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Best of success to you here in the home stretch. How has the propagation of your survivor-stock queen gone?
As usually with me, I rebounded from a near complete loss.
I always do.
Like per-annually.
LOL

Pretty soon I should report the status, I suppose - to keep my readers interested. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #1,962 ·
Be interesting to see what your weighed hive says in two weeks.
I agree. The only limiting factor at this point is that this colony is two 10-frame medium boxes. There is likely only so much more that they can store away, and I haven't any other 10-frame equipment at my disposal...
 

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Discussion Starter · #1,964 ·
Video 3 will be Les Eccles, Ontario Beekeepers’ Association Technology Transfer Program outlining the planned implementation.
The third video in the LVG Breeding Program is now up. A few observations I found interesting:

1. Throughout the video Les stresses the importance of working together with other beekeepers in the local area to collaboratively breed for resistance. He remarks offhand that one needs at least 100 colonies to have enough genetic material to execute a meaningful breeding program.

2. At about the 3:40 mark, he and Paul discuss the distinction of their breeding protocol versus that of survival testing.

3. Les outlines the importance of consistency in management as a key component to any breeding program- while it is not explicitly addressed, I could imagine this might be one of the more significant hurdles of an association-scale breeding program.

4. At about the 8:50 mark, Les describes some breeding principles for multi-factorial trait selection. He introduces the idea of 'pre-selection'.
 

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Discussion Starter · #1,965 ·
Summer continues to race to a close down here in the 'hot corner' of Kentucky.

Currently the main blooms on the farm are mistflower, thoroughwort, swamp marigold and purple false foxglove.

The snakeroot has just started blooming, the late goldenrod won't be long now, and the frost asters are still a ways out.

Drones have been more conspicuous of late, and I found a single Nodding Ladies' Tresses orchid in the woods the other day.

There has been such a wealth and variety of pollinators to observe this season- it has been a real treat. I expect if someone could train bumble bees to live in a large colony like honey bees, there would be no end to the surplus nectar one could gather.
 

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Discussion Starter · #1,966 ·
Fascinating research from earlier this year (this is the theme issue of a 16-part series published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B):

How does epigenetics influence the course of evolution?

They first define epigenetics as ... the study of changes in gene activity that can be transmitted through cell divisions but cannot be explained by changes in the DNA sequence.

The implications of this idea is that there are adaptive changes and behaviors that might develop in a given population that are not necessarily governed strictly by genetics (at least as we classically understand them).

While much of it is over my head, one of the main takeaways for me relates to the development of phenotypic plasticity in the face of a novel threat (i.e. varroa):

First, there must be a significant environmental change that causes a significant plastic response in the average phenotype of a population. The changed phenotype is called a ‘phenotypic accommodation' and is independent of any genetic change. If the phenotypic accommodation becomes widespread and is maintained over generations because of a permanent change in the environment, then ‘genetic accommodation' can ensue, which may involve changed allele frequencies and/or adjustments to gene regulatory networks.

Thus the idea is that at least in some circumstances, there might be a phenotypic change that occurs in a given population in response to a new challenge that will subsequently be reflected in the genetic signature rather than the other way round.
 

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Discussion Starter · #1,967 · (Edited)
When researching Dr. Kefuss last year I came across this two-part ABJ paper from last year by M.E.A. McNeil entitled 'Questing for the Wonder Bee'. In my humble opinion it is a good treatment of the progress of modern bee breeding, starting with luminaries like Brother Adam, Harry Laidlaw, Jr. and O.W. Park and ending with an extended discussion of the Hilo breeding program. Well worth the read when you have time.

p.s. Our own Juhani Lunden makes a cameo in part I.
 

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I missed seeing Julani, didn't spend any time looking at the people pics.

Good reads though. They say the USDA has bees that don't need any treatments, I believe they said no treatments for 12 years.

'...We keep colonies [at the
USDA lab] without any chemicals
and do pretty well...'
 

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Discussion Starter · #1,969 ·
I believe they said no treatments for 12 years.
AR1: I took note of that too- amazingly it is over 25 years with no treatments.

Here's the photo and caption of Juhani receiving his hard-earned cent for the mite he found during his visit to Dr. Kefuss.
Shirt Plant Smile Dress shirt Sleeve
 

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I seem to remember that Juhani once spoke something to the affect of it taking about taking 10 years to achieve a level of resistance but suspected it might take as long again to get his honey production back!
Presently with the main commercial driving force being either high rate of reproduction and or high honey production, as long as mites can be handled with the existing treatments there is not the will to give up much in order to gain mite resistance.
 

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Discussion Starter · #1,971 ·
Presently with the main commercial driving force being either high rate of reproduction and or high honey production, as long as mites can be handled with the existing treatments there is not the will to give up much in order to gain mite resistance.
Frank:

Thank you for your feedback. Good points. Part II of the article spills a good bit of ink on this reality- two of the more salient thoughts IMHO include:

Pause here to consider. For queen producers, it’s a seller’s market, so the motivation for the painstaking and expensive task of breeding new stock is not financial. The isolation required to restrict drones leaves out many. Although beekeepers know that mite-resistant bees would be valuable and eschew using chemicals, their livelihoods can make them risk averse: In short, they know amitraz works. They think, Danka said, “until I’m certain that some goofball breeding program in Louisiana is producing bees that work, I’m skeptical. Fair enough. And I’m not sure we’re going to change that paradigm very easily while amitraz still works. Why would you spend a lot of money, effort, tears and sweat to do this breeding when the demand is just not there?”

