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Author Topic: In defense of feral stock  (Read 3154 times)
D Semple
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« Reply #20 on: July 09, 2012, 10:18:13 AM »

I catch all my own bees and have about 50 hives. About 2/3 of the bees I catch I would call a feral type and about 1/3 are pretty much straight up Italians which is what the local bee suppliers in our area bring in.
 
In my short experience Management and Location seems far more important to harvest success than genetics.

Hives in my best yards out performed hives in my other yards 2 or even 3 to 1
Big Hives out perform little hives 3 or 4 to 1

Next year I will be following Finski example and be moving my bees a couple of times to take better advantage of our local flows. I may even ship them 700 miles to North Dakota after our local spring flow to catch their later flow period.

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Lone
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« Reply #21 on: July 09, 2012, 10:32:38 AM »

Just to correct a minor point, Finski.."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."

I was surprised you said italians can't nest in eucalypts..why, they'd be homeless if they couldn't.  So I looked it up: http://tasmanianbeekeepers.org.au/history-2/ : "During the 1970's almost pure descendants of the original Black English or German bees were found in an apiary at Tarraleah, in the central highlands. These bees had been taken from bee trees in the area. Because of its altitude, only these black bees could survive the bleak, cold Winters of the area."

Anyway, I count my experience in single figures and my honey output in ounces not hundreds of pounds, so I can't add knowledge to your discussion. 

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Finski
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« Reply #22 on: July 09, 2012, 12:46:42 PM »

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

They are no more ferals when they are in your hives.

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divemaster1963
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« Reply #23 on: July 09, 2012, 07:38:34 PM »

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

They are no more ferals when they are in your hives.



feral only for the first year. then it's corrosion to build in frames. ( but his underlying meaning is his hives were begun with feral stock and traits.) would you call a wild bore caught then placed in a pen for years and feed by you a farm raised pig or a feral hog tamed. It all comes down to the trait that you are looking for in your farm (apiary) animals. some like the leaner feral wild bore over the fatty genetically modified farmed raised pig. But what is the wild bore that has been pend and fed for the year is he feral or is he farmed raised?
it's all in what YOU what to get out of it.

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Finski
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« Reply #24 on: July 09, 2012, 11:44:22 PM »

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When I bye a pure queen from professionals, first generation is good. The daughter has 50% of its original genes.

in next generation the original genes will be 25% and other genes are from surrounding.
That is accident if the queen does not get cross mating. Soon they may suffer from inbreeding.

I try to keep my queens in the better side of Gauss curve. If I do not take care of that, my yarsd's genepool will be wide but on average it is average. That is not queen breeding.

It vein to insist that you can keep good gene pool with 20 hives. That needs that you do not know anything about genetics.

As soon as my genepool its best power, as soon will the ferals loose their genes what they got in wilderness.

Okay. You may talk about your ferals st of you life. It makes normal brain beekeepers smile but if you are satisfiet to it. it is OK. I have met those guys enough. They have their own therories about everything And you will never win in dabate those guys.

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Finski
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« Reply #25 on: July 09, 2012, 11:47:31 PM »

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Where is your bees genepool ?
how do you take care of it?



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VolunteerK9
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« Reply #26 on: July 10, 2012, 08:48:33 AM »

So if ferals arent any better, and in some cases as described above, worse than commercial stocks, why is there all the hype in the selling of feral daughter queens? Is it going to be another proverbial can of worms like SC and sugar dusting?
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deknow
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« Reply #27 on: July 10, 2012, 10:26:39 AM »

...I think it's a bit strange to take observations of feral populations (some, apparently recently established from some of the locally used commercial stock) of bees in Finland and assume that the same is true of ferals in the U.S.

deknow
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Finski
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« Reply #28 on: July 10, 2012, 12:06:32 PM »

So if ferals arent any better, and in some cases as described above, worse than commercial stocks, why is there all the hype in the selling of feral daughter queens? Is it going to be another proverbial can of worms like SC and sugar dusting?


One professional here sells "organic queens".  In that part of Finland folks are famous for they quick twisted humour.

"When they open their mouth, the responsibity moves at that second to the listeners."

Here it is "Domestic organic queens" = Kotimaiset luomuemot

http://www.korpiaho.net/english/

That company is quite in north,  63 latitude.


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AndrewT
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« Reply #29 on: July 13, 2012, 11:03:16 PM »

I started keeping bees twenty years ago, with package bees.  I caught swarms here and there, but regularly purchased packages of Italians to replace winter losses and I bought Italian queens for making splits.  Being a biologist, I've always been interested in life all around me.  I liked keeping the swarms that I found, but none of those feral bees gathered anywhere near as much honey than my best Italians did, but I was keeping bees purely for fun.

