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Russian Honey Bees - A possible mite resistant solution

 
Will Olson
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Hello !

My name is Will Olson and I have been beekeeping for several years now. I too have 'fought the good fight' against the mites and colony collapse. Last year, I began breedning my own queens from a Russian/Carnolian line with a great deal of success. This year - for the first time - I have a 100% survival rate in my isolated yard in Steven's County WA. The Russian bee is winter tough and is hygienic. Combined with this is my use of a screened bottom board. This is a natural - non-chemical - solution that the mites cannot develop a resistance to. Chemical treatments will become non-effective over time.

I have directions on how to make these screens and the Russian Bee at my blog - in case you are interested. http://moosemeadowbeeevents.blogspot.com

Natural Beekeepers are SUCCESSFUL and I feel we can lead the way to better beekeeping, better genetic diversity and basically - lower costs.

Thanks!
Will Olson
 
tel jetson
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that is excellent news. congratulations. do you sell bees? what style hive do you use?

I also had 100% survival this winter in Cowlitz County. my approach has been to start with local swarms and then leave them alone. no screens. no peppermint. no powdered sugar. no formic or oxalic acid. no thymol. I want bees that thrive, not bees that need my help to survive.

there was some obvious trouble with varroa early on, but the bees worked things out on their own.

not a fan of screened bottom boards myself, but I do get requests for them. a person could certainly choose much nastier methods. my objections are pretty simple: they add complexity and labor for me; and they create a space that is inaccessible to the bees that cannot be patrolled and maintained by them. the first is my own idiosyncrasy, and the second isn't a huge deal if the beekeeper is fastidious in taking over hygiene duty.

it has been observed that bees will create copious amounts of propolis to close up screens, which leads me to believe that they aren't particularly fond of them, either.
 
Will Olson
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Yes, you make some good arguments there! I've often heard it said that if you get 5 beekeepers in a room you will get 17 opinions...

That said, You are correct. The best feed is their honey and pollen. My approach is only 'stimulative' and supplementary. The surviving colonies are very heavy with winter stores as it did not get that cold this winter. In Spokane, we only saw a low of 17 degrees. Not all that stressful for Russian honey bees.

I only use 12 -15 drops per quart of lemon grass/Eucalyptus, Mint and Thyme mixed with 1:1 Sugar Syrup. On a sunny warm day - a strong colony will nearly consume this. My aim is to convince the queens to start laying - because I want the largest adult population present (it takes roughly 40 days from egg to adult/forager) to maximize their collection of the nectar flow in May / June. A healthy strong colony is the best weapon against the mites. I use the screens because they are simple to make, and cheap. It costs me less than a 50 cents per screen and I've read that it helps to kill about 30 percent of the mites in the hive. That is certainly worth it.

I did powder my frames of bees that were purchased as nucs. I did this while hiving them, so it wasnt' too stressful or time consuming. Again, a simple and low cost alternative that for me - is fairly beneficial with mite mitigation.

Happy Hiving and have a great Spring !
 
Amedean Messan
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I just made a thread about some CCD research if your interested.

http://www.permies.com/t/23140/bees/Colony-Collapse-Disorder-speculation-mechanisms

I browsed your blog but I did not get information readily on what exactly are the benefits of your hybrid colonies compared. Can you elaborate further because this is an interesting subject concerning mites. Also, what of the production of honey? This is a bit tricky to compare I imagine. I found information on this site but nothing further than the summary provided.

http://www.honeybeegenetics.com/bees.html

With regards to your CCD experience, are you sure it was CCD? It seems that lately if anything goes wrong in a bee hive people are quick to blame CCD.
 
John Polk
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It appears from that site ( http://www.honeybeegenetics.com/bees.html ), that the Carniolan Russians have been bred for 100+ years with NO chemical intervention. This has allowed the breed to build up a natural resistance to the mites.

IMO, the less human intervention, the best overall health. Nature has her own ways for dealing with illness.
Time proven - if we just give it a chance.
 
Will Olson
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John Polk wrote:It appears from that site ( http://www.honeybeegenetics.com/bees.html ), that the Carniolan Russians have been bred for 100+ years with NO chemical intervention. This has allowed the breed to build up a natural resistance to the mites.

IMO, the less human intervention, the best overall health. Nature has her own ways for dealing with illness.
Time proven - if we just give it a chance.


John,

I do agree with your general conclusion on bee health and Nature working things out for the best - in the long run. If the subject of Hive Management was placed on a continuum - I would definitely lean towards your ideas. Many years ago I read Masanobu Fukuoka's "One Straw Revolution" and it influenced me a great deal.

However, I do feel that low impact, low cost, natural methods and materials to benefit my existing colonies is a common sense way of building a natural honey production business. True, I don't do Bees for money. That is not my sole motivation. Yet, when I lose a hive to mites or whatever it is a serious thing for me - not just an academic one.