Now that the VSH queens have become a source of income, he (David Thomas- Hawaii Island Honey Company) wants to expand their distribution. His partners take a different view. “Bob and I are very cautious,” said Downey. “We don’t want a false start. We don’t want to release material that is not up to our standards, because VSH has been set back so many times already.” Danka said, “The bees are more variable than I would like.” The goal is to get beyond treating, but Thomas still needs to treat his hives. Another variable is honey production. In some trials, the Hilo bees produced 15 to 20 percent less honey. “There are a lot of people that believe there is a necessary trade-off with mite resistance,” said Downey. “I don’t necessarily believe that. The ones that are as productive are not uncommon. It’s just that right now we have a pretty noisy field of the selected bees. Which makes sense because it’s a very young selection. What we are comparing to has been selected for hundreds of years.”
 

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Discussion Starter · #1,972 ·
Another video up from the UoG concerning the ORHBS Program and the LVG Breeding Program:


At about the 9:00 mark Mr. Les Eccles discusses some specifics of how the breeding program has been implemented among the some 25 participating breeders and outlines the importance of working together on a regional scale to improve stock. He also briefly discusses the formalized breeding goals, which are identified in the attached screenshot and further detailed at the link below:

 

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Frank:

Thank you for your feedback. Good points. Part II of the article spills a good bit of ink on this reality- two of the more salient thoughts IMHO include:

Pause here to consider. For queen producers, it’s a seller’s market, so the motivation for the painstaking and expensive task of breeding new stock is not financial. The isolation required to restrict drones leaves out many. Although beekeepers know that mite-resistant bees would be valuable and eschew using chemicals, their livelihoods can make them risk averse: In short, they know amitraz works. They think, Danka said, “until I’m certain that some goofball breeding program in Louisiana is producing bees that work, I’m skeptical. Fair enough. And I’m not sure we’re going to change that paradigm very easily while amitraz still works. Why would you spend a lot of money, effort, tears and sweat to do this breeding when the demand is just not there?”

Now that the VSH queens have become a source of income, he (David Thomas- Hawaii Island Honey Company) wants to expand their distribution. His partners take a different view. “Bob and I are very cautious,” said Downey. “We don’t want a false start. We don’t want to release material that is not up to our standards, because VSH has been set back so many times already.” Danka said, “The bees are more variable than I would like.” The goal is to get beyond treating, but Thomas still needs to treat his hives. Another variable is honey production. In some trials, the Hilo bees produced 15 to 20 percent less honey. “There are a lot of people that believe there is a necessary trade-off with mite resistance,” said Downey. “I don’t necessarily believe that. The ones that are as productive are not uncommon. It’s just that right now we have a pretty noisy field of the selected bees. Which makes sense because it’s a very young selection. What we are comparing to has been selected for hundreds of years.”
On the website they claim their bees will make you money, via greater queen and colony survival in spite of lower honey production.
 

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On the website they claim their bees will make you money, via greater queen and colony survival in spite of lower honey production.
I will argue this claim is not to be taken at a face value.
They should really be honest about it - tossing such claims about.

For example, I am working with a line of VSH the second season now.
One may notice that the VSH queen will be poor queens in general productivity sense.
They will survive and that's where it will stand - at very low to zero to negative honey production (my lone VSH survivor has negative honey productivity - that simple).

Case by case, of course.
I have open-mated VSH daughters this season that are already very different within the batch.
But the varroa-resistance comes at cost - especially so in a highly varroa-infested location.

PS: MSL has been saying the same all along; I am just practically observing and confirming the same too.
 

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Discussion Starter · #1,975 ·
Case by case, of course.
I think this is a key takeaway for any resistance-breeding effort. One has to understand and then subsequently work in concert with both their local genetic environment and the reproductive biology of the honey bee itself- recognizing that what works (or doesn't) in one setting or management style may not comport similar results in another context defined by myriad variables.

From the article:

By the time Harbo retired in 2005, though, the promise of the program had started to unravel. It had been thought the hard-won trait would be maintained by the beekeepers buying the stock from Glenn. “It seemed like a good idea at the time,” said Danka. Not only was the required scientific rigor too much, subsequent generations of the bees were open mated. “People were saying, ‘Oh, I got some of these bees with VSH, and they’re not so resistant.’” Bees in general and particularly honey bees have exceedingly high recombination rates, which is to say that their genes are recombined with every mating. An individual queen, then, is like a frame in a genetic movie. “Let’s face it,” Danka said, “Looking at it in hindsight, these guys are not going to sit with the microscope evaluating a couple thousand cells of brood to tell whether or not mites are reproducing. It was just fantasy to think that.”
 
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