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Specifically for Mike Palmer and Micheal Johnson, but others are welcome 2 of course, what is your "program" or process of evaluation in the raising of queens and developing a "northern" stock? If that's the right way to put it.
 

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Specifically for Mike Palmer and Micheal Johnson, but others are welcome 2 of course, what is your "program" or process of evaluation in the raising of queens and developing a "northern" stock? If that's the right way to put it.
First, I have to say...we should stop referring to Northern/Southern stock. We should adopt the term "Local". The fact that my bees are better for my beekeeping is not due to my having "Northern" bees. Anyone can improve their stocks by breeding from their best. I'm sure our southern brothers and sisters are quite sick of the northern/southern debate.

Example...I would think that the southern package producers think they have good stocks. Good for what they want...raising packaged bees early in the season.

So let's change.

Mark, to answer your question, you need to use a yard sheet. Keep track of every colony...by yard. Decide what traits are important to your beekeeping...say the 5 most important things.

To me, honey production is first. Survivor bees that don't produce are worthless. But, honey production isn't everything...just a starting point. You also need to keep track of any feed that was needed. Production totals must be adjusted according to how much sugar was fed. Bottom half of producers are removed from possible breeder list.

Strength of colony in spring and how many frames of brood at Dandelion is next. Indicates ability to winter, and maintain a large population and amount of brood. Also, an indication of TM resistance.

Chalkbrood resistance is important, too. Probably indicates hygienic colonies...or at least those resistant to chalk.

Temper has to be kept track of. Not only how mean they are, but also if they are runny on the combs, and flighty...they erupt into flight and head butt...etc.

And after you've found the top candidates in each yard, you should be tracking how they handle varroa...and the related viruses.

Anyway, that's how I do it. Here's a copy of my yard sheet.

 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
thanx Mike. That's a pretty detailed and encompassing program. Did you develop it yourself?
 

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First, I have to say...we should stop referring to Northern/Southern stock. We should adopt the term "Local". The fact that my bees are better for my beekeeping is not due to my having "Northern" bees. Anyone can improve their stocks by breeding from their best. I'm sure our southern brothers and sisters are quite sick of the northern/southern debate.

Example...I would think that the southern package producers think they have good stocks. Good for what they want...raising packaged bees early in the season.

So let's change.
Mike, would you agree (for what my limited experience is worth) that it's not so much "improving stocks by breeding from their best" but having the opportunity to infuse new genetics into the breeding. Does best mean different genes or does it mean best performance. Also, I wonder sometimes if bringing in new genetics sets back efforts to rear the best local stock. Seems like you'd be starting over when you bring in new genes, I dunno.

Debbie Delaney spoke to us Virginians at our state mtg last month, and the short take-away (at least, one of many) from her speech and research is that the packages coming in from southern producers have a shockingly shallow gene pool. The theory is that this inbreeding is contributing in a huge way toward the problematic symptoms. Not to demonize my Southern brothers (I have Confederate lineage in my DNA anyway;)) but it's a management practice which appears to be in response to meet the huge demand for packaged bees.

I know telling you this I'm preaching to the choir because you and I are both passionate about nucs over packages. But Dann Purvis and I discussed this (when I personally met with him over Thanksgiving) and there seems to be a real danger that because the gene pool is so shallow down south--and will continue to get worse--, those producers may be doomed, business wise. Of course, the AHB may doom them before that. Hope I'm not going:eek:t:
 

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Mike provided an excellent explanation!

If I might add one comment to his description. Time is a great test. If a colony can perform well for one year, that is nice, but can it perform well for 2,3, or 4 years? By tracking a queen for an extended period of time, it provides a better testament to her genetic capabilities as expressed by her offspring.

There is an ongoing perception that genetic diversity is lacking in the US. I believe we have a great deal of genetic diversity based on some interesting molecular studies using SNIP technology. However, I think individual producers limit the genetic diversity in their own personal operations by limiting the number of breeder queens used each season. I view a breeder queen as a genetic reservoir for the future, not just a grafting mother for the season. It does take a great deal of time and energy to evaluate large numbers of queens, but the more the merrier.
 

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There is an ongoing perception that genetic diversity is lacking in the US....I think individual producers limit the genetic diversity in their own personal operations by limiting the number of breeder queens used each season. I view a breeder queen as a genetic reservoir for the future, not just a grafting mother for the season. It does take a great deal of time and energy to evaluate large numbers of queens, but the more the merrier.
I think that's probably true also, and might better clarify what I heard from Dr. Delaney.
 

