DNA tests for varroa resistance traits

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Fusion_power 

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A few of you may recall that a researcher (Geoff Williams) tested my bees for varroa November 2nd, 2019. Here is the text from that set of samples.

"Geoff Williams with Auburn University came out today and collected bee and mite samples from 8 of my colonies at one apiary location. I have only taken mite counts from one or two colonies over the years so today was rather eye opening. Criteria was that each colony sampled had to be at least 2 years old, not treated, not manipulated to reduce mites. I had 8 colonies that met these criteria. i have not treated since the winter of 2004/2005. I routinely split very strong colonies in spring to prevent swarming so these colonies represent the 8 that were not split. I do not manipulate my bees to reduce mite counts by for example cutting out drone brood. We found plenty of hive beetles in all colonies. We found drones in 4 out of the 8 colonies with 2 colonies having most of the drones. Samples were taken as 500 bees for DNA extraction, 300 bees were used for an alcohol wash.

#1 - 29 mites, 9.7%, Buckfast daughter
#2 - 12 mites, 4.0%
#3 - 8 mites, 2.7%
#4 - 2 mites, 0.7%
#5 - 4 mites, 1.4%
#6 - 17 mites, 5.7%
#7 - 23 mites, 7.7%
#8 - 35 mites, 11.7%, queen raised this year, colony had problems last year but made it through winter.

#8 showed stress from mites which was mostly shown by a low overall population. #1 was deliberately included as a check. She is a Buckfast daughter mated to mite resistant drones. If you read carefully through the percentages, half of these colonies could be considered resistant to highly resistant. Sample size is obviously small so don't read too much into it.

The 500 bee sample will be sent to Switzerland for further tests. "

Last night, I received a follow-up email. Summarized, they did not find evidence of known genetic markers for varroa tolerance, but they did find my bees have a high level of a mutation in "Iroquois Hombox Factor" which affects bristle development. What is unique is that they did not find this mutation in any of the other samples sequenced. I could speculate this mutation is associated with acarine tolerance or it might be the reason my bees survive varroa without treatments. Time will tell.

For historic background, I have not treated my bees for varroa since 2005. I raise queens from the best honey producers and the colonies that have low to very low varroa counts. A significant factor is that I live in a relatively isolated area.
 

Boston Bees 

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A few of you may recall that a researcher (Geoff Williams) tested my bees for varroa November 2nd, 2019. Here is the text from that set of samples.

"Geoff Williams with Auburn University came out today and collected bee and mite samples from 8 of my colonies at one apiary location. I have only taken mite counts from one or two colonies over the years so today was rather eye opening. Criteria was that each colony sampled had to be at least 2 years old, not treated, not manipulated to reduce mites. I had 8 colonies that met these criteria. i have not treated since the winter of 2004/2005. I routinely split very strong colonies in spring to prevent swarming so these colonies represent the 8 that were not split. I do not manipulate my bees to reduce mite counts by for example cutting out drone brood. We found plenty of hive beetles in all colonies. We found drones in 4 out of the 8 colonies with 2 colonies having most of the drones. Samples were taken as 500 bees for DNA extraction, 300 bees were used for an alcohol wash.

#1 - 29 mites, 9.7%, Buckfast daughter
#2 - 12 mites, 4.0%
#3 - 8 mites, 2.7%
#4 - 2 mites, 0.7%
#5 - 4 mites, 1.4%
#6 - 17 mites, 5.7%
#7 - 23 mites, 7.7%
#8 - 35 mites, 11.7%, queen raised this year, colony had problems last year but made it through winter.

#8 showed stress from mites which was mostly shown by a low overall population. #1 was deliberately included as a check. She is a Buckfast daughter mated to mite resistant drones. If you read carefully through the percentages, half of these colonies could be considered resistant to highly resistant. Sample size is obviously small so don't read too much into it.

