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Author Topic: In defense of feral stock  (Read 3348 times)
David McLeod
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« on: July 08, 2012, 12:00:27 PM »

I'm starting this thread because a comment on another thread got me off topic so I thought I would start another thread on topic for my response. I would welcome commentary on this subject and really want to hear what others are seeing in their areas.


The comment...

Quote from: Finski
Ferals are very same bees as tame bees. Just escaped to nature. Freal bees have not special powers.

My response which took the thread off topic...

Quote from: David McLeod
Finski, I may not be an biologist or entomologist but I have made my living not from bees but from observation of everything around me. As a professional trapper I took to heart an old timer's advise to "let the animal tell you where it wants to be caught". This power of observation is very highly developed for me and I will swear on a stack of bibles that here in the southeast we have a type of honeybee that has distinct behavioral traits that are different than the honeybee I became familiar with years ago as a keeper of "standard commercial italian" honeybees. I cannot show you the DNA to prove my thinking but many of these bees that I am cutting out of folks walls and trapping out of trees are definitely different than what I can buy from the package and queen operators. It's the little things that singly would mean nothing but when you add it up shows a distinct trend of difference. It is a repeatable occurance that has me convinced that our "feral stock" bees of unknown origins are not the same as our "tame" bees of known origins.
Past this point I can only offer conjecture and opinions as to the whys and wherefores of how this has occurred. Please review all of my posts on this subject and you will see that I am always very careful to qualify my statements on the matter as I am by no means a bee expert just a beek that watches my bees very closely and as all things beekeeping are local I can only speak to my locality. I would assume that is the case in Finland as well and maybe you are not seeing the same as I am in your locality, which would stand to reason as I doubt your bees have been subject to the same mass migrations of populations of both honeybee subspecies and human nationalities. Again this is just conjecture on my part. So in your locality you may indeed be correct that your ferals are indeed the same as your tame stock.
Now in defense of "my" ferals. These are not the magic bullet or superbee we beeks have been so questionably been trying to develop over the centuries, they are a bee just like any other but with certain distinctions. Mainly they seem to be uniquely adapted to their locality in regards to seasonal pressures, in this they excell, and I and many others are seeing they also have some resistance to the various pestilences that have decimated our bees over the past thirty years. It is this latter trait that has really caught fire among us beeks. Are they the final answer? Absolutely not as there will never be a perfect answer but they do live on in spite of colony after colony dying all around them and that alone is worth listening to. In many ways they are actually inferior to the commercial strains of honeybees available. For instance mine tend to be runny on the comb, they tend to not put up as much of a surplus as pure production strains, propolis production tends to the heavier side than standard italian stock but not as excessive as carnis or caucasians, the queens while good layers do not lay nonstop irregardless of season which is a less desirable trait for commercial operations, temperment while usually very calm can be variable and overall there tends to be slightly more variability from colony to colony.
Probably the only real thing I can positively attest to is that they live as I do not treat my bees for mites, parasites or disease and other than cutouts failing to thrive or robbing I have yet to have a deadout in the last several years. How and why I do not know as I do not do mite drops, sugar shakes or any other testing methodology I just keep bees that live. If anyone wants to come look at my bees they are more than welcome as I am slightly proud of them and if anyone can show me proof positive of why they live I would be glad of it.

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« Reply #1 on: July 08, 2012, 12:59:48 PM »

I agree with Finski.
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« Reply #2 on: July 08, 2012, 01:04:05 PM »

Well, Bjorn, please elaborate on why you agree. No right or wrong just what do you see in your area that leads you to believe that the bees found outside of manged apiaries in your area are no different than the manged bees.
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« Reply #3 on: July 08, 2012, 01:07:06 PM »

.
I have nursed bees 50 years. I started at 15 .

Ferals?  In my country ferals were common case when I started about 1962. 20 years later German Black ferals were dead because varroa destroyed them

Yes, I have 20 years experience about ferals. I have nothing good to say about them.

