Mixing races of bees

Discussions of honeybee genetics, epigenetics, hygiene related genetics, breeding, etc.
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Dustymunky
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Mixing races of bees

Postby Dustymunky » Fri Sep 30, 2016 4:02 am

I started out with 3 hives which were 3 different races: Carniolan, Russian hybrid (Yugo), and Caucasian. I know that no bees in North America are pure bred. I have read that the farther you get from purebred races, the less productive bees become. I also read that when bees swarm in a mixed race hive they often swarm along race lines. Anyone know if this is true? Should I stick to one race of bees? https://www.beeworks./informationcentre ... _bees.html

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Dustymunky
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Re: Mixing races of bees

Postby Dustymunky » Fri Sep 30, 2016 4:03 am

The link doesn't seem to work but the site is bee works.com and article is mongrel bees

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Michael Bush
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Re: Mixing races of bees

Postby Michael Bush » Fri Sep 30, 2016 12:17 pm

In my experience it's not all one of the other. Let's look at it another way. If you let bees (or anything else) breed on their own a natural homogeneity eventually emerges. Squirrels, for example, where I live are all kind of gray with brown tips on the hairs. Now in a couple of cities near here people started protecting black squirrels and now there is a population of black squirrels. In nature these tend to get caught by predators, but there aren't many predators in the city. My point is, though, we now have a "race". So when the bees in a particular area get homogeneous it becomes a local bee. When you take a lot of bees that were a local bee from someplace (carni, caucasian, russian, italian...) and cross them, you are taking several races and crossing them. This is different from the "local mutts" in several ways. First they are an F1 cross and second they may be quite dissimilar from one another. A good cross is usually two that are similar rather than two that are very different. I once saw a cross between a german shepherd and a basset hound. It looked like someone took a german shepherd and cut it's legs off. It was very ugly. This is a cross between two purebreds. Those races (carni, caucsian, russian, italian...) had a good SET of characteristics that worked together to make them successful where they were. Some of those traits are counter to the ones in other races and some are incompatible with each other, i.e. they cancel each other out. So, I guess my point is, mongrel (as in recently crossed races) bees sometimes are not very productive. But local feral bees are often very productive. They have adapted (read: the ones that weren't adapted died) to the local climate and flows and problems. The population has reached a certain level of stability.
"Everything works if you let it"--James "Big Boy" Medlin
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Re: Mixing races of bees

Postby lharder » Fri Sep 30, 2016 1:49 pm

Seems to me that beekeepers as they progress through the years and raise their own queens, that productivity rises over time. Probably partially due to experience, but also from local bee adaptation as well.

But initially, there would be some chaos as whatever genetics they started with sorts it self out. I think I am experiencing some of that. But this seems to take the form of widely varying performance rather than universal mediocrity.

I plan on introducing new genetics, but not to have a pure strain, but rather to increase local genetic diversity. I may have some tools at hand to actually track what is in the area, and bring in missing traits. If they are useful, then their frequency would rise in a local population, otherwise fade to some lurker status.

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Re: Mixing races of bees

Postby Nordak » Fri Sep 30, 2016 8:42 pm

lharder wrote:But initially, there would be some chaos as whatever genetics they started with sorts it self out. I think I am experiencing some of that. But this seems to take the form of widely varying performance rather than universal mediocrity.


I am seemingly experiencing the same thing. Interestingly enough, there were variations between two of the feral captures I've had, so even in the open environment where one would think a certain homogenous population exists, it might not necessarily be the case. One of these populations has nearly swarmed itself out of my apiary this year. They are very good honey producers, yet showed adaptation to the environment. I've never seen bees with such low population density make so much honey. Very defensive bees as well, though.The ones I've propagated from mostly are just good bees all around. Very easy to work, decent honey production, not aggressive, great resistance by all observations. Things seem to be settling down in terms of the chaotic behavior between hives, and I'd argue that this year has been my best year in terms of feeling secure on where my apiary stands.

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Re: Mixing races of bees

Postby lharder » Sat Oct 01, 2016 1:35 pm

I think that swarming impulse in feral stocks would always be there because of the proportion of small vs cavities for them to nest in. It may be exasperated by mites/viruses. If there is more mid season death than there was pre mite, then the cost of a late swarm (almost 100 percent failure pre mite) is not so high. Lots of factors can affect swarming strategies so lots of hand waving :)

Seeley's work with feral bees is very appealing to me. I hope I can settle a bit and find some time to find some using some of his technique and maybe ask some evolutionary and ecological questions about them that maybe can be pursued a bit. Maybe ask about genetic linkages between them and tf (mine and I hear one other) and treated stock over time.

But first I gotta find some time and some ferals.

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Re: Mixing races of bees

Postby Nordak » Sat Oct 01, 2016 4:39 pm

lharder wrote:But first I gotta find some time and some ferals.


