Pseudo-science

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I just got my copy of The Beekeeper. There is some pretty good stuff in there including something from me but one thing it doesn't seem to have any more is a letter to the editor section.There is no real way for anyone to challenge, question or discuss what has been written. I'm sure not everyone will agree with what I have written most of which comes from experience and observation.
It sometimes feels like we have run out of new things to say on this forum and I for one would like to have a bit of debate on articles from this or any other beekeeping magazine. The article that really got me thinking in the latest edition is about Avner Cain and how he breeds the next generation of queens. I don't know enough about the science quoted to be able to form a valid opinion on it. It may 100% correct and I agree with a lot of his conclusions especially letting good hives raise their own queens , something I All do with up to 20 or 30% of my own hives but as for regularly using swarm cells the only thing you will get from that is hives with a genetic propensity to swarm. All hives will swarm given the right stimulation but you can decrease this propensity markedly by rigourous selection against swarming. Most beekeepers have been doing this for a very long time so that these days swarming though still a major problem is not anything like it was in the past. Swarming is unsurprisingly one of the hardest things to breed out of hives completely and along with aggression one of the quickest to revert.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that even if bees are selecting the very best genetics to put into their swarm cells it will be their idea of the best, not mine.
 

Mummzie

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I for one would like to have a bit of debate on articles from this or any other beekeeping magazine. The article that really got me thinking in the latest edition is about Avner Cain and how he breeds the next generation of queens. I don
totally agree- some debate would be informative.
As I age, the thing that becomes apparent is that what was once right is often found to be not so right.

Are the articles in the beekeeper copyright? Could they- or extracts of- be posted here to initiate discussion?

Of course, then we tread the minefield of opinion vs slander and the righteous indignation of offended keyboard warriors, but that's more fun than the current vacuum of discussion.
 
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Dansar

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I just got my copy of The Beekeeper. There is some pretty good stuff in there including something from me but one thing it doesn't seem to have any more is a letter to the editor section.There is no real way for anyone to challenge, question or discuss what has been written. I'm sure not everyone will agree with what I have written most of which comes from experience and observation.
It sometimes feels like we have run out of new things to say on this forum and I for one would like to have a bit of debate on articles from this or any other beekeeping magazine. The article that really got me thinking in the latest edition is about Avner Cain and how he breeds the next generation of queens. I don't know enough about the science quoted to be able to form a valid opinion on it. It may 100% correct and I agree with a lot of his conclusions especially letting good hives raise their own queens , something I All do with up to 20 or 30% of my own hives but as for regularly using swarm cells the only thing you will get from that is hives with a genetic propensity to swarm. All hives will swarm given the right stimulation but you can decrease this propensity markedly by rigourous selection against swarming. Most beekeepers have been doing this for a very long time so that these days swarming though still a major problem is not anything like it was in the past. Swarming is unsurprisingly one of the hardest things to breed out of hives completely and along with aggression one of the quickest to revert.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that even if bees are selecting the very best genetics to put into their swarm cells it will be their idea of the best, not mine.
He spoke of his methods at the science symposium before the main APINZ event. If I remember correctly he was stimulating colonies closer to home that he could check regularly for swarm cells. He wasnt promoting it as the bee all of rearing queens but said it worked very well for him in their ( my words) ”lower hive density” area at the top of the Sth Island.
 
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I once found a swarm already in a cardboard box. They were beautiful, gentle bees and I put them onto foundation. I never had to feed them and they got nothing but foundation but went on to produce over 100 kg that year. They were so nice I decided to try breeding from them and guess what, her daughters all tried to swarm.
 
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New beekeepers are often told to cut down queencells to one (or two) after a colony has swarmed. Assuming there are other colonies available, the best thing to do is to remove all queencells from the swarmed hive and add a frame of brood from a non-swarmy stock. Ensure it's the inserted frame that produces the queen; Simple queen selection.
 
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New beekeepers are often told to cut down queencells to one (or two) after a colony has swarmed. Assuming there are other colonies available, the best thing to do is to remove all queencells from the swarmed hive and add a frame of brood from a non-swarmy stock. Ensure it's the inserted frame that produces the queen; Simple queen selection.
i've done the "leave a cell or two" before and have had them swarm again. not much left after that.
 
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Alastair

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Read the article and pretty much agree with the whole thing.

What has saved bees, is that unlike other domestic animals such as dogs whose breeding at least in pedigree lines is tightly controlled and has resulted in many dogs having deformities and costing the owner heaps of vet bills, for the most part bees open mate and humans cannot interfere as much, which has kept our bees resilient.

