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Many beeks talk about ferals as if they are "God's gift to nature," the true survivors. The solution to the mite problem. But what are they? Are they just a hive in a tree? Are they just a swarm from some beekeeper's hive that managed to find a home somewhere other than a hive? What makes them so special other than they live outside a hive?

Beekeepers that have tracked so called "ferals" reported no more longevity than an ordinary hive. So why do some think they are the answer to mites?

Now mite resistant bees are a whole "nuthter" story. Some maybe "ferals," some not.
 

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Technically a feral is any hive that is not in a human managed box.

The reason people say ferals are the answer has to do with the fact that they are not being treated, they are not being requeened, they are being left to their own devices. As such, natural selection is allowed to take place. The vast majority of feral honey bees are going to be first generation swarms that only last a couple years before dying out, but if there are enough of them, pure chance says that some of them will be better able to resist evolutionary pressures such as mites and diseases, and those bees will thrive while others die.

Thing is, it will take dozens, hundreds, thousands of generations for that kind of selection to take place. Its not so much that they're all that great right now, its what they will become over time if left unmolested.
 

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>Are they just a hive in a tree? Are they just a swarm from some beekeeper's hive that managed to find a home somewhere other than a hive? What makes them so special other than they live outside a hive?

The large ones are usually recent escapees. The small ones are probably at least a swarm of a swarm of escaped bees, meaning they have escaped to the wild, have survived and built up enough to swarm and that swarm has gotten established. Because it takes two turnovers of natural comb to get back to small. Feral is a term that is used to describe an animal of domestic genetics that is, for all intents and purposes, wild. So by the definition of "feral", feral bees are bees that have been living in the wild long enough to revert to the wild.

>Beekeepers that have tracked so called "ferals" reported no more longevity than an ordinary hive. So why do some think they are the answer to mites?

Those "beekeepers" (probably refering to Tom Seeley who has documented this) usually put them on large cell foundation in the middle of a large cell apiary. Tom Seeley's theory is the genetics of the mites. Mine is the size of the cells and the drifting large cell infested workers.
 

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This is how I describe my genetic line from swarms I have collected: Wild Genetics= Collected Washington bees from remote areas with no likley recent influence from domesticated sources.

Any swarms I collect that may likely be from a domesticated source(In town) are simply free bees. Collecting the queen is a non issue. Those swarms collected in the remote mountain areas with no apparent source other than generations of feral living are the ones I am interested in and the only thing that matters IS getting the Queen.
In my location I can usually tell by the queens color in my favorite spot for collection. They are a very plain brown color, but daughters are generally black or black striped. Workers show some genetic diversity.

2011 collection date
2013 collection date

Of course, this is my best guess, but the theory has held up so far. Perhaps the very loosely used term 'Feral' should be redefined in our current age and time as 'generations of feral living'. Not as a true genetic type, but as a naturally selected hardy strain.

Hives with daughters from these queens are remarkably self sufficient and easy to manage.

Photos below show direct daughters from the first photo with white marked queen.
This is a northern overwintered young queen just coming into her prime at about 8 months of age. (3-13 photo)



Photo below shows a newly mated young daughter, but I liked her color and got a few daughters from her quite quickly.



I am bound and determined to collect some swarms out of our elk hunting spot in Idaho at 8000' These honeybees have a dark patch on thir wings that intrigues me.

Our Montana spot at 10, 000 I never saw a honeybee.But I did find some Indian artifacts and evidence from homesteaders from days gone by. Those 'Feral' people ya know. Still around but genetically diluted.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
T The vast majority of feral honey bees are going to be first generation swarms that only last a couple years before dying out, but if there are enough of them, pure chance says that some of them will be better able to resist evolutionary pressures such as mites and diseases, and those bees will thrive while others die. Thing is, it will take dozens, hundreds, thousands of generations for that kind of selection to take place. Its not so much that they're all that great right now, its what they will become over time if left unmolested.
One can but hope.... I'd really like to know what is no longer with us today (not just bees) that could not make the adjustment.
 

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Technically a feral is any hive that is not in a human managed box.
How can we ever hope to agree on what feral means when we don't all seem to understand or agree upon common terms like "hive" and "colony"?

Edy, here is how I would write what you wrote. My edits inside brackets. "Technically a feral [colony of honeybees] is any [colony of honeybees] that is not in a human managed box." The hive is the box, not the bees.

:lookout:
 

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Those "beekeepers" (probably refering to Tom Seeley who has documented this) usually put them on large cell foundation in the middle of a large cell apiary. Tom Seeley's theory is the genetics of the mites. Mine is the size of the cells and the drifting large cell infested workers.
Seeley's observations on the longevity of feral colonies of honeybees was in the cavities where he found them, not just after collecting them into his boxes.
 

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True enough that evolution takes a long time. But look up the principle of Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium. This is natural selection without waiting for mutation and it starts working in a generation or two. Given a relatively few generations, it increases the preponderance of successful genes.

How does this differ from selective breeding? It selects for colony reproductive success (which includes staying alive to reproduce), without regard to honey production, gentleness, or other factors beekeepers value more than the bees themselves do. So feral bees represent a different breeding experiment.

Feral breeding gave us longhorn cattle, mustangs, etc. in far less time than would be required by evolution.
 

