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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I have been thinking about this for a while, and a post about the "Bond Method" really got me to thinking.
It seems to me that most severe beekeeping problems eventually become more manageable.
Looking through the literature, a hundred fifty years ago, wax moths were a BIG problem.
But equipment got better, and the bees adapted, and now they are not so much of a problem.
A hundred years ago, AFB was a BIG problem. But beekeeping practices got better, and the bees adapted, and now it is fairly uncommon.
Thirty years ago, tracheal mites were a pretty significant problem, but that became less and less so, and now doesn't seem such a problem.
It seems that over time, whatever comes along eventually the bees adapt, practices change a bit, and the problem becomes less significant.

but then came Varroa. And it is a BIG problem. Some people advocate for a "survival of the fittest" approach, hoping it will produce resistant bees. No treatments allowed. Let the weak die.
Now if no treatments is working for you, that is wonderful. I am not against anything that works. However, that approach (the Bond method, of let them die) seems to me to be counterproductive.
I think it is now clear that no population of bees exists which is currently robustly resistant to varroa. Survival of the fittest is a concept that assumes gradual change. But the introduction of Varroa is a catastrophic change.

Here is an example:

When cats are introduced on an island that has flightless birds, the birds don't learn to fly. They go extinct. Because NONE OF THEM CAN FLY. It would be possible of course to breed those birds selectively to get flying birds. However, it might take a few generations. And faced with a sudden change in the environment, the birds don't have time.

The biggest problem is the birds lose most of their genetic diversity before they have a chance to adapt, as most of them get eaten pretty quickly. Since the time frame is much too short for the birds to mutate, their only hope is reassortment of genes already in the bird population. But it may take several genes to all line up in one individual to make a flyer, and those genes individually may give the birds who have them no advantage at all. Once all of the birds with some key genetics get eaten, there isn't anything in the gene pool to replace them. The ability to fly which is latent in the original population is now gone.

The ideal situation would be for the depredation of the cats to exert modest selection pressure on the birds. In that situation, birds that are quicker, lighter, etc. have a better chance of survival. When they mate, some of their offspring may do even slightly better. Eventually, they may regain the ability to fly. But the differences between individuals in the original population of flightless birds are not sufficient to protect any of them from cats. Faced with a limitless supply of easy food, the cats will multiply in numbers rapidly. No bird has a chance.

Thinking of that, it seems to me, the first thing we want to do is to keep the gene pool of Apis Mellifera as extensive as possible. The more genetic diversity we have, the better. Getting new genetic diversity takes millennia. We don't want to lose what we have.

It then follows that the second thing we want to do is to allow Varroa to exert modest selection pressure on the bees we have. Not like a dog loose in a pen full of chickens. Because modest selection pressure will reward good combinations of genes and punish bad ones. Not severely, but significantly. If Varroa selects out maybe 5% or 10% of colonies in a year, that might be OK. Or that may be higher than ideal. But most of us would be doing pretty well if our annual losses were less than 5%.

If the genes currently in the gene pool can be combined to produce bees that are resistant to Varroa, and if the selection pressure isn't so great that beneficial traits which are needed are eliminated by Varroa killing off the bees with those traits before they can be combined with other helpful traits, eventual success is likely.

WE DON'T KNOW what traits will combine to provide resistance. It appears that Apis Cerana is resistant because worker bee larvae die as soon as they are bitten by the mites, and they only raise drones occasionally. Mites can't reproduce in cells with dead larvae, so the mites are not a big problem.

Looking at that, I conclude that any way of keeping bees where mostly the bees survive will work to eventually make mites not a big problem. Treating the bees is only somewhat effective. The best treatment program doesn't make the bees immune to the mites. Some colonies will do better than others. These are the ones that will produce more bees for packages, and more swarms, and be selected for rearing queens. Nobody picks their worst hive to rear new queens from. Selection still occurs. The bees that escape and live on their own are also subject to selection and will gradually become more resistant. The treatment free bees, while they will lose a lot of genetic diversity if they have high losses, will also contribute, as their bees are under selection pressure as well, though often I suspect the bees will be as helpless as flightless birds.

