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Author Topic: Swarm control VS bee survival  (Read 3398 times)
Eve Sylvia
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« on: March 30, 2007, 01:10:25 PM »

It seems to me that beekeepers are fixated on swarm control, and working the bees for maximum honey production above all else. Since we are faced with honeybee extinction, I think we should consider letting the bees do what they need to do. A swarm makes a new colony, after all. Just try to catch it, if you can, and let them thrive as best you can. With your help, feed and treatment.

I support the theory that bees have been weakened by decades of manipulative beekeeping, aimed at high production above all else. Why weed out the drones? We don't know all their function yet, but they are there for some reason. The same goes for queen rearing. Maybe in the wild, the mating occurs with a selection we haven't been able to match artificially. Lets all focus on healthier hives instead of high production for  a few years, until this crisis abates!!!
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« Reply #1 on: March 30, 2007, 01:21:11 PM »

It seems to me that beekeepers are fixated on swarm control, and working the bees for maximum honey production above all else. Since we are faced with honeybee extinction, I think we should consider letting the bees do what they need to do. A swarm makes a new colony, after all. Just try to catch it, if you can, and let them thrive as best you can. With your help, feed and treatment.

I support the theory that bees have been weakened by decades of manipulative beekeeping, aimed at high production above all else. Why weed out the drones? We don't know all their function yet, but they are there for some reason. The same goes for queen rearing. Maybe in the wild, the mating occurs with a selection we haven't been able to match artificially. Lets all focus on healthier hives instead of high production for  a few years, until this crisis abates!!!


Let me introduce you to one our members Michael Bush.  He has a very cool website that addresses just about everything you mentioned.
http://www.bushfarms.com/bees.htm

While I don't agree with 100% of what he says. I am inclined to agree with the majority of it. My biggest issue is he lives someplace where there is cold and snow and winter. So some of what he describes works well for those who have to winter bees. I on the other hand don't suffer from those ill effects of icy roads or horribly cold temps. So of what I have implemented from Michael works for me but for different reasons. I think Michael should move down here and not have to worry about scraping ice off his windshield and having to shovel his driveway.

Sincerely,
Brendhan
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« Reply #2 on: March 30, 2007, 01:24:26 PM »

like understudy said, or should i rephrase it, look around the forum, you'll find out that more than 50% of all ideas/answers/advice is headed "your way".
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« Reply #3 on: March 30, 2007, 01:34:27 PM »

understudy won't mind if we let the hives swarm.  more fun for him!  smiley
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« Reply #4 on: March 30, 2007, 01:38:02 PM »

understudy won't mind if we let the hives swarm.  more fun for him!  smiley
ahahaha, LOL and more material for the forum grin
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« Reply #5 on: March 30, 2007, 01:38:16 PM »

understudy won't mind if we let the hives swarm.  more fun for him!  smiley

I have no desire to go to NY and freeze my buns off doing a cut out.

Sincerely,
Brendhan
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« Reply #6 on: March 30, 2007, 01:47:46 PM »

You could come up here a few days before or after the 4th of July, it should be in the high 70's to mid 80's then.....  Wink
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« Reply #7 on: March 30, 2007, 02:14:44 PM »

swarms aonly occur in warm weather!!!!
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« Reply #8 on: March 30, 2007, 02:18:53 PM »

swarms aonly occur in warm weather!!!!

Yeah but I never get swarms. I only get cut outs. By the time the swarm is discovered it has either moved or built 2000 cu ft of comb in a sophet tongue and made my job very umm interesting.

Sincerely,
Brendhan

PS. Also the idea of warm weather that you guys have and what I have is very different. If it is below 70F/21 C it is cold.
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« Reply #9 on: March 30, 2007, 02:46:13 PM »

It seems to me that beekeepers are fixated on swarm control, and working the bees for maximum honey production above all else. Since we are faced with honeybee extinction, I think we should consider letting the bees do what they need to do. A swarm makes a new colony, after all. Just try to catch it, if you can, and let them thrive as best you can. With your help, feed and treatment.