If you watch a wildlife film about the African savannah one thing that stands out is all the animals are superbly fit. If you look at a herd of zebra or wildebeest they are beautiful looking healthy animals. Because anything not fit is picked off by predators. With bees, it is possible to pick the best queen or two and breed hundreds of queens from it, the idea being to improve our bees. But the excellent condition of the herd animals in Africa is not achieved by breeding from just one or two of the best. It is achieved by the constant removal of the worst, and the majority get to breed, maintaining genetic diversity. In this, I agree with the article, he is breeding from most of the hives, except for the worst which he requeens.

As to swarming, something to think about is that bees have been reproducing by swarming for thousands of years and swarming was the only way they reproduced. However a balance was achieved because a strain that almost never swarmed would have been outbred by others, but a strain that overswarmed would have sent out lots of little swarms unlikely to survive, plus deplete the parent colony. So a balance has been reached where hives send out a primary swarm which is a big strong swarm with excellent chances of survival provided they find a suitable nesting site, and then maybe some afterswarms with virgins if the parent hive still has good numbers.
But humans can interfere with this, because we catch swarms even weak ones, house them, and care for them. Meaning that a greater number of swarms survive, and therefore lines that swarm more will gradually become more numerous.

When I was in the South Island, many hives never even tried to swarm, and any that did were marked to ensure they were never used as a breeder. But here in Auckland, every healthy hive will try to swarm, so there is little way to identify low swarming strains. I think this problem has got worse since the introduction of carniolan genetics.
 
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Read the article and pretty much agree with the whole thing.

What has saved bees, is that unlike other domestic animals such as dogs whose breeding at least in pedigree lines is tightly controlled and has resulted in many dogs having deformities and costing the owner heaps of vet bills, for the most part bees open mate and humans cannot interfere as much, which has kept our bees resilient.

If you watch a wildlife film about the African savannah one thing that stands out is all the animals are superbly fit. If you look at a herd of zebra or wildebeest they are beautiful looking healthy animals. Because anything not fit is picked off by predators. With bees, it is possible to pick the best queen or two and breed hundreds of queens from it, the idea being to improve our bees. But the excellent condition of the herd animals in Africa is not achieved by breeding from just one or two of the best. It is achieved by the constant removal of the worst, and the majority get to breed, maintaining genetic diversity. In this, I agree with the article, he is breeding from most of the hives, except for the worst which he requeens.

As to swarming, something to think about is that bees have been reproducing by swarming for thousands of years and swarming was the only way they reproduced. However a balance was achieved because a strain that almost never swarmed would have been outbred by others, but a strain that overswarmed would have sent out lots of little swarms unlikely to survive, plus deplete the parent colony. So a balance has been reached where hives send out a primary swarm which is a big strong swarm with excellent chances of survival provided they find a suitable nesting site, and then maybe some afterswarms with virgins if the parent hive still has good numbers.
But humans can interfere with this, because we catch swarms even weak ones, house them, and care for them. Meaning that a greater number of swarms survive, and therefore lines that swarm more will gradually become more numerous.

When I was in the South Island, many hives never even tried to swarm, and any that did were marked to ensure they were never used as a breeder. But here in Auckland, every healthy hive will try to swarm, so there is little way to identify low swarming strains. I think this problem has got worse since the introduction of carniolan genetics.
Swarms are the pleasure or pain of being a beekeeper.
When you first start off with little money, you spend more time and energy chasing all these 'free' swarms to build your hive numbers up.
A few yrs later, you find some hives starting to swarm, so you go great and use these 'free' swarm cells to split others.
A few yrs later, you only collect swarms if they causing a nuisance to others.
A few yrs later, you start to learn a bit about swams and may only collect them to squeeze the queen and use the bees for a weak hive.
A few yrs later, you don't even go collect them and tell the landowner to contact the local hobbyist club.
A few yrs later, you are pissed off from other bkprs swarms as they may reinfect your hives, as you got your swarming under control.
Many yrs later, all your bees sold, a thought pops into your head, maybe I could catch a swarm to have a 'free' hive in the backyard.
 
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As to swarming, something to think about is that bees have been reproducing by swarming for thousands of years and swarming was the only way they reproduced. However a balance was achieved because a strain that almost never swarmed would have been outbred by others, but a strain that overswarmed would have sent out lots of little swarms unlikely to survive, plus deplete the parent colony.
i don't think thats quite the case.
for eg carnies tend to be swarmy but thats also because they come from a hard environment where they need to swarm a lot to survive, sending out a lot of small swarms. any line that didn't died out. same thing with the old black bees before varroa wiped them out.

But humans can interfere with this, because we catch swarms even weak ones, house them, and care for them.
including caring for sick hives that we should really let die out. breed from the survivors.

But here in Auckland, every healthy hive will try to swarm, so there is little way to identify low swarming strains. I think this problem has got worse since the introduction of carniolan genetics.
yes, but its also a lot better since varroa because of the removal of the wild hives. its substantially easier to have better bees today than pre varroa.
 
