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I've been reading quite a bit on treatment free beekeeping although you can mark me as a skeptic, I'm interested in knowing what your overwinter survival rates are-first and second years? How many hives and what kind of hive do you have?

For background on me, I am a IPM beekeeper, with 5 Langs, 100% survival and expect to expand significantly over the next two or three years (on my own and surrounding land) with f1 and later AI VSH queens.
 

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I was reading some research recently that showed the VSH or "hygienic" behavior wasn't a dominant gene and therefore wasn't guaranteed to pass on from hives that were surviving treatment free. In fact, the study found that 1 generation was enough to lose it in a large majority of progeny. This has been one of the issues in creating treatment free hives...and why we're still treating - how long after varroa was introduced?

If it were as simple as breeding your survivors and the survivors of those then the mite issue would no longer be an issue.

It also comes down to the diseases and virus' introduced to the bees by varroa. Research shows that eggs and larvae can be "vaccinated" by royal jelly fed to queens and larvae but the bees need to be subjected to those diseases in the first place. If the disease doesn't outright kill them, how do you know they ever had it to select for it?

So in short, you're dealing with more than one issue as a result of mites. Of course, I encourage anyone to go treatment free but also believe you need to be willing to lose a lot of hives, and have the hives to lose in the first place, in order to get anywhere with treatment free.

Further, if someone claimed they were treatment free for X amount of years and wanted to sell queens I wouldn't buy them, but I would buy a nuc from them as it's the immunity of the colony I'd be after and not jus the "genetic" aspect - as it's just not that simple.

For me, a few shots of OAV from a band vaporizer is so easy, why not at least keep on top of mites?

But this is a touchy subject and people will argue one way or the other like a left and right wings of a bee. If you haven't found the treatment free thread, with a LOT of posts, you may want to start there.
 

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I treat for mites every time I think it might help a bit, so I can't answer the question. But I do have / had 20 colonies of Italians going into the winter. I robbed them pretty severely last fall and have been feeding the 19 colonies that have survived for about a month now. They are building up good and if the weather cooperates, I hope for another good year like last year.

The lost hive, I think lost their queen late in the fall (possibly when I last robbed them) and I didn't find out until too late.
 

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Don't feel like breaking it down more but the basics for me was mostly close to 100 percent survival for four winters with my 5th summer biting me hard and my fifth winter hitting me hard again. except for first winter with three hives, had about ten for the rest of the time. I am starting spring with what looks like 5.
Cheers
gww
 

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I have had pretty good survival rates 85% plus for about 12 years with the exception of a year after a commercial operation with migratory hives moved in within about a mile and a half of ne. I lost about 50 to 60% that year. Fortunately, they went out of business after only a year. (don't hate on me) The following years, the survival trended back up to the approximate 85% level. I don't know if it was because the migratory hives brought in a bunch of diseases and pests or if they overwhelmed the genetics with commercial queens that are treatment dependent.

I think genetics CAN produce resistance, but not within areas of commercial operations (with commercially produced queens) that dominate the area with bees bred to be optimum producers that are chemically dependent. An antibiotic dependent chicken house broiler chicken would have a very small chance of surviving in your backyard, and grandma's backyard chickens would not be very robust if they were allowed to interbreed with broiler stock. It is just common sense.
 

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Up and down. 3 years ago I caught a swarm and ended up that year with 4 colonies. All 4 survived the winter. Last year those 4 swarmed and swarmed and I ended up with 12. I kept 10 of those. Of those ten, all died except one which is all I have now.

I can't swear mites didn't kill those 9 hives that died, or at least weaken them until something else killed them. But for sure 9/10 are dead.
 

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Mtnmyke

your comment
"Further, if someone claimed they were treatment free for X amount of years and wanted to sell queens I wouldn't buy them, but I would buy a nuc from them as it's the immunity of the colony I'd be after and not jus the "genetic" aspect - as it's just not that simple. "

Is an interesting observation.
I have seen when doing splits, in the realm of 1 hive is now 2 or 3 that the "conditions" seem to follow.
but if I do a shook swarm onto foundation, or just move a Queen Cell there is not nearly as much correlation with the survivability. I am starting to think the micro biome or learned behavior has an impact on the "VHS traits" hence selling VHS queens is not seemingly the key to success.
your comment is something I have also observed, I had a hive survive for 6 years, all the QCs I pulled and placed did not make the first winter, seemed odd to me. I is possible the open mating for me was different than the 6 yr surviving hive whit BTW was a swarm capture.


to the OP 50 to 100% loss over several years was my stats, I now treat with OA my main yard, the out liers either sparingly or none.

GG
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I was reading some research recently that showed the VSH or "hygienic" behavior wasn't a dominant gene and therefore wasn't guaranteed to pass on from hives that were surviving treatment free. In fact, the study found that 1 generation was enough to lose it in a large majority of progeny. This has been one of the issues in creating treatment free hives...and why we're still treating - how long after varroa was introduced?

