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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I'm a hobby beekeeper. I started with one hive almost ten years ago and now have four - and that's all I want.

I'm probably not a very knowledgeable beekeeper compared to most of you on this forum and that's because of the local bees we have here. They're resistant to varroa and small hive beetles - and they're plentiful in the wild around here.

You can hive a swarm and just leave them alone until time to harvest and they'll do just fine. I'm exaggerating a bit but not by much.

We have very mild weather here so there's forage all year long, although reduced in the winter - the bees never hibernate.

I've been reading this forum for a while and decided to register. I probably won't be able to contribute much but I appreciate the things I've learned so far and hope to continue learning.
 

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Welcome to Bee Source. Sounds like you have great genetics there. Best of luck.
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
They are good genetics but there's always a downside to the good side. The downside is that a colony can exhibit excess defensiveness. When I encounter that I exterminate the hive - I don't have access to replacement queens of the local stock, and even if I did, I don't want to live with the defensive bees in my yard for six weeks, and I want to keep those defensive genes (drones) out of the wild gene pool. Replacement bees are readily available and free - we have lots of wild hives.

But I've only had maybe three hives that I had to exterminate so, overall, the gene pool is not too bad. I use soapy water to exterminate a hive.

And just to make clear, we have hybrid bees in this area, and have had them for maybe 25 years. These are not the standard European bees. They do not do survive harsh winters so their northern range is limited.
 

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Sam B:

Welcome to Beesource- as one dabbling in TF beekeeping myself, I'll look forward to your contributions relative to your experiments with your local hybrids.

Again, glad to have you a part of the forum and I'll hopefully see you around here on the boards.

Russ
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Sam B:

Welcome to Beesource- as one dabbling in TF beekeeping myself, I'll look forward to your contributions relative to your experiments with your local hybrids.

Again, glad to have you a part of the forum and I'll hopefully see you around here on the boards.

Russ
I'm afraid there's not much to relate. The bees are what the bees are. I suppose beekeeping in this area is similar to what beekeeping was like before varroa. The only difference is that we have to be careful about a hive becoming too defensive.
I don't think my experiences with the hybrid bees we have can be extrapolated to European bees. The hybrid bees we have are naturally resistant to varroa while European bees would have to be bred for the resistance.
We have lots of wild bees living in every cavity imaginable. If a hive of wild bees in this area lost their natural resistance to varroa they would likely not survive very long so the varroa resistance is a survival trait. It's nothing we beekeepers do - we just take advantage of it.
As a beekeeper, I just stick the bees in a hive and mostly leave them alone. I'll check on them every now and then to see how they're doing in the supers but there's not much else I can do with/for them.
Most of my mistakes have been with hiving a swarm and then losing them for various reasons.
Our hybrid bees are changing - they're evolving - and I could discuss what I've seen and why I think the changes are occurring but that would not be of a lot of interest to people who keep European bees.
 

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Understood, Sam B. Thanks for your feedback, and again welcome to the forum.

Russ
 

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Russ, Attempting to read between the lines, I think what Sam is saying, without him saying it, is that his area is overrun with AHB and he is taking advantage of it.
 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
JWPalmer is correct. The entire southwest of the US has had Africanized bees for maybe 25 years. The bees are evolving to become less defensive and I'll give my opinion why that is.

The first question we need to ask is why the bees in Africa are so defensive and tend to swarm early. My opinion is predation. The hives are preyed upon by man and animals. The hives that were the most aggressive tended to survive compared to the hives that were more docile.

Swarming is similar. Because so many hives were destroyed, it was better to cast off a swarm before you were destroyed. In fact, if there was not so much predation the swarms would overpopulate the area and many would starve.

But when the bees were brought to the Americas, they encountered a different environment and they began evolving in response to that environment.

I’ll talk about my area because I’m most familiar with it. We have lots of wild bees inhabiting every kind of cavity. Some wind up in the walls of houses, some in block fence walls, some in cable TV boxes in the ground, large birdhouses, etc. If those bees are extremely defensive, and sting people who come close to them, they are usually exterminated. The bees that are docile and leave people alone are not noticed and survive.

The bees I keep are what I consider docile. I can walk in the area of the hives and the bees ignore me. When I open a hive, after smoking the hive, the bees do not “attack” me. They are flying around but don’t seem to come at me in any mass. And after I close the hive they do not follow me when I leave the hive area.

I can cut grass around the hives with a gasoline lawn mower and the bees ignore me. So all-in-all, they are docile enough for me and do not pose a threat to me, my animals, or anyone else.

You can get a hive that is defensive. Genetics being what they are, the defensive genes can appear in a mating and you can get a defensive hive. I consider a hive excessively defensive if the bees follow me after I’ve worked a hive and departed the hive area. I give them two chances, just in case they were upset one day. But if it happens twice, I exterminate the hive. [Added note: actually, there are other signs that a hive is defensive. When you open a defensive hive you can tell if you have experience with enough hives.]

The bees are productive. I don't keep records of how many pounds of honey each hive produces - I just do this for a hobby - but I get what I consider a lot of honey out of each hive.

I do not notice excessive swarming with the bees, and perhaps that has evolved also. Around here the problem for a swarm is finding a suitable cavity to set up housekeeping in. If the bees swarm excessively most swarms will fail.

The upper geographical limit for Africanized bees is not too far north of me. Seeley has noted that as you approach the northern limit the genetics change to a greater hybrid with the European bees. Maybe I'm in that zone.

I think we’re blessed with the local bees. Except for the risk of excessive defensiveness keeping bees here is very, very easy.

[One thing I'll add is that I'm a LOT less tolerant of defensive bees than when I first started beekeeping. I just thought that's the way bees were.]
 
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