And in spite of our best efforts, the bees will gradually become resistant to varroa. It may take a decade, or a century. or two. We don't know. The more diverse the gene pool, the faster it will happen.

The commercial beekeepers who use all the chemicals are doing their part. So are those who are treatment free. People making mite bombs aren't helping much. They are just feeding the cats. Keeping your bees alive helps to preserve the genetic diversity of the species.

My conclusion is: keep bees however seems best to you. Try and keep them alive. It will all work out.

Jon
 

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That's the upshot of some of Rinderer's work which I was reading - I think in the Russian Bees book with Steven Coy. I really like your analogy as a very simple to understand way to explain the issue with the Bond Method.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
That's the upshot of some of Rinderer's work which I was reading - I think in the Russian Bees book with Steven Coy. I really like your analogy as a very simple to understand way to explain the issue with the Bond Method.
Thank you. I somewhat hesitated to start this discussion, as I can see it could quickly become tribal, and generate more heat than light. But I thought the analogy was good and might help some people with understanding the logical inconsistencies of the extreme theoretical options.

One problem which could result from the Bond Option is the feral bees could find a solution to the varroa problem that for example involves maintaining colony size below 2 pounds of bees and swarming whenever it gets "too big". They could survive like that, possibly. They would be worthless for honey production, though, and worse for pollination. We need a solution for Varroa that works in large managed colonies that produce increase and surplus. Otherwise, we may as well keep wasps. I don't want to be a waspkeeper.

As long as there is significant interbreeding between feral and managed colonies, the species as a whole will adapt, and we can probably prevent that sort of outcome. However, that is not assured. Since managed colonies are bigger, and probably produce more drones, in most areas they can pretty well dominate the selection options available. And we really want a solution which works well in relatively large managed colonies.

Keeping bees is "unnatural". Hives are "unnatural". Climbing into trees to rob feral colonies is arguably natural, (provided we avoid the use of manufactured tools or clothing) but not many of us, reflecting on it from the comfort of our armchairs, would be looking forward to spring if that was the way we practiced our craft.
 

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As long as there is significant interbreeding between feral and managed colonies, the species as a whole will adapt, and we can probably prevent that sort of outcome. However, that is not assured. Since managed colonies are bigger, and probably produce more drones, in most areas they can pretty well dominate the selection options available. And we really want a solution which works well in relatively large managed colonies.
I have read a few papers that feral colonies have even a higher level of overwinter losses specifically due to the lack of treatment and that they are predominately swarms from managed hives. While I do understand that there are feral swarms that, in isolated areas and cases, are not impacted by mites but that's far and few. I have been introducing and will continue to add hygienic stock, hopefully this year from my own hives, I've yet to hear from hygienic breeders that treatment is unnecessary. My point is that selective breeding, limited treatment based upon testing and good management practices is the only long-term way out. We need to develop bees that can coexist with mite and that is not just by continually killing out bees without treatment because one doesn't want to introduce ANY chemical into a hive. Organics including formic and OA, used limited, as needed will give the industry a way out. I've also have considered a thread by Harvey Vanderpool regarding the downside of hygienic bees and agree a better way need to be developed-just what. Not everyone can drive an electric car.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I have read a few papers that feral colonies have even a higher level of overwinter losses specifically due to the lack of treatment and that they are predominately swarms from managed hives. While I do understand that there are feral swarms that, in isolated areas and cases, are not impacted by mites but that's far and few. I have been introducing and will continue to add hygienic stock, hopefully this year from my own hives, I've yet to hear from hygienic breeders that treatment is unnecessary. My point is that selective breeding, limited treatment based upon testing and good management practices is the only long-term way out. We need to develop bees that can coexist with mite and that is not just by continually killing out bees without treatment because one doesn't want to introduce ANY chemical into a hive. Organics including formic and OA, used limited, as needed will give the industry a way out. I've also have considered a thread by Harvey Vanderpool regarding the downside of hygienic bees and agree a better way need to be developed-just what. Not everyone can drive an electric car.
I read an interesting article by Randy Oliver a few years ago about the genetics of feral bees. These were, I assume, ones that had survived at least one winter. What I took from the article was the total absence (apparently) of Italian bloodlines in the feral population. It wasn't completely clear, but that is what it looked like. Based on that, I decided to switch to Carniolans. Not sure I interpreted the science correctly. It has been a few years, and about all I remember is my conclusions.

