Florida Extension Beekeeping Newsletter
Apis--Apicultural Information and Issues (ISSN 0889-3764)
Volume 13, Number 1, January 1995
Copyright (c) 1995 M.T. Sanford "All Rights Reserved"
FLORIDA BEE MEETINGS
Two educational bee meetings will be held in Florida in late
winter. Archbold Biological Station has been scheduled for a
meeting to be held by beekeepers from New York on Saturday,
February 11, 1995. Dr. Roger Morse of Cornell University has
organized an informative program which will provide basic
information about Florida beekeeping, as well as help beekeepers
exchange ideas concerning commercial pollination (i.e. hauling bees
in refrigerated trucks). Dr. H. Shimanuki, research leader of the
USDA Bee Laboratory in Beltsville, MD will be present to discuss
current ideas about bee disease. The meeting is open to all
beekeepers, is scheduled from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and there is
no registration fee. However, participants are asked to bring
their lunch to the station which is somewhat off the beaten path.
Archbold Biological Station is about seven miles south of
Lake Placid, FL. The station's entrance can be found by going one
mile west on Route 70 from the junction between Route 70 and Hwy
17, followed by one and a half miles south on Old State Route 8.
The auditorium is about half a mile from the entrance. The phone
number is 813/465-2571.
A seminar on backyard beekeeping for pollination and honey
will be held Saturday, February 25, 1995 at the Clay County
Cooperative Extension Service. The site is the Exhibition
Building, 4 miles west of Green Cove Springs at 2463 State Road
16W. The program will begin at 9:00 a.m. and end at 5:00 p.m. A
$10.00 charge covers refreshments, teaching materials and a catered
lunch on site. This fee must be paid by February 23, 1995; pre-
registration is required. Those wanting more detailed information,
and persons requiring special accommodations due to disability,
should contact 904/269-6355, 904/284-6355 or 904/473-3711.
APIMONDIA IN SWITZERLAND
I am in receipt of the second circular advertising the thirty-
fourth International World Apicultural Congress to be held August
15-19, 1995 in Lausanne, Switzerland. This promises to be a
meeting rich in information (beekeeping economy, bee biology, bee
pathology, melliferous flora and pollination, beekeeping technology
and equipment, apitherapy and developmental apiculture). The
scenery will also be spectacular (on the north bank of Lake
Geneva). Deadline to register for the hotel as listed in the
brochure is June 20, 1995. For more information, contact Apimondia
95, Agence de voyage officielle, Ernst Marti SA, CH-3283
Kallnach/Suisse, tel. +41 32 820 111; fax +41 32 822 123; telex 934
BREEDING PROGRAMS; HAS THEIR TIME COME?
The beekeeping industry is increasingly faced with the lack of
"tools" (various chemicals) to fight diseases and pests. And those
that are available cost more each year in real dollars, as well as
time and labor to apply. It looks more and more like the solution
for many of these problems must have a genetic component. Breeding
programs, therefore, are being looked at carefully and taken more
seriously than in the past. Traditionally, many beekeepers have
resisted paying higher prices for the queens produced by these
efforts. Queen breeding is an expensive enterprise and can be
fraught with many obstacles. These were discussed in some detail
in the September 1992 issue of APIS.
Perhaps as a consequence of the costs and complexities
involved, many breeding programs cannot be sustained over time.
There are some notable exceptions, however. One of these is Hybri-
Bees, the Florida program that was preceded by Genetic Systems.
The genesis of Hybri-Bees was the Illinois breeding program that
produced the Starline and Midnight varieties, hybrid lines
originally developed under the guidance of Bud Cale and Dadant &
Sons. Over the years, the breeding effort changed direction and
focus, but its survival is a testimony that at least some
beekeepers were committed enough to the stock to sustain it through
some very trying times.
Detection of the tracheal mite and subsequent quarantines
placed on Florida queens in the early 1980s dealt a great blow to
Hybri-Bees, as they did to other bee breeders in the state. With
time, however, a recovery has begun. According to an article in
The Speedy Bee (November 1994), Hybri-Bees has reorganized and
relocated to Dade City, FL. This move is coincident with a
reduction in breeder-queen price to $300.00, removal of royalty
payments on all stock (except USDA ARS-Y-C-1), and license to use
the Starline and Midnight logo for one year from date of purchase.
