“Survivor Bees Around the World; Why I No Longer Keep
Bee Culture (August 2005), Vol. 133 (8): 19-21.
In my October 2004 article on mite tolerance in honey bees, I mentioned
the July 2004 article by Dr. Tom Seeley, who is increasingly finding mite tolerant
Since then, I have found more evidence of untreated survivor stock. Yves Le Conte
UMR 406 INRA/UAPV Écologie
des Invertébrés, Laboratoire
Biologie et Protection de l’abeille, Site Agroparc, Domaine Saint-Paul, 84914 AVIGNON Cedex
9, France; E-mail: leconte#avignon.inra.fr
reports the following at the First European Conference of Apidology,
And I reported in April 2005 on the research by Dr. John Kefuss presented at the American Beekeeping Federation Convention in Reno, Nevada in January: “Dr. Kefuss has seen survival increase in colonies since 1993 in France through use of his James Bond test, ‘live and let die.’ This is often not rapid enough to confer Varroa tolerance for his taste, and so he has also implemented the ‘Bond accelerated treatment’ or BAT. Varroa-infested brood is directly introduced into colonies to provide greater challenges. In many cases 90 percent of the colonies so infested are dead in less than six months, but the ones that survive are good candidates for further breeding efforts. To maintain tolerance (resistance) Dr. Kefuss instrumentally inseminates daughters of resistant queens, and then spreads them out in different bee yards, where they are often naturally mated. In his own words, ‘Actually what we do is even more simple. Once we have selected breeder queens we produce virgins from them that are taken to out yards to mate. We also sometimes inseminate to produce breeder queens from our best stock. From these inseminated breeder queens we produce virgins that we mate naturally. So actually a beekeeper does not have to use insemination at all and should be able to get very good results.’”
Recently, my travels have
taken me to the war-ravaged country of
Those able to escape fled
into the mountains to resume a time-honored activity as peshmerga
irregulars. These fighters that
literally “face death” are formidable warriors with a history going as far back
as the 1920s and the fall of the
As I bumped over the roads
1. If you were to counsel those beginning from “scratch,” in a region where the bees and people have been devastated by conflict, how much would you suggest relying on local “survivor” bees? How long could or would you recommend waiting for an industry based on such a stock to develop?
needed new genetic material quickly, how would you go about importing queens
from the rest of the world with minimal risk?
(Note: so far Acarapis woodi has not
been found in
3. In rural villages with established populations of bees in traditional hives made of narrow woven baskets covered with wood ash as a wattle, would you recommend immediate transfer to Langstroth moveable-frame hives and elimination of the traditional hives as is currently proposed? If not, what would you recommend with reference to developing sustainable and appropriate beekeeping in this setting?
Ever since I sold my hives of
The major reasons I no longer keep bees include the fact that it is takes much more time, effort and expense that it did in the past. In addition, the keeping of bees forces me to be something that I really have no interest in becoming, a pesticide applicator. Thus, the activity no longer appeals to me as enjoyable. In summary, there are two words that have caused me to abandon keeping honey bees: Varroa destructor.
It is indeed ironic that the
cause of my abandoning the beekeeping craft has and continues to be other
beekeepers. The indiscriminant,
purposeful movement of bees and associated mites around the world by humans has
caused enormous transformation. The
history of the introduction of Varroa, and the
alacrity with which beekeepers around the world clambered aboard the “pesticide
treadmill” in response are tragic and well known. I was right in the thick of it as first Acarapis woodi
(tracheal mite) came to
My discussion with the Iraqis
included the usual litany of pesticide use, emergence of resistance to various
products, and the inevitable search for more toxic substitutes. I finished with a discussion of the recent
findings with respect of tolerant and “survivor bees.” As part of that I mentioned the fact that in
This brings to mind Kirk Webster’s article in the March 2005 Bee Culture entitled: Restoring Health. “After many dreary years,” Mr. Webster begins, “when the American beekeeping community seemed unshakably committed to stop-gap mite control measures that were sure to prove self-destructive in the long run, there are now popping up around the country various success stories from beekeepers producing good crops of honey, pollen, bees and queens without the powerful hormone-disrupting chemicals; and in some cases without any treatments at all.
He concludes: “The key point
here is that now there’s a viable and growing pool of unrelated, mite-resistant
bee stocks and management techniques being used in the
Indeed it is and not just for
He wrote, “Every year, a portion of the overwintered nucs are (sic) retained and allowed to grow onto 20-30 combs. Then, in June and July, each one of these large brood nests is broken up into from five to 10 four-frame nucs and provided with queens from the isolated mating yard. All of these nucs spend the following winter outdoors on just four or eight combs. Once the Russian stock became available, and the new queens were mated with proven drone mothers, I was able to wean this part of the apiary off all treatments in just one generation. Losses are higher than in the ‘good old days,’ but the enormous productivity of the system compensates for this, and now all the new queens are tested in the real world, and forced to sink or swim independent of half-baked theories, and the bias caused by counting mites.”
The “productivity” of Mr.
Webster’s nuc-producing colonies might mirror itself
in a similar system in
It could be that in a rural
village without many resources, a system based on many more traditional,
smaller colonies that are not treated and encouraged to swarm and become
“survivors” would be more productive in the aggregate than one founded on
larger moveable-frame colonies that require treatment and more resources. Frequent reproductive and migratory swarming are also thought to be one of the reasons that Africanized honey
Mr. Webster concludes: “My income was reduced as I invested my time and energy into the hope of a better future for my apiary. This may be an un-American stance to take…but I think it’s essential if the next generation is going to enjoy keeping bees as much as we have.”
To this statement, I can only
add a resounding “amen.” As I told those
1. Kurdistan Observer, accessed June 20, 2005 <http://home.cogeco.ca/~kurdistan3/26-6-04-opinion-ardishir-who-decide-for-kurdistan.html>