The 500 bee sample will be sent to Switzerland for further tests. "

Last night, I received a follow-up email. Summarized, they did not find evidence of known genetic markers for varroa tolerance, but they did find my bees have a high level of a mutation in "Iroquois Hombox Factor" which affects bristle development. What is unique is that they did not find this mutation in any of the other samples sequenced. I could speculate this mutation is associated with acarine tolerance or it might be the reason my bees survive varroa without treatments. Time will tell.

For historic background, I have not treated my bees for varroa since 2005. I raise queens from the best honey producers and the colonies that have low to very low varroa counts. A significant factor is that I live in a relatively isolated area.
OK
 

Ian123 

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That’s good news but not all of us are lucky to live in an area with Africanised honey bees!
 

Fusion_power 

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I work my bees wearing a t-shirt and veil and have less problems than most beekepers with Italian or Carniolan queens. Africanized bees are unadapted an area with significant winter cold temperatures. What I have seen here is that Africanized genetics die out within 2 or 3 years. I had some queens from BWeaver that showed significant Africanization. These 3 queens were purchased in 2015. I kept one of the queens as a breeder and had daughters from her until last year. The Africanized bees were not adapted to a temperate climate and showed it by dying out over winter. This may be an area listed as having Africanized bees. You can't tell it by my bees or by the bees of others in the area. European bees can handle the weather. Any colony with significant Africanization can't.

Steve Taber documented that Scutellata was brought in to Baton Rouge about 80 years ago. Even though they are highly invasive in tropical areas and even into some areas of Texas, they did not spread from Baton Rouge. The combination of high rainfall and cold winter temperatures is effective at eliminating Africanized bees.
 

Ian123 

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I particularly liked this 1 after the WEATHER FORECAST
 
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Fusion_power 

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Yes, they have been found in south Alabama. I'm in North Alabama some 450 km north from there. The weather difference is considerable. I lived near Mobile for a year back in 1980. The comparison you are making is roughly equivalent to the difference between the English maritime climate and the Spanish Mediterranean climate. In February of this year, we had 6 inches of snow and ice that lasted a week. Mobile wouldn't know what to do with 6 inches of snow.

More important, why do you have a problem with Africanized bees? Do you somehow think they are going to gang up on you, pick you up, and fly you off into the nearest splash of water?
 

Ian123 

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More important, why do you have a problem with Africanized bees? Do you somehow think they are going to gang up on you, pick you up, and fly you off into the nearest splash of water?
Don’t recall suggesting I had a problem, I’ve spent some time working them.
From the US long established beemaster site confirming ahb in the north. Africanized bees confirmed in Alabama

Here’s a old map showing ahb area’s inc AL also considerable areas further north Google Image Result for https://www.adkinsbeeremoval.com/queen%20breeders%20&%20ahb%20habitat%20suitability.jpg
You said yourself you purchased ahb queens from weavers some 6 years ago and continued to breed from them. They appear to have lasted ok
You also said you don’t do any manipulations to hinder varroa, but you then say you create lots of splits. Are you aware this brood break is in itself a manipulation that will reduce mite levels considerably? So could the background ahb and your management style be responsible for your success with lack of treatments? There were a good few years that southern queen rearers robustly denied any AHB influence in their bees even when evidence/experience from buyers proved otherwise. Then there was the lusbys who if I recall correctly also denied any ahb influence in their bees and claimed success was down to small cell. If you’ve been around and kept bees for long enough you’ll have seen claims for wonder cures, super resistant bees. Even hive designs that tap into the earth’s energy or some such b&llocks! Can’t really recall any lasting the course😂
 
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Fusion_power 

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Lusby's were definitely Africanized. You can easily confirm Africanized bees wherever they show up. Their behavior is unmistakable. They don't do a very good job of surviving in areas with reasonably cold winters. As I stated earlier, the last queen I had with Africanized ancestry died out last spring. The bees I have now are easily worked in a t-shirt and veil. For that matter, I worked the BWeaver queens in a t-shirt and veil, but I also got stung fairly regularly. To the point of your post, I can trace the genetics of my bees back to 2004 prior to arrival of Africanized bees into this region. I found a queen caught with a swarm that showed significant mite tolerance. I purchased 10 queens from Dann Purvis and set them up as drone source colonies. Then I raised queens from my resistant queen and let them mate. IIRC, in 2012 I brought in a few queens from Carpenter Apiaries and in 2015 I brought in 3 queens from BWeaver. The Carpenter queens were almost as mite resistant as my own line so I kept them and used for mating. The BWeaver queens were mite resistant but not cold resistant. I don't miss them.

