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Author Topic: Genetics for me and not cell size made the difference  (Read 3113 times)
BjornBee
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« on: September 24, 2009, 09:34:50 AM »

In light of another thread being discussed concerning small and large bees on this same forum, I would like to comment on something without taking away from that other ongoing discussion.

I want to back up and talk about a small part of that smallcell discussion that took place in the past.

I've had smallcell for a number of years now. One of my observations about 6 years ago, was the drastic improvement of all my bees as I changed over my stock to Carni and russian stock. (You need to excuse my lack of supporting quotes, since much of those discussions are on another forum)

I questioned very early on, that genetics for me seemed to be a major reason for my survival rates, and that much of my success could be seen across the board, not just with smallcell but with traditional comb as well.

This was met, and I can clearly recall the statements, as causal as they were by smallcell beekeepers...."I have never had commercial bees survive more than a year or two"  What this did was dismiss any claims about success, and further promoted that without smallcell foundation, you were doomed to fail.

I remember mentioning others in the industry such as the Webbs in Georgia, as many others. They were easily cast aside and some just acknowledge for as well read as they were, "I have never heard of them before".

One of the things I did in my own operation was cull out ALL italians that I had. Many of these were from packages and commercial stock. I changed over to all NWC based stock and russian bees. My winter kill dropped immediately. Keep in mind that I do not treat for mites.

There is a very interesting article in Bee Culture, September 2009. It is called "a college farm pursues Organic Beekeeping". One of the main points was a graph that shows the results of survival rates of different purchased stocks. If you group all the italians together, that the survival rate after one year was 26% and after 2 years, those hives had a survival rate of 6%.

The survival rate of the carni/russian stock, was 100% after 1 year and 60% after two years.

I see those same results as I made the changeover. Some stocks made all the difference in the world.

Now, the one point I would add, is the drop in survival rate with the carni/russian stock the second year. Much can be said about older queens, failure rates, and winter loss. I think to maintain that first year success, that requeening and summer splits can make that survival rate maintain higher success.

One of the finer points of smallcell over the years was the idea that for the first several years, while regressing, you would need to treat or you would suffer some losses. And that breeding or splitting from survival stock was also suggested. So after three years, you would see success with smallcell.

Many have chosen russian or carni stock for smallcell beekeepers. I suggest that myself for beekeepers asking which strain works best for regression. The darker bees lines are naturally smaller and if your going to regress bees, start with small bees anyways.

But does that also mean that one started or further bred from a line that already shown great ability in survival, or developed a survivor line by the very fact of regression and breeding from survivors?

The study mentioned above was conducted with organic beekeeping in mind. But the results are clear as day in how different strains have drastic differences in survival rates. Hopefully, as more come forward, those days that claiming any stock other than those regressed to smallcell, are doomed to failure, will quietly fall by the wayside.

I guess for those still running around promoting smallcell as the only way to have success, it will remain a viable option to those who continue to be devastated by winter loss from installed packages, and commercial stock of bees not worthy of what we need today.

I do not write this to bash smallcell beekeeping. I'm just pointing out that you can have success, and earlier claims that unless you regress your bees, that no success will be seen, is a point long past it's usefullness.

All things being considered equal, I have the same loss in all my different hives, whether that be smallcell or standard size cells, since they all have the same survivor stock. I have said that for several years now. Hopefully more people will see that genetic stock makes a huge impact. And that success can be achieved without such things as unnatural smallcell foundation.

I personally promote clean natural comb that the bees build, better genetics, and good sound bee management program. I think it's a better approach. And eventually I see smallcell promotion as nothing more than a gimmick, to be carried forward by a few holdouts that will be lost in the success of many others.

Read the article in Bee Culture. Very interesting indeed.


Thank you.
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David LaFerney
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« Reply #1 on: September 24, 2009, 10:07:41 AM »

When you say "unnatural small cell" I assume that you mean devices like honey super cell? When you say "I personally promote clean natural comb" It sounds like you are advocating foundationless, isn't that pretty much the same as small cell?

I just happen to have a random piece of white comb on my desk from my first year efforts (foundationless) which measures about 4.3 mm (average of ten cells) which sounds like my Italian bees have naturally built small cell almost right off the bat   Although, I'm not 100% sure that comb didn't come from some trap out bees, which would make this comment kind of stupid.  5.5 mm - sorry, I was using the wrong scale on one of those triangular rulers .

Anyway,  I think you are correct about genetics, but like many hobbyists I don't have access to feral "survivor" stock yet.  Assuming I still have bees in the spring what are some sources of quality queens that I can order for a reasonable price - that won't have to travel for a week to arrive in Tennessee.

