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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm reading The Hive and the Honeybee. A pdf version of the original is available on The Gutenberg Project – a free download. It strikes me that if we only knew what Langstroth knew in 1860, we would have most of the resources we would need to be successful beekeepers.
One problem that perplexed him, and I don't know the answer to is this: Why do bees invest so much into a queen mating procedure that is fraught with danger, and puts the well being of the hive at such risk? Dedicating resources to raising thousands of drones; putting half the genetic material of the colony in one tiny queen basket on a long and hazardous flight from which many never return.
Michael Bush has mentioned that drones drift shamelessly, so why doesn't mating take place within the safe confines of the hive, instead of in mid air, miles from home?
There are many Tournament Species, where males compete to establish breeding rights over all the females in the group in order to ensure that only the fittest genetics are passed on. Is this the honey bee's version of the tournament?
 

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I think the general idea is for the queen to get far enough away from the hive to get some diverse genetic material. It is risky for the queen, but the bees usually have some sort of back-up. The virgin queen swarms are the exception rather than the rule.
 

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Only an uneducated guess here, but i'm thinking it would be hard to determine the best flyers in an in-hive tournament.
 

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As Jay Smith said:
"The Mating Flight is Not for Weaklings
"The mating flight of the queen is a very strenuous affair and it is quite evident that Nature made it that way in order to eliminate the unfit. When a dozen or a thousand drones take after the queen she flies in a zigzag manner so that only the strongest flying drones can overtake her. Upon one occasion when the queen and a horde of drones were in the air they made such a buzzing that Mrs. Smith asked if that was a swarm. It sounded like one. In mating, quite frequently both the queen and the drone fall to the ground. After the exhausting chase the queen will be unable to take wing again unless she be possessed with great vigor."--Jay Smith, Better Queens
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
As Jay Smith said:
"The Mating Flight is Not for Weaklings
I guess it's the most reasonable explanation, given that risky behavior seems to be part of many mating rituals. Maybe that's why duelling was popular.
One misconception in Smith's writing: Nature didn't "make it that way." Honey bee mating behavior is merely the most successful of perhaps many thousands of experiments that have taken place in the evolution of the honey bee, and it may not be the last, only the one we have now.
Don't know yet if Langstroth mentions Darwin in his book, but they were contemporaries.
 

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The best answer I can come up with expands on dsegrest's response. Yes you want diverse genetic material but you have to avoid mating with your own offspring. The queen flies farther from the hive than her offspring drones do so she is guaranteed DNA from other bees. Inbreeding is disastrous in most species and the system they have for breeding works well to avoid it. Besides that, as has been stated, only the strong survive the long flight and mating ritual. The bee's biological system knows that one queen may not make it back which is why they generally make numerous queen cells and not just one.
 

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Just to take the contrarian view, what about a flock of chickens or fish in a pond?

Alex
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Just to take the contrarian view, what about a flock of chickens or fish in a pond?
Not sure what your point is. A rooster will maintain a flock of 12-14 hens, and fight off another rooster that tries to horn in. Fish, on the other hand, are a "You name it." Bluegill, for instance, have 3 genotypes. Herring, on the other hand, just spill everything into the water all at once, and swim away.
 

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You need to learn about sex determination in honey bees. Once you understand this topic it is fully obvious why queens mate the way they do. They have no other choice but to mate far from the hive if the species is going to survive.
 

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We were talking about genetic diversity and the need to not mate with your own offspring, hence the need for a Queen to fly to a far off place to mate. My point was roosters mate with their offspring and siblings, and so do fish, with no ill effects.
My statement was a light hearted jab at how an assumption becomes fact if it is repeated often enough. I'm not saying that the need for genetic diversity is or isn't behind the reason for a mating flight, I'm just saying there is anecdotal evidence to the contrary, you know, just to make people think and talk. :scratch:

Alex
 

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Overly successful breeding is eventually harmful to a species and its co dependants. Where honeybees existence is marginal we, in our wisdom, think something less hazardous would be more desirable but where the bees evolved, the losses and quality control imposed obviously was well suited to the process.

Maybe we are the species that could benefit from adjustment to our procreative process!
 

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Here is a paper that explains why honey bee queens mate far from the hive:

Population dynamics of sex-determining alleles in honey bees and self-incompatibility alleles in plants
S Yokoyama, M Nei - Genetics, 1979 - Genetics Soc America

Mating close to the hive would cause genetic drift with loss of sex alleles. Loss of even one allele from a population of bees would reduce their reproduction potential by about 5% and thus reduce the fitness of the population to survive. By mating far from the hive statistical drift away from the Hardy Weinberg equilibrium is minimized and as a result maintains a frequency distribution of sex alleles close to 0.05. This is one of the reasons a breeder queen producer like Latshaw, who understands genetics and statistics, refuses to sell less than 3 breeder queens per customer. The truth is even three is a dangerously low number for a commercial guy with a few thousand hives as it risks loss of sex determination alleles from his population unless he uses at least 30 or 40 of drone producing colonies and buys new breeder queens each year.
 

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>One misconception in Smith's writing: Nature didn't "make it that way."
>Don't know yet if Langstroth mentions Darwin in his book, but they were contemporaries.

You are entitled to your opinion. Smith was trying to be politically correct by saying "Nature" instead of "God". Smith, Langstroth, 51% of the people on planet earth, including myself would disagree with you on whether it was by design. There is a reason that Reverend L.L. Langstroth didn't mention Darwin but did mention God.
 

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Mating close to the hive would cause genetic drift with loss of sex alleles.
In a system where the colony decides if the queen is good enough I can see where in breeding can work in an emergency situation. I would like to understand the rest of what you said but it is beyond my level of education. Humans make rules but Nature has generalities.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
There is a reason that Reverend L.L. Langstroth didn't mention Darwin but did mention God.
So you are saying that 51% of the population would disagree with scientifically proven fact? LLL had a vested interest in his approach, of course, and aside from that, his science was good.
 

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>So you are saying that 51% of the population would disagree with scientifically proven fact?

I'm saying 51% believe that life is how it is by the specific design of the creator. It is far from a "scientifically proven fact" that there is no design and it is all random chance. 51% of the people in the world believe in a creator. 18% do not. The rest fall into other categories of "not sure" etc.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
>So you are saying that 51% of the population would disagree with scientifically proven fact?

I'm saying 51% believe that life is how it is by the specific design of the creator. It is far from a "scientifically proven fact" that there is no design and it is all random chance. 51% of the people in the world believe in a creator. 18% do not. The rest fall into other categories of "not sure" etc.
You are quite wrong on your facts, Michael. First of all, there is a halo effect, where people exaggerate their answers to what they believe to be desirable, like a belief in God, and downplay answers that are believed to be not desirable, like smoking. The real figure worldwide is more like 40%, and of those, many are not regular churchgoers.
Anyway, the argument seems to be about intelligent design vs. natural selection here. In that case, even a large proportion of devout theists believe that man evolved from other species, and some religions, like Bhuddism, profess it as an article of faith. Even 22% of evangelical baptists believe this. I myself see no disconnect between a belief in God and natural selection. You just have to believe that the Earth is a bit older than 6,000 years, and that God is much greater than we thought.
And yes, Michael, natural selection has been proven. Genome sequencing has allowed scientists to trace our origins through branches of the animal kingdom for a long way back. I find it difficult to believe that someone who has watched Varroa Destructor become immune to our most potent poisons in a few short years would have difficulty believing that organisms don't adapt to new environments.
As you said, of course, you are entitled to your opinion.
 
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