Bears asking, where did you work with Africanized bees? and what did you think of them? Come to think of it, I don't recall finman having worked Africanized bees. As for me, I had the opportunity to work highly Africanized bees in Mexico in 2015. That was an unforgettable experience.
 

Michael Palmer 

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I’ve also worked with bees in Mexico. Veracruz and Oaxaca. Obviously Africanized by the size of the cells…foundationless comb. Veil, shirt, no suit or gloves. Very few stings…similar to my bees at home. What I’m getting at…you can’t use bad temper as a marker for the scutelata genes
 

jenkinsbrynmair 

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I’ve also worked with bees in Mexico. Veracruz and Oaxaca. Obviously Africanized by the size of the cells…foundationless comb. Veil, shirt, no suit or gloves. Very few stings…similar to my bees at home. What I’m getting at…you can’t use bad temper as a marker for the scutelata genes
I've worked with Scutellata/Adansoni in Eastern and Southern Africa, the same, gentle as lambs if treated correctly - I think a lot of the issues out there are down to the Western world beekeeping experts and their obsession with pumping smoke into hives.
 

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Ive looked at some in Zambia a friend has a farm just outside livingstone. I’ve also helped a company/beek that did removals in the Caribbean over a few years. They can be really nasty if you walked into a cloud of them it’s not going to end well. Looking at individual hives in Africa was a different experience to and apiary of 2 dozen😂 The locals at 1 point thought it would be a good idea to make me collect a swarm minus suit calm as pussy cats.
 

Anduril 

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W
A few of you may recall that a researcher (Geoff Williams) tested my bees for varroa November 2nd, 2019. Here is the text from that set of samples.

"Geoff Williams with Auburn University came out today and collected bee and mite samples from 8 of my colonies at one apiary location. I have only taken mite counts from one or two colonies over the years so today was rather eye opening. Criteria was that each colony sampled had to be at least 2 years old, not treated, not manipulated to reduce mites. I had 8 colonies that met these criteria. i have not treated since the winter of 2004/2005. I routinely split very strong colonies in spring to prevent swarming so these colonies represent the 8 that were not split. I do not manipulate my bees to reduce mite counts by for example cutting out drone brood. We found plenty of hive beetles in all colonies. We found drones in 4 out of the 8 colonies with 2 colonies having most of the drones. Samples were taken as 500 bees for DNA extraction, 300 bees were used for an alcohol wash.

#1 - 29 mites, 9.7%, Buckfast daughter
#2 - 12 mites, 4.0%
#3 - 8 mites, 2.7%
#4 - 2 mites, 0.7%
#5 - 4 mites, 1.4%
#6 - 17 mites, 5.7%
#7 - 23 mites, 7.7%
#8 - 35 mites, 11.7%, queen raised this year, colony had problems last year but made it through winter.

#8 showed stress from mites which was mostly shown by a low overall population. #1 was deliberately included as a check. She is a Buckfast daughter mated to mite resistant drones. If you read carefully through the percentages, half of these colonies could be considered resistant to highly resistant. Sample size is obviously small so don't read too much into it.

The 500 bee sample will be sent to Switzerland for further tests. "

Last night, I received a follow-up email. Summarized, they did not find evidence of known genetic markers for varroa tolerance, but they did find my bees have a high level of a mutation in "Iroquois Hombox Factor" which affects bristle development. What is unique is that they did not find this mutation in any of the other samples sequenced. I could speculate this mutation is associated with acarine tolerance or it might be the reason my bees survive varroa without treatments. Time will tell.