At one point, like twelve or so years ago, I picked up a swarm of bees that had come from a colony inside a big tree.  I was told that colony had been in that tree for years and that swarms were a regular spring occurrence.  I kept that swarm along with several other colonies of Italians.

The next spring, I'd lost a couple of my Italian colonies, and instead of buying package bees, I made splits of the remaining colonies.  I also stopped treating for mites that year.  Eventually, all the Italian colonies died, but those feral bees kept surviving.  I still sometimes loose a colony over the winter, and I've lost many swarms from inattention, but I've still got my bees and I haven't caught a swarm, nor bought a package of bees in twelve years.

They don't gather nearly as much honey as my Italians did, but they over-winter nicely with sometimes really small clusters.  Then, they build up amazingly fast (thus the lost swarms), and even when I mess up, I still get enough honey to use and to give away. 
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Finski
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« Reply #30 on: July 14, 2012, 05:41:57 PM »

much honey as my Italians did, but they over-winter nicely with sometimes really small clusters.  Then, they build up amazingly fast (thus the lost swarms), and even when I mess up, I still get enough honey to use and to give away. 

I am biologist too and i have studied genetics too.

problem in USA is that you bye queens from subtropical area. You sell there same bee stock from Hawaii to Alaska.  I have never read that local adapted bee stock is important. You don't just sell that kind of queens.

2  years ago I bought queens from northern finland but I am afraid that those queen were reared in Italy.
They were strange.  If some ask, do queen rearers are honest gang and I will say no.
they fight for living.

during 50 years i have had many kind of bee strains and races. If 50 years is enough to learn things and give perpective. It is not my problem.
Like I said, I have nursed semiferals and ferals 30 years. I know that they are unselected escaped swarms

My hives bring 50-150 kg honey/hive  in 1,5 months. 
Well reared strains are clearly better that crossed ferals. And easy to handle.



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Nature Coast Beek
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« Reply #31 on: July 14, 2012, 09:29:28 PM »

It's all give and take isn't it? Yeah, you can catch something that will survive, but it won't make as much honey. You can buy something that will produce more honey but takes much more time investment and "support". It's all about what you're goals are in my book.

If a person starts pig farming...they don't go and start trapping feral pigs to "build" on. Lots of those feral pigs are escaped farm pigs that with enough time have bred out to survivor stock. Again, it's a lot about what you're in it for. If you simply want bees that are going to survive, feral probably has its place, that is if you can in fact trace it to "feral" origins (just because it was caught doesn't make it feral survivor stock). I couldn't imagine a serious commercial beek that has a several thousand hives and pollination contracts all over the US thinking about stocking feral bees very seriously. Again, it's all about what you're in it for.
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BjornBee
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« Reply #32 on: July 15, 2012, 06:41:36 AM »

Yes, it is give and take.

Here in Pennsylvania, out of the more than 3,000 beekeepers, 13 are full time commercial operator. That means 2,987 are hobbyists, with a few sideliners thrown in.

We all know most commercial guys buy huge numbers of mass produced queens and cells from places that are doing little in the way of survivor stock or resistance breeding. We had a major producer from Florida a couple years back actually state in a state bee association meeting that they do NO selection or survivor program in their operation. Most of their customers (large commercial guys) will treat for mites themselves and leave little to the bees, meaning a hobbyist if buying those same bees, better be prepared to do the same. And yet, with few exceptions, most hobbyists buy from larger outfits and do little in the area of queen rearing themselves, or treat as they do. Most beekeepers put little faith in their own ability to better their stock or realize the benefits of raising their own queens, yet chase the idea that if they cut out a feral colony from farmer Brown's barn, that they will have better bees.

Beekeepers need to understand what they are buying. And that not everything is what it is claimed to be. On another recent thread, a study has shown Australian bees were of (almost) no resistance to mites. Yet I heard many bigger operators in recent years who were buying these packages, claim that they were great bees and anyone who said differently were just blowing smoke.

I'll say again, if you are comparing ferals to past poor performing commercial mega-produced stock, then yes, you may see an upgrade in your bees. Afterall, that bar has been set very low. But the only reason to make that comparison, is for the fact that beekeepers are not doing the upgrading to their stock on their own. If you truly had a breeding program, raised your on bees, and put a little faith in your own ability, the last thing you would do is run around getting excited about some bees down the street in a tree, that probably is the very swarm from someone Else's crappy hive a little bit further down the street.

Most feral stock came from at least a hive that survived a winter, IE., was strong enough to make it through winter, and healthy enough to actually swarm. That beats the standard bar previously mentioned every time. But that does not make feral stock even close to the claims and suggestions that some beekeepers over the past 20 years has made. But we sell the idea to ourselves very easily when we have crap in our hives to begin with.  Wink
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« Reply #33 on: July 15, 2012, 09:53:09 AM »

Bjorn, it looks like we agree more than disagree.

