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British Black Bee project
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zaunreiter
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 08, 2015 6:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

andy pearce wrote:
Bernhard, if you did that with my bees you would bee off down the road screaming!


I do this with all sorts of bees, even with those stingy hot black bees. (As shown.) You need the right karma to do so.
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Jon
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 08, 2015 8:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

zaunreiter wrote:
andy pearce wrote:
Bernhard, if you did that with my bees you would bee off down the road screaming!


I do this with all sorts of bees, even with those stingy hot black bees. (As shown.) You need the right karma to do so.


I don't know if I would call it Karma but I see where you are coming from. It is important to learn how to move around bees without winding them up. Staying calm and chilled and avoiding any sudden jerky movements is the key.
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mrcadman
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 08, 2015 11:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just to put the cat amongst the pigeons.....

Am I missing something here? Surely, as natural bee keepers, we should not be trying to manipulate the gene pool.

I do not understand how you can choose a point in history and decide that this was the definitive British Black Bee. Even if you get it right, that bee would have evolved for the environment at that particular time – it probably would not survive now with such a changed environment.

Also, you will not be able to isolate the breed since being in the 'public domain' there would be constant cross breeding. If you live on a small island (where they breed the Breton Black) – fine, the breed is isolated. I do not see how it going to work in the UK.

No good has ever come out of man made selection – animal, plant or human.

Natural selection is best without human interference , although it will take a bit longer and be more successful.

A more reliable solution would be:-

1. Ensure the UK can supply the home market with Queens.

2. Ban the import of Queens (the difficult bit because you are dealing with Government!)

3. Let Natural Selection take over. Bees will develop to withstand the current modern environment.

Another advantage is that you would not need Crowdfunding and more time could be spent enjoying your bees.

Sorry to give such a negative post but it is just how I feel.
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Jon
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 08, 2015 11:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I can agree with your first two points but not the third. Those grey squirrels do so much better in the UK than our native reds. I am not happy about that nor a range of similar issues involving invasive species which should not be here in the first place. Why make an exception for non native bees?
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trekmate
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 09, 2015 8:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

But I think mrcadman's point is how far do you go back to decide what is right for a given place. In UK most of us are mongrels from imports! We are probably the most invasive species on the planet.....
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zaunreiter
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 09, 2015 8:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It is a valid question. Usually the date is chosen, when Christopher Columbus found the new world, means America. Species living here before that date are domestic, species that came her after that date are foreign. Rolling Eyes

To me, this is a very arbitrary discrimination. I reckon' nature doesn't really want to cement a status quo. Instead the constant flow of species all around the globe, with phases of isolation in time and space in between, really is what nature does.

Never forget, that right where we stand some yonks ago there were elephants living, there were tropic(!) rainforests and also there was only ocean for some time. (You find sea clams/mussel fossils in the Alps right up in the mountains.)

If species and ecotypes interbreed the genes are not lost, the opposite. A whole lot of us humans still carry the genes of Neandertals within our genes. So nature doesn't teach racism.

But as I understood, that wasn't really the intention of the black bee project. (See Phil's posting.)


What I tried to say further up in the posting: for the preservation of an ecotype species - you need that eco-niche where it developed. No bee is an island, it is connected to the landscape.
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BBC
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 09, 2015 10:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

trekmate wrote:
But I think mrcadman's point is how far do you go back to decide what is right for a given place. In UK most of us are mongrels from imports! We are probably the most invasive species on the planet.....


Someone wrote on this forum - ages ago - "how can you have natural beekeeping without a natural environment ?" - and I think that person was making a very valid point. But I think it's useful to remember that the idyllic era of hay meadows with abundant nectar throughout the season - although a tremendous time for beekeeping - was completely man-made and although it provided ideal conditions in which to keep bees, was 100% artificial.

So - at what point in history do we say "that was a truly natural environment ?". Do we settle for the period just prior to land enclosure - say the 16th/17th century, or further back to the Medieval period - say the 5th century onwards, or do we go right back to pre-human times - (say) the Cambrian Period, when evolution was at it's most intense, when Britain was still attached to mainland Europe, and had a landscape of shore-to-shore dense forest and precious little savannah ?

