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Author Topic: Queen mating fact, myth, or unknown....  (Read 10869 times)
BjornBee
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« on: October 14, 2010, 08:22:07 AM »

On another thread, there is some discussion about the distance a queen flies, etc. I did not want to hijack that thread, and wanted to expand a few thoughts.

Here are some things you hear about queens.....


"She flies a certain far off distance to mate (Some suggest up to 6 miles)...

I don't think so.

Before I go any further, a few things needs to be realized. And they come from the bees themselves and what they do in nature.

* Drones congregate in hives that are raising queens. They are allowed a free pass and are invited into the hives.

* In nature, the next nearest hive may be a couple hundred yards away, or a half mile.

* Drone congregation areas are based on the lay of the land, using easily found markers such as a river, ridge, etc.



a few unnatural things that beekeepers add to the mix is....

*Keeping many hives in one area.

*Buying many nucs or queens from one breeder and one genetic stock.



a few things that you should know about queens mating...

* a queen can determine her own drones in the mating process.

* Bees can actually identify an inbreed egg once laid.

In nature, the queen flies as far as she needs to to get mated. She does not fly past several DCA's on her way to some magical spot 6 miles out. She has been programmed over the eons to fly out to the nearest DCA, and mate with the drones available, which would be a collection of drones from the area colonies maybe numbering 5 to 10 within a several mile area.

Hopefullt you understand that inbreeding many times in NOT from a queen mating with her own drones. It has already been established that a queen recognizes her own drones and will reject her drones for mating.

Inbreeding is the mating with the same gentic stock, but from drones from other hives. Think of it this way....you can have 10 hives with the same genetic stock all sitting besides each other in a yard. Yet the bees know at the entrance what bees belong to that hive through pheromones. But they do not know that they are genetically from the same mother by all the queens coming from the breeder. (Yes, you could throw in the fact that each separate queen MAY have different genetic material since the sperm is from HOPEFULLY different drones. But many operations, and especially with a/I...you are mixing sperm from few sources with insemination from the same semen tank.)

So what you have with many beekeepers yards is not this vast mix of genetic material from 5 or 10 local colonies each contributing genetic stock for mating. Many times with beekeepers, you get a saturation of an area with genetic material by the beekeeper installing packages or buying large numbers of queens from the same area. You can also have this situation when a backyard queen producer raises queens all summer with the same beloved queen, saturating his yards with queens from his own narrow genetics stock.

So with that said.....think of the same 10 hives sitting next to each other with the same daughter queens sitting next to each other. The bees know one hive from another though individual pheromones. And they can recognize bees from their own colony. But they have no clue that they are all cousins from the same grandmother. So the queen flies out and mates with drones from these ten hives. She knows which drones came from her hive. That has been proven in studies. But what she does not know is that she is mating with drones from 9 hives with son's from her identical sister's hives.

We all assume that inbreeding happens when the queen mates with her own drones. And that can happen in drastic situations. And some suggest the queen sometimes just gets overwhelmed. (Keep in mind that bees know and clean out pure inbred eggs being paid.) But in a normal healthy DCA, she will not mate with her own drones. She will mate with other drones, but inbreeding happens when that genetic material is the same from the drones being all half-brothers.

Bees do have safeguards against inbreeding. Like the queen mating with many drones, etc. And that is another whole subject. But the queen flies as far as she needs to to find drones. She does not fly some programmed distance to just out distance her own drones. Her own drone are flying here and there, hanging out in other hives and may be in any nearby hive. You really think drones from other hives fly in hang out in the soon to be mated queen's hive, yet when referring to a queen going out and mating, her own drones aren't all over the countryside already? Somehow they all magically stay put and all the queen needs to do is fly some distance? No way.

Inbreeding in nature is probably non-exitant with some very basic controls. Beekeepers change the rules by overstaurating an area with the same genetic stock and making it impossible for the queen not to mate with like genetic material. Colonies usually cast off one or two swarms a year and those queens mate with a varied genetic supply. But the queen's own line that is passed is one colony per year on a line graph. Beekeeper raise 20-30 queens at a time, making a scenario not found in nature. And if a hive does raise 20 queens, 2 or 3 may be cast off in afterswarms, but the majority are killed off within the hive by the dominate queen.