Sorry for not replying sooner but it has been one more week for me. So now that I have time I'll sit down and type out a reply.

I started this thread not to create dissension but to get opinions and more importantly to try to discern if others are seeing what I am seeing. Specifically, among the cut out colonies I am seeing a specific "type" of bee. I would call it it a phenotype but the overall gestalt includes more than the physical body type but also includes the comb construction and the storage and brood patterns.
Now this so called "feral" stock that I am seeing is not, nor would I ever make the claim, some sort of super bee. The only claim that I can actually make for them is that they are still alive when I find them and they live still in my boxes without any effort on my part for mite or parasite control.
I believe I have already stated that they pale in comparision to other stock for pure honey production or even brood rearing. I certainly would not even consider these bees for pollination contracts either. I have boxes out there now that to look at the activity out the door you would doubt there are enough bees in there to put up the three mediums that are sitting on top. They lay brood with the season going wall to wall in April and backfilling with one frame of eggs at present but the upswing for fall has begun.
The laying cycle is probably the biggest thing that differentiates these bees from commercial stock. Like I said I have strong healthy colonies in the yard that by all outward appearances are small to medium and mediocre at best. I still scratch my head over it sometimes.
I am not nor will I ever be a major player in honey production or pollination contracts but I can see the glaring shortcomings of these bees. In their current state they will never win any prizes for honey production and a trip across country to almonds would probably kill them. I can see why major producers would consider "ferals" to be worthless. Whatever, no right or wrong I can only report on what I am seeing here in central Georgia in the bees I take out of walls and trees and the afteraction reports when I get them into boxes in my yards. So far, enough to have me impressed enough to mention it, if for no other reason than toughness and survivability.
So, Bjorn, I think we can agree that beeks need to get off of the "production package bee" treadmill and look more towards the "locally adapted" stock. Am I correct in that? If so, wouldn't you say that the local surviving bees aka "feral stock" would make a good starting point in that search? Here is where I would really like your input. If you had a type or strain of bees or access to such bees that seemed to show a general similarity in the traits you found desirable, in this case for me surviviability and brood production timed to the season being the most consistant across the board, what would you do to preserve or build on to a) consolidate into a consistant strain or stock and b) improve traits such as production without losing the traits you admire the most.
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« Reply #34 on: July 15, 2012, 11:48:41 AM »

As others have said once these "wild caught" bees are moved into boxes they cease to be ferals, at least after the first requeening. So where do they go from here? I would like to think up but as in all things genetic it can be a crap shoot.
Should these bees be subjected to a managed breeding program, which may or may not be a good thing, or should they be left to natural open matings and if so what methods would one use. I could see setting up yards with only bees of "type" for these matings but even I would call that a mutt to mutt shot in the dark program. Whatever the case the feral status ends at that point.
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Finski
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« Reply #35 on: July 15, 2012, 02:47:55 PM »

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I live here in very hostile environment when we think about bees..
Commercial beekeepers must have much more bettet hives than those which have escaped to somewhere.

At least what I know commercial guys they are very clever and they have clear goals what they want from queens.

Our queen markets are quite small and commecials cannot invest much to the research of their bee stock.

But if queen sellers start to sell feral mongrels, it would be surely the end of business.
Yes, customers have allready those mighty power ferals.  qite few meet that pain thay they properly rear queens and select them..

I can say that when I have 20 hives, it is impossible to keep my genepool in condition.
Bees in surrounding make very soon a mesh from myhives.

When I continuously bye queens from different hrearers, I can see the quality level of my stock and genepool. If I do not compare my queens to others, it is impossible to know what they are.l

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« Reply #36 on: July 15, 2012, 05:46:08 PM »

david, i didn't go back to the beginning of this, but i can tell you my own experience with true survivor types.  in short, they are better.  they need no medications, the queens are laying machines, and the bees are good for my area.  it stands to reason that if a hive has survived for a few years "wild" it has the genetics we all want in our hives.

+ i usually find the temperament to be better. 

there's nothing wrong with keeping packaged bees with managed queens, but if you are into minimal manipulation and medication, i don't think you can beat the hives you dig out of walls and trees.

it is true that after they are requeened, either by them or you, you may have lost at least part of those genetics, but that's the way it goes whether you buy or catch.  if i get a really good survivor queen, and i need to requeen a hive, i try to use stock from that good queen.  of course, the drones are a crap shoot, but at least part of what i get comes from that good stock.
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« Reply #37 on: July 16, 2012, 12:48:34 AM »

ill attest to the wild bees queens being laying machines..  I have yet to see one with a weak pattern either.  also the amount of honey produced is directly related to the flow around a hive and the strength of the hive.  300000 bees will put up way more nectar than 30000.
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