For historic background, I have not treated my bees for varroa since 2005. I raise queens from the best honey producers and the colonies that have low to very low varroa counts. A significant factor is that I live in a relatively isolated area.
What are your thoughts on this video
 

coffindodger 

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Ive looked at some in Zambia a friend has a farm just outside livingstone. I’ve also helped a company/beek that did removals in the Caribbean over a few years. They can be really nasty if you walked into a cloud of them it’s not going to end well. Looking at individual hives in Africa was a different experience to and apiary of 2 dozen😂 The locals at 1 point thought it would be a good idea to make me collect a swarm minus suit calm as pussy cats.
My experience is that apiary bees in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi can be very 'naughty'. Never tried individual hives.
 

coffindodger 

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I've worked with Scutellata/Adansoni in Eastern and Southern Africa, the same, gentle as lambs if treated correctly - I think a lot of the issues out there are down to the Western world beekeeping experts and their obsession with pumping smoke into hives.
Agree with Michael and comments on 'Western' beekeepers, but not sure that smoke itself is the key, as Brazilian beekeepers I know use lots of smoke. They smoke every hive heavily then leave for an hour and go back to open up using smoke just as in UK.
 

Fusion_power 

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I'll comment first about the video re hygienic behavior. IMO, there is a lot of speculation in the video that is not fully proven. However, IMO, hygienic behavior by itself is not a good way to control varroa. I stipulate that a certain amount of hygienic behavior is desirable because it results in bees that maintain a clean brood nest. Too much hygienic behavior seems to result in a colony that never builds up to honey production strength.

Allogrooming is a different set of traits that revolve around bees detecting and mauling mites. Some on this side of the pond refer to them as "ankle biters" because the bees chew on the legs of varroa which kills them. Allogrooming reduces mite counts without compromising brood. (Michael Palmer also references "ankle staplers" referring to bees that sting your socks until they are stuck to your ankles. His bees are NOT Africanized!)

Re working highly Africanized bees, if done in good to very good conditions, they are as easily worked as a colony of European bees. Work them on a chilly November day when there is no incoming nectar and they can be very defensive. They are still workable, but you learn to respect them by not working on chilly November days. As for using smoke, I was taught by a grand master of the art, a commercial queen breeder and past president of the Amercan Bee Breeders Association. His method is very simple. Use as little smoke as necessary to maintain control of the colony. This usually takes 5 or 6 puffs of smoke for an average colony inspection, twice as much when removing honey. I used maybe ten to twenty puffs for an Africanized colony. It is most important to "read" the bees and respond with smoke when they show signs of aggression. The rest is common beekeeping skill, move slowly but efficiently, don't crush bees, don't breathe on them, don't "bang" them around hitting frames or hive, etc. One thing I noted about Africanized bees is that they respond differently to a bee blower. They don't blow off the combs as easily and when blown off, are more likely to turn defensive instead of flying back into the hive.

I tried small cell foundation for roughly 10 years and did not find that it helped reduce varroa population. In particular, 4.9 mm foundation was problematic and often re-worked by the bees. I tried 5.1 mm foundation and found it easily used and has a few benefits vs standard 5.3 mm foundation. I currently use 5.1 mm foundation in the brood nest and 5.3 in supers. The bees seem to prefer 5.1 for brood and are less likely to lay in the supers.

There are 5 different honeybee traits known to reduce mite counts. I've posted these before, this is not something "new".

Varroa Selective Hygiene - disrupts the reproductive cycle of the varroa mite
a. Detect, uncap, and remove infested larvae
b. selection involves testing for hygienic behavior and removal of infested larvae

Allogrooming - bees grooming each other to remove mites
a. Varroa mauling - chewing and biting the mites which kills them
b. Selection involves monitoring for chewed mites on the bottom board

Breaks in brood rearing - during brood breaks, varroa cannot reproduce.
a. Heavy pollen collection - bees that collect pollen heavily are more sensitive to lack of pollen and shut down brood rearing earlier.
b. Sensitive to nectar dearth - bees that react to nectar shortage by breaking the brood cycle.
c. Selection involves monitoring for bees that reduce brood rearing when pollen is unavailable.