Beekeepers should worry less about how far a queen flies. It means nothing in the scheme of things. But your own queen rearing protocol, and your saturation of large numbers of the same genetic material from packages or bulk orders of queens is the part you can control and which effect quality far more.

What we do is look at beekeeper painted pictures and scenarios and then try to justify (Some guy probably trying to write filler for his upcoming book) what bees do to overcome the unnatural situation that beekeeper place upon bees. But bees were programmed long before we started hitting them with these scenarios and problems

Queens do not fly 6 miles. And most inbreeding problems are not from her mating with her own drones, it is mating with same like genetic material.

Hope this helps.
« Last Edit: October 14, 2010, 08:34:19 AM by BjornBee » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: October 14, 2010, 09:07:22 AM »

bjorn, i agree with most of what you say here.  one question in regards to the following:

Quote
* a queen can determine her own drones in the mating process.

Quote
It has already been established that a queen recognizes her own drones and will reject her drones for mating.

...i've never heard this claimed before...do you have a source you can cite?

thanks,

deknow
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BjornBee
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« Reply #2 on: October 14, 2010, 09:41:07 AM »

bjorn, i agree with most of what you say here.  one question in regards to the following:

Quote
* a queen can determine her own drones in the mating process.

Quote
It has already been established that a queen recognizes her own drones and will reject her drones for mating.

...I've never heard this claimed before...do you have a source you can cite?

thanks,

deknow

Oh heavens no.

I do not keep a bookmark list and go with what I read.

Usually I am not motivated to dig through all my books and piles of crap until someone calls me a liar or states that my information is wrong. Then I get real bent on finding the information and jamming it down someones throat.  grin  Seriously though, much of what I write is what I have learned and read. Where all this came from, is beyond me.  rolleyes

I know I read an article that queens deny her own drones if she can. I say that because if I remember correctly, she does try to stop these matings but it was unclear if she always could. She can probably sense the pheromones of her own drones along the same lines that the bees can sense an inbred egg once laid and will remove them.

I'll see if I can find something.  Wink
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« Reply #3 on: October 14, 2010, 09:41:45 AM »

When the first honey bees were brought to the US from Europe, just how many hives did they start with, or how many hives survived (or was it just one hive?) the journey?  Due to the expense of bringing bees over, I would suspect that for years, these new US bees were closely related.  Do we have any documentation of these early bees?  
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« Reply #4 on: October 14, 2010, 09:55:01 AM »

thanks bjorn...i've never heard those claims before, so it would be nice to be able to look into them further (a quick google search didn't find anything).

i'll also say that i've been in a largish nuc yard and seen a cluster of bees fall from about tree height.  the beekeeper who's yard this was said it was a "mating swarm"...assuming it was a mating we were seeing, and asuming it wasn't a queen from outside the yard coming in, this queen was mating within a few hundred yards of her own hive....and as you described above, this is an unnatural situation (a few hundred nucs in one yard).

deknow
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« Reply #5 on: October 15, 2010, 12:53:53 AM »

>...i've never heard this claimed before...do you have a source you can cite?

It's the first time I've heard this claim as well.  I am curious...

I've never heard she will go to the "nearest DCA" either.  In fact I have heard several of the current crop of bee scientists say she will fly further than the drones to find one (Larry Connor, Marion Ellis etc.).
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BjornBee
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« Reply #6 on: October 15, 2010, 08:14:12 AM »

>...i've never heard this claimed before...do you have a source you can cite?

It's the first time I've heard this claim as well.  I am curious...

I've never heard she will go to the "nearest DCA" either.  In fact I have heard several of the current crop of bee scientists say she will fly further than the drones to find one (Larry Connor, Marion Ellis etc.).


I've also heard the latest crop of researchers debunk the claims of smallcell. So do we put faith in them or not? Or do we select only what we want?