Now I have noticed that Carnioland are forming feral stock in surroundings. They swarm much and make small hives. I suppose that they lide in emty farm houses.

Italian have big colonies and they have not such cavities here.

If you think that you are only guy who can read the bees. - I am sure that I can read bees better than you because I have so long experience. If you think that you have abnormal skills in that issue, its is your problem. Not mine. I wll not insist that I ncan read bees mind. I take my pills every day.

 And if 50 y experience is not enough to handle bees, there is something wrong in my head.

I will say that you will never get 100-200 kg honey from feral hive. If not, I amd not interested about those bees.



And further more. In old days when I had feral mongrels, they were far from healty hives.

At the very beginning I got about 600 sting during 24 hours. I catures 3 swarms in that day. Now, if hive stings me 20 times in one day, the queen will be dead inside 24 hours.


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David McLeod
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« Reply #4 on: July 08, 2012, 01:11:58 PM »

As some who may respond do raise and sell "commercial stock" bees I do not care to hear any arguements for better or worse than just are you seeing differences and if so what. I myself have made the case that my feral stock is in some ways worse than commercial stock and in others better. As in all things it's a trade off and each of us have to pick and choose what we are willing to compromise on.
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« Reply #5 on: July 08, 2012, 01:18:09 PM »

Well, Bjorn, please elaborate on why you agree. No right or wrong just what do you see in your area that leads you to believe that the bees found outside of manged apiaries in your area are no different than the manged bees.
ial

Australia has special area in western parts. It has had several decades a special Italian bee stock.
When they have rsearched genetically ferals in nature, they are same stock.

In Tasmania they have a wild German Black population in woods. However professionals use Italians.
It is strange that black bee has remained quite pure among Italians. But one thing may bee that huge Italians have no place there because they hannot make nest in eucalyptus holes.

When I had those great ferals, in this time it was common that a beekeeper had a straw hive and in summer it has medium size super. A board hive was not much bigger. That hive gove 15 kg honey in a year and 2 swarms.

Once I have 2 years a black bee hive, which maximum size was 4 frames, Then it swarmed. I got not a bit honey from that hive. Only stngs.

German Black were nuisance. They were quick to mate with with Italian and Caicasian queens. The result was a monster with its hybrid vigour.s. 2 meter high tower and huge attacks.

I love inseminated Italians...


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Finski
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« Reply #6 on: July 08, 2012, 01:25:59 PM »

As some who may respond do raise and sell "commercial stock" bees I do not care to hear any arguements for better or worse than just are you seeing differences and if so what. I myself have made the case that my feral stock is in some ways worse than commercial stock and in others better. As in all things it's a trade off and each of us have to pick and choose what we are willing to compromise on.

If you think so, don't let others to disturb your opinion.

Let me say one thing. My good yeidls depends on migrative beekeeping. Tomorro I move my best 8 box hive to canola fields. I move them when they are allredy flying. I lift boxes to carry and then at destination I pile them controversy. I think that I will not get not a sting in this procedure.

SAfter one hour bees are allready bringing pollen to the hive.

What about ferals.
When I arrive to destination, I should first look where is so dense willow bush that I run throught it when something happens or I take stransport mesh off.

When I move hives. I need not even put lfire to the smoker.

I am very happy about that.
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David McLeod
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« Reply #7 on: July 08, 2012, 01:32:04 PM »

Finski, fair enough. You have the experience to back up your opinions, I never doubted that. Started at 13 here but your older so count me for thirty if you can overlook a long absence from the hobby. Forgive me if I pride myself in being to observant I know I'm not alone but I am sure you are accustomed to others not being so.

