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Dave Black

Selecting breeding stock

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Is that a recommended practice to breed off a hive that can survive a high mite count.

The number of times we hear it, you would think so, but who among us has their queen rearing sufficiently 'sorted' to make varroa tolerance the primary goal? Just to remind us all of what the goals might be raising queens here are a dozen of mine, deliberately in no particular order:

 

Fecundity

Industrious

Longevity

Winter and/or spring development

Comb Building and cappings

Lack of swarming

Pollen collection

Temper

Calm on the combs

Light use of propolis

Drifting and orientation

Disease tolerant

 

I'm not an expert, but that's how I judge a queen, and yes, all these attributes can be selected for. I have not included varroa tolerance', deliberately.

 

Now 'selected' is the operative word. I don't recall anyone here using AI, so the basic principle is, make a load of queens, cull out the rubbish, and repeat. SO the other important word is 'testing'. If you're not testing, you're not selecting.

 

I'm interested to know, especially from those of you that do this on some scale, if we were to make a 'top five' what would the order of importance be, and if we drop some to 'insert' varroa tolerance, which do we drop?

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My top five would be,

 

gentleness,

honey production,

calm on the comb,

non swarming,

Big Fat Yellow Drones :)

 

Disease tolerant isn't really something I would select for because the queens would be snuffed if they had any issues and would not get past 1st base so to speak.

 

I would like to add another thats important for us and thats hygenic behavior.

Initially it's often what the bottom board looks like on our first spring inspection followed by a pin prick test which is not as good as nitrogen but it's what we do.

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I just select for good temperament and good production. To big a wish list doesn't happen for small guys like me.

 

But I also select for varro tolerance, But SO OFTEN, they are not the hives that meet my other reqirements.

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i tried to select from carni/italian hybrids and the results are unpleasant, simply speaking.

so after ruling out the hybrids, i have only a handful left. this makes my choice very simple, positively speaking,

and doesn't allow for any fancy selection, leave alone varroa tolerance. :(

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My boss buys old carniolan breeding queens for our spring queen cell round, we also use these breeders for our autumn cells that they are still viable. For my own hives I just pick a nice docile Italian hive that seems to produce honey. Hybrids bees can be a bit nasty but they are good workers most of the time.

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I'm interested in this forum. I would like to breed my own qs, read a book by Vince Cook (Q rearing Simplified) which has taken the mystery out of it.

 

I've been hobby Bking for a couple of years after starting with two hives from swarms. I've requeened those two hives in spring 2013 and gone from two very docile hives to two very angry hives which has made the last season not as enjoyable as the first..... good honey production though. The two queen cells I bought were from same supplier so assume they are the reason why I have angry hives now. That is why I'm looking at breeding my own queens....I figure if I had of done that in the first place I would be ok.

 

So... I am assuming if I breed queens from my two (angry) hives I'm just gonna perpetuate the problem and I'll need to locate a supplier that breeds for docility and then maybe give breeding my own a go? Has anyone got any comments on this?

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The queen cells you got are (if they are the queens that actually took over the hives), 1/2 the genetics you now have. The other 1/2 are from neighbourhood drones.

 

What breed of bee did you used to have, what breed were the queen cells, and what do the bees you have now look like?

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i am good friend with a commercial beekeeper who purchases Better-Bee queens , in my opinion these queens have outstanding temperament and performance they absolutely go nuts during the season even during the drought they somehow have managed to bring in a pronominal amount of honey and i like to renew my stock every year, they are amazing layer, anyone else use these guys queens ? the only issue to pruchase a breeder queen is the price tag but if you have a large quantity of queens will be defiantly worth while :)

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One of the most gentle and Italian type queen I got was from @frazzledfozzle last year. The daughter queens I grafted from that queen is also producing very gentle bees. They did produce well in hamilton.

 

You just have to ask around to find out whats available. There are some great breeders and bees out there who dont advertise a lot. So its not heard of much.

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the original swarm hives were the darker carniolan type and now bees are more lighter colour. The Q cells were the queens who took over the hive. These latest bees chase people and can sting quite some distance from the hive. tks for comments

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When talking about temper, one beek bumped on cheap colonies, healthy and strong and bought around 10-20 of them, at the moment if I recall right had around 100 colonies. These bought ones were like from hell. In several seasons as claimed all gone wild. He had to requeen whole apiary to sort it out..

Main which I don't tolerate is temper. Mostly what I had experience, temper was in connection with swarm tendency, nervous on the comb, bearding on the frame when holding it. But I can't say, some had good qualities regarding comb building, yields, spring build up - but docile colonies are good at it also. For me minuses prevail, and when emerge such nasty one, I retire the queen as soon as possible..