The nearest DCA in nature, would be a collection of drones from the nearest hives. Those drones would be from a mile or two distance. Why would a queen fly beyond this DCA? The drones from 10 colonies in the area would be on a percentage of 90% from other hives, and perhaps 10% from hers, assuming 10 hives in the area of any DCA. Drones are also the ones that fly outside their hives and seek hives that are raising queens. Nature must of intended that these drones do this for a reason. They congregate and are even taken into the hive to allow the queen to mate with drones not her own. If she flew 6 miles, this would not be the case.

I've heard many questionable comments from the "scientists" you mention. I will not put all my eggs in one basket and assume that everything they say, write, or suggest, is 100% true. As with those that came before them, their information and data will change with the sands of time. And I can 100% state, that NOBODY knows everything about bees, to the point that we should blindly assume, follow, or believe everything you read.

deknow....Ive seen queens mate in rather short time periods making a trip of several miles not doable. It's funny how these same "scientists" all suggest drone saturation is explained by having drone yards at 1/4 or 1/2 mile intervals around a mating yard, but it now is stated that the queen flies well beyond these intervals and distances. Golly gee....so what is the truth. That you get good coverage of drone saturation with support colonies at 1/2 mile distances, or that the queen ignores all these drone and flies off some magical distance bypassing these drones. So I guess I will be reading that for drone saturation yards, we need to place them at 6 mile intervals. No way!

I've never had a queen mate in the yard. Or at least I have never seen it. But I know I've had many mate within a mile, and certainly within the flight distance of the drones from the very hive to which the queen was issued. That is why since we create very unnatural circumstances not seen in nature with yards holding many breeding nucs, it is best to have a queen from another yard brought in and grafting from, ensuring her daughter queens will mate with other genetic stock. If queens flew past several DCA's and up to six miles, inbreeding would be non existant. Myself, I'll forego the "scientists" comments, and know that the truth is a bit different than those making a living writing papers and constantly under pressure of putting out some new conclusion or finding.
« Last Edit: October 15, 2010, 08:29:52 AM by BjornBee » Logged

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« Reply #7 on: October 15, 2010, 09:02:03 AM »

On a tangent, what exactly is a DCA? To the drones just hang out there all day hoping to score with an unsuspecting female, and if not, later returns to the hive the same day? Then repeat process the next day? Or do they hang out there indefinitely?
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BjornBee
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« Reply #8 on: October 15, 2010, 09:20:50 AM »

On a tangent, what exactly is a DCA? To the drones just hang out there all day hoping to score with an unsuspecting female, and if not, later returns to the hive the same day? Then repeat process the next day? Or do they hang out there indefinitely?

DCA's (drone congregation areas) are places usually selected for natural features such as a tree line, or other easily seen terrain feature.

Drones normally leave the hives two or three times per afternoon, usually between noon and about 3 pm., although that is not cast in concrete. They do not stay for longer than 20-30 minutes.

Some have suggested the queen goes in a particular direction to a DCA upwind, where she can be directed by the pheromones being carried by the wind. (or is that downwind? I'm confused) I do try to located my drone yards to the west, southwest, northwest of the yards since the wind comes from there.

If you think about it, almost all queens are successful in mating the first day. Did she fly 6 miles and get lucky? Or did she get clues to the DCA by drones in the area, and pheromones cast off by nearby DCAs. I know I think it's no flying 6 miles and getting "lucky". I think there is much more involvement that "luck".

You can usually see a large returning amount of drones at a particular time of most afternoons. Around here, it is between 3 and 3:30. The yards are roaring with drones all returning at the same time. Very neat to see.
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« Reply #9 on: October 15, 2010, 09:36:24 AM »

Myself, I'll forego the "scientists" comments, and know that the truth is a bit different than those making a living writing papers and constantly under pressure of putting out some new conclusion or finding.

well, not all research is of the same quality...which is why it's important that details of research are available for scrutiny.  again, you've made some claims about what is known about queen mating...presumably some kind of researcher(s) (be they a credentialed scientists, commercial beekeepers, or enthusiastic amateurs) did some kind of work leading to such a claim.  it is not possible to evaluate this claim (made by you without any apparent reservation) without knowing the (or a) source....especially since you seem to be the only one reporting this.