That said, we have some very distinctive looking feral bees around here that show up whenever I do open feeding either intentionally or by accident. They have been showing up off and on for 5 years or so, but I haven't managed to trap a swarm of them yet. I am curious what sort of bees they are. Maybe they are the magic bees that are immune to Varroa! (Maybe not...)

I'm not clear if everybody can drive an electric car or not, as some people can't drive at all. However it is pretty clear that some people will not drive an electric car, for reasons that make good sense to them. It is good to have choices about things like that.

Jon
 

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Keep in Mind "ferals" are escaped swarms and their descendants.
Bees , Horses, cows, chickens, pigs, were all brought to the "new world" on boats.
there is debate on fossil remains of bees here that went extinct, however the bees in the US today were "All" imported.
for the purists these would be "invasive species"

I don't get where "tools" are unnatural,, even cave man used a "stick" and a shaped rock.

GG
 

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However, that approach (the Bond method, of let them die) seems to me to be counterproductive.
Jon:

Good post. If you haven't already, I encourage you to read through the post that MSL started a few years ago which I think gets to the crux of many of the issues you raise:

A shift in message?

Also, having communicated with Dr. Kefuss quite a bit, I think there has been a bit of reductionism when people equate the Bond Method to splitting from survivors. While I take no issue with folks pursuing either approach, it is my very humble opinion that Dr. Kefuss' Bond Methods (there are 3) are a very purposeful, directed approach to selection with clear objectives and measurable matrices whereas what is often referred to as the 'Bond' method is more of a 'black box' split from what survives method.

Again, I don't personally take umbrage with either approach- I simply think it is important to do justice to Dr. Kefuss' approach and methods.
 

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Jon:

Good post. If you haven't already, I encourage you to read through the post that MSL started a few years ago which I think gets to the crux of many of the issues you raise:

A shift in message?

Also, having communicated with Dr. Kefuss quite a bit, I think there has been a bit of reductionism when people equate the Bond Method to splitting from survivors. While I take no issue with folks pursuing either approach, it is my very humble opinion that Dr. Kefuss' Bond Methods (there are 3) are a very purposeful, directed approach to selection with clear objectives and measurable matrices whereas what is often referred to as the 'Bond' method is more of a 'black box' split from what survives method.

Again, I don't personally take umbrage with either approach- I simply think it is important to do justice to Dr. Kefuss' approach and methods.
+1
Regarding:
However, that approach (the Bond method, of let them die) seems to me to be counterproductive.
People can do whatever the heck they wanna do.
Experimentation is one of such things.
Selection is another such thing.
Bond is not "counterproductive" OR "productive" for that matter.
Bond is just a tool to achieve some sought after results.
One of many tools - used in experimentation and/or selection.

However, the certain TF gurus made is sound that everyone and their brother should do the Bond - that is the way and only way. :) (no matter if your honey sales define your annual paycheck, your apiary consists of 3 hives, etc)
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Keep in Mind "ferals" are escaped swarms and their descendants.
Bees , Horses, cows, chickens, pigs, were all brought to the "new world" on boats.
there is debate on fossil remains of bees here that went extinct, however the bees in the US today were "All" imported.
for the purists these would be "invasive species"

I don't get where "tools" are unnatural,, even cave man used a "stick" and a shaped rock.

GG
You are correct as usual.

By tools I was referring to products of technology. Even crows and orangutans use tools in the more general sense.
The point was that the entire activity of beekeeping is unnatural, we are enslaving and manipulating bees for our advantage. Often, we like to portray ourselves as the benefactors. This is Human nature. As Jesus said "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. (Luke 22:25).
It seems to me most of us keep bees for our own benefit, either for honey, or for money, or for status, or to feel good about ourselves. The bees are our slaves, and much as we may admire and enjoy them, they just do what they do, and have (as far as I can tell) no regard for us at all. Truly some of us are "good masters", and some are not. But that is from our own perspective.
Perhaps my tendency toward sarcasm got in the way of clear communication.