I talk about carnies, cause we have them here.

Mostly when people talk to me, that fiesty ones are stronger - more bees when open the hive. I say sure when all are on you and only queen and few bees leave in the hive, while docile ones remain on the frame..

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I've requeened those two hives in spring 2013 and gone from two very docile hives to two very angry hives which

why did you requeen them? were the queens/hives failing?

 

The two queen cells I bought were from same supplier so assume they are the reason why I have angry hives now

if you bought queen cells then the queens open mated with drones from your area. I doubt that the supplier is at fault. If you'd bought a laying queen from the supplier and this happened then you might have cause to complain...

 

That is why I'm looking at breeding my own queens....I figure if I had of done that in the first place I would be ok.

interesting assumption to make.

 

you should definitely take a look at answering this question more clearly

What breed of bee did you used to have, what breed were the queen cells, and what do the bees you have now look like?

Sounds like you had carniolans and you brought in italian queen cells (is the new queen golden in colour?) and the new queen went and mated with a mix of carnie and cross-bred drones. A few people have stories about this type of out-breeding resulting in aggressive bees...

 

These latest bees chase people and can sting quite some distance from the hive. tks for comments

if you're in an urban environment then you are morally negligent to not address this issue pronto.

I'd start a new thread (something like 'aggressive bees - advice please, requeen?' and hope that people like @frazzledfozzle or @Jose Thayil or (actually, i'll stop listing, there are plenty of people here who know a lot!) chip in with their advice on what you should do in this specific situation.

 

I've had one aggressive hive this season, a caught swarm. It is now split into three hives, and each is rearing (or has reared) emergency queens from eggs/larvae sourced from my calmest and most productive hives. I'm lucky though, open mating here has resulted in beautiful and tranquil bees that seem to bring in plenty of honey...

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A few years ago we purchased hives from a retiring beekeeper they were predominantly AMM.

Every time you opened the hive they would all pile out leaving half a dozen bees and the queen inside.

Full of chalk brood too. Theres no way you could use those hives for pollination.

 

They were so aggressive that more than a few times you would see me hiding in the bushes trying to get away from them.

 

It took a long time to get them right becaus they would kill any caged queen and using queencells was useless because the virgin would mate with AMMs

 

The most effective way to requeen was to do a paper unite with a nuc.

 

How people can put up with that type of bee is totally beyond me.

 

One of the positives to come from varroa was losing the feral AMMs

 

.

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They were so aggressive that more than a few times you would see me hiding in the bushes trying to get away from them.
Oh I wanted to see that.

 

the original swarm hives were the darker carniolan type and now bees are more lighter colour. The Q cells were the queens who took over the hive. These latest bees chase people and can sting quite some distance from the hive. tks for comments
As per Tommy it does sound like you started with Carniolans. In their pure form they can be very docile, during a flow, anyway. Cross them with something else and different things can happen, including aggression, but not always. You didn't say what breed the queen cells were but as your bees have gone lighter maybe the cells were Italian and they have mated with carniolan drones creating a hybrid.

 

But there are any number of things could have happened it's not possible from this info to say exactly what. Things are not always what they may seem either. One guy bought a queen from me, then I heard from someone else he had said not to buy my queens they were very aggressive. Later the guy himelf complained to me, in the conversation he mentioned the bees were black. But the queen I sold him was pure Italian. So by whatever means, the queen I sold him had not taken, and the bees had requeened themselves. Queen breeders cop a lot of blame in this exact scenario, repeatedly.

 

If your bees are also chasing people around the lawn, my suspicion is there may also be a little AMM in the mix.

 

However aggressive hives are not the end of the world. All you need do is requeen, get mated queens then you have a known quantity. But if you want to breed your own, try that. As the progeny of your bees mate with drones in the area, your local strain may get purer and less aggressive.

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I know one beek who favorize only aggressive colonies. As main reason, stronger and higher yields. But often I heard inspection ended with running to corn field or in bushes.. Mine are not all calm as much I want to, but I am on good path..

 

One ex beek told me how he once was away from home and swarm released from a hive, equipment weren't nearby and his father found some old wedding veil.. Unfortunately he shaked on himself bees and all ended as "runaway bride" through orchard..

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Ha Ha runaway bride, that's funny! :)

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When I was a young guy and living in a flat, the flatmates Granddad was killed by bees. His dog urinated on the stump they lived in, bees didn't like that and swarmed all over the dog, which ran to it's owner. Wherever he ran the dog ran, till they were both killed.