I think the use of "extinction" is a bit extreme,  unless your next step is to blame it on global warming and want to get them on an endangered species list to further the push for carbon credits rolleyes

I also think it is a bit naive to think that if everyone just mismanaged their hives and let them swarm that everything would be fine.   The fact is that only 20% of swarms survive their first winter,  whereas a properly managed hive that does not swarm can easily produce one if not more splits. So proper management actually increase the number on hives more than mismanagement does.  Especially since splits get the "help, feed and treatment" you wish for and the swarm doesn't.
 
I support the theory that bees have been weakened by decades of manipulative beekeeping, aimed at high production above all else.

Where is the evidence to support this theory?  Are you talking large cell?  Because if so,  you obviously haven't read many post here.

Why weed out the drones? We don't know all their function yet, but they are there for some reason.

I've been on these forums since the beginning I don't recall any discussions about weeding out drones.  Yes there is discussion on using drone brood to reduce varroa,  but no discussions on weeding out drones.

The same goes for queen rearing. Maybe in the wild, the mating occurs with a selection we haven't been able to match artificially.

and maybe not

Lets all focus on healthier hives instead of high production for  a few years, until this crisis abates!!!


Like others have stated, if you had spent the time and look around these forums, you will see that 95+% of the folks here ARE focused more on healthier hives than high production.  In fact some are too focused and almost treat their bees as pets.

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« Reply #10 on: March 30, 2007, 02:48:41 PM »

As far as swarm control. Sometimes this includes making a split. This increases the number of bee colonies. But yes they are usually kept on the bee farm. One problem with letting them swarm is if you are in a people populated area, and the swarms moves into someones walls, they will come looking for you, the beekeeper. (Imagine running from crowds with torches and pitch forks.)
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« Reply #11 on: March 30, 2007, 02:52:08 PM »

The fact is that only 20% of swarms survive their first winter, 

What fact is that Mr. Robo?
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« Reply #12 on: March 30, 2007, 03:02:34 PM »

this is like the breeding in the zoo argument  smiley. also the natural horse argument.

good management of any resource is something to strive for.  nature is a nasty creature.  it's bloody and unforgiving.  with good management, we can improve on nature. 

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« Reply #13 on: March 30, 2007, 07:44:20 PM »

Selective breeding can produce good and bad and bad results, it all depends in your objectives and the degree of understanding the breeder has of animal husbandry.

Look at all of the breeds of dogs in the world that started out from stock similar to coyotes in ages past.
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« Reply #14 on: March 30, 2007, 07:59:46 PM »

>It seems to me that beekeepers are fixated on swarm control, and working the bees for maximum honey production above all else.

I'm not into honey production above all else.  Survival is a very nice trait.  But controling swarming is how I have the bees in my hives intstead of in the trees.

> Since we are faced with honeybee extinction

Who says we are faced with honeybee extinction?  I see more feral bees all the time.

http://www.bushfarms.com/beesnaturalcell.htm#feralbees

>I think we should consider letting the bees do what they need to do. A swarm makes a new colony, after all. Just try to catch it, if you can, and let them thrive as best you can.

But I could have done a split with the same result and much less chance of losing the swarm.

>With your help, feed and treatment.

I don't treat and I don't feed unless I have to.

>I support the theory that bees have been weakened by decades of manipulative beekeeping, aimed at high production above all else.

Certainly.  Especially when you keep propping up inferior genetics with chemicals.

> Why weed out the drones?

I never do.  As a matter of fact, it won't matter what you do you'll end up with the same number of drones.

Levin, C.G. and C.H. Collison. 1991. The production and distribution of drone comb and brood in honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) colonies as affected by freedom in comb construction. BeeScience 1: 203-211.

So why waste your efforts and the bees efforts trying to change it?

> We don't know all their function yet, but they are there for some reason.

We probably don't know all their functions, but was certainly know some of them.  Among others, the colony will spend a lot of effort to get drones until they meet their quota, so one purpose is to satisfy that so the workers can do other things.  Smiley

>The same goes for queen rearing. Maybe in the wild, the mating occurs with a selection we haven't been able to match artificially.

I open mate and recommend it.  It's hard to beat survival for good genetics.  Smiley

> Lets all focus on healthier hives instead of high production for  a few years, until this crisis abates!!!