Interesting in the make up of your ferals. We too had the german or dutch bee as the background stock for our ferals (qualifier I assume this to be the case as I'm not a geneticist) with a strong influence of italian stock as our beeleeping went that way. To what degree the stocks remained "pure" or "crossbred" I have no clue but I can only speak to what I see today. I am really interested that carnis seem to be making up the bulk of your ferals as I would doubt that carnis have ever been here in numbers large enough to have that type of influence though I am sure there must have been some genetic influence since they have been brought over.
I will agree that the ferals I see (on average) may never produce the amounts of honey you state but they do produce honey. It may be that selecting from the feral type for increased production may change that but would they then be "true ferals"? I do know that I find the occasional colony of bees in a wall or tree that has produced way more than the norm. I have one sitting in the side yard now that are recovering after being rehived and loosing over a hundred pounds of comb and honey. I am babying them as I really want that type of production.
It may also be true that our ferals have changed over the years as well. I remember some bee tree cut outs back then that were full of some of the nastiest little stinging machines known to man but today I can often perform a cutout unsuited. Who knows?
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« Reply #8 on: July 08, 2012, 01:58:36 PM »

It may also be true that our ferals have changed over the years as well.

Surely they have. I wonder if Russian bees have not formed ferals stocks into nature. You have so much different kind of "star" and what ever bees.

I do not trust much on beekeeping start at the age of 13 because you need adult muscle power in that job. 50 kg full honey boxes. Not shildren job. I violated my back every summer.

But now varroa has become much more difficult to handle. It developes too and the viruses with it.
Varroa is much more dangerous now than 20 years ago.

We have here 9 months bee-winter-period. It is very dangerous even to best ferals.



.



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« Reply #9 on: July 08, 2012, 02:48:54 PM »

400 lb. honey from one hive isn't telling the type of bee, it is telling the forage area, IF it even exists. 40 kilo, or 80 lb. of honey here is a tremendous harvest. Not because of the bee type, but the poor forage area.

Ferals are a mix of bees. Some recently escaped, some having lived unmanaged for years. They all cannot be grouped into one group.

Ferals are much less expensive, since the home owner will pay you to take them, where a breeder makes you pay him for them. Not such a great loss if they die.

My son had his own hives when he was nine. By 13, he could teach a class on beekeeping.
At 13, I could carry a 100 lb. bag of cow feed to the barn.I don't see where weight would determine whether I could have kept bees or not.
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« Reply #10 on: July 08, 2012, 03:05:54 PM »

First year bee keeper here and all my hives come from feral or what ever bees they are made up of. Not sure how much or if any honey I might harvest the first year as they are establishes new hives but have been told by other beeks in area the wild hives survive better to the area since they have been at it for a while. I realize there is much to learn to be a good beek and appreciate all you guys share on the subject.
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« Reply #11 on: July 08, 2012, 03:18:34 PM »

400 lb. honey from one hive isn't telling the type of bee, it is telling the forage area,

Of course it tells. You cannot get 400 lbs honey from 3 box hive. It needs almost 10 boxes.

And you cannot get that amount by accident as a gift of God.
My neighbour got last year 340 lbs on average. He extracted hives 7 times. Yes, in 5 weeks.
His hives are huge.

But if you put 10 boxes hive on bad pastures, you get nothing.

I have got even minus 30 kg in July on dry sand wood areas when at same time 3 other hives got 250 lbs kg in one week.e been in

Many professionals even here try to hunt old big hives which have taken care it self for years. What what they get: stings and swarming.

Professionals fight for their life, but they do not trust ferals. Okey, we have no ferals. Varroa killed them.

.

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« Reply #12 on: July 08, 2012, 04:19:10 PM »

Well, Bjorn, please elaborate on why you agree. No right or wrong just what do you see in your area that leads you to believe that the bees found outside of manged apiaries in your area are no different than the manged bees.


First, please do not box in any responses by making demands of the type of replies or answers you desire. That is not way to get other people's opinion and information. And it usually is a telltale sign of a person who has already made up their mind, and is ready on the defence to debate from one side, and not really listen to others.

With that said, you should also know that in such discussions, there are no black and white answers. Your asking if ALL ferals are the same as managed bees. That is not true. But for the basis of the discussion at hand, I side with finski and the overall message he is stating, as compared to the 20 years of folks who claim special status for what seems as every feral colony they collect.