Reduced days to worker maturity - fewer days gives mites less time to reproduce
a. some worker bees mature in 19 days vs standard 21
b. using small cell foundation and timing brood emergence
c. Selection involves identifying the small percentage of colonies that mature workers in fewer days.

Mite Entombing - when cell cleaners selectively entomb mites along with pupal debris
a. Some stocks of bees leave a lot of mites entombed along with pupal cocoons
b. selection involves finding colonies that produce more trapped mites.
 

bazdmoore 

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I'll comment first about the video re hygienic behavior. IMO, there is a lot of speculation in the video that is not fully proven. However, IMO, hygienic behavior by itself is not a good way to control varroa. I stipulate that a certain amount of hygienic behavior is desirable because it results in bees that maintain a clean brood nest. Too much hygienic behavior seems to result in a colony that never builds up to honey production strength.

Allogrooming is a different set of traits that revolve around bees detecting and mauling mites. Some on this side of the pond refer to them as "ankle biters" because the bees chew on the legs of varroa which kills them. Allogrooming reduces mite counts without compromising brood. (Michael Palmer also references "ankle staplers" referring to bees that sting your socks until they are stuck to your ankles. His bees are NOT Africanized!)

Re working highly Africanized bees, if done in good to very good conditions, they are as easily worked as a colony of European bees. Work them on a chilly November day when there is no incoming nectar and they can be very defensive. They are still workable, but you learn to respect them by not working on chilly November days. As for using smoke, I was taught by a grand master of the art, a commercial queen breeder and past president of the Amercan Bee Breeders Association. His method is very simple. Use as little smoke as necessary to maintain control of the colony. This usually takes 5 or 6 puffs of smoke for an average colony inspection, twice as much when removing honey. I used maybe ten to twenty puffs for an Africanized colony. It is most important to "read" the bees and respond with smoke when they show signs of aggression. The rest is common beekeeping skill, move slowly but efficiently, don't crush bees, don't breathe on them, don't "bang" them around hitting frames or hive, etc. One thing I noted about Africanized bees is that they respond differently to a bee blower. They don't blow off the combs as easily and when blown off, are more likely to turn defensive instead of flying back into the hive.

I tried small cell foundation for roughly 10 years and did not find that it helped reduce varroa population. In particular, 4.9 mm foundation was problematic and often re-worked by the bees. I tried 5.1 mm foundation and found it easily used and has a few benefits vs standard 5.3 mm foundation. I currently use 5.1 mm foundation in the brood nest and 5.3 in supers. The bees seem to prefer 5.1 for brood and are less likely to lay in the supers.

There are 5 different honeybee traits known to reduce mite counts. I've posted these before, this is not something "new".

Varroa Selective Hygiene - disrupts the reproductive cycle of the varroa mite
a. Detect, uncap, and remove infested larvae
b. selection involves testing for hygienic behavior and removal of infested larvae

Allogrooming - bees grooming each other to remove mites
a. Varroa mauling - chewing and biting the mites which kills them
b. Selection involves monitoring for chewed mites on the bottom board

Breaks in brood rearing - during brood breaks, varroa cannot reproduce.
a. Heavy pollen collection - bees that collect pollen heavily are more sensitive to lack of pollen and shut down brood rearing earlier.
b. Sensitive to nectar dearth - bees that react to nectar shortage by breaking the brood cycle.
c. Selection involves monitoring for bees that reduce brood rearing when pollen is unavailable.

Reduced days to worker maturity - fewer days gives mites less time to reproduce
a. some worker bees mature in 19 days vs standard 21
b. using small cell foundation and timing brood emergence
c. Selection involves identifying the small percentage of colonies that mature workers in fewer days.

Mite Entombing - when cell cleaners selectively entomb mites along with pupal debris
a. Some stocks of bees leave a lot of mites entombed along with pupal cocoons
b. selection involves finding colonies that produce more trapped mites.
I have also read that maintenance of a high humidity can lower mite counts although this will also be a function of the hive design
 

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