What crisis?  My crisis was over six years ago when I went back to natural cell size.

http://www.bushfarms.com/beesnaturalcell.htm
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« Reply #15 on: March 30, 2007, 08:47:55 PM »

Quote
Among others, the colony will spend a lot of effort to get drones until they meet their quota, so one purpose is to satisfy that so the workers can do other things. 


that brings to mind a question i had.  is there a correlation between the number of drones a hive produces and it's propensity to swarm?  if you observe a large number of drones, is that an indication of anything?

you have a lot of experience observing you hives.  is there something that clues you that it's time to do a split, or is it just based on your need....or that empty box sitting around?  smiley
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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: March 30, 2007, 08:48:50 PM »

The fact is that only 20% of swarms survive their first winter, 

What fact is that Mr. Robo?

OK, so maybe fact wasn't the right wording.  I don't have access to my books right now, so I can't quote you were I read that.  But I can tell you that from experience of swarm calls that I have received late in the Fall and decide to wait until Spring, only about 30% survived.   Even at 50%, splits are still the better option.
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« Reply #17 on: March 30, 2007, 09:42:52 PM »

>is there a correlation between the number of drones a hive produces and it's propensity to swarm?

Not that I've observed.  But there is a correlation between the number of drones and swarm season.

> if you observe a large number of drones, is that an indication of anything?

It's swarm season or you have a drone layer. Smiley

>you have a lot of experience observing you hives.  is there something that clues you that it's time to do a split

From outside?  Not really.  Of course bearding is a sign they are either out of room or it's hot.

> or is it just based on your need....or that empty box sitting around?

I split if I catch them trying to swarm, but I try not to let them get to that point in the first place.  Mostly I split to make mating nucs that I eventually combine back into larger nucs.  Smiley

But splitting is how to get more hives without the risk of swarming.
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« Reply #18 on: March 30, 2007, 09:58:19 PM »

My memory has been cheese clothed, but I think George Imrie is the first person I read mentioning a 20% survival rate of swarms.  That may not be accurate for an area in the bannana belt, but probably very high for areas in the northeast, Finland, and other places around the globe that experience long cold winters.  I can say that I honestly don't see many bees around here anymore.  We had a warm March, and I did catch a bee working a hummingbird feeder at a friends house in the mountains.  Definitely a honeybee, but this bee was tiny.   The house is at 8300 feet, and still has 3 feet of snow on the ground.  When it warms up, I'll be trying to track them down.  I can't imagine bees surviving that kind of winter at that altitude.  I would say the odds are much longer than 1 in 5.  I'll be pretty dissappointed if I track down someones bees on their deck.
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« Reply #19 on: March 30, 2007, 10:17:53 PM »

OK I can be satisfied with the 20% thing being in a particular region. I just have a hard time imagining someone first knowing how many swarms there were over all of the country and then knowing how many died off and for what reason they died. This is when I find a lot of this "scientific" stuff hard to believe. Like saying the mites wiped out the feral population. First there is no way to know how many there actually were at any time. Then there is no way they tested every dead hive to see what caused the death of the hive. Besides not finding every dead hive in the country. But this is some of the stuff people keep spouting out as fact just because the scientific community said it.

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« Reply #20 on: March 31, 2007, 12:19:31 AM »

a.mellifera isn't native in my country and swarm control is a priority among beekeepers here.  mellifera swarms DO NOT survive in the wild...the longest survival was recorded at 7 months, which means a swarm is under a death sentence, so better to manage and just make splits.  we do not artificially inseminate...its all open mating and we do not kill the drones.

if you read the posts here, you'll notice that majority have bee fever....we have fallen in love with our bees and some even treat them like family members!
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« Reply #21 on: March 31, 2007, 12:25:31 AM »

tig, why don't they survive?  i would think they'd have a great home there.  lot of food and lots of places to live.
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« Reply #22 on: March 31, 2007, 12:56:29 AM »

the researchers are not sure why they die off.  im wondering myself why they can't survive.  rainy season is from may to november...i would think that if they swarmed then, there wouldn't be enough food for them to survive until nectar flow.  but it doesn't hold true from dec. to april since thats when nectarflow is.  if a colony swarmed in december, they would have several months to build up food reserves to last them thru the rainy season, and yet they die off.

