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New thread: Selecting for parasite and disease resistant bees.

Recent and ongoing advances in understanding the ways by which bees can be kept without treatments by being selective in choosing which colonies to reproduce from, has led to the idea that a thread to discuss the methods and the underlying theory might be of some use.

This stems from a discussion at the Natural Cell Beekeeping thread, at about page 43
http://www.beesource.com/forums/showthread.php?t=237565&page=34

Although the topic is broadly about the principles of breeding, the thread is intended to suit the needs of ordinary beekeepers rather than specialist breeders.

For those unfamiliar with the basics of selective reproduction, or just wanting to catch up with some of the advances, a list of useful webpages follows:


Practical Advice, esp. Selection Criteria

A sustainable approach to controlling honeybee diseases and varroa mites by Marla Spivak, one of the leading US researchers, and a breeder of 'hygienic' bees.
<http://www.sare.org/publications/factsheet/pdf/03AGI2005.pdf>

Bee Improvement in Cornwall, a commonsense approach to selection criteria
<http://www.kilty.demon.co.uk/beekeeping/improvement.htm>

Four Simple Steps to Healthier Bees by Michael Bush
http://www.bushfarms.com/FourSimpleSteps.ppt#256,1,Four Simple Steps to

Healthier Bees By Michael Bush Copyright 2008 <http://www.bushfarms.com/FourSimpleSteps.ppt>

Producing Varroa-tolerant Honey Bees from Locally Adapted Stock: A Recipe, by E.H. Erickson, L.H. Hines, and A.A. Atmowidjojo
<http://gears.tucson.ars.ag.gov/publ/tolerant2.html>

Two more links to Marla Spivak's work:

New Direction for the Minnesota Hygienic Line of Bees, Marla Spivak and Gary S. Reuter
<http://www.extension.umn.edu/honeybees/components/pdfs/Spivak_Reuter_12-08_ABJ.pdf>

"We are now returning to our original goal of having queen producers and interested beekeepers select for this trait from among their own, tried-and-true stocks of bees. It is very important for beekeepers to have many stocks of bees to maintain a healthy level of genetic diversity [...] Fortunately, the hygienic trait is found in all races and stocks of bees."

The Hygiene Queen, Marla Spivak and Gary S. Reuter
<http://www.apiservices.com/articles/us/hygiene_queen.htm>
"Any race or line of bees can be bred for hygienic behavior. We recommend that bee breeders select for hygienic behavior from among their best breeder colonies; i.e., from those that have proven to be productive, gentle, and that display all the characteristics desired by the breeder. A breeder can get a head start on selecting for hygienic behavior simply by rearing queens from colonies that do not have chalkbrood."

"The effects of American foulbrood, chalkbrood and Varroa mites can be alleviated if queen producers select for hygienic behavior from their own lines of bees. Because a small percentage of the managed colonies today express hygienic behavior, it is important for many bee breeders to select for the behavior to maintain genetic variability within and among bee lines.
Our experience has shown there are no apparent negative characteristics that accompany the trait. Years of research experience have shown it would greatly benefit the beekeeping industry if productive, hygienic lines were available commercially."

Introductionary study for breeding Varroa resistant bees, Final report, 2004. by Tore Forsman, Per Ideström and Erik Österlund of the Swedish Beekeeping Association. An extensive survey of reports of successful breeding programs, with comments by leading expert researchers.
<http://www.lapalmamiel.com/a/study.pdf>

The exciting potential of remote feral bee colonies for Varroa coexistence, a short 2005 paper by Adrian M. Wenner of the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology, University of California. This closely parallels the general thesis proposed here.
<http://www.beesource.com/resources/point-of-view/adrian-wenner/the-potential-of-remote-feral-bee-colonies-for-varroa-coexistence/>

Ecological Beekeeping.com Joe Waggle's pages
<http://mysite.verizon.net/vzeod3nx/index.html>

Scientificbeekeeping.com, an extensive site built by an experienced Californian Beekeeper, Randy Oliver:
<http://www.scientificbeekeeping.com//index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=32&Itemid=58>
<http://www.scientificbeekeeping.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=22&Itemid=40>

Survival of mite infested (Varroa destructor) honey bee (Apis mellifera) colonies in a Nordic climate*, Ingemar Friesa, Anton Imdorfb, Peter Rosenkrantzc
<http://www.apidologie.org/index.php?option=article&access=standard&Itemid=129&url=/articles/apido/pdf/2006/05/m6039.pdf>

"Our results allow us to conclude that the problems facing the apicultural industry with mite infestations is probably linked to the apicultural system, where beekeepers remove the selective pressure induced from the parasitism by removing mites through control efforts."