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« Reply #10 on: October 15, 2010, 09:44:21 AM »

Myself, I'll forego the "scientists" comments, and know that the truth is a bit different than those making a living writing papers and constantly under pressure of putting out some new conclusion or finding.

well, not all research is of the same quality...which is why it's important that details of research are available for scrutiny.  again, you've made some claims about what is known about queen mating...presumably some kind of researcher(s) (be they a credentialed scientists, commercial beekeepers, or enthusiastic amateurs) did some kind of work leading to such a claim.  it is not possible to evaluate this claim (made by you without any apparent reservation) without knowing the (or a) source....especially since you seem to be the only one reporting this.

deknow

I have already stated I do not have the material at hand. this fact, does not cloud my own experiences, knowledge of what I read, or the information at hand. If I run across it, then i will post it.

In the meantime, based on your own experience, do you have anything to add, debate, or suggest, without getting caught up on the fact I made mention to something I once read, and fully agree with?

Lets look at it this way....take out the statement about me reading that queens mate in the nearest DCA or NOT flying some pre-programmed distance bypassing several DCA's for whatever reason that may be. Do you have any other comments about my explanation as to the details of what I have seen, know, and makes sense on a practical level?

Personally I would like to see the study that shows queens fly past several DCA's and travels up to 6 miles to mate. But I know I can not ask for that without others getting caught up demanding I find the paper I am referencing.

So for now, I am stating what I have seen, experienced, and know...which is that queens do not fly past several DCA's and distances up yo 6 miles.
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« Reply #11 on: October 15, 2010, 10:08:44 AM »

Quote
Personally I would like to see the study that shows queens fly past several DCA's and travels up to 6 miles to mate. But I know I can not ask for that without others getting caught up demanding I find the paper I am referencing.
...well, michael posted the names of some of the researchers who said this (and they are names we are all familiar with).  it shouldn't be too hard to find, and I bet michael would be happy to post more specific citations if asked.  i'm certain that it wouldn't be very hard to trace this all back to the actual studies..at which point we would undoubtedly find flaws in the studies and how they support their conclusions (this is true of virtually all studies).  when you say "this is true...because i read it somewhere", you are the only available source of this information, and there is no way to evaluate the claim.

Quote
So for now, I am stating what I have seen, experienced, and know...which is that queens do not fly past several DCA's and distances up yo 6 miles.
errrrr....what you have "seen, experienced, and know" is that _some_ queens under _some_ circumstances don't fly up to 6 miles.  correct me if i'm wrong, but i don't get the impression that you know where all the dca's are in your area, or if a queen that only flys a mile, or a quarter mile isn't passing a (or several) dca's.  i'll also go out on a limb and say that you probably aren't methodically timing all your queen matings, and the ones that come back quickly are noticeable.

i'll also comment that your observation that drones congregate in hives with virgin queens (which i agree with) isn't necessarily because those drones are there to mate with the queen.  the queen is also a poor flier, a big target, and a tasty treat.  a queen leaving the hive with a bunch of drones (also big and tasty) is, without a doubt, less likely to be picked off by a bird or dragonfly.  just because drones are attracted to colonies with virgin queens doesn't mean they are there to mate (and it also doesn't mean it doesn't happen sometimes...the case i cited above is a good example assuming the explanation of the beekeeper was accurate).

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« Reply #12 on: October 15, 2010, 11:52:02 AM »

ok, since I didn't ask, but you offered for them, lets see the data on 6 mile mating flights and bees passing over a number of DCA's to mate further out.

And when you do produce that, it will still be at odds with myself and probably many other observant beekeepers who have experienced different.

I will offer many references to drone saturation yards being at 1/2 mile radius of mating yards. Now why would that be if the queen flies right over several DCA's to further DCA beyond any suggested distance?

You also make the claim I am assuming. I am assuming nothing. I have, and will continue to state, that my own observations, timing of mating flights, and experiences, are that bees DO NOT fly 6 miles to pass by several DCA's to mate. So lets clear that up with your little "assuming" comments. I think I have been more than clear, straightforward, and non assuming in my comments.

I'll pass on your "Drones from other hives are attracted too, and hang out in hives, so they can be an escort for slow moving queens, so they can break free of the blockade and increase their chances of mating, by drones sacrificing themselves with no intent of mating themselves." Although I give you credit on fantasy...the picture is wrong and a bad example of anything close to reality.