if predators were the problem, they would have the same predators in most beeyards. i don't think its lack of nesting sites since we have areas where the local bees are plentiful and come people make a living out of honey hunting.

maybe mellifera has been too domesticated that it can't compete with the local bees in the wild.  its been stated that the absconding behavior of our local bees is what allows them to survive and not be subject to brood diseases and other major problems such as trachael and varroa mites.
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« Reply #23 on: March 31, 2007, 09:04:27 AM »

"Since we are faced with honeybee extinction"

Nah, not even close, in fact bees are so far flung now thanks to man and his movable hives that it would take a global catastoprhy to kill them all.  And I mean catastrophy.

"I think we should consider letting the bees do what they need to do."

They can be allowed to do that and still be managed effectively for the benefit of bee and beekeeper alike as many ahve alluded to.

"A swarm makes a new colony, after all."

SO does a split, and because the s[plit gets stores and brood and pollen when made correctly, it stadns a far greater chance of survival.

"Just try to catch it,"

Easier said than done.  Caught one yesterday though.  It is fun.  I will supplement it with a few frames of capped brood and a frame of pollen to give then a boost early on.

"if you can, and let them thrive as best you can. With your help, feed and treatment."

Feed 'em and get them off to a good start by all means, but skip the treatments if you can at all (and you can).

"I support the theory that bees have been weakened by decades of manipulative beekeeping,"

I think this is overblown.  I hear it a lot, but there is little data to support this in such a sweeping way.

"aimed at high production above all else."

It is certainly one of the important factors.  At the same time I kow of no breeding program that isn't working on a half dozen other traits.

"Why weed out the drones?"

Who does that?  Who can do that?

"We don't know all their function yet, but they are there for some reason."

Well we knopw at least one of their functions . . . nudge, nudge, wink, wink . . . know what I mean, know what I mean?

The same goes for queen rearing. Maybe in the wild, the mating occurs with a selection we haven't been able to match artificially.

Indeed, but there will always be regression to the mean, so unless you want average bees, on average, there is a reason to hedge you bets and try to control some of the factors.  At the same time, who uses anything but open mated queens in production hives?  I wouldn't pay 300 bucks for an AI queen only to pop her in a honey producing hive, and I don't know wnyone who would.  If you raise queens from her (which is why their are created in the first place), there will be some genetic mixing as there is no real control over open mated queens. 

"Lets all focus on healthier hives instead of high production for  a few years, until this crisis abates!!!
I think nearly everyone is doing that based on the simple dictum:  Healthy hives = more honey.  I don't think everyone is that cynical at all, and most want their bees to be healthy for more reasons than that, but even the beekeeper with the hardest of hearts wants healthy colonies.  To be crass - it is just good business.

Keith "I love catching swarms and get to do entirely too little of it" Benson
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« Reply #24 on: March 31, 2007, 09:28:24 AM »

To gat a 20% number I think they are lumping all swarms together, including overcrowding, reproductive etc.  I think reproductive swarms have a much higher survival rate than 20%.  But many swarms are overcrowding or population control type swarms.  These usually don't survive because their intent wasn't necessarily to survive, but to give the original colony a better shot at survival while POSSIBLY surviving.

A reproductive swarm, on the other hand, is at the best possible time for it to survive and these often do as that was the intent of the colony when they cast that swarm.

Try reading Walt Wright's manuscript for a good idea of how reproductive swarming is planned by the bees.  It's about 60 pages long and last I heard was $8 in a pdf by email or $10 on paper. You can contact him at this address: Walt Wright; Box 10; Elkton, TN 38455-0010; or WaltWright_at hotmail dot com (Encoded to avoid the spambots. Don't forget the underscore).

http://www.bushfarms.com/beesswarmcontrol.htm

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« Reply #25 on: April 02, 2007, 01:14:12 AM »

Michael, replying to the last post here. I have read where feral honey bees are on their way to becoming extinct. What is your take on that? Do you believe this to be correct? I've read this before, numerous times, and always wondered if this was true, or maybe an exaggeration. I live in an ag. area,(CA) and see swarms come through every year in March. This is always a month before the beeks move their hives in to pollenate Almonds, then Prunes, Pears etc. Where do these swarms come from? 
Jeff
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« Reply #26 on: April 02, 2007, 06:47:39 AM »

>Michael, replying to the last post here. I have read where feral honey bees are on their way to becoming extinct.

