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Last season was my first as a beekeeper and both of my hives made it through the winter. I'm curious to know if there have been any studies done to try and correlate survival rates with the various "breeds" of bees. Perhaps there are too many variations to extract meaningful data, but with any other kind of livestock genetics are incredibly important; bird dogs, horses, chickens, etc.

My bees came from "survivor stock", so I wonder how much that has helped them. Is it the genes, good management, or luck? I'm sure it's a little of everything. I'm also fortunate to live in an area where I suspect my bees have little exposure to pesticides.

How many of you have "survivor stock" bees? What percentage of your hives made it through the winter? Is the term "survivor stock" even a meaningful measure of a standard, or is it simply creative marketing? Thoughts?
 

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You're going to get several different answers to your questions. But for me, survivor stock means something. And those are the only kind of bees I'll buy, when I buy nucs, packages, or queens.

I entered last winter with 14 hives, lost one, which starved out. I restarted keeping bees a few years ago, and have never treated. So far I lost only one hive to what I was sure was mites, and that was last year or year before last....

Like you, I'm sure the survival is a matter of all three - survivor stock, good management, and luck. That's my belief, and I'm sticking to it! :lpf: And I'll take all the luck I can get!
Regards,
Steven
 

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BEE CULTURE magazine June 2009 issue: "The most effective method to combat Varroa mites is to use honey bees that are resistant to Varroa mites. They exist. You can buy them. You can make them. They are Russians. They are the survivors. They are hygienic. They are better than the rest. If these bees aren't in your colonies, on your list to buy, on the way to your colonies today...then you are on the list of those who are on the way out. That we continue to pour poison into our boxes when we could be pulling pure and perfect honey out of them instead is amazing. It boggles the mind that this industry hasn't adopted these bees yet." Kim Flottum, editor

I've posted this quote numerous times in response to similar questions. There are people here who believe they know more than and are smarter than Mr. Flottum, the USDA researchers who developed the Russian bee, and the members of the Russian Bee Breeders Association. Ask what qualifications they posess that would convince you to value their opinion over Mr. Flottums.
 

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We are in a very remote areas - as far as we and the state know there are no other bee keepers within 30 miles of us (we suspect an unregistered keeper within 20 miles though).

We hope to do some small scale breeding for sell of queens and bees along with honey production.

I have figured so far Italian, Carniolan, & either Buckfast or Russian for the breeding stock.

What do you think of those for breeding northern bees?
 

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BEE CULTURE magazine June 2009 issue: "The most effective method to combat Varroa mites is to use honey bees that are resistant to Varroa mites. They exist. You can buy them. You can make them. They are Russians. They are the survivors. They are hygienic. They are better than the rest. If these bees aren't in your colonies, on your list to buy, on the way to your colonies today...then you are on the list of those who are on the way out. That we continue to pour poison into our boxes when we could be pulling pure and perfect honey out of them instead is amazing. It boggles the mind that this industry hasn't adopted these bees yet." Kim Flottum, editor

I've posted this quote numerous times in response to similar questions. There are people here who believe they know more than and are smarter than Mr. Flottum, the USDA researchers who developed the Russian bee, and the members of the Russian Bee Breeders Association. Ask what qualifications they posess that would convince you to value their opinion over Mr. Flottums.
I've said this before, but he is saying that you can buy resistant bees, and you can breed your own resistant bees. He's describing 3 different mite resistant strains: Russians, survivors (I assume he means feral survivors), and hygienic.

Of course, there are other resistant strains as well.
 

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SMR and VSH are resistant strains also. There is no best stock for all the geographic and climatic variations in the country. If there was that would be the only survivor stock by natural selection. The United States curtailed all bee imports in 1922, so after 88 years of genetic isolation our gene pool is real shallow.
 

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...The United States curtailed all bee imports in 1922, so after 88 years of genetic isolation our gene pool is real shallow.
All? I believe it only curtailed unregulated importations (or at least that is the quote from my state apairist).

From what I remember reading Russian aren't exactly a great breed. They basically only have mite resistance going for them if I recall (as apposed to other breeds that perform well or better in other areas).

I imagine a discussion on breeds is pretty much nothing but opinion though since you either take one persons opinion over another (even if they have "Dr." in front of their names).

I think the terms "developed by" are used a bit loose. Maybe enhanced is a better word. The Russian bees existed already - like so many other things humans "enhanced" and then took all the credit for. I guess when men decided they were God they also decided to take all the credit (where is the credit when varoa showed up - or when a doc kills someone).
 

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I thought one of the problems with Russians is that you have to keep them pure? If they mix with other bees the mite resistance fades pretty fast. Which is not the case with other Hygenic bees. Do I understand that correct or am I completly wrong?
 

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I thought one of the problems with Russians is that you have to keep them pure? If they mix with other bees the mite resistance fades pretty fast. Which is not the case with other Hygenic bees. Do I understand that correct or am I completly wrong?
They are not different from Hygienic bees in this respect, so in that you would be wrong. Bred bees, just like other bred plants or animals, will not stay true to type for very long if they are allowed to outcross with other lines.

If you want to use a particular line, like Russians, I think you need to make a long term commitment to it. If you buy only Russians and get your neighbors to go along with it, pretty soon the vicinity will have Russian drones and the resulting outcrosses will be satisfactory.

However, buying queens every year from a respected source is also a very good idea. That way most of your bees will be headed by good stock. Russian bees are not a one trick pony, by the way. They are suitable for getting honey, but you may find their behavior different from what you are used to.

If you want to have a serious discussion about bee genetics I am interested. If people just want to throw out opinions, I'm not.
 