There's no way in which we can realistically return to any of those scenarios, and so what alternative do we have other than to select one period of history as representing the best conditions in which to keep bees - which I guess would be that of the 'hay meadow period' of the Middle Ages which extended right up until the beginning of the last century - and try our best to emulate those conditions in whatever space remains available to us ?

And therefore - if we are going to select that period of history as being optimum for bees and for beekeeping, then it would seem logical to also select the type of bee which existed within that environment, and at that particular period of history. Which brings us to pre-Buckfast, pre-imported Italians and Carniolans - and to our native 'AMM' Black Bee.

Yes - we are selecting a period of history - but we have to. What other choice is there ? Of course, one possible alternative might be to allow mongrel bees to morph into whatever form can best tolerate neonics and pollution and all the rest of the crap which humans are spewing out into the environment - and then call that a 'natural' evolutionary process. And then humans can blissfully carry on as before, in their poisoning of the planet without ever having heard the alarm bells ringing. Or - as a species - we can say "enough is (more than) enough - bees are the equivalent of canaries in a coal mine - and it's high time to revert to those environmental conditions which prevailed at a much earlier period of history.

Colin
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Barbara
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 09, 2015 11:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This was the point I was trying to make earlier....

I really don't get this whole pure Black Bee issue! It seems that even the experts cannot agree on how to determine what a pure black bee is, but all are keen to claim they have some!

My bees are dark and whilst I have started to see the odd tan band in recent years, the vast majority are still dark and unbanded and my queens are dark. "Black" is a misnoma anyway. I have no knowledge of the genetic origins of my bees and as they swarm and mate freely each year I cannot call them anything but dark mongrels and am happy to do so. They survive our variable climate incredibly well without artificial feeding and are amazingly frugal and hardy. They are slow to build up and swarm when the conditions are at a peak for survival. They don't however build comb unless they have to and don't produce a lot of honey, so they are never going to be of interest to a commercial beekeeper. Thankfully though, unlike the reputation many "black bees" have, they are usually very pleasant to handle and share living space with.
I think my bees are "the bees knees" and most likely have a lot of native heritage. I have had this line of bees for 16 years and they have not changed significantly in characteristics despite their frequent requeening through swarming. I know that there are bees of Italian/Buckfast descent in the area but they have remained very consistent despite that. I am not in an isolated area. And of course, they are surviving untreated.

My point is that surely bees like these are what we should be propagating, not some human "ideal" of what our native bees should be or used to be. As others have said, the reality is that evolution and cross breeding does occur and will continue. Granted I am not in an area where there is significant commercial beekeeping and therefore probably a lot less foreign stock than many of you experience, but the "pure" Black bees you breed will sooner or later be exposed to those elements. Surely it is better to use bees that are already coping with some genetic "contamination" and maintaining their ability to survive and flourish unassisted in our climate. These bees are living and breeding and thriving in the real world.

Local mongrels rule as far as I am concerned and I certainly cannot be the only one with such bees, although perhaps my aversion to extracting honey(they really don't produce a significant excess as compared with commercial breeds) has enabled them to find a happy home with me.
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Jon
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 09, 2015 1:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thing is though Barbara, if we don't take steps to save our Native bee we will lose it through hybridisation and that would be a real shame.

The bee scientists can quite clearly identify Amm or any other subspecies from Dna microsatellite markers. The waffle is associated with the devotees of wing morphometry.

The problem with bee subspecies is that they freely hybridise. With other invasive species such as Himalayan Balsam or grey squirrels they cannot hybridise with local stock. The issue here is control or removal.

There was an analogous situation a few years ago where the white headed duck, which is a European species, was threatened through hybridisation with the Ruddy Duck which is a US species which escaped from wildfowl collections at some point in the past. The RSPB promoted a cull of the Ruddy Duck to save the native species.

Personally, irrespective of any commercial interests, I think it is important to conserve the unique genetic resource we have in the British Isles. When it is gone it is gone for good and we are losing species left right and centre at the moment through climate change, habitat loss and modern agricultural practice.
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BBC
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 09, 2015 2:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have been reading today of plans to re-introduce the Lynx into Wales (and perhaps Scotland, too) after an absence of 1300 years !

As with the Sea Otter, the Red Kite, and in these parts, the Marsh Harrier, I can't help but see a parallel between these projects and the saving of our native honey bee, in the sense of trying to undo some of the harm which has been inflicted on our native fauna by previous generations.