The problem with some is that they think that any comments written in a book must be correct. Thank goodness for others such as kathy on another thread that actually has seen bees feeding and helping emerging bees from their cells. But the repeated comments in almost every bee book out there, is that worker bees emerge unaided. That is false.

Next you will be telling me that queens do not feed themselves. Or commenting on one of many other things stated in books over and over....all wrong.

So you read the books, and since you like the term....assume that everything you read in a book is correct. I know as a breeder and a very observant beekeepers, that the books are wrong on this.

The problem with conversation such as this, is one beekeeper is offering his experiences, his knowledge, and information. On the other side, is a beekeeper who holds up a book and claims that it can not possible be correct because someone stated differently in a book. The only difference in making one more correct or wrong should not be based on whether one person wrote a book. To do so would be like me being correct not based on fact or merit, but the mere fact of me writing a book. Writing a book does not make a person correct. And books have time and time again, been proven wrong. Personally, I put more weight in comments from the experiences of those that I am chatting with, as opposed to someone with no experience but standing holding a up a book quoting someone else.  Wink
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« Reply #13 on: October 15, 2010, 05:19:45 PM »

Bjornbee; you stated earlier in this thread that it has been established that a queen will not mate with a drone from her own hive, in other words, one of her offspring. Where did you get this info? Please provide references.  grin
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« Reply #14 on: October 15, 2010, 05:58:32 PM »

Bjornbee; you stated earlier in this thread that it has been established that a queen will not mate with a drone from her own hive, in other words, one of her offspring. Where did you get this info? Please provide references.  grin

Ha, Ha, very funny....  Wink
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« Reply #15 on: October 15, 2010, 08:06:24 PM »

 grin    Everyone having fun is what makes life good.
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« Reply #16 on: October 15, 2010, 09:15:21 PM »

i don't doubt any of your observations, and i never challenged a single one of them.

i do doubt that your observations are necessarily universal.

you didn't claim to have observed that queens pick the drones they mate with, you presented it as an established fact that you read about.  all i said was that i had never heard that claim before (do you think i'm lying about that?)...and asked what the source was.

i really don't understand why these things are so upsetting....it seems pretty basic and non confrontational.


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« Reply #17 on: October 15, 2010, 09:22:35 PM »

I am always interested in hearing peoples observations.  I prefer they be classified as "their observations" as opposed to known "facts".  I certainly don't believe everything that the researchers say, the books say or other beekeepers observe, but I like to organize those things and compare them to my observations. 

Here are the observations of a very experienced queen breeder and a very astute observer:

"We are still interested in controlled mating, for no great advances can be made without it. Here in Florida we tried island mating one season, the island being located two miles from our apiary. To test the location to see that no drones were within mating distance, we took six mating hives with virgin queens but no drones. The idea was that if all six of these virgins failed to mate it would be proof that there were no drones within mating distance. In that case we would then weigh out our largest drones, take them there and get controlled mating. But it was not to be. Four out of six mated with the drones of our yard two miles away. We did not believe they would mate with drones at that distance, so we learned that much.

"Many beekeepers claim they get pure mating as there are no bees other than their own within mating distance. I believe if they would try it as we did they would find they would get mating from drones far away. Nature is very solicitous about preserving the species and the queen and drones do court on the sly in a manner unknown to those who try to snoop into their private affairs. Possibly the antenna of the drone picks up the high-pitches sound of the queen's wings miles away. Who knows? "--Jay Smith, Better Queens

http://www.bushfarms.com/beesbetterqueens.htm#Artificial%20Insemination
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« Reply #18 on: October 15, 2010, 09:56:00 PM »

Drones congregate in hives that are raising queens. They are allowed a free pass and are invited into the hives.




   huh  How far away will Drones fly from their parent hive to find a hive raising a queens. huh

   huh  Are drones allowed a free pass and are invited into all the hives raising a queens or queen right or queen less huh
  

                     BEE HAPPY Jim 134  Smiley
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« Reply #19 on: October 15, 2010, 10:07:44 PM »

6 miles lau lau
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