteria. An antibiotic will kill 99.99% of bacteria, but that fraction that survives (even if poorly) then passes on those genes and over time a weak resistance becomes an near immunity.

Colony collapse is a very recent disorder. The only way wild bee populations won't be able to adapt is if: a) It is such a virulent disorder that its impossible for any wild be populations to become resistant, or b) you want to deny basic evolutionary principles.

It doesn't mean it happens overnight, but the strategy of looking for survivor stock and continuing to breed for bees that can thrive with minimal or no treatment is a very reasonable one. It likely won't lead to bees that maximize output, because you're selecting for different traits. In that regard look at domestic livestock versus their wild relatives. Domestic livestock are often fatter and grow larger. They are also often treated with antibiotics, and require more food per pound of meat produced. Different breeding/selection criteria for what we want in domestic livestock versus what leads to survival in the wild.

Edit: It will end up being a cost/return measurement for bee breeders and commercial beekeepers. If survivor bred bees do indeed show a greater resistance to CCD, then you will see those genetic lines be bred back into traditional bee varieties to maximize the positive traits from each breeding program. Actually that already happens, as well as bee breeders who tout various lines whose existing traits might provide greater protection from CCD.

Actually, I'm not even sure what anyone could be arguing about. Humans have bred animals and plants to bring out specific traits for thousands of years, and gone looking for wild samples of already domesticated flora and fauna to bring new traits into existing lines in endless cases. Nature has been practicing the same for hundreds of millions of years. Since we know some bees can be more resistant to varroa and CCD, its obviously not 100% fatal, so obviously there will be some feral hives which have done a better job of surviving it.
 

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"you can't breed out starvation"

[snip]

However, you must consider that as with any thing you may need to intervene (ie - feeding,
By altering the management of your bees, you can eliminate virtually all feeding by taking less honey. Let's be clear, I'm not a commercial beekeeper, so if that's what you (anyone) are, then you have a cost issue that factors in.
 

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There was a time, not too awfully long ago, when one either bought queens from the southern and western parts of the U.S. or you let your splits raise their own queens. What has changed? What is it about locally produced queens that is so much better now than those not raised locally, compared to what was done 5, 10 or 20 years ago? And, on top of that, we are getting queens from really far away. Australia.
 

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I continue to point out to people who keep bees "naturally." I don't think there is anything wrong with it, and I benefit from it by selling bees in the spring when all their hives are empty.
Most of empty hives are those that actually were treated. I heard your argument from numerous beekeepers that treat. I have proven to myself that they are very wrong but the thing is that I cannot prove to them. Three years ago they said all my hives will be empty and I have twice the numbers now and sold dozen colonies. Now after three years they still say my hives will be empty next season. It is always next season with them...in the meanwhile my bees are healthy and thrive. Now I just leave them scratching their head and leave them alone while they pour chemicals into their hives.
 

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I believe that bees can survive varroa and can be bred to live with them. However, when that varroa vectors a virus and the hive also gets nosema it's the kiss of death without intervention. I am monitoring both virus and nosema as well as varroa. It should eliminate needless treatments and it will allow me to use the least invasive treatment should one be needed. Probably EO's.
 

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Most of empty hives are those that actually were treated. I heard your argument from numerous beekeepers that treat. I have proven to myself that they are very wrong but the thing is that I cannot prove to them. Three years ago they said all my hives will be empty and I have twice the numbers now and sold dozen colonies. Now after three years they still say my hives will be empty next season. It is always next season with them...in the meanwhile my bees are healthy and thrive. Now I just leave them scratching their head and leave them alone while they pour chemicals into their hives.
Some of us here in the US have been saying this for years. Glad to know beekeepers in other countries are having the same experience.
 

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I prefer northern raised queens for my apiary. Neither queen made it through the first season when I bought my first 2 packages. Local queens saved my keester. Another fellow who bought his packages the same time also lost a queen. This year our club placed an order for 19 packages for our new beeks from one of the most reputable breeders in GA. Three queens were DOA and the packages were soaked. We seem to be at the end of everyone's run and what they deliver to us shows it. Now I have our club interested in overwintering nucs for next year's losses and class needs.

For the 3 years I've had my apiary, I have never put a chemical in my hives, have done splits that raised queens, overwintered a nuc and bought 2 northern queens and a nuc to add some excellent genes to the pool. I now have 7 hives and have lost one, which I believe is my fault as I did not replace an aging queen and she never got going this spring. It may be that I've simply not had bees long enough, may have dodged a bullet because of where I live or simply may have found a nice way to raise bees without chemicals. None-the-less, they're happy and enjoying life in my backyard and they are chemical free. Works for me and for them.

John
 

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Thanks, Throttlebender! We love living here. It's a town that pays attention to it's history while taking care to maintain it's contact with nature as it plans for the future. It proved to be a great place to raise children. Having excellent restaurants, a very good commitment to the arts and 2 colleges makes it pretty had to leave now. Not too bad of a place to raise bees, either:D

Let me know if you're coming in again and have time to visit the apiary. We'd love to have you visit.

Cheers,

John
 

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I wouldn't wait to long for your bees to evolve - since it has never happened before. They can adapt to enviromental conditions as we see happen when they are soaked in poisons year after year. Are you sure you want to claim the feral population is 0? Are you sure you want to say the mites migrated on their own across the country?

Why should people listen to Mr Borst any more than another?

From everything I have read so far from those who insist on the studies and the science point of view - they don't follow their own claims. Their claims can't seem to be backed by real world conditions. Claims are made that are simply untrue. In the end I come away with the idea that I am being told to question everything - except the science (which I find so mistaken and so many obvious holes that I can see why they wouldn't want it questioned). Besides that conveniently everyone from childhood is taught to admire the scientist and not to question what they tell us (after all "we owe everything we have to them").

