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A long winter, plenty of time for musing. We had a speaker at a local bee group on Monday who keeps russian bees. What I took from her experience, which was corroborated by another russian keeper, was that: They are a little testier, they always have swarm cells ready to go, they don't like brood nest disturbance, they survive mites.
I came to the conclusion that for my style of beekeeping they won't work. I don't want testier bees, I like to disturb the broodnest, and I like to produce my own queens and not rely on outside queen producers.
Here's the thought. What would be the effect of adding a frame of the russkis to a hive in the fall? Would the increased mite grooming reduce the mite population over the long northern winter, and thus increase survivability or hive health? :scratch:
 

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I have heard the same, but do they have much improved mite resistance without treatments of some kind also helping them? They would have to be much better at handling mites than the stock I use currently before I would consider using them because of their other undesirable characteristics. I have noticed though with my bees, that a hotter hive seems to handle mites slightly better or longer (even though they still end up dead with no treatments) and produce more honey than a gentler hive.

Not sure about your last question, but if they do indeed possess better mite resistance, seems like inserting a frame of russian bees and brood may help, but to what degree I don't know.
 

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I would agree with all of that except the mite resistance part. They are mite resistant but, they do it by breaking the brood cycle during dearths and swarming. If you have a prolonged nectar flow they won't break the brood cycle as often.

Some people really like the russians. I did not find the 'benefits' to be benificial to me.

Tom
 

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Tom, that is a good observation - I hadn't put two and two together re the dearth brood breaking which is funny because I use brood breaks as my mite control.
The speaker reported that other russian proponents said that the bees bite the mites, and damage them. I was thinking that having a proportion of russians doing this all winter might reduce the mites even further at a time when the russians objections to disturbance would be irrelevant because overwinter the bees are left alone. Then in the spring there could be fewer mites, and as the russians die off and the queen kicks in to high gear the population of russians would have dwindled away.
 

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TWall, if their main mite resistance is from brood breaks, then why not just artificially give non-russian hives brood breaks and they should be just as effective. My nectar flow goes on from early spring till August pretty much continuously, with just a small break before the fall flowers, so russians would not offer any more of a benefit to me the way I see it.
 

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Adrian,

I have heard a local beekeeper talk about 'ankle biter' queens he has/wants to get from Indiana/Purdue. I have never heard of that term before that. So, maybe those bees have a russian background.

jmgi,

In my experience I think the russians biggest mechanism to overcome mites is swarming. I was able to keep them from swarming but, it was probably to their detriment.

I think the biggest advantage the russians have is in their thrift. They don't overwinter large clusters and they don't use a lot of resources. That also means they don't have large spring clusters which can limit early honey production.

If you want to harvest honey you need big clusters/colonies to take advantage of nectar flows. Russians don't fit that bill. They may be great for someone who is more interested in just keeping bees that survive. Although, I am not convinced they are better survivors than other strains/races.

I am trying to overwinter a couple of italian breeder queens and plan to re-queen hives from them this spring.

Tom
 

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One of the key traits associated to mite resistance is primorsky bees is their grooming behavior. Does anyone know if other strains can present those traits, or if anyone breeds for it?

The Primorsky bees seem to have a lot of traits that are undesirable to most beekeepers, like swarming, variable levels of aggressivity and permanently having swarm cells. Seems to me like they'd be worth outbreeding in order to try to pass down the good genes while filtering out these undesirable ones. I'm going to try to get some Primorsky bees myself, but I really don't care much for the purity of the stock, which are just a bunch of mutts anyways.
 
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