I know that ideally I would be looking for locally adapted genetics, but so far I haven't met a local bee keeper who can recommend much of anything other than "you can't keep bees without using chemicals."

I want to believe they are mistaken.
« Last Edit: September 24, 2009, 11:00:11 AM by David LaFerney » Logged

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BjornBee
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« Reply #2 on: September 24, 2009, 10:34:24 AM »

When you say "unnatural small cell" I assume that you mean devices like honey super cell? When you say "I personally promote clean natural comb" It sounds like you are advocating foundationless, isn't that pretty much the same as small cell?


Heck no! They are not the same. I have rotated in (4 years and running) and allowed bees to naturally draw their own comb and they do not consistently make any size, and have never regressed down to 4.9 or below. They build a wide range of comb.

Your question is one of my reasons for taking such stances and spending time on this. For years, we had beekeepers promoting smallcell as "natural", and making assumptions that smallcell and natural comb were one and the same. They are not.

Forcing bees on smallcell is no more natural than forcing them on larger foundation.

And Yes, I promote or at least encourage beekeepers to try foundationless for a host of reasons. But that also does not mean the promotion of TBH's as much as I like them. Foundationless or natural comb (as much as we can improperly define "natural") can be achieved in any hive.

As for where or what to buy....we have a serious problem with production of good stock. Not just of survivor stock, but from regional or acclimatized bees also. We need better breeding programs and more smaller operations to build up. I can not speak for your area. Start with those breeding carni and russians, and then select from those available that meet other requirements, such as survivor stock. If they are breeding russians and carni but are doing nothing more than breeding first generation daughters, from purchased breeders every year, then pass on that operation. You want the right genetics, but also a breeder who is building off that line.
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kathyp
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« Reply #3 on: September 24, 2009, 10:48:02 AM »

guess i should have put my other post over here.

ditto
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« Reply #4 on: September 24, 2009, 11:02:18 AM »

david

until you can improve your stock with feral bees or survivor type queens, try requeening from the best stock you currently have.  you can work the other stuff in as you get access to it, and just because it's a swarm or cutout does not mean you'll want to keep that genetic line going.

you may need to have them a year or two before deciding you want that genetic material in your other hives.

keep notes on your hives and don't be afraid to experiment with requeening from your own yard.  the worst that will happen will be buying another queen.
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.....The greatest changes occur in their country without their cooperation. They are not even aware of precisely what has taken place. They suspect it; they have heard of the event by chance. More than that, they are unconcerned with the fortunes of their village, the safety of their streets, the fate of their church and its vestry. They think that such things have nothing to do with them, that they belong to a powerful stranger called “the government.” They enjoy these goods as tenants, without a sense of ownership, and never give a thought to how they might be improved.....

 Alexis de Tocqueville
David LaFerney
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« Reply #5 on: September 24, 2009, 12:17:36 PM »

david

until you can improve your stock with feral bees or survivor type queens, try requeening from the best stock you currently have.  you can work the other stuff in as you get access to it, and just because it's a swarm or cutout does not mean you'll want to keep that genetic line going.

you may need to have them a year or two before deciding you want that genetic material in your other hives.

keep notes on your hives and don't be afraid to experiment with requeening from your own yard.  the worst that will happen will be buying another queen.

Thanks Kathy,  I'm hoping to try rearing some queens from whatever I can get, and propagate some nucs  for insurance and a basis to compare.  Until I have a few more hives, and more experience I'm really just fumbling around.

I just hope my 2 hives make it till then.  I guess that's the thing for everyone though isn't it?
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ArmucheeBee
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« Reply #6 on: September 24, 2009, 02:25:24 PM »

So I am currently experimenting like Bjorn is saying and I did not know it!!   I have two Q's purchased as packages--they are Italian and then I have two feral hives I collected in the spring.  I have noticed more energy in the two ferals than the bought hives.  The two ferals built up much quicker and are actually less aggressive.  Now, the experiment moves into winter.  What will that hold for these four hives?  If the ferals survive into next year, I will definitely pull splits off them.  David, you can drive the 4 hours down from Cookville and pick some up!! 
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« Reply #7 on: September 24, 2009, 05:55:37 PM »

David, you can drive the 4 hours down from Cookville and pick some up!! 

Don't say that unless you mean it!
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« Reply #8 on: September 24, 2009, 09:25:09 PM »

My experience has been to cause me to agree with most all that has been said here.  I keep 15-20 hives, haven't treated at all in 4 years and don't use small or natural cell.  I lose about 10-20 % and can subscribe most of that to loss of a queen, not a proper organization of honey/cluster through the winter, lack of stores, etc. 