I hope you find both. I'd love to hear more on what you discover. I think from what little I know of your climate, the ferals are probably there. Just keep setting up your traps and I bet you get a hit one of these days.

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Re: Mixing races of bees

Postby lharder » Mon Oct 03, 2016 2:44 pm

Maybe a winter project to set up a beelining box like Seeley's. Then start hanging out in areas where I don't think there are any apiaries and see if I can track some down. My summers are pretty busy doing 3 things at once so my apiary income has to grow to point where one of those things is displaced. Maybe I can have some fun a day a week and combine it with a fishing/hiking trip or something.

If I can find some, then I can ask some people to hang some swarm traps.

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Dustymunky
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Re: Mixing races of bees

Postby Dustymunky » Mon Oct 03, 2016 11:36 pm

Thanks for the replies. I think I'm going to stick with Caucasians and any swarms I catch. They will be mated with local drones so who knows what type of bees I will have in 5-10 yrs. I did have some problems with the Russian bees this year. I think they were too different from the caucasians and Carniolans I had.

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Re: Mixing races of bees

Postby lharder » Tue Oct 04, 2016 2:11 pm

Oh those Russians... What problems did you have?

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Nordak
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Re: Mixing races of bees

Postby Nordak » Wed Oct 05, 2016 1:50 am

lharder wrote:Maybe a winter project to set up a beelining box like Seeley's. Then start hanging out in areas where I don't think there are any apiaries and see if I can track some down. My summers are pretty busy doing 3 things at once so my apiary income has to grow to point where one of those things is displaced. Maybe I can have some fun a day a week and combine it with a fishing/hiking trip or something.

If I can find some, then I can ask some people to hang some swarm traps.


Out of curiosity, how far removed are you from other beeks? Do you feel your bees are the source that is sustaining the open mating population?

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Dustymunky
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Re: Mixing races of bees

Postby Dustymunky » Wed Oct 05, 2016 3:14 am

I reared Russian and Caucasian queens this year. The Russian hive made multiple queen cells. I took the ones out I wanted and placed in queen castle. I moved queen out first, to get emergency cells, and put her in a seperate nuc. The hive swarmed with a virgin even though it wasn't very strong. The remaining new queen layed for a few weeks then disappeared.

I also combined a queenless Caucasian hive with a Russian nuc I made. Caucasians tried to supercede Russian queen. I removed the emergency cells and everything eventually worked out with that hive. I'm sure a lot of my issues were due to my inexperience but it seemed the vast majority of my issues were with the Russians. Just seems that it would be simpler without the extra headaches the Russians gave me.

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Re: Mixing races of bees

Postby lharder » Wed Oct 05, 2016 2:47 pm

There are lots of beekeepers around, most with only a few hives. My plan is not to distance myself from everyone but become a dominant local source of genetics with bees that survive. I think I may have overwintered nucs to sell next spring so I hope to infiltrate that way as well. Its a bit of a double edged sword. Survivor genetics would get diluted, but I get access to other possibly beneficial traits. Perhaps a better long term approach with some short term pain. I do have opportunity to put some hives in the mountains for July/August and do some isolated matings. A tentative plan for next year or the year after depending on overwinter success. Might end up being an interesting comparison.

On the Russian thing, I've heard its difficult to place russian queens on other races of bees and vice versa. My stock is largely Russian hybrids and haven't had problems with swarming at all, especially with new nucs. But I've always been very proactive about giving space even with the new mating nucs, especially when its hot. I had some in 5 frame mediums (started with 2 frames of brood) that would cluster on the outside of the box before a queen had a mating flight and I immediately gave them another box and they would march back in and get to work. I think I would have had some absconds if I didn't take action. Maybe they knew instinctively that a five frame medium wasn't viable for the winter so why put any work into it. I also kept the mating nucs spatially separated and had excellent mating returns this year compared to last.

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Re: Mixing races of bees

Postby GregV » Wed Feb 01, 2017 3:55 am

lharder wrote:On the Russian thing, ........ Maybe they knew instinctively that a five frame medium wasn't viable for the winter so why put any work into it...

About this...
The Russians, indeed, seem to be very sensitive to the space on hand so they have where to grow.

Large horizontal hives are historically popular there (in Russia) - you basically start a season with half-empty long hive with the bees situated at one end and you grow them sideways (similar to TB). There is a separator board that should not block access to the empty half of the hive just enough to allow the bees under/around it. This way the bees always know they have tons of free space on the other side of the board if they ever need it... Keeps them stay put.

Google "Lazutin", "russian horizontal hive".

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Re: Mixing races of bees

Postby lharder » Wed Feb 01, 2017 4:27 pm

Yes, I am very proactive giving space especially in spring. They build lots of comb for me as a result. Lots of keepers around here like to keep full boxes, but they have to split fairly aggressively in the spring to keep them from swarming. I add space earlier and steal frames of brood on an ongoing basis to make nucs. But no big splits.


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