By using a combination of varroa screens, essential oils mixed into 1:1 syrup, and an occasional sugar powdering - I am able to save and help my colonies. This in turns helps my honey production and helps to pay my mortgage, my bills and taxes. I know this sounds rather crass - but this is the real world for many of us beekeepers. Finding the 'middle way' is where the tension is. Sure, I could use formic acid and other chemical treatments and have less loss on one extreme or I could just them them die off 'naturally' and let nature work it out in the long run. I just don't have that kind of time or mindset!

Concerning CDD:

When I went to one of my yards this spring - near an area of heavy commercial agriculture activities - I opened up 4 colonies to discover that every one of them was empty. Yeah. Empty. A typical 'dead-out' has a pile of dead bees at the bottom of the hive. There were none. This observation conforms to the symptoms observed as CCD. Do I have absolute proof? No. I don't . However, I am very passionate about my colonies and this tore my heart out. If I did not leave them enough stores of honey - I would blame myself. This was NOT the case. The hives were full of honey frames. Plenty of food.

This is where my concern and yes, unfortunately, my anger kicks in. Partly because my frustration is great because there is nothing I could have done to prevent this loss. Other people are using something in the environment that is harming my honey bees. There are so many variables... so many possibilities... it is SO hard to isolate a root cause.

However, at my isolated bee yard - 6 miles from the nearest farm I had no losses. They are thriving. Why could that be?

To quote Bob Dylan, "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows"

So, in short my experience over the years can be summarized as follows:
Italian bees are wonderful and they build up pretty fast in the Spring. I have used them for several years. However, they don't winter as well and have greater winter losses

Carnolian bees are better for the winter survival and do pretty well.

However, the Russian/Carnolian bees that I originally purchased from Honey Bee Genetics seem to do the best in our environment. I have grafted from one outstanding queen that lived for 3 Winters here! Imagine that!

Her daughters are doing very well and I have only lost one of these - in that Orchard for what appears to be a CCD related incident.

I am hoping to raise more these queens and offer them to interested bee keepers to try.

As always, I appreciate your comments and ideas.

Thanks!

Will Olson

 
tel jetson
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my climate is quite a bit milder than yours, so benign neglect is substantially less risky here. starting with free swarms also means less financial risk, though it still isn't fun to lose colonies.

your approach seems very reasonable, particularly if you plan to reduce interventions further as your stock adapts.

did you mention what style hive you use? apologies if I missed it.
 
John Polk
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You are correct. None of can spend the next 100 years to develop a 'better bee', but since nature has already done it for us, it makes sense to start with a 'better bee'.

For anybody interested in more info regarding the Carniolan breed, check out this site:

(English): http://www.carniolan.com/uk/caracter-uk.htm
(12 other languages): http://www.carniolan.com


 
tel jetson
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John Polk wrote:You are correct. None of can spend the next 100 years to develop a 'better bee', but since nature has already done it for us, it makes sense to start with a 'better bee'.


honey bee generations are relatively short. typically, colonies reproduce annually, so adaptation doesn't take as long as one might think. in areas where beekeeping has been practiced for a while, feral bees will have been adapting to local conditions for a long time. starting from that adapted gene pool, I believe, has several advantages over importing bees from elsewhere.

plenty of folks like Carniolans. enough that their genetics are likely represented already in many feral honey bee populations.
 
R Scott
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I have heard the Russian bees are much like the stereotypical Russian people--extremely hardy but a bit aggressive and highly defensive. Is this true? Any special tricks?

 
John Polk
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And, I have read the opposite. It is claimed that they are less aggressive than the Italian bees.

I have never dealt with the Russian bees myself, so I personally have no side-by-side comparison.

They typically overwinter with smaller populations than the Italians, but repopulate much quicker in the spring.
They are said to regulate their population much quicker, depending on food supplies.
I have read that they produce about 20% more honey than the Italians, and because of their population control, need less to get through the winter.

If I get back into bees, I will certainly consider them as a viable option.
They seem to have many pluses.

 
Will Olson
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R Scott wrote:I have heard the Russian bees are much like the stereotypical Russian people--extremely hardy but a bit aggressive and highly defensive. Is this true? Any special tricks?



Well, having many Russian-American friends I can say that they take a great deal of pride in their homes and work! A bit of respect seems to go a LONG way with these folks AND the bees!

I generally don't notice a behavior pattern that would indicate more or less aggressiveness. However, when I open the hive up for an inspection or split or whatever I do three things:

1. I move very calmly and control my breath. I know this sounds 'Buddhist' but it works. CO2 seems to piss of the bees. Turn your head smoothly to breathe - Never breathe on them directly.

2. Use cool smoke from your smoker on the main entrance of the hive and as you open one side of the inner cover. Just a little puff.

3. THEN, give them a gentle misting of your sugar feed from a fine sprayer. If it is cold (>60 degrees) - give them bit of powder sugar instead.

This only takes a few seconds and it seems to make your work go a bit smoother and less aggravating to the bees. They appear to me to be distracted by eating.

Give these methods a try and let me know how you worked out.

As far as 'racial profiling' of the Russian Bee? I don' think it is necessary or has any advantage.

...just like with humans!

;-)



 
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