Now....where to start.

I guess we should set some guidelines as to what we are to discuss.

Your comparing managed bees, to feral bees. Right?

But what managed bees? Are you comparing the typical bee in most beekeepers hives, with bees from packages based on mass produced bees, with little emphasis on selection, survivor traits, and breeding from the best?

You see, if you are comparing such a scenario, then what you are doing, is questionable.

Now if you select, breed your own, cull the weak, and have a better line then what most find in packages, (and you should) then perhaps your attitude would change once you figure out that what you could and should be doing is not much different than what mother nature does.

If your treating your bees, buying packages or mass produced queens, and have done little else other than buy crappy bees, and then compare that to some feral bees to which mother nature is doing something different than what you are doing, of course you will see a difference. Mother nature does what most beekeepers are not willing to do.

So which way you want to go? Shall we discuss the idea of long lost feral genetics? That is always an interesting area. This could go in so many different directions. At this point, I'll wait to see what intelligent questions you may have. While my answers are probably not soft to many ears, especially those marketing "feral" stock, I have been involved in feral colony studies for a number of years now. I have one listed on this page. http://www.bjornapiaries.com/researchatbjorns.html

I will assume your interested in more than just a "poll" question of whether one thinks feral bees are the same as the bees kept in your hives. That depends on whether your doing your job or not. If you have crap in your hives, then I will acknowledge now that ferals are probably better. I do not. So this feral hype is far less than what others think themselves.
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« Reply #13 on: July 08, 2012, 06:24:59 PM »

.
A few days ago I took from my trees 3 swarms.

- One is from my most angry hive.
- one arrived via sky when I was capturing that angry swarm.  it occupied 2 frames.
- one was at tree top at the hight of 15 metres. I do not know from what hive.

They all had strong beautifull queens. But the origin?
One I know but two others not.. Do I kill them and look what they are. So I should wait to next summer to see.

What is bee breeding?  it is selecting. Selecting from unknown source? And I have splended hives from where to rear good queens.  I have paid money to get new genes to my yard.

No. I do not want  to try is that good which arived  from heaven . I  do not want to waist a year and see that it was an average queen.


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« Reply #14 on: July 08, 2012, 06:39:29 PM »

David; as for the age, i am 64, have hunted , fished, and traped all my life. if as you say, one that dosent observe what is hapning, yo sack gona be kinda empty. a lot of good traits have been bread out of bees and animals for crtain others. survial for gentle. also looks .  all of mine are caught one way or another and i never worry about mites; but do worry a little about beetles; but those little suckers are learning how to handle them too. mother nature does wonderful things and likes a small amount of tinkering, but some things she is gona throw a little hissey fit and that ant nice. I have always admired an irish setter; a beautiful dog that the show people have turned into a worthless animal. if one cant earn his groceries, i ant no tree huger, the sorry sucker is gone. my muts bring in some groceries
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« Reply #15 on: July 08, 2012, 07:44:48 PM »

lets say I'm old and new. I started beekeeping helpping my uncle on his farm tending his bees. I was 8 years old. I would work hives that were 5 feet high and over my head. I worked them on a flat bed pulled behind a old tractor. I worked from sun up till sun down. from may till august. I did this for 3 years. his farm had over a 1000 hives on it and he had 3000 hives on other farms in the counties around him. I worked the ones on his acerage only. five days a week. then we would beeline on weekends in counties outside his area to locate new stock. In Va. bees were brought to by the settlers. because no honey bee was from this country. they were know as the whitemans bee by the American Indian's. because they knew that when they saw a honeybee that a settlement was within 3 miles of them. Now as far as feral verses genetically improved bees. Both have merit and both have problems as stated. My uncle never payed for his bees. His statement was (As a farmer) that mother nature knows what works here at this moment and place. saying that. I work with feral hives because I like the traits they are more towards the type of bee I worked with way back then. they have there moods. somedays great some days not so great. but in using them in the area I live. with no farming and only trees and some areas with houses. they produce a good quantity. I can harvest about 50 lbs on some and 150 on others. I have had great survival rate over winters with little to know problem with disease. Now I have not altered the genetics of my bees but mother nature has. Thur surving.  so there is not one better than the next It all comes down to what you as the keeper want. and works for your location. . so in that  I say each has the same .