I have wrestled a good deal with the use of the term feral, as it isn't really accurate, and I use it always with reluctance. Actually, the term feral refers to a domesticated animal gone wild. There are feral cats, feral dogs, feral pigs, feral cows, but no such thing as feral bees, properly speaking. Bees are inherently wild animals; they have not been domesticated. Domesticated animals are characterized primarily by their different response (a tame or domesticated response) to humans which is different than that of their wild cousins when raised in the same manner. A wild animal that has been tamed is somewhat different.

However, we often refer to bees as feral, meaning wild and not in captivity. Perhaps free bees or escaped bees would be a better way of speaking. I think from now on I will use the term escaped bees, as it is much clearer.

There is no appreciable difference between wild bees in Europe and their captive cousins, as the wild bees are not more or less gentle, and do not respond to humans differently than the captive bees.

The line of distinction isn't perfectly clear, however.

I am procrastinating, as I need to begin a task that is tedious. I should get to work.

Jon
 

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Bees are inherently wild animals; they have not been domesticated.
Arguable.

A simple fact that some bees brood way, way too early in season for survival (without human help!) - indication of that.
Bee behaviors that will doom them (without human help!) are indicators of domesticated bees.
Such behaviors are profitable to people and, thus, are selected for and artificially supported.

Clearly, some bees are "less domesticated" than others.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
+1

Bond is not "counterproductive" OR "productive" for that matter.
Hi Greg,

If you follow my reasoning, and agree the goal is a future where Varroa is not a big problem requiring continual vigilance on the part of the beekeeper,

then according to my logic the method of allowing most of the be population to die is unlikely to produce the desired result,

as it depletes the gene pool so rapidly that the reassortment needed for beneficial traits to become dominant becomes less likely.

My logic may be wrong - it is armchair science after all.

Do you disagree with the logic? If so, please explain.

Jon
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Arguable.

A simple fact that some bees brood way, way too early in season for survival (without human help!) - indication of that.
Bee behaviors that will doom them (without human help!) are indicators of domesticated bees.
Such behaviors are profitable to people and, thus, are selected for and artificially supported.

Clearly, some bees are "less domesticated" than others.
True enough.

If I plant wild Chinese ginger here in Wisconsin, it will undoubtably die because it is too cold.

That doesn't mean it is domesticated, it just means that it can't survive without human intervention in a climate it isn't adapted to.

Dependence on humans isn't the main aspect of domestication, as many domesticated species do just fine in the wild, cats being a prime example.

At least those are my thoughts.

Jon
 

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the goal is .........
You see - there is no "the goal".
There are many goals.
Every single person has a slightly different goal.

For sure, after playing with the TF for long enough and I redefined my personal goals to no longer include participation in the "resistant bee selection".
Turns out I am not fit for such a goal.
And so back to "dirt cheap beekeeping" - actually an attainable goal (although constantly moving).

So, "the goal is a future where Varroa is not a big problem" is not my personal goal.
Thus, single-handedly, I just screwed up this global goal of all times. :)
Well, worse yet, most people are just like me - whether they know it or not.

Future will tell; life is short.
 

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Dependence on humans isn't the main aspect of domestication, as many domesticated species do just fine in the wild, cats being a prime example.
Domestication is not all-or-nothing.
Moreover, the domestication itself is a relative term (e.g. a degree of domestication varies).

While certain populace of some species maybe domesticated (to some degree) - this does NOT mean that the entire species is domesticated.
Those wild cats in Egypt are still well and alive as a species (Egypt being a supposed origin of the common domesticated cat).

Same about bees (and many other species).
 

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Meriam Webster said:
do·mes·ti·cat·ed | \ də-ˈme-sti-ˌkā-təd

Definition of domesticated:
adapted over time (as by selective breeding) from a wild or natural state to life in close association with and to the benefit of humans
I think that's close enough. We may be mixing "tame" and "domesticated."
 

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to life in close association with and to the benefit of humans
Which is still open to wide interpretation and yet meets the definition.
 