If it were as simple as breeding your survivors and the survivors of those then the mite issue would no longer be an issue
I am not quite sure that I agreed with that. I believe from what I'm reading is that hygienic behavior is a genetic trait that was (for lack of a better term) diluted in exchange for more desirable traits such as honey production, growth and other more "desirable" traits during the industrialization of beekeeping. Goals of commercial pollinators were more to produce the maximum number of colonies, trade off for honey production etc. and these commercial "volume" hives impact any local colonies that they interact with either by genetic dilution or by transfer of pathogens. (No disrespect to commercial, they are the backbone of beekeeping) All bees show hygienic traits in just the way they maintain the hives through removal dead bees, un-developed larvae, wax and debris and a dozen other behavioral activities. While active breeding of VSH bees does further develop the trait, dilution through a lack of continuity is inevitable. If I introduce VSH queens to my yards, and someone within the breeding zone is treatment free or worse, a beehaver not maintaining their colonies, it's inevitable that I'll get hit with an overwhelming mite bomb or worse, poor genetics for my f2 progeny. I am not discounting the use of feral bees completely but I believe that survivor colonies are the exception not the rule and allowing for open breeding with other bees, completely dilutes and genetics that might have been developed. The selection protocol for AI VSH breeder stock is quite intense and usually a two year effort for that queen, usually from stock that has at least the support of a previous generation of similar selection. I'm not sure if supporting feral stock, unless well documented longevity, is the answer. A couple months ago in a telephone call with a more knowledgeable beek about VSH, he said you could get a Black Angus out of a Texas Long Horn if you want to wait long enough. Do we have that time?
 

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Do we have that time< Question is do we have the economic motivation that will impose the conditions necessary to cause the shift. Cows are easy compared to bees. AI is simpler and isolation of breeding is far easier. Bees reproduction habits seem deliberately made to select against it. There is also a great variety of "visions" of what would be the "best bee". The present economic driver of the existence of bees is is the pollination business which sees bees hauled from coast to coast and north to south, spreading disease and mooting any selective breeding program. The bee that will multiply the fastest as long as it is fed regardless of the season is emanently suited.

You can create islands of stock with heightened survival traits for local conditions but how do you prevent their contamination by the hordes; especially when their virgin queens are so avidly promiscuous. There are quite a few examples of these pockets but there are probably a thousandfold more examples of failure. The successes are well recorded but the failures for the most part not.

The biggest roadblocks to a concerted genetic shift are probably economic, political, and cultural rather than genetic: Imagine trying to implement the prevention of bee transport across state lines! Heck we have people killing each other over whether or not to wear masks!
 

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If the VSH trait was bred out of bees over the last, let's say 200 years, as opposed to it being present for the rest of their time on earth, wouldn't it be reasonable to believe that this trait would be easy to restore in the presence of this incredible pressure from mites of which our bees are being subjected.
Sort of like the claim that 4.7- 4.9 mm being natural cell size.

Alex
 

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I'm fairly new at this still but all 19 of mine made it through winter. Most are first year splits made in September though my original two colonies with the original queens are entering their third year with no treatments. They're all in 10 frame deeps. I had mites and mite related issues late summer/early fall and made splits for brood breaks and reduced space in the struggling colonies and feed when needed. I over "wintered" (Florida) several as 5 frame nucs and everything came out of winter thriving. Made 15 splits a couple of weeks ago with capped swarm cells.
 

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The reports about survivability are not that useful without:
  • your zip-code (ok, let's not report the exact address unless someone insists)
  • significant observation time frame (like 5 years)
  • significant number of hives reported per each reading (like 5 or more?)
  • significantly removed bee yards should be counted separately (don't average together two yards separated by 50 miles)
Anyway, if you asking for some reporting - then specify your algorithm to follow.
Otherwise, we are back to story-telling... Waste of time.

Heck my first season I did very well too - 50% survived.
Total number of hives was - 2.
Time frame was - 1 winter.
This data point alone is useless to bother with.
Just saying.
 

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I was reading some research recently that showed the VSH or "hygienic" behavior wasn't a dominant gene and therefore wasn't guaranteed to pass on from hives that were surviving treatment free. In fact, the study found that 1 generation was enough to lose it in a large majority of progeny. This has been one of the issues in creating treatment free hives...and why we're still treating - how long after varroa was introduced?
I was reading a post last night on Bee-L by Randy Oliver stating that his greatest problem in his 5 year long experiment of breeding survivor queens was the lack of heritability of the trait that makes them varroa resistant. He said that he started with roughly 1% of colonies displaying the trait and after intense breeding from those favorable colonies for 5 years, he is only at roughly 7% with the favorable trait. He is frustrated that these good queens cannot seem to pass their varroa-management trait onto their daughters.
 

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To avoid cross posting, please go here to see my latest post:

 

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The BIP survey may be the best source for this data - Bee Informed Partnership - National Management Survey.

If you look at the 2019-2020 data for all operations, it would indicate that winter losses for those that used any varroa treatment (a treatment is the application of a biological, organic, or synthetic chemical to control the pest) were 32% while those that did not use any varroa control had 44% losses. You can parse the data (state level, year, operator type, etc.) any number of ways on the website.....