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Mike, would you agree (for what my limited experience is worth) that it's not so much "improving stocks by breeding from their best" but having the opportunity to infuse new genetics into the breeding. Does best mean different genes or does it mean best performance. Also, I wonder sometimes if bringing in new genetics sets back efforts to rear the best local stock. Seems like you'd be starting over when you bring in new genes, I dunno.

Debbie Delaney spoke to us Virginians at our state mtg last month, and the short take-away (at least, one of many) from her speech and research is that the packages coming in from southern producers have a shockingly shallow gene pool. The theory is that this inbreeding is contributing in a huge way toward the problematic symptoms. Not to demonize my Southern brothers (I have Confederate lineage in my DNA anyway;)) but it's a management practice which appears to be in response to meet the huge demand for packaged bees.

I know telling you this I'm preaching to the choir because you and I are both passionate about nucs over packages. But Dann Purvis and I discussed this (when I personally met with him over Thanksgiving) and there seems to be a real danger that because the gene pool is so shallow down south--and will continue to get worse--, those producers may be doomed, business wise. Of course, the AHB may doom them before that. Hope I'm not going:eek:t:
Breeding from the best, means just that. Selecting your best colonies to raise next years queens. Without enough colonies, it would be difficult to maintain...so you do incorporate new stock. That doesn't mean you change everything over to the new, but add it slowly if it has merit. It means best performance, since you can't directly observe genes...but only how they show up.

You don't start over with new genes each year. You glean some supposedly good stock from Mark. Always question authority. Raise some daughters and put them into production. If they perform as you want, then raise some more from that breeder or the best of her daughters. Get the best of those into your mating area...to add the genes to your new queens. It's an ongoing management scheme.

I think you're exactly correct in your assessment of packaged bees. The same stock has been raised for generations...the RossWilHard queen...perfectly good for raising packages. I really don't see why these huge producers of "Box store queens" don't get it and change. Why won't they accept stock back from their customers in the field. Don't see the writing on the wall, I guess.
 

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If I might add one comment to his description. Time is a great test. If a colony can perform well for one year, that is nice, but can it perform well for 2,3, or 4 years? By tracking a queen for an extended period of time, it provides a better testament to her genetic capabilities as expressed by her offspring.
I agree. I didn't really explain the sections of my yard sheet. Notice that the queen, brood, honey and weight sections are for at least 3 years.
 

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Mr. Palmer, In the first row/section of your sheet you have listed queen and the year in top right corner can you further elaborate on that. May be a silly question but want to make sure.:D
 

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Mr. Palmer, In the first row/section of your sheet you have listed queen and the year in top right corner...
That's the breeder queen number and year she was raised and the year she was introduced.
For instance a daughter of breeder queen #28, raised in 2008, would be 28.08 If they were to supercede or swarm, the next box up would be say 09V/28. V means virgin. If again...10V/09V/28

I start over if the colony is requeened.
 

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Hello Mark-
Sorry that I didn't notice this thread earlier. I think the basic question is "How do you select your breeder queens?" Mike Palmer is much more thorough with record keeping than I am. My record keeping system consists of a magic marker with which I write on the side or the lid of the hive. Most of my breeders next year will have P-09 written on them. That means they went to pollination in 2009. I only send good strong hives to pollination. If they're alive in 2010, then the previous year's pollinators have made it through two winters. I also look for good honey producers but I don't write production on the hives as often as I should. I look for hives that have a good percentage of black bees because I think that they're more resistant to mites. You can look at the drones as well; they have a 1n chromosone number and they can tell you how pure they are in terms of black vs. italian. I don't have any mean bees because I give those queens the pressure test between thumb and forefinger; none have passed so far. I had around 10 breeder queens this year. I was happy that 4 of them were breeder queens from 2008.
My bee operation is a "closed herd". I haven't gotten outside stock in a long time. I also don't own thousands of hives whose drones will dominate the mating. Since a queen mates with between 10 and 20 drones, I am not yet worried about having enough genetic diversity.
-Mike
 

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P.S. I should add that my #1 breeder was also a breeder from 2008. She made a 90 lb surplus in a very poor honey year. She was "old reliable" at producing grafting larvae so I grafted from her more than any other queen. It is a black queen though her bees are a mix. The hive still looks strong and I'm hoping it will make it through another winter.
 