The only thing that I don't agree with is the race factor.  Mine are all Italian with some dark bees that show up from time to time in some of my hives (I assume German from a survivor feral or a neighbor's hive that I don't know of).   I know that Russians are naturally varroa resistant, but the VSH strain is supposed to be Italians that have been selectively bred for varroa resistance.  I believe that I have done that with my Italians.  I also believe that any race or strain can be bred for it by withholding treatment, selecting queens from the best stock, accepting some temporary losses and not having neighbors that treat.  And I believe that probably a lot of the hives that are being religiously treated don't need to be because they are becoming varroa resistant and would become more resistant if they were not treated regularly.

What do you guys think?
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David LaFerney
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« Reply #9 on: September 24, 2009, 09:41:28 PM »

we have a serious problem with production of good stock. Not just of survivor stock, but from regional or acclimatized bees also. We need better breeding programs and more smaller operations to build up. I can not speak for your area. Start with those breeding carni and russians, and then select from those available that meet other requirements, such as survivor stock...

You know what we need is a list like the swarm removal list of people who are breeding for treatment free resistance - even hobbyists who only produce a few queens and would be willing to sell a few.  Then everyone could find some people close to their own area who are working along those lines. 
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« Reply #10 on: September 25, 2009, 01:45:07 AM »

THE BUCKFAST BEE
 
At Buckfast Abbey in Devon, England, Brother Adam's primary aim was to breed a bee with high resistance to tracheal mites. When he had accomplished that, he began incorporating good traits he found in various races of bees during his extensive travels. He developed a bee which was gentle, had highly fecund queens, were high honey producers with a low swarming tendency, and were good wintering bees with a low consumption of stores. We are continuing to improve this strain (Pictured is Br. Adam at home in Buckfast Abbey).

An excellent choice for the Northern States and the East Coast Region.

During a two year test of six stocks of bees at the University of Minnesota, the Buckfast ranked:

Nosema in Queens - none
Acceptance - BEST (100%)
Spring Buildup - BEST
Gentleness - very gentle (second just behind Midnites)
Swarming Tendency - very low (ranked second)
Propolizing - slight (All Buckfast colonies)
Longevity of Queens - TIED FOR BEST (87% after 16 months)
Wintering - TIED FOR BEST
and...
HONEY PRODUCTION - BEST (during two years). For details see the February, March, and April 1982 issues of American Bee Journal.




In Addition to these tests results we have observed the following:

Housekeeping - Buckfast bees keep a clean, neat hive. This helps them to resist diseases of the brood.

Adaptation - These bees do well anywhere, but are especially well adapted to areas having damp, cold winters.

Compatibility - Buckfast Queens cross well with other breeds.

Color - Variable. The bees have a tendency toward a general dark Italian appearance.
 
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« Reply #11 on: September 25, 2009, 03:54:03 AM »

 The genetics in Carniolan and Russian and buckfast bees let them do much better in cold weather then other bees,that's why you will not lose as many as other bees. The same as genetics in some bees will cause them to fly farther then other bees.You take and cross genetics in crossing bees,you get bees that do good in many things.
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Acts2:37: Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
38: Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
39: For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
40: And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation
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« Reply #12 on: September 25, 2009, 09:12:23 AM »

THE BUCKFAST BEE
 
At Buckfast Abbey in Devon, England, Brother Adam's primary aim was to breed a bee with high resistance to tracheal mites. When he had accomplished that, he began incorporating good traits he found in various races of bees during his extensive travels.

John,

I had originally posted this on another thread, but I guess it applies here also.

Here is my take on those extensive travels.....

Buckfast was a breed of bee that was created through mixing a bunch of bees together and selecting for traits that one particular beekeeper wanted. This beekeeper being the famed Brother Adam. He is the same beekeeper that many "Natural" type folks follow, look up to, often quote, and admire.

But wasn't Brother Adam just a "Frankenstein" character, who manipulated genetics, crossed bee lines, and created very unnatural bees in doing so? He did not seek out the best bees, or some magical small bee like the small English bee that now is being mentioned as some great bee to hold up on a pedestal, and that many now want to suggest is the almighty answer to all problems. He was not happy with what nature had provided.  What he did was crossed many races, resulting in the buckfast bee. The buckfast was heralded for years as a great bee.