Supporting links to the basic science behind selective multiplication
Wiki, Natural Selection: a good primer supplying all that is needed to understand the basic processes.
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_selection>
Wiki, Animal Breeding
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_breeding>
Wiki, Plant Breeding
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plant_breeding>
Wiki, Evolutionary Biology: an introduction to the discipline.
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionary_biology>
Wiki, Adaptation, an account of the process whereby an organism becomes better suited to its habitat.
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adaptation>

Further 'Natural' beekeeping resources:Towards Sustainable Beekeeping by David Heaf:
<http://www.dheaf.plus.com/warrebeekeeping/towards_sustainable_beekeeping.pdf>

Natural Beekeeping: an outline of the basics of keeping bees with minimal interference (US)
<http://www.bwrangler.com/index.html>

The Swindon Honeybee Conservation Group (SHCG): a UK group who have enjoyed what they call 'Hygienic Behaviour Success'
<http://www.moraybeekeepers.co.uk/Stanton_Park.htm>

Warré Beekeeping: a version of top-frame hiving, with useful links
<http://www.heaf.freeuk.com/warre/>

Improving the environment for Honeybees:
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_honey_plants>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_Nectar_Sources_for_Honeybees>

Bee Conservation in the Southeast: excellent advice on how to improve the local habitat by increasing season-round nectar flows (US)
<http://www.ent.uga.edu/bees/bee_pubs/conservation/bee_conservation.htm>

Other resources
Glen Apiaries have a great website for details of bee genetics and breeding:

The relevant section of their bibliography is at:
http://www.glenn-apiaries.com/bibliog.html#anchor100352 <http://www.glenn-apiaries.com/bibliog.html>

Their genetics page:
http://www.glenn-apiaries.com/genetics.html#anchor1561346 <http://www.glenn-apiaries.com/genetics.html>
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
This was posted on the "No Treatment" Project, Doers only thread:

That's what I want us to see in our Treatment Free discussions... to find dependable bees and ways to work them, so they don't need treatment. I'll leave it to the scientists to discover how it works genetically, and breed the bees. Hope that makes sense.
Hi Steven,

I'd say it is worth drawing some kind of distinction here between what it is specialized bee breeders do, and what it is that goes on in ordinary apiaries that allows no treatment managment to work. While the specialized breeders are very useful, the bees they supply last only as long as the queen, and unless the beekeeper wants to keep bying bred queens it is important to act to protect the future generations.

It is, in my opinion, the no-treatment regime itself that is the key to successful home-reared bees. By allowing the apiary to mimic natural selection for the fittest strains, the most critical part, getting rid of the weaker strains is allowed to occur. This frees future generations from inheriting their inadequate genetics. It also stops the 'poisoning' of local wild/feral bees by unfit genetic material, meaning they can thrive and send useful natural genetic marial back to the apiary.

If this is broadly speaking accurate, then it follows that non-chemical treatments - of any kind - simply delay the process. And it follows too that having treaters nearby will mean more effort to breed from the best.

Mike
 

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Makes sense Mike.

My point is that we backyarders and sideliners have to start somewhere. And as far as I can tell, the smart place to begin is with bees bred for tolerance or resistance to the mites. Then after we achieve success without treating, we can breed our own. My plan is walk away splits... Beginning this year.

However, as has been pointed out elsewhere, every so often we have to bring in outside bees, to keep the vitality of our genetics. To decrease the possibility of inbreeding,and the problems that causes.

I hope I understand that correctly.
Regards,
Steven
 

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Mike,

These are some very good resources for how to select for treatment free in your own apiariy. For us nonscientific backyarder no-treaters, it is reassuring to know that there are many in the scientific/academic community who subcribe to what we are experiencing. It also reassures us that our treatment free bees are all not going to suddenly die this year or the next.
 
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