Colin
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biobee
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 09, 2015 5:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have reluctantly had to pull the plug on the Crowdfunder for this project, as was not attracting the support that I had hoped for.

We will be looking for other sources of funding and working on a more modest proposal.

Meanwhile, we still welcome donations!

http://www.biobees.com/blackbees.php
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Jon
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 09, 2015 6:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's a shame but you don't actually need a huge amount of funding to make a start.
The format of a queen rearing group can work well.
Charge people £20 a head and raise £500 and that will cover all the equipment you need for grafting plus a few queens.
I have an article on starting up a queen rearing group here:

http://www.native-queen-bees.com/how-to-set-up-a-queen-rearing-group/

It is referenced re. Irish contacts but would be applicable anywhere.
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biobee
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 09, 2015 6:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for that, Jon.
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greengage
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 10, 2015 7:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

After reading all the above comments over the past few weeks and finding them very interesting and talking to a local beekeeper who is going to start looking at his bees using wing morphology, is it a busted flush and DNA the only way to go.
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andy pearce
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 11, 2015 6:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

There are some clearly differing opinions here on this thread. I think what it actually boils down to is that the climatic conditions in the UK are different that Southern Europe and Central Europe which have different climatic conditions. The fact is our winter lasts, in most years until April (it snowed the day my brother was born in late May 1961!) and although are climate is changing and getting more unpredictable having bees that start rearing huge amounts of brood when triggered by a warm week in February is not very useful or sustainable. To keep importing those bees is short term-ism. To sell people those bees is profiteering. To allow those bees to hybridize with bees that hang on a bit longer before building up because those are the conditions they have evolved in is irresponsible.
So it is a question of how we go from here. It is reputed we had a bee that suited our conditions in the west of Europe, that would be a better survivor than bees from elsewhere with different climate. If those bees are less suited then they will die more only to be replaced by more from those people who import them. The fact is that the bee keeper next door can import any bee to the UK from Europe and beyond. So it does not matter what you are doing their behaviour will effect what ever you are doing unless you have an isolated mating site.

So what is the solution?
A
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zaunreiter
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 11, 2015 8:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

andy pearce wrote:
The fact is our winter lasts...that start rearing huge amounts of brood


First of all, we are not talking about different species. All bees kept here are Apis mellifera. So the differences are very small.

This is why the Italien bee Apis mellifera ligustica is sucessfully kept in Denmark for decades, despite the winters there and despite the origin.

Local adaption of an introduced subspecies happens pretty quickly, within a season as has been found in a study. So all Apis mellifera have the ability to live here.

With global warming, we soon need a bee that survives the mild warm winters anyway. Warm winters are more problematic in my opinion than are cold winters.
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 11, 2015 2:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

andy pearce wrote:
The fact is that the bee keeper next door can import any bee to the UK from Europe and beyond. So it does not matter what you are doing their behaviour will effect what ever you are doing unless you have an isolated mating site.

So what is the solution?
A


Hi Andy, I'd be the first to agree that an isolated mating site must be favourite - but as I don't have one handy, this year I'll be raising AMM queens from a site which is semi-isolated, with 6 drone hives - 5 in a rough circle at one mile distance, with the sixth positioned at the apiary site. I'm also going to employ the Horner system of late afternoon virgin release.
Whether these measures prove adequate is anyone's guess at this stage. I do have a more isolated site lined-up, but using it will mean quite a lot of travelling, so I'm trying the home apiary site first.

I'm also working on a system of captive mating which, if it works, will obviate the need for isolated mating sites. The technique I'm using employs a method of selecting drones by strength and endurance prior to mating, which should give better results that A.I. which of course relies on human selection of drones. But - it's still far to early to predict the chances of success.

best,
Colin
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Jon
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 11, 2015 3:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Colin.
A lot of my queens mate over the apiary site itself so you can get good results by using 8-10 drone producing colonies on the same site.
It takes 6 weeks from unfertilized egg to sexually mature drone so your queens need to be laying drone from mid April if you want to get early June matings.
The other factor is that there appears to be a mechanism whereby Amm virgin queens mate with a higher than expected number of Amm drones.
This was highlighted in a recent paper from Poland.

