There were a lot of speakers on bee breeding.
There were a couple of programs that I didn’t know about—Steve
Sheppard at Washington State and Keith Delaplane at U of Georgia.
Marla Spivak, Sue Cobey and Tom Rinderer all spoke on what was
going on with their programs there was also a Danish beekeeper
reporting on their program. One factor being looked at is olfactory
sensitivity. The thinking is that non hygienic bees have lower
sensitivity, hence don’t uncap defective brood quickly enough.
SMR bees are now designated VSH (Varroa Sensitive Hygiene). This
is age dependent and involves detecting a stress pheromone that
is being released. Since we have the honey bee genome it may be
possible to use a DNA marker to breed for this. Roger Hoopingarner
though it would take about $7,000,000 to carry out any kind of
breeding using DNA markers.
We need a multi trait selection system. A suite
of traits are required for Varroa control-VSH, grooming and hygeinic
behavior. One of the concerns of bee breeders is maintaining a
wide range of germ plasm. It is now possible to extract sperm
from drones and store it in a tube for shipping just like you
do for your favorite bull semen. There are around 900,000 queens
produced for sale in the US but some alleles are being lost. California
queens are gaining alleles but queens from the Southeast seen
to be losing. I always wonder how they figure this stuff out.
The introduction of the Russian line was credited for introducing
new alleles into the California queens. When I was reading through
my notes on the way home it occurred to me that Russians queens
were originally produced in the Southeast and Charlie Harper is
producing Russian breeder queens down there.
Another idea I have heard over and over again
is that inseminated queens don’t last as long as naturally
mated ones. Sue Cobey has tracked hers. In her experience they
are just as good. I’ve no direct experience with this but
it probably gets back to who is doing the inseminating and whether
or not they are working against a deadline. A naturally mated
queen that has coupled with good drones has from three to seven
million sperm. This typically comes from six to twelve drones.
An inseminated queen will have from three to five million sperm.
Drones are fragile and are a good indicator
of colony health. If the colony is stressed, drone production
falls off immediately. If you are banking them to extract semen
they can only be stored for a day or two. Drones require pollen
to produce good quantities of sperm. There is great variability
in the quantity of sperm that individual drones produce. Some
work has been done on storing drone semen in liquid nitrogen (crytopreservation).
In the course of this work, they found that drone semen can easily
be stored in a tube at room temperature for a week. This means
that drones can be milked for semen and that it can be sent around
the country to be used in various breeding programs.
It’s thought inseminated queens may develop
phermones slower. Egg laying can be delayed for up to 36 days.
Naturally mated queens will start laying eggs within two to three
days. During the premating period, the PH of the spermatheca changes.
After mating, adequate brood nest temperatures are required to
facilitate sperm migration. The queens need to have young bees
around them. Tiny mating nucs and cold temps are not a good combination.
In an area that has 200 to 300 colonies, drone congregation area
may have up to 20,000 drones if the colonies are at full strength.
Martin Braunstein had an interesting talk on
the beekeeping situation in Argentina and world honey production.
Martin is an Argentine queen breeder. He usually has an ad in
the Bee Journal for Malka queens. Per capita honey consumption
in Argentina is only about 4 oz. That means that 95% of Argentine
honey is exported. 300,000 of those brown drums leave Argentine
ports every year. Four of their major exporters are paying no
duty what so ever. From 1997 to 2000, the number of Argentine
colonies doubled and reached 4,000,000. There is another 2,000,000
on the way. Honey production has tripled since 1982. Increased
soybean production is displacing some beekeepers but they still
have other areas of the country to move to. On top of this, Brazil
has huge beekeeping potential. It’s thought they could support
If you look at honey production world wide,
it is, for the most part, a third world occupation. Look at the
average numbers—China, 300,000,000#; US, 200,000,000#; Argentina,
150,000,000#; Mexico, 100,000,000#; Ukraine, 100,000,000#. Total
imports into the US in 2006 were around 275,000,000#. Argentine
production in 2006 turned out to be 40,000,000 to 45,000,000#
more than anyone anticipated and the Canadian crop was 15,000,000#
larger than normal. When you couple this with the fact that the
Chinese never really stopped shipping, it is easy to see why honey
prices are on the decline once again.
Argentine beekeepers aren’t real happy.
They are not making much money. They are required to put their
honey in new drums. The government takes 10% of the FOB price
as tax. A few years ago they had 600% inflation. When the government
ran out of money, they just took the funds from some of the banks.
If I was in that situation, I don’t know how I could survive.
These meetings are fun and informative but it
is really hard to write them up. A wide range of things are covered.
I hope I captured the heart of part of it.
Submitted by Phil Ebert