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Why would queen genetics change in a single generation to make next generation swarmy? Sorry, not going to happen from a genetic point of view. Correlation vs causation issue I’d suggest. (Drownings increase as ice cream sales rise, for example)

As @Dansar said, Avner gave a great presentation at the Science symposium
 

Alastair

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The genetics won't be changed, but existing genetics can be amplified. So let's say there are still some pure'ish Italian hives that issue one primary swarm per season, or no swarm at all. And then there are carny'ish bees that issue a primary swarm, and 3 afterswarms per season, and most of them do it. Assuming these swarms are collected, or alternatively the swarm cells used for requeening, those swarmy bees will soon become prominent.

And it does happen here in Auckland. Pretty much any Carny type hive if healthy but not managed for swarming, will issue a primary swarm, then follow that with several afterswarms.
 
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Why would queen genetics change in a single generation to make next generation swarmy? Sorry, not going to happen from a genetic point of view. Correlation vs causation issue I’d suggest. (Drownings increase as ice cream sales rise, for example)

As @Dansar said, Avner gave a great presentation at the Science symposium
not sure which post you refer to here.

with swarming your never going to change all the genetics, its far to deeply emended. we only change a small amount to reduce swarming not remove swarming. it doesn't take much to bring that back.

the other thing to keep in mind is we are not always breeding out traits from the genes but rather replacing the genes by replacing the bee stock.
sometimes thats mass scale eg varroa.
also don't forget nz carnies which where all Italian based.
 
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Bee stocks in New Zealand have been managed for quite a long time and through a large number of generations. Over this time swarming is one of the characteristics that has been selected against. For all sorts of reasons including genetic, environmental and beekeeper variability a total lack of swarming has never been achieved as far as I know and as others have said some areas are far worse for swarming than others however in general our bees swarm a lot less than they used to. The point I was trying to make is that current beekeepers are not working with a truly wild unselected stock in fact quite the opposite. It has taken a long time to get to the point we are at at the moment and to encourage the use of swarmy genetics seems a major step backwards to me and if everybody took to doing it we might very quickly end up with bees like they were 100 years ago and then people might realise why beekeeper selected against unwanted characteristics in the first place.
It's not that I would never use a swarm cell. If I find a queenless hive and the only thing I have available is a swarm cell then I will use it but I also have a regular requeening policy which will soon enough remove both the swarming hive and her daughter from the gene pool.
 
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not sure which post you refer to here.

with swarming your never going to change all the genetics, its far to deeply emended. we only change a small amount to reduce swarming not remove swarming. it doesn't take much to bring that back.

the other thing to keep in mind is we are not always breeding out traits from the genes but rather replacing the genes by replacing the bee stock.
sometimes thats mass scale eg varroa.
also don't forget nz carnies which where all Italian based.

Basically referring to the sentiment echoed by Frazz of:
I’ve also never bred from a swarmy hive in the belief that swarmy queens produce swarmy queens.

Other beekeepers I have spoken with have always been happy to use swarm cells.
I am not talking about interbreeding with carnis etc - I am talking about taking a swarm cell from a given hive and suggesting that this queen is more likely to swarm as a result. Genetically, its not going to happen ! Its like leaving hives without strips and saying any survivor this season is now varroa resistant !

Bee stocks in New Zealand have been managed for quite a long time and through a large number of generations. Over this time swarming is one of the characteristics that has been selected against. For all sorts of reasons including genetic, environmental and beekeeper variability a total lack of swarming has never been achieved as far as I know and as others have said some areas are far worse for swarming than others however in general our bees swarm a lot less than they used to. The point I was trying to make is that current beekeepers are not working with a truly wild unselected stock in fact quite the opposite. It has taken a long time to get to the point we are at at the moment and to encourage the use of swarmy genetics seems a major step backwards to me

Our bees swarm a lot less - is because of genetics? Or because we are better at managing our bees due to increasingly commercial imperative that our hive *not* swarm (well, until recently anyway). Or another way of putting it, given the current market situation, might we expect to see more swarms among commercials this season?
 
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Our bees swarm a lot less - is because of genetics? Or because we are better at managing our bees
in my experience i would be picking genetics.
in my early days swarming badly was common for us and even with good management later on it wasn't much better. but as the genetics changed, due to lack of wild bees and later our own requeening, they swarm a whole lot less.
i think part of this is what do people consider bad swarming to be and what are the signs of the trait. eg a few swarm cells in a hive is pretty normal, bad is when there 40-50 of them. having a prime swarm go is not good but its not terrible. terrible is when it swarms constantly to the point there is no hive left.
 


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