Partial reproductive isolation between European subspecies of honey bees
Andrzej Oleksa,
Jerzy Wilde,
Adam Tofilski,
Igor J. Chybicki

http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13592-013-0212-y

Quote:
"Northern Poland is inhabited by native Apis mellifera mellifera (AMM) and the non-native A. m. carnica (AMC) which was introduced by beekeepers. However, hybrids between the two subspecies of honey bee are relatively rare. The lower than expected proportion of hybrids is hypothesised to be related to reproductive isolation between AMM and AMC. To verify this hypothesis, we allowed the AMM and AMC queens to be naturally inseminated in an area inhabited by both AMM and AMC drones. Genotype of the queens and their sexual partners were derived based on random samples of their worker offspring. Assignment of parental genotypes to the two subspecies was performed with a Bayesian clustering method. In colonies headed by AMM queens, workers were fathered mainly by AMM drones. On the other hand, in colonies headed by AMC queens workers were fathered by drones of both subspecies. The partial reproductive isolation reported here between AMM and AMC may facilitate conservation of the declining population of AMM."
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 11, 2015 7:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

An interesting paper Jon, thanks for the link - but so frustrating not to know precisely what that reproductive isolation mechanism is ... so that we could take advantage of it. But, it's nice to know that Nature still has a trick or two up her sleeve ... Smile

Colin
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zaunreiter
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 11, 2015 7:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

BBC wrote:
...not to know precisely what that reproductive isolation mechanism is ...


Drones and queens of the different subspecies have different times of day they fly out? Different time windows.
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Jon
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 12, 2015 12:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

zaunreiter wrote:


Drones and queens of the different subspecies have different times of day they fly out? Different time windows.


I have heard that but have never come across any real evidence. What about all those hybrid and/or mongrel drones? What would control their flight times.
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Che Guebuddha
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 12, 2015 7:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Have you considered contacting other Black Bee EU groups like the one in Sweden called NordBi. You could get something from EU if you do it joined. I mean The Black Bee was the original European Bee in most parts of Europe. Our member biodlarn here on the forum is part of that group and I can easily get you his contact Phil. Instead of focusing nationally why not Internationally which EU prefers when donating money. Saving the Black Bee is not just importnat for UK. Just a thought.
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biobee
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 12, 2015 7:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Che.

While EU money could undoubtedly be useful, I am at full stretch coping with all the irons I currently have in various fires, and I don't think I could manage another one right now.

It would be good to be in touch with other breeders in Europe, though.
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prakel
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 12, 2015 8:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jon wrote:
I have heard that but have never come across any real evidence.


Jon, I believe that Gilles Fert has looked into this in quite a detailed way for use in his own breeding apiaries. There's certainly reference in his queen rearing book and I think that there might be further info on his website although i don't have time to look for a link at present.
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 14, 2015 3:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

zaunreiter wrote:
Jon wrote:
Zaunreiter, I suggest you try and visit some projects working with black bees/Amm.


Good joke, Jon, good joke. Keep black bees myself and have lots of friends keeping black bees. I visit their apiaries regularily. So I probably know what I am writing. The original black bee is defensive.

Modern breeding on black bees make them docile, but that's just modern breeding.


I'm not sure what's meant here by the original black bee, but I've seen many photographs of totally unprotected Victorian beekeepers handling their bees without any obvious problems ...

However, I do have some sympathy for this view, insomuch as I had (past tense ...) also formed a prejudice against AMM based on numerous reports of over-defensiveness, and my own experiences with (presumably) AMM-based mongrels.

Although I did not exactly disbelieve Jon about the nature of his Black Bees, I still wanted to evaluate their behaviour for myself before breeding from them, and so I allowed the nucs into which I'd installed the two queens I received from him last year to grow undisturbed, with the exception of creating a few virgins from the Galtee queen which were duly open-mated in order to head this year's drone hives, providing that the parent colonies demonstrated good behaviour.

I had planned to install some drone combs on Tuesday, but got side-tracked, so didn't. The weather forecast for the next few weeks wasn't any too good, and so - although Friday was a very marginal day for opening hives - my original intention was just to open-up, install the combs, and close-up again quickly.