 

Didn't see the hive but my guess is probably AMM.

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this thread kinda begs the question, what is a hive like that has a queen thats mated with both pure Italian and pure carnie drones. ie the hives has a mix of bees that are a lot different to each other. do the different groups of bee all work together or do they tend to scrap with each other. especially as the groups will vary in size due to whatever semen is used to fertilize with at the time. would the pheromone and bee behavior chop and change as more/less of each type of bee is hatched?

 

so would it be better to stick to the type of bees that everyone around you has?

and slowly add in variation?

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Good question, especially since the dance is a bit different between Italians and carniolans so they don't speak the same language.

 

However a few years back I caught a swarm that were light Italians and another swarm jet black carniolans. So just to see how it would work I combined them into a two queen unit, the hive really pumped, it was in my back yard in the suburbs, progressively harvested boxes of honey from it and over the season it made 185 kg's of honey.

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aggression and production are not related except perhaps where hybrid vigger is involved. Hive temperament is a very complicated thing and even the best hives will react when conditions are not suitable. The same hive will also act differently in different areas with Canterbury being a place where bees seem to be remarkably calm, Hawke's Bay somewhere in between while the same hive on the Coromandel Peninsula will always be more aggressive on average. I would rate temperament above all else when selecting a breeder followed by production. Disease resistance is important as is non-swarming but hives that are disease prone or have swarmed simply don't have the production to get them anywhere near being selected.

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Forage can also influence on temperament, like at my place during linden/lime flow. More aggressive than usual, I think I read due to some alcaloids in nectar. They can be really nasty then.

Also more aggressive in spring untill old winter bees are gone, when they are gone completely different colony..

I talked with one beek who is also from science side in beekeeping. In informal talk he said it is connected aggressiveness and productivity. But I am not convinced in that due to my experience, calm ones are my best when looking in yields and swarming tendency.

Since I am amateur and with open mating I can only pray to get calm stock. Only what I try is late queen rearing of chosen colonies, which I wanted to expand in growing queen lines and drone lines.. But due some other things I won't be able to play with for now..

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Interesting thought @Goran regarding your bees being more aggressive on a linden flow. Our bees get titchy when the barberry is yielding.

 

Its very noticable with the flow being short and sharp with a ton of nectar coming in.

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Here my main forage is black locust. Also high yields and last 7-14 days ( more likely 7 and less for more years unfortunatelly). In flow per day in peak exceed 10kg ( some claim up to 18kg) per hive per day. It is special feeling when weather, black locust and strong colonies click. Whole area is filled with one rhytmical pulsating buzz, you can feel happiness, sadly less and less happening. Then when some colony is aggressive is definitelly for queen replacement. You can do with them in that time whatever you want, splitting, merging without paper, combining, requeening. But I try to avoid interfering while the good flow is on. Sometimes when I replace the queen, before her brood emerge the colony calm down, also explained to me due to queen pheromones.

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so would it be better to stick to the type of bees that everyone around you has?

and slowly add in variation?

It is a good question and I would say you are right, but not for the reason you suggest. We should remember that workers have (usually) 12-17 fathers (patrilines) and that the genetic variation that results is exactly what makes social bees such a success. The difference between strains is specific and actually relatively subtle compared with the difference between individuals that exists anyway. Because the individuals do not all react the same way they have collectively a flexible, progressive response to things like pheromones, sweetness, and so on. For example, if all the bees sensed alarm pheromones at the same level and reacted in the same way they might all rush out, all sting the invader, and there would be no bees left. The fact that there are some very sensitive ones, then others progressively less sensitive, means that the response becomes proportional to the level of threat and gradually escalates. Almost everything bees do, from comb building and queen cell construction to collecting nectar, relies on the same variety of sensitivity and response.

@Alastair points out the different strains have different 'dialects', which is perfectly true, but the dance 'language' anyway is also imprecise. That has the useful function of sending foragers to slightly different patches sometimes, expanding the colony's search and gathering ability. Within the same strain an individual bee will have a different threshold for performing a shaking signal for example, or to responding to being shaken.

I think all this is why we don't, in practice, have much difficulty mixing strains of workers. The reason I think it wise to use what strains are around you is because usually the experience of the majority has shown they are the most suitable for the area you share.

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One advice what read from one queen grower is if you find one line. Requeen all the colonies to be from same mother, also growing drones in abundance and share in all hives to breed them. Also later in a day releasing unmated queens then usual. And then just select and keep the ones which are OK.

It has some sense to me, but it is intensive work and need devotion. In my case time is limiting factor for that.

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