I have even seen people insinuate that something won't work because some study said it wouldn't :D Doesn't matter that others have said it worked for them.

I would expect that if people left the bees alone they would be fine eventually. Should I remind you that beekeepers started having their problems when the problems were imported out of their natural enviroments.

I also get the feeling that beekeepers who treat and then get on a forum and tell those who do not treat they haven't a clue to what their doing is becaue it gets a little agrivating when you do what you were told and it doesn't work like you expected. And like the school kids (and much of society now) it is the "group" that matters not the right or wrong of it.

Just another point. You say if the bees could adapt to the mites they would have by now. I see a glimmer that you may not believe then in "evolution" and "survival of the fittest"? I mean that is what keeps getting pushed at us, unless it becomes obviously unbelievable in a particular discussion (in which if it were true the "problem" would be solved). Then it seems the evolution has stopped. Only to start up again at the next convenient moment.

Here is what may be a problem.
Like much of agricultural - you see bugs - kill them.
No one stops to consider there is a reason for the bugs.
Maybe instead of killing the bugs the plants are the problem.
A healthy plant will deal much better with pests.
A sickly plant will soon die from even a little stress.
Maybe what is needed is to improve plant health to the level where the bugs are there but do not effect the plant as drastically. There are of course other reasons for these problems but people don't like to hear them (such as if we do not obey God, then why shouldn't our ground become poisonous to us - He told us it would).
But the plants get sprayed with the next chem. because the previous one can't be used again yet. Let's rely on those scientists that say it won't effect the plant or us. Doesn't matter what you see in reality.

Maybe ?
Mike
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
>>>Colony collapse is a very recent disorder. The only way wild bee populations won't be able to adapt is if: a) It is such a virulent disorder that its impossible for any wild be populations to become resistant, or b) you want to deny basic evolutionary principles.<<<<

This could be restated as: "The only reason it wouldn't work is if it couldn't."I don't want to deny anything. The perpetuation of any species is not guaranteed. Ask any Dodo bird or passenger pigeon.

Dickm
 

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Colony collapse is a very recent disorder. The only way wild bee populations won't be able to adapt is if: a) It is such a virulent disorder that its impossible for any wild be populations to become resistant, or b) you want to deny basic evolutionary principles.

I'll take b
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
>>>>I would expect that if people left the bees alone they would be fine eventually.<<<<

I use to think so too. I don't think so any more.
I never suggested that we shouldn't avoid treatments (I do). I never doubted that people keep bees without chemicals. (BTW EOs are chemicals). That wasn't my point. I do think we should not inculcate new beekeepers into procedures that are based on faith alone.

On the question "Why should I listen to Peter Borst." Why should you listen to anyone? I know him only through the forums and his writing. He is well experienced both in the the science end and the practical end....and how he reads as much as he does is beyond me. Mostly, I think you should listen because he rarely puts out mere opinion; he almost always supports what he says with good studies. For those who want to respond by saying that science itself is flawed....spare me. We have to start somewhere.

I'm only saying that there must be a real impediment to an evolution answer to our bee problems if a whole country full of feral bees just dropped off the face of the earth. I just incorported 6 green-line russians into my operation. I'm still looking for better genes
myself.

I never thought of this before but do you suppose every last bee would be dead if chemical interventions were not available? Nah.

dickm
 

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I just added two hives of ferals to my yard, i cut out of a barn. They had been there 4 years with no treatments. So apparantly its not necessary if you can get survivor stock.
I am also getting another one soon when we take down a tree with a hive that has been there 16 years. No treatments. Strong and active.
My intent is to try and breed the genetics between survivor stock. Would like to breed the genetics of the carnys into them too if it is possible without stressing their ability to fend off the diseases and mites.
 

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For the newbies reading this thread, since it is about genetics and survivors, some words of advice. Take it for what it's worth.

- If you buy just any bee, expecting not to treat, they'll die.
- You have to do your research - let the breeder you buy from do the hard work, that is, breed the survivor.
- ASK! Ask the breeder you're buying from what treatments they give their bees. Then decide if you want to continue that course of action, because you'll have to.
- If you do not want to chemically treat bees for mites, buy bees that have not been treated... Russians or B. Weaver or..... there are several out there.
- NOW is the time to do your research for NEXT YEAR! (yes, the caps are intentional.) Then ORDER EARLY, in order to get the bees or queens you want.
- When you have a colony die, you must do a post-mortem. You simply must discover what caused them to die. That will guide you on your bees and your management next time. Most of the time it isn't something exotic like CCD, rather it is simply a matter of starvation, or some form of mismanagement. It pains us to know that we caused the death of a hive, but it happens. Get over it, kick yourself in the butt, and do better next time. Learn from your mistakes... we all make them. For example, we plan on the weather for a fall honey flow for their winter stores, and the weather doesn't cooperate, and our bees suffer. So plan better for next time.

I could be wrong (but I don't think so) but it seems more than ever, the quality of bee we buy, use, and eventually make our splits from, determines the success or failure of our beekeeping.
Regards,
Steven
 

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What actually happened is that the feral bees came to a zero population....
Dickm
From my recollection of estimations of feral population
moralities from varroa made by experts at Penn State,
was estimated by most at about 90% die off here in PA.
I don;t know where this 100 percent kill estimations originate,
but they are perhaps more of a guesstimate, unsupported
by any credentialed backing.

Joe
http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/HistoricalHoneybeeArticles/
 
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