So have I.

>What is your take on that? Do you believe this to be correct?

http://www.bushfarms.com/beesnaturalcell.htm#feralbees
http://www.bushfarms.com/beesferal.htm
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« Reply #27 on: April 02, 2007, 08:32:19 AM »

I went and got some Bees from Dee Lusby in Arizona.All over in the desert
out on the middle of nowere there were bees on the desert trees on the Juniper
I mean in the middle of no were land the feral bees are doing great without mans chemicals
kirk-o
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« Reply #28 on: April 02, 2007, 10:29:50 AM »

how do you know they were feral bees? 
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« Reply #29 on: April 02, 2007, 11:27:52 AM »

"the feral bees are doing great "

And how do you know they are doing great?  Don't get me wrong, I don't buy the feral bees are going extinct thing either.  But seeing bees on trees doesn't mean they are necessarily "doing well"

Keith
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Bee-sting Honey . . . So Good It Hurts.
KONASDAD
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« Reply #30 on: April 02, 2007, 01:18:26 PM »

I have lived in the same area for years now. I have never, ever seen a honeybee in my yard until I bought a hive in. Besides, How do you know a feral hive didn't leave a langstroth days before?
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"The more complex the Mind, the Greater the need for the simplicity of Play".
Eve Sylvia
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« Reply #31 on: April 05, 2007, 10:40:52 AM »

I'm learning a lot, but seeing lots of varied opinions/facts . Here in Ny state, south, we had more feral bees, or local bees a few years ago, they are scarcer now. Some I know were feral, because they lived in a tree (and were in that tree for more that 7 months, several years) or a roof. Now,I only see my bees around. (And the tree is empty with barely the scent left. It is a lovely thing, still, but sad.)
I am one of those with one hive who treats it like a pet. Not a pro or professional, but after 10 years at it getting a little better.
I have found that when I don't treat at all I have less luck than when I use a little formic & oxalic acid. Any opinions on this? Michael says he never treats. I fumed last fall once with a tsp of oxalic and the hive lasted til spring, which was not the case the year before when I used just 1 formic treatment.

I am going to read up and learn how to split a hive, should it be healthy enough, I agree that it is better to have 2 in the hand than one in the bush, and I am reassured that so many of you feel extinction is not an issue at all. I want to believe that, but when the Times says 80% loss, I worry. Still, seeing how many have healthy bees is great. Thanks, all.
(I still do feel that some beekeeping in the past century has been exploitative, but I see from this forum that it has changed A LOT)
It was snowing here this morning, so I made a last batch of syrup.
 Eve
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Robo
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« Reply #32 on: April 05, 2007, 11:36:55 AM »

Not sure which part on NY you are in, but ferals aren't gone everywhere.
http://research.cals.cornell.edu/entity?home=6&id=20985

I can also say that I have been getting more calls the last few years for feral removals.  Just had one last week for one in a church that has been there 3 years.

And as far as exploiting,  you do realize that apis mellifera is not native to America, and if it wasn't for "exploiting" them for honey, they wouldn't be here at all.
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Eve Sylvia
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« Reply #33 on: April 05, 2007, 02:12:54 PM »

I don't call all beekeeping exploiting, there is husbandry, of course that is good!! But there have been times and places when max honey production was more important that bee health.
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tig
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« Reply #34 on: April 05, 2007, 08:35:37 PM »

i don't think mellifera will become extinct because it has been widely scattered all over the world.

as for exploitation, one consideration for becoming a comercial beekeeper is finances.  theres big money involved and the beekeeper must have a way of getting his/her investment back.  they have to care for thier bees in the best matter they know of because it's their livelihood.
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