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I think the point Kim is trying to make is that when we purchase/raise queens we should search for resistant stock instead of run of the mill genetics.The less we depend on chemical contol of Varroa and other problems,the better off we'll be.

One thing I would like to add to the list is what I call local vigor.You want a bee that is adapted to your area.Temperature ranges,pollen availability,nectar flows.Locally raised queens seem to do better with less intervention.
 

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.... One thing I would like to add to the list is what I call local vigor.You want a bee that is adapted to your area.Temperature ranges,pollen availability,nectar flows.Locally raised queens seem to do better with less intervention....
I do not see this as possible. The queen will only be a few weeks/months old. Now the fact she is raised in the same enviroment may have some bearing but still this couldn't be much since she is raised in spring/summer.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
However, buying queens every year from a respected source is also a very good idea. That way most of your bees will be headed by good stock. Russian bees are not a one trick pony, by the way. They are suitable for getting honey, but you may find their behavior different from what you are used to.
How many sources are there for survivor stock? Is there a standard that defines what survivor stock is?
 

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Is the term "survivor stock" even a meaningful measure of a standard, or is it simply creative marketing? Thoughts?
This is good. No, it is not meaningful. It's like saying I am survivor stock because my daddy survived WWII. What does that mean? Maybe he had a desk job! In order to be a "survivor" you have to be subjected to a meaningful challenge.

The Russian line was chosen because they were survivors in an area that had varroa mites longer than anywhere else and they survived without varroa treatments. But even there, the bees were "selected", brought to the US and subjected to further selection.

The whole acclimation thing is also a pleasant fantasy. Do you know how long it would take bees to become "regionally adapted"? Just how would this occur? All of these ideas are based on suppositions. Natural selection is not the process of bees turning into what we want.

Breeding of plants and animals has been going for thousands of years. People began to do it because natural selection didn't produce the results they wanted.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
This is good. No, it is not meaningful. It's like saying I am survivor stock because my daddy survived WWII. What does that mean? Maybe he had a desk job! In order to be a "survivor" you have to be subjected to a meaningful challenge.

The Russian line was chosen because they were survivors in an area that had varroa mites longer than anywhere else and they survived without varroa treatments. But even there, the bees were "selected", brought to the US and subjected to further selection.

The whole acclimation thing is also a pleasant fantasy. Do you know how long it would take bees to become "regionally adapted"? Just how would this occur? All of these ideas are based on suppositions. Natural selection is not the process of bees turning into what we want.

Breeding of plants and animals has been going for thousands of years. People began to do it because natural selection didn't produce the results they wanted.
Peter

In your previous post you mentioned purchasing from a "respected source" to ensure "good stock". Is the beekeeping community making those definitions based on things like customer service and the longevity of a company or is there some qualitative difference in their product?--bees.

I guess what I'm looking for, as a new beekeeper going into his second year, is some measurable differences between the suppliers and the bees that are in the marketplace. It sounds the data just isn't out there. I've had some success with my bees, but also think it would be interesting to try another breed. Russians, for example. This is a hobby for me, so doing some experimenting is part of the fun.

I also find the survivor concept interesting. I don't know how long it would take bees to become regionally adapted? It's a great question. Does anyone know the answer?
 

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I thought this was discussing bee breeding not opinions? Also I thought people were adverse to bringing religion into these discussions?

So why are we talking about "natural selection" it's just opinion that such a thing even exists... outside of a lion choosing which goat to eat - that is about as natural a selection as your going to get.

Why do people always pull this evolutionary religion into these topics? Sorry but it gets a little frustrating to try to think of a topic seriously if this stuff is just brought in and taken as facts.

Mike
 

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Discussion Starter #17
I thought this was discussing bee breeding not opinions? Also I thought people were adverse to bringing religion into these discussions?

So why are we talking about "natural selection" it's just opinion that such a thing even exists... outside of a lion choosing which goat to eat - that is about as natural a selection as your going to get.

Why do people always pull this evolutionary religion into these topics? Sorry but it gets a little frustrating to try to think of a topic seriously if this stuff is just brought in and taken as facts.

Mike
Mike

Good points. Maybe I need to ask my original questions from another direction. What traits can be bred into or out of bees? How long does it take?
 

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Discussion Starter #18
"survivor stock"
Can you tell me more about the origin of your bees?
Ernie
Ernie

My bees were a gift, but came from NM. They're marketed as "survivor stock". I can PM you the website if you're interested. I hesitate to post it in the thread because I don't want this to devolve into a critique of suppliers.

All things considered, I'll keep going back to this source for my bees.
 

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I read that it took 10 years for Adams to stabilize each breeding change he made. I do not know how it was determined that the traits were stabilized. I mean this seems very abstract - how do you know it is "stabilized"? I don't think anyone will say that 2 buckfast bees will have the same levels of traits.
 

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I suggest that the phrase "survivor stock" is meaningful for the following reasons:

1) The stock comes from bees that survive the depredations of varroa and trachael mites, without chemical treatments.
2) Using the analogy of PLB regarding concentration camps in WW2 - for our bees, the war is never over. The Gestapo (mites) are always actively involved trying to destroy the "survivors". Our bees never have desk jobs, they're always prey to the Gestapo. The descendants of the original battle, whether mites or bees, generate offspring that continue the war. Think in terms of the One Hundred Years War in Europe - the battles come and go, generations come and go, different sides win or lose. But the war goes on. So it is between the mites and our bees.
3) In this war, the ones that survive are the ones that somehow adapt to, and deal with, the depredations of the mites. Without chemical intervention. There are those who say this is not possible, but so many others continue to demonstrate this is possible, and is occurring.

Thus the phrase, "Survivor stock." There are currently several different strains of bees that appear to meet this definition.
Regards,
Steven
 
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