I find it ironic that the same beekeepers who want to get all "natural" now, and quote brother Adam on such matters, is actually just promoting a beekeeper who did much in spreading potential disease and problems around the world in attempts to not strengthen what nature provided him through millions of years of adaptation for his particular area, but take genetics from around the world and water down the individual genetic pools by mixing them together and then spreading them around. One of the major problems we have today, is the loss of pure lines of bees and the lessening of alleles. Brother Adam was the original promoter of things today we see as a serious problem.

I know that some are gasping right now with their jaws dropped very far. How dare I speak of Brother Adam that way. If he lived today, and did exactly what he did then, today, I'd bee saying the same thing. If the English brown bee was such a great bee, then why the bringing in of hundreds of other bees to mess with. I would say the same thing today of anyone bringing in from around the world different bees, spreading disease, and doing what brother Adam did.

Some will suggest that he had "problems" and will suggest that cell size was this problem. But brother Adam did not have the technology to see many of the bacterial and viral issues we do today. We are still learning so much about these issues today. It would be a real possibility that Brother Adam had way more than he could chew, by bringing in hundreds of different types of bees around the world. Today, we know what happens when you do this. Brother Adam was probably ignorant of such "global" spread of disease, did not really believe in strengthening the local acclimatized bees, or other issues we may now see in a different perspective.
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« Reply #13 on: September 25, 2009, 09:57:21 AM »

I have read three of Brother Adam's books and I have not seen any reference to the "small English Bee".  He used the term "English Bee" or "Dark European Bee".  He said that the English Bee had good features and many bad ones and that there was no perfect bee.  He also said he would not use the English Bee even if it continued to exist.

He traveled the world to aquire bees before they became mongrels because of the importation of queens from other countries.  His purpose was to use the pure lines to improve the disease resistance, productivity, and temper of the bees that were in use at Buckfast.  Is not this what we have done with the Yugo and the Russians?

If Brother Adam was still with us he would give small cell a try, see that it would not do what it is reported to do, and then get back to genetic selection to solve our beekeeping problems.
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irekkin
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« Reply #14 on: September 25, 2009, 10:09:18 AM »

i may be missing the point hear and correct me if i'm wrong. you can try to breed for whatever traits you want but you can't totally control their breeding. you can't fence them in. so until most of the bees in your area have the traits you desire it's a crap shoot. i realize you can manipulate them to a certain extent and keep pushing the percentage of desirable traits in your (their) favor but it seems like it would be hard to get consistant results from an open yard. also i would like to add that i don't use hard chemicals on my bees but i will use thymol or an organic acid if needed .
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« Reply #15 on: September 25, 2009, 10:37:59 AM »

Quote
i may be missing the point hear and correct me if i'm wrong. you can try to breed for whatever traits you want but you can't totally control their breeding

it is hard to get consistent results.  especially in an area like mine where there are a lot of pollination hives brought in.  still, if you find a queen with great traits and you have one without, there is no harm in re queening from the hive with great traits.  you'll probably be better off.

i try to pay attention to when the crops have pollination hives brought in.  i am lucky.  most of the places around me are berry farms and the bees come at one time and leave the same.  if i am going to requeen, i try to do it before or after those hives leave.

it's kind of interesting to see  how things go. 
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.....The greatest changes occur in their country without their cooperation. They are not even aware of precisely what has taken place. They suspect it; they have heard of the event by chance. More than that, they are unconcerned with the fortunes of their village, the safety of their streets, the fate of their church and its vestry. They think that such things have nothing to do with them, that they belong to a powerful stranger called “the government.” They enjoy these goods as tenants, without a sense of ownership, and never give a thought to how they might be improved.....

 Alexis de Tocqueville
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« Reply #16 on: September 25, 2009, 12:11:30 PM »

i may be missing the point hear and correct me if i'm wrong. you can try to breed for whatever traits you want but you can't totally control their breeding. you can't fence them in. so until most of the bees in your area have the traits you desire it's a crap shoot. i realize you can manipulate them to a certain extent and keep pushing the percentage of desirable traits in your (their) favor but it seems like it would be hard to get consistant results from an open yard. also i would like to add that i don't use hard chemicals on my bees but i will use thymol or an organic acid if needed .

Very well put.  We can try to get neighbors to do what we do: keep bees that do not need to be treated, are gentle, are good producers, etc., and to requeen or let the undesirable ones die.  Over a few years that should change the genetics of the feral bees, giving us the breeding area genetics that we want for our hives.  The sooner we start, the sooner we reach that goal.