In view of the weather yesterday (Friday) I had expected at least some token 'attitude', but in contrast the bees were totally docile, and stayed quietly on their combs as I moved them back to make spaces for the drone combs. In view of this, I then decided to make a quick inspection of all the AMM colonies - and in one word: I was 'gob-smacked' at just how pleasant these bees are to work with. They allowed me to move them to one side with a bare finger in order to inspect the brood area - just as the tamest Carnies would have done.

Having completed the inspections, I then took the top off one of my regular hives in order to recover a Morris Board I'd used to combine an insanely early swarm. Sure enough, a cloud of a couple of dozen bees took to the air and started pinging my veil - which was quite reasonable behaviour in view of the day's weather. Had I tried pulling combs I would have expected to have been mobbed.

So - on the strength of yesterday's first inspection of 2015, I have no hesitation in now re-queening the rest of my hives over to AMM.

Colin
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Jon
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 14, 2015 6:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

As I said earlier, I think the anti black bee stuff started with beekeepers who had a vested interest in selling imported queens from the more commercial strains such as Ligustica and Carnica.
Any of the commonly kept pure race subspecies should be pretty gentle. The aggression is most often seen in hybrids and mongrels, although mongrel temper can be improved relatively easily with a bit of selection.
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 14, 2015 9:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jon wrote:
... mongrel temper can be improved relatively easily with a bit of selection.


You're right jon - but that assumes that there's sufficient time left in one's life in which to do this ... Smile
Some of us are in our late 60's and may only have a decade or so left in us within which to raise queens - and so the prospect of spending a number of years improving one's own stock is much less attractive than simply buying-in the fruits of someone-else's expertise. Which is the route I've chosen to take, and indeed, very grateful I am for being able to do so.

Colin
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ingo50
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 15, 2015 11:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A lot of what Barbara says above are wise words after many years of her keeping local bees. My beekeeping friends locally tell me that their bees have all gone darker over time, even when interbred with eg Italians. "Local darker drones" apparently stay closer to their home apiary, so should be more likely to mate with the virgin queens, as opposed to eg Italian drones that congregate further afield. Is this true?
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Jon
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 16, 2015 10:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

>Is this true?

I doubt if it is true that black drones stay closer to home but the Polish study I mentioned in a previous post found that Amm drones are more likely to mate with Amm queens. There is still uncertainty about why that is the case.

One possibility is that drones and queen may be able to synchronize the timing of mating flights. Or chemical pheromone factors may be involved. Another is that Amm queens may mate more locally, a concept known as apiary vicinity mating. Beowulf Cooper claimed that this was unique to Amm, but a Buckfast breeder I know says that he also sees this over his own apiaries. I have seen it many times with my own bees and wrote a description of it here.

http://www.native-queen-bees.com/apiary-vicinity-mating/
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 16, 2015 10:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The good news is that it's relatively asy to find out. The not-so-good news is that it'll set you back about £50.

The procedure is to buy some large party balloons and a can of helium. The gas can be sourced from party suppliers, Argos etc., for about £30.
Inflate a couple of balloons and attach a small sponge containing a few drops of 'Bee Boost' (Queen Bee pheromone), obtainable from major beekeeping suppliers for about £15.

Attach some fishing line to the balloons, and on a calm day allow the balloons to ascend to around 150 feet at your chosen site. By plotting a grid on a map of your area, it is then possible to identify any DCA's which might exist.

The best conditions for doing this are on calm days when the temperature is around 18-20 degrees C, between 1400 and 1800 hrs.

Drones may mob your artifical 'queen bee' at anything from 20 feet to over 100 feet. It should then be possible to reel-in the line and examine the drones which will continue to be attracted by the pheromone.

For more detailed information, see:
http://www.biobees.com/library/research_other/insecticides/DroneCongregationAreas.pdf

'best
Colin
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Conserving wild bees

Research suggests that bumble bee boxes have a very low success rate in actually attracting bees into them. We find that if you create an environment where first of all you can attract mice inside, such as a pile of stones, a drystone wall, paving slabs with intentionally made cavities underneath, this will increase the success rate.

Most bumble bee species need a dry space about the size a football, with a narrow entrance tunnel approximately 2cm in diameter and 20 cm long. Most species nest underground along the base of a linear feature such as a hedge or wall. Sites need to be sheltered and out of direct sunlight.

There is a spectacular display of wild bee hotels here

More about bumblebees and solitary bees here

Information about the Tree Bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum)

Barefoot Beekeeper Podcast



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