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Thread: Honeybee races - nature or nurture?

  1. #1

    Default Honeybee races - nature or nurture?

    This is a question which I'm finding of increasing interest and I wondered if some of our experienced (or not so experienced) forumites might care to give us their take on it.

    So.....we all know that Bro Adam travelled the world in his quest for the best bee races to use in his breeding for the "perfect" bee. In doing so he categorised such and such a race as being swarmy or another as being fond of the use of propolis etc etc. My question is this - are these and other characteristics intrinsic to these races of bee and unchangeable through breeding?

    And if, as someone mentioned to me recently, AMM is less suitable for migratory beekeeping through a susceptibility to nosema is this something we could change through selective breeding? My instinct is to say that we can pretty much select for anything and change it with enough selective breeding.

    It raises some interesting possible scenarios if that is the case. Could we change outright the generally accepted characteristics of any bee?

    Anyone for a thrifty, non-prolific, cold weather mating Italian queen?!

  2. #2

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    Quote Originally Posted by drumgerry View Post
    Anyone for a thrifty, non-prolific, cold weather mating Italian queen?!
    Like they have in Finland.

  3. #3

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    If you mean the Italian bees kept by finman from beekeepingforum Pete doesn't he give them an artificial heat source over the winter? Not something that would appeal to me I must say.

  4. #4

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    No, he does not give them an artificial heat source over winter, only in early spring when he feeds pollen sub, they are quite well adapted, as they need to stop brooding in late August/early Sept, or die over winter, not something the Italian bees do in most other parts of the world, i believe several large beefarms in Finland also use mainly Italian bees, like paradise with around 3,000 colonies apparently. I prefer to stick to a well adapted Buckfast for here in swamp world.
    Last edited by Pete L; 22-03-2015 at 12:50 AM.

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by drumgerry View Post
    This is a question which I'm finding of increasing interest and I wondered if some of our experienced (or not so experienced) forumites might care to give us their take on it.

    And if, as someone mentioned to me recently, AMM is less suitable for migratory beekeeping through a susceptibility to nosema is this something we could change through selective breeding? My instinct is to say that we can pretty much select for anything and change it with enough selective breeding.

    It raises some interesting possible scenarios if that is the case. Could we change outright the generally accepted characteristics of any bee?
    !
    Hi Drumgerry
    Possibly a bee with a rapid build up like Carniolans would do best where the target crop is rape
    But I would have thought the Amm type with a slower build up would be a good one to take to a late crop like heather

    Both types will consider swarming when the population is peaking so Carnies will be ready to swarm first

    By the time a few seasons have gone by though and the daughter queens are mated with the local drones and grandaughter queens etc there will probably be not much between the two.

    I don't think there will be much nosema difference
    In some old books they tell of AMM being wiped out by wax moth etc but we never hear of that now so either it was a myth( like witches cursing the cow that died)or the AMM of the past are not much like the old black bee they wrote about then

    Old Brother Adam on his collecting trips was often quite scathing about certain strains of bee (within a race) and was intent on finding a sort of gold standard from each race to add to his breeding program

    I kind of think crossing a sheepdog and a labrador will get you a nice dog, but don't expect it to solve the problem of a blind shepherd

  6. #6

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    Thanks DR - interesting stuff. I guess what I'm really asking is how far we can take selective breeding of bees. In other livestock they've bred from wee wild sheep that roamed the desert or the mountain sides to ones who can provide three fat lambs or a heavy milk yield and similarly with cattle etc etc.

    Bro Adam and others say for example that Carnies are like this and AMM are like that. What I'm asking is why can't we breed an AMM with qualities other than those widely accepted. The follow up question might be why would we want to. The answer I would hope would be that producing a bee with quality X whatever that might be would make imports less of a go to option.

  7. #7
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    I think the variation within subspecies (or even daughters of the same queen!) is huge and what people talk of are merely tendencies rather than definite traits. I believe you can explain almost anything with a bell curve, and all we're doing by measuring traits and selectively breeding is attempting to push the meat of the bell one way or the other.

  8. #8

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    Management techniques play a vital role too.. if you confine a certain strain of amm to 1 brod box they will be seen as swarmy but other strains kept in poly rather than wood will build up slow or vice versa.

    A lot of our stereotypical traits are probably down to a handful of beekeepers-of-the-past and their preference/limited knowledge of wide range of variation with sub species.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by drumgerry View Post
    Thanks DR - interesting stuff. I guess what I'm really asking is how far we can take selective breeding of bees. In other livestock they've bred from wee wild sheep that roamed the desert or the mountain sides to ones who can provide three fat lambs or a heavy milk yield and similarly with cattle etc etc.

    Bro Adam and others say for example that Carnies are like this and AMM are like that. What I'm asking is why can't we breed an AMM with qualities other than those widely accepted. The follow up question might be why would we want to. The answer I would hope would be that producing a bee with quality X whatever that might be would make imports less of a go to option.
    Hi Drumgerry
    I'm pretty sure you could start with any bee and select for the traits you most want
    Epigenetics ie all the genes are present in every bee but which ones are activated ?

    Trouble is that unlike the sheep and the cows etc we are not in control of both sides of the mating
    Local adapted drones get involved and very few people can avoid that

    Brother Adam really was taking a breeding shortcut because he was collecting bees which had the traits he wanted
    From there, and with a fairly isolated position, he tried crossing those bees and fixing the traits in his new matings
    He succeeded in his location but that wouldn't work for most people

    Time to get the AI kit out

  10. #10

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    Ha DR! The II kit I sold because I don't have the time to devote to it!

    So if the genes are there we should in theory be able to pick and choose. Within the limits of open mating for most of us to be sure though. II of course adds another dimension to the whole process. Doing it as part of a group effort or, dare I say it, a national effort and it starts to get even more interesting. Especially if some of those involved can add II into the mix. Has Gavin mentioned to you that we're thinking of starting up a new Scottish Native Bee group? If not why not Gav??!

    Interesting to hear that the potential exists though.

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