Of course, there will sometimes be special considerations like Kathy has.
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« Reply #17 on: September 25, 2009, 01:54:35 PM »

THE BUCKFAST BEE
 
At Buckfast Abbey in Devon, England, Brother Adam's primary aim was to breed a bee with high resistance to tracheal mites. When he had accomplished that, he began incorporating good traits he found in various races of bees during his extensive travels.

John,

I had originally posted this on another thread, but I guess it applies here also.

Here is my take on those extensive travels.....

Buckfast was a breed of bee that was created through mixing a bunch of bees together and selecting for traits that one particular beekeeper wanted. This beekeeper being the famed Brother Adam. He is the same beekeeper that many "Natural" type folks follow, look up to, often quote, and admire.

But wasn't Brother Adam just a "Frankenstein" character, who manipulated genetics, crossed bee lines, and created very unnatural bees in doing so? He did not seek out the best bees, or some magical small bee like the small English bee that now is being mentioned as some great bee to hold up on a pedestal, and that many now want to suggest is the almighty answer to all problems. He was not happy with what nature had provided.  What he did was crossed many races, resulting in the buckfast bee. The buckfast was heralded for years as a great bee.

I find it ironic that the same beekeepers who want to get all "natural" now, and quote brother Adam on such matters, is actually just promoting a beekeeper who did much in spreading potential disease and problems around the world in attempts to not strengthen what nature provided him through millions of years of adaptation for his particular area, but take genetics from around the world and water down the individual genetic pools by mixing them together and then spreading them around. One of the major problems we have today, is the loss of pure lines of bees and the lessening of alleles. Brother Adam was the original promoter of things today we see as a serious problem.

I know that some are gasping right now with their jaws dropped very far. How dare I speak of Brother Adam that way. If he lived today, and did exactly what he did then, today, I'd bee saying the same thing. If the English brown bee was such a great bee, then why the bringing in of hundreds of other bees to mess with. I would say the same thing today of anyone bringing in from around the world different bees, spreading disease, and doing what brother Adam did.

Some will suggest that he had "problems" and will suggest that cell size was this problem. But brother Adam did not have the technology to see many of the bacterial and viral issues we do today. We are still learning so much about these issues today. It would be a real possibility that Brother Adam had way more than he could chew, by bringing in hundreds of different types of bees around the world. Today, we know what happens when you do this. Brother Adam was probably ignorant of such "global" spread of disease, did not really believe in strengthening the local acclimatized bees, or other issues we may now see in a different perspective.


You know,if you don't like the buckfast bee,that's fine but,the fact is people catch the flue every year when it goes around and bees of all kind catch different things every year as it goes around. It depends on where we or the bees stick our heads every year rather we catch something or not and how good our resistance is against different things. End of report.
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Acts2:37: Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
38: Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
39: For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
40: And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation
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« Reply #18 on: September 25, 2009, 02:10:49 PM »

Joelel,
Who said they did not like the buckfast bee.

Once again, I think you are far off the mark.

The problems in agriculture in regards to importation of livestock, invasive plants, disease, insects, etc., is well documented.

Every problem we have in beekeeping including v-mites, t-mites, SHB, nosema, and probably most of the active 18 viruses, were all brought in from around the world in the past 20 years. Many of these problems were not intended for nature to handle on these levels. The progression of disease in nature would take thousands of years, and even be impossible to cross such barriers as oceans. Bees would have perhaps a thousand years before the next "problem" would be seen.

Many examples of a foreign predator or host can be seen in many agricultural areas. Right now, we have huge areas of ash trees dying due to a bug called the emerald ash borer being recently introduced.

If you think having a beekeeper travel the world such as Brother Adam did, and collect bees from around and bring them all back to one location would be good for the bee industry...then thank goodness you have signed off with "end of report". Of course which is really sad, since i think there is much for you to learn. Which is how I go into these type discussions.

I can not see how thinking because humans transport the flu around the world, that thinking the same situation for bees could be healthy for the industry. The same research, support, dollars, and other items required to allow humans the freedom to travel can not be even slightly suggested as realistic to think it be true with bees.

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kathyp
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« Reply #19 on: September 25, 2009, 02:17:44 PM »

1918
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.....The greatest changes occur in their country without their cooperation. They are not even aware of precisely what has taken place. They suspect it; they have heard of the event by chance. More than that, they are unconcerned with the fortunes of their village, the safety of their streets, the fate of their church and its vestry. They think that such things have nothing to do with them, that they belong to a powerful stranger called “the government.” They enjoy these goods as tenants, without a sense of ownership, and never give a thought to how they might be improved.....

 Alexis de Tocqueville
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