Mr. Dean M. Breaux is the new executive vice president of
Hybri-Bees, Inc., 11140 Fernway Lane, Dade City, FL 33525, ph
904/521-0164. In a recent conversation with Mr. Breaux, I learned
that he plans to help cooperators in the program retune their
genetic selection toward honey production. Each season, he will
ship out breeder queens to large-scale cooperators, who will
evaluate the stock and return to him selected individuals for
further breeding efforts. In this way, he hopes to develop several
closed populations of bees, which will benefit specific producers.
This will be a departure from the philosophy that built the
Starline and Midnight reputations; developing specific lines of
bees that were crossed to produce hybrids.
The Starline and Midnight hybrids were not designed to be
self-regenerating; the concept was for beekeepers to continually
requeen with hybrids produced by the program. Over the years, this
had varied success. Although the program's concept is changing,
Mr. Breaux said that the Hybri-Bees program will still be based to
a great degree on the genetic material incorporated into the stock
over many decades. As a consequence, beekeepers should continue to
see some of the same characteristics they have so long favored in
The concept of selecting for honey production may not be as
"sexy" or in vogue as selecting for disease and pest resistance.
But this kind of breeding design can be cost-effective. By
definition, bees that are riddled with diseases or pests will not
produce more honey. Selecting for this trait, therefore, is
probably the result of a number of good genetic characteristics.
It's the kind of approach discussed by Dr. Walter Rothenbuhler in
"Necessary Links in the Chain of Honey Bee Stock Improvement,"
American Bee Journal, Vol. 120, Nos. 3 and 4, pp. 223-5, 304-5.
Acknowledging the potential cost and complexity of any bee
breeding project, Dr. Rothenbuhler asked rhetorically in his
article whether there would be room for smaller, less expensive
operations. His answer was yes, provided someone assumed overall
management responsibilities. Some of the decisions and actions
that must be made in perhaps the simplest of these plans, according
to Dr. Rothenbuhler, are:
1. What region of the country is the bee to be developed for?
Conduct field tests in the region in a practical way.
2. What bee characteristic is to be improved? For simplicity,
select one. Honey production is suggested.
3. How many colonies are to be tested in each generation? Keep
the number small, but not too small. Fifty colonies is suggested.
4. What percentage of the fifty are to be selected for further
breeding? Ten percent is suggested.
5. Should new queens be naturally or instrumentally inseminated?
Natural mating in a large population of drones, from other than the
queen mothers, is suggested.
6. Send fifty naturally mated queens to the honey producer for
7. Continue this procedure for several generations.
8. Learn whether progress has been made by comparing in the same
apiary the newly bred stock with samples of commercially available
9. If the newly bred stock is superior, the queen producer or
producers will make it commercially available.
Such a plan, according to Dr. Rothenbuhler, concentrating on
selecting only drone mothers, should result in stock improvement
about half as fast as if both parents were selected. The design is
simple, not costly and can be carried out by good beekeepers. One
can build, he concludes, any number of more complex and efficient
programs, but they increasingly must be carried out by people and
organizations specially prepared to do so.
Although bee breeding programs are important, they are only
part of the answer when it comes to the many beekeeping problems
facing the industry today. And it is dangerous to focus totally on
this aspect in favor of other considerations. That is the view of
Dr. Michael Burgett, writing in the January 1995 (Vol. 123, No. 1,
pp. 58-60) Bee Culture. He suggests that genetic solutions are
problematic, especially if they are considered a quick-fix to what
ails the beekeeper. As Dr. Burgett says:
"A genetically selected (designed) honey bee line is by most
genetic definitions, a hybrid constructed from crosses manipulated
by bee scientists. It is not genetically 'fixed' and without
continual human intervention, the qualities of the line will be
eventually lost when those queens are placed into hives. Why?
Because most beekeepers do not requeen frequently enough. Because
many newly requeened colonies will undergo supersedure without the
beekeeper's knowledge. Because those supersedure queens will be
mating with drones from local (unselected) stock. Because a single
selected line cannot be well adapted for all the beekeeping
conditions found in North America."
For all of the above reasons, Dr. Burgett says, there is no
possibility of a