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A Novice - given your initial assumptions, I believe your logic is correct. I do believe there is a fault in your initial assumptions - a synergy has been missed. If you would, please find and read an article written 5-10 ? or so years ago in the ABJ called "It's the mites because" by Michele Colopy. I believe it will elucidate why tracheal mites are not a problem bur Varroa mites still are.

Crazy Roland
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Jon:

Good post. If you haven't already, I encourage you to read through the post that MSL started a few years ago which I think gets to the crux of many of the issues you raise:

A shift in message?

Also, having communicated with Dr. Kefuss quite a bit, I think there has been a bit of reductionism when people equate the Bond Method to splitting from survivors. While I take no issue with folks pursuing either approach, it is my very humble opinion that Dr. Kefuss' Bond Methods (there are 3) are a very purposeful, directed approach to selection with clear objectives and measurable matrices whereas what is often referred to as the 'Bond' method is more of a 'black box' split from what survives method.

Again, I don't personally take umbrage with either approach- I simply think it is important to do justice to Dr. Kefuss' approach and methods.
I looked at the post, and it makes some excellent points.

However, it doesn't address the issue of lost genetic diversity that happens when we let colonies die or kill them genetically by replacing the queen. This is a narrow point, but an important one in my opinion.

People have the idea that bees need to evolve new traits in order to become resistant, but that is, in my opinion, unrealistic.

Evolution would be bees with (for example) an extra leg for dislodging mites. The evolutionary hypothesis is that the struggle for survival causes populations to gradually increase in complexity, thus producing "higher" life forms from "lower" life forms. While the feasibility of that is out of scope, it is clear that it could only happen over long periods of time. We don't want to wait millions of years. What we need is something observable, that actually happens in reasonable time frames. We need variation.

To get that variation, we cannot place our hopes on mutation, as most animals avoid mutation as much as they can. This is necessary, as the vast majority of mutations are unlikely to be beneficial.

The exceptions are bacteria, and especially viruses, which use mutation as a "strategy".It is in quotes, because it is an attribute that helps them survive. Strategy requires planning, and viruses don't plan, or think.

However, there is a good deal of genetic diversity in the population of bees we now have, and it is likely that reassortment (not using the term technically, just descriptively) will provide bees with traits that make them less susceptible. What is needed is modest, continuous selection pressure to tease those traits to come to the surface in the population as a whole. The natural variation in dogs, for example, provides all the genetics needed to have toy poodles and great Danes, with relatively few generations of selection. The idea that the genetic variation in the current population of bees is sufficient to provide a solution is reasonable. And (other than genetic engineering) it is our only hope.

Careful, observant selective breeding can probably achieve that, picking traits which appear to be helpful and selecting on the basis that those traits are amplified. The problem will be generalizing those traits to the millions of managed colonies and the millions of free colonies that inhabit the US, Canada, and Mexico. It seems unfeasible.

However, an approach that gradually moves the entire captive bee population in the direction of resistance is likely to succeed if such an approach can be implemented. It will also assure that the bees which emerge will be good bees for maintaining as captives, which is important for beekeepers.

My conclusion is that treating bees or managing treatment-free bees so that they mostly survive is the approach which will naturally produce that outcome. Because the ones that do better will tend to proliferate, while at the same time the genetic diversity latent in the ones that do less well will be, to a large extent, preserved. And we may well need that genetic diversity for the next thing that poses a big problem to beekeepers

So try and keep your bees alive. By doing so, you are slowly defeating Varroa.

Understand this is all armchair science. I could be completely wrong. (But I don't think so, of course)

Jon
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 · (Edited)
I think that's close enough. We may be mixing "tame" and "domesticated."
fair enough. It isn't the main point.

The legal status of bees is that they are Ferae Naturae (nor sure of the spelling) which means wild by nature. As a consequence, a swarm that issues from your hive, that i capture is mine not yours.

This is in distinction to that if your cattle escape, and I capture them, they are still yours. Because they are domesticated. Ownership of a wild animal (an odd concept in our world) exists to the extent the animal is brought into captivity. If it escapes, it is no longer yours. Another potential rabbit trail.

Also, this is the legal situation in the USA, probably similar elsewhere, but possibly not.

However, this is only a matter of semantics, and won't hel the varroa situation.
 
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