John
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« Reply #16 on: July 08, 2012, 08:12:19 PM »

I too was interested and convinced in the fact that ferals were better.  After a few years of messing with them and comparing them to queens that came from breeders I have found that the breeder queens were better.  Now you have to find out what you are into honey bees for.  Some folks have them just to have them, or to help pollinate their gardens.  I have them because I want honey.  The ferals do not compare to the honey crop that is given to me by my managed bees. 
I should point out that I am in Texas and we do have AHB here, not sure if that matters.  I look at it this way thought.  If you are keeping cattle for meat, then you do not keep long horns.  Or chickens for egg production, you wouldnt keep broilers. 
People have tinkered with breeding for desired traits for a long long time even if it was by accident.  Thats what I look for.  I like to get a honey crop and bees I can work that do not try to kill me.

Hope that is clear as mud?
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« Reply #17 on: July 09, 2012, 12:58:31 AM »

My observations on feral bees are these:
1)The bees I call feral came from a wall cavity of an abandoned house that was continuously occupied by bees for several years.

2) Mine have been fast to multiply in spring, and I have to stay on top of swarm managment.

3)They are very frugal with stores and survive upstate NY winters well.

4) I've found no need to treat them for mites. I've also done a lot of splits, so that surely helped attenuate any mite issues.
That said, I think a line of bees that likely survived several years with no one to treat them don't need me to start doing so unless a problem develops.
(I'm not crazy about eating or selling honey from from colonies treated with chemicals, as I don't trust the government to put my health ahead of the profits of those that produce them. Others may trust the government more than I do-more power to 'em. This is just my preference.)

5) They don't make huge amounts of honey (but neither do colonies that don't survive winter).


6) Mine are pretty gentle...sometimes I work w/o a veil.

It's my opinion that untreated commercial stock from a reputable breeder (as opposed to queen producer) is likely to be better bred with a more desirable set of traits than bees whose breeding is left to chance.

These bees have a lot of traits I'd like to incorporate into my breeding program, and a few that need to be eliminated.
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« Reply #18 on: July 09, 2012, 01:59:12 AM »

.
OK. I have tried to breed my bee stock and I have often byed (almost every year) queens from professionals to look what quality they have in their bees. Are they better than mine recent, do I continue from them or do I search more.

I have several experiences how fast a small beeyard like mine, decline and I can find that byed queen are clearly better. I have met sensitivenes to nosema, swarming. modest laying, inbreeding....

I have studied biology and genetics in Helsinki university. Perhaps my university skill were nothing compared with some person's insticnt. I have not that instinct.

My wife claims that she has skills to foresee things. I have asked her to concentrate herself to lotto winning numbers.
She says that she had not get lotton wins  for 30 years, BUT NOW, I wonder why she has so much money. Bottomlesly much.She can support ebven my beekeeping business.


OK. My studies, experience and will to develope bee stock is nothing compared to your system. You go to woods. You take from there a wild beehive and it is better than my all hives together,

OK, then I must admit that my beekeeping is nothing. I am a looser. In Finnish word saying a stupido.

Then, If I get 400 lbs yield from one hive. It is mere accident. Nothing to do with quality of my  bee stock.  Look, our yield season is 1 month long. Last summer it was 5 weeks. Good season is 3 weeks long. Not normally more.


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« Reply #19 on: July 09, 2012, 10:08:08 AM »

My ferals consistantly outproduce the "production" queens in every aspect. I now only keep feral bees, you can keep the mass produced ones.
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