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>Seeley's observations on the longevity of feral colonies of honeybees was in the cavities where he found them, not just after collecting them into his boxes.

Yes, and they were surviving in their natural cavities (and one would assume on natural comb, of course).

>True enough that evolution takes a long time. But look up the principle of Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium. This is natural selection without waiting for mutation and it starts working in a generation or two. Given a relatively few generations, it increases the preponderance of successful genes.

If we are relying on evoloution we are in trouble. But, as you say, selection can take place in even one generation and a lot more in two.

>How does this differ from selective breeding? It selects for colony reproductive success...

And survival.

>... without regard to honey production, gentleness, or other factors beekeepers value more than the bees themselves do. So feral bees represent a different breeding experiment.

>Feral breeding gave us longhorn cattle, mustangs, etc. in far less time than would be required by evolution.

And horses and cattle have a much longer generation cycle. A horse has to be two or three years old before it can breed. Cattle a year and a half at least. You can actually do several generations of bees in one year.
 

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In the United States, feral has a different meaning than in Europe or Africa or parts of Asia. Feral here means bees that escaped from managed care at some point in their existence. Bees are considered "Ferae Naturae" meaning not domesticated in the same sense a horse or a cow is domesticated. They can easily go from a managed home in beekeeper boxes to a cavity in a tree or even a hole in the ground. As for feral bees being resistant/tolerant to varroa, in some areas, they show distinct signs of tolerance. Other areas are still seeing the boom and bust cycle of varroa infestation with feral colonies re-established from managed/treated colonies.
 

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I like ferals best because they are free for the catching and make a pretty darn good bee if you don't over manage them.


Don
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
From Mark:....Seeley's observations on the longevity of feral colonies of honeybees was in the cavities where he found them, not just after collecting them into his boxes.
From MB:
Yes, and they were surviving in their natural cavities (and one would assume on natural comb, of course).

MB, you just state in thread #3 that in response to "
Beekeepers that have tracked so called "ferals" reported no more longevity than an ordinary hive."

"
Those "beekeepers" (probably refering to Tom Seeley who has documented this) usually put them on large cell foundation in the middle of a large cell apiary."

Please clarify...
 

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>MB, you just state in thread #3 that in response to "Beekeepers that have tracked so called "ferals" reported no more longevity than an ordinary hive."
>>"Those "beekeepers" (probably refering to Tom Seeley who has documented this) usually put them on large cell foundation in the middle of a large cell apiary."

>Please clarify...

I assumed you were referring to this study:
http://www.apidologie.org/articles/apido/abs/2007/01/m6063/m6063.html

"Abstract - Feral colonies of European honey bees living in the Arnot Forest, a 1651-ha research preserve in New York State, were studied over a three-year period, 2002 to 2005. This population of colonies was previously censused in 1978. A census in 2002 revealed as many colonies as before, even though Varroa destructor was introduced to North America in the intervening years. Most colonies located in fall 2002 were still alive in fall 2005. The Arnot Forest colonies proved to be infested with V. destructor, but their mite populations did not surge to high levels in late summer. To see if Arnot Forest bees can suppress the reproduction rate of mites, colonies of Arnot Forest bees and New World Carniolan bees were inoculated with mites from an apiary and the growth patterns of their mite populations were compared. No difference was found between the two colony types. Evidently, the stable bee-mite relationship in the Arnot Forest reflects adaptations for parasite (mite) avirulence, not host (bee) resistance."

They were surviving in Arnot Forest and had been observed by Tom Seeley there since 1978. There was no difference in the number as colonies in 2002, so they were surviving fine in the cavities of trees on their own. He put them on foundation in his apiary and the survival rate droped to the same as the apiary. His assumption was that the reason for their survival in the forest was due to "adaptations for parasite (mite) avirulence, not host (bee) resistance."
 

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Feral breeding gave us longhorn cattle, mustangs, etc. in far less time than would be required by evolution.
What part does genetics play in feralness? If one collected kittens from a feral cat soon after birth and gave them to a domesticated cat who had just given birth would they exhibit feral behavior upon adulthood?

Honeybees don't fit the Dictionary definition of feral because honeybees are not truly domesticated in the way that other animals are.

Feralness is a state of being and a set of behavioral characteristics in most previously domesticated animals.
 

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>Seeley's observations on the longevity of feral colonies of honeybees was in the cavities where he found them, not just after collecting them into his boxes.

Yes, and they were surviving in their natural cavities (and one would assume on natural comb, of course).
for an average of no more than three years.
 

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I find that feral bees don't always like to adapt to a box. Sometimes they are slow starting and will only build on foundation-less frames at first. I had 4 Italian hive, genial as can be, they all died the first winter. The hive that survived was a hive that I bought from a man. He believed in non management hives. He hadn't checked that hive in years. I imagine this hinted why they where hotter than a fire cracker. I have noticed that feral hives that I have rescued have had less hive beetles and very few mites if any. I have also come along some hives in the wild that where clearly sick but still alive. They build resistance to these pest without human interaction. I may never buy bees again unless it is a queen. I want to take Africanized hives and change the queen to get a calmer hive. I will find out if it worked this year! I have 6 hives I got that were "feral" and all have survived. Even small nucs that I though for sure would die where alive and we'll the next year. Nature is best at everything.
 
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