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I think it should also be noted that poor hives should not be allowed to become father hives. Hives of poor quality should be requeened or culled.

I agree that gentic diversity is important and new genetics should slowly be introduced after having been tested.

I feel mixing breeds is not the key to making the perfect bee. With dogs if you take a great dane and a toy pootle its not going to make 'the best dog'. It just makes a mutt. There are good and bad hybrids just like their are good and bad 'pure' breds.

Genetic varriations are greatly impacted by environment. Temperature, percipitation, elevation, competition for resources and quantity of predators are all critical elements. So breeders in different environments are needed to keep genetic diversity. Diverse hives tend to have more viable brood too. But, I still strongly feel diversity can be obtained within a breed and does not require hybridization. Mating must be controlled to ensure only your best mother and fathers mate, but also to prevent hybridization. Island mating or mating in an area with no other beekeepers are common methods.
 

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If poll was taken, I am sure you will find that in probably more than 90% of the time, the smartest, most teachable, and loving dogs are mutts. When you see all of the things on TV about dogs and what they do, almost all of the time they are mutts.

Having said that, I have to believe that the traits that you are wanting to end up with is the most important thing. If it means that those traits are predominately coming from mutts, then muts would be what I want.

I am only a second year beek and know nothing of queen rearing other what little I have read to this point. But somethings just seem to be common sense.
 

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...it also if they are runny on the combs, and flighty...they erupt into flight and head butt...etc.
michael, i've often seen this described as an undesirable trait....i can imagine it's a problem if you are trying to catch queens, but other than that, i've never understood why this is a consideration....any insight?

deknow
 

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Hey DeKnow,

How's it going? Hope your year wrapped up well!

I know for myself, as a hobbyist (and not one who earns a living from bees), its a bit annoying to work the colonies that are runny, flighty, and head-butting. Since I don't use smoke on the bees, these traits are perhaps amplified for me, when present. The calmer/quieter the colonies are the better, and the bees I'm selecting for breeding this year (my first year breeding) just can't have those traits no matter how productive they may be. I don't enjoy working a chaotic colony and I won't intentionally pass that 'chaos' along to next generations.

Let's get together before Spring. I'd like to hear what you've got planned for 2010, and find out how your projects wrapped up in 2009.

Also, if you know of anyone locally who understands queen rearing and can do some 'hands-on' work with me let me know. I've obtained all the equipment I need and I'm just in need of the instruction / experience. Reading threads only goes so far!
 

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Hi Shawn,

This is an extensive subject...but a few thoughts:

1. i don't know what 'equipment' you got (a graftless queenrearing system?), but the most important thing you will need is bees....lots of them. i'd suggest choosing 2 of your colonies, and feed them (i'd use honey and pollen) starting in late feb. the goal is to build up the population so that you have bees to work with...you will need bees (outside your 'production colonies') to build cells and to populate mating nucs of some kind.

2. how many queens do you want/plan to raise next year? there are efficent ways to rear a large number of queens, but you need to have something to do with them when you are done. you either need mating nucs (or queenless colonies) to put them in when/as they emerge, or you need a 'market' for cells and/or virgin queens (not very popular in our area). setting up system that will produce 20 queens a week (or every 2 weeks) will produce a lot of queens. if you hope to evaluate them, they need to go into production colonies. if you want to sell (or give away) mated queens, you need nucs for each one (there are some well thought out shortcuts here as well, but you still need mating nucs).

3. if you don't need so many queens (which is my guess), i'd be inclined to use the hopkins method, or to simply make strong splits from your best colonies, allow the original colonies to build queen cells, and use those cells as your new queens.

4. personally, i would make sure to raise the next generation of queens from several queens, not just your best one. i'd also put some foundationless frames in your other colonies (to allow for increased drone production).

in any case, we have our final book edits due monday morning (frantic until then), and we are selling honey 7 days a week in an unheated tent in downtown crossing (boston) through the 24th....after that, we will have some time to hang out and talk bees. i've also got some books and videos on the subject that you should check out.

deknow
 

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I think mutts normally have less problems. We have nothing but mutts(dogs). Till a couple months ago we hadn't had to take them to the vet for anything but I yearly check-up. The only reason we had to take the one to the vet was she is old and she got a UTI.

We know people with puebread labs and they have all kinds of problems.

Thanks for alll who posted. I enjoyed reading this thread.
 
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