Kevin
 

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The BIP survey may be the best source for this data - Bee Informed Partnership - National Management Survey.

If you look at the 2019-2020 data for all operations, ....... You can parse the data (state level, year, operator type, etc.) any number of ways on the website.....

Kevin
You absolutely must parse the data - otherwise it is meaningless.

Case in point - compare Arizona/Alabama to Wisconsin.
Complete reverse.
With this in mind, nation-wide conclusions are just meaningless.

Like I said - before posting anything useful at all - post your ZIP (ZIP of the bee location, to be exact).
Anyway, here it is not useful to be "collecting" any data.
Story telling - sure and fine.
The forum is mostly about story telling anyway.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 · (Edited)
Do we have that time< Question is do we have the economic motivation that will impose the conditions necessary to cause the shift. Cows are easy compared to bees. AI is simpler and isolation of breeding is far easier. Bees reproduction habits seem deliberately made to select against it. There is also a great variety of "visions" of what would be the "best bee". The present economic driver of the existence of bees is is the pollination business which sees bees hauled from coast to coast and north to south, spreading disease and mooting any selective breeding program. The bee that will multiply the fastest as long as it is fed regardless of the season is emanently suited.

You can create islands of stock with heightened survival traits for local conditions but how do you prevent their contamination by the hordes; especially when their virgin queens are so avidly promiscuous. There are quite a few examples of these pockets but there are probably a thousandfold more examples of failure. The successes are well recorded but the failures for the most part not.
Well put! The project envisioned by Lowtech might have impact from migratory and commercial apiaries. Even on the 2300 acres (if I correctly recall without re-reading) they would encounter an impact of surrounding hives. A proper isolation would need at least 80,000 acres or a 5 mile wide containment. However, I am in the Northeast and perhaps a proper isolation are could be the NYC suburbs. I would suggest that there is no/extremely limited commercial agriculture, hence no migratory hives (other than on trucks passing through on the NJ Turnpike) or large bee yards within 20 or 25 miles of the City. (Ok when you done snickering think about it) Is this a better opportunity for small scale expansion of natural selection supplemented by a reasonable introduction of selectively bred bees?


If the VSH trait was bred out of bees over the last, let's say 200 years, as opposed to it being present for the rest of their time on earth, wouldn't it be reasonable to believe that this trait would be easy to restore in the presence of this incredible pressure from mites of which our bees are being subjected.
Sort of like the claim that 4.7- 4.9 mm being natural cell size.
Well , perhaps my example was not the best. It is believe that A. Cerana was able to co-exist with V. jacobsoni by adapting over thousands of years. This was a natural, Darwinian process. I would further suggest that A. mellifera either may have already dealt with V. destructor in ancient history or as a new pest, has the genetic ability's to develop naturally (in a thousands of years timeline) or quickly through selective breeding. My thoughts are that to accelerate the re-development of these traits is not by just a one and done buy a VSH queen but a repeated process of continual introduction of new queens, year after year from different breeder of, let say VSH Italian stock, or VSH Russian. In the first year of f1 queens introduced to a bee yard, how many effectively f1 drones (1005 gene from mother queen) hit the sky in 45 days or so to breed into feral and other local managed stock? In this year, any f2 generation queens would have a higher chance of hooking up (can say that?) with the f1 drones. Year 2, expansion of new VSH, preferable from a different gene pool, F2 girl meets new f1 boy-and so on. My area is at the edge of any serious commercial ag, most migratory stuff is much further south (15-20 miles) and very limited north and east. To the west (+5 miles) are some orchards and berry farms, mostly CSA's and in this area a big farm or orchard has less than 50 acres, most, much less of cultivated land. That's a far cry from thousand (think almonds) of acres in other areas of the Country.

The plan I've been working on is to have a central bee yard with, say 12-20 colonies, 4 commercial control and the balance in VSH queens. In this same first year, several satellite yards of 3 to 5 colonies within a mile and a half radius. I have a couple of commercial/Master Beeks on board to help with issues but am planning on performing all the labor myself and I'm self funded (translation Momma's thinking I should be committed and children watching their inheritances vaporize, I'm waiting for JW Palmer to call me Scoobert 2.0) I've already paid for the two pallets of hive boxes and frames and bees have been ordered. In year two, additional stock from different breeders to expand the gene pool and extend the perimeter. At least "Hey get back here" still has faith in me and hell, I've blown more on lesser projects-I got rid of the boat!

Edit note: I have pretty much identified and continue to search for an beekeepers within my project zone (there's no many) and would push, even gift some F2 queens as we get going.
 

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Larry,

Thank you for sharing your practical, here and right now, daily, real life beekeeping experience.
 

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Since I routinely think myself in circles. I wonder if the case for hard bond as opposed to ipm might not be made in this way. If you only go bee genetics than it makes sense to (ipm)
treat a hive with high counts and then requeen allowing you to not use up your bee resources.

It would seem that with hard bond, you would have some chance of working on the mite and virus as well as just the bee. Hives that die take both of the bad with the good and hives that don't die leave the bad that might not be too bad to be the majority to keep breeding (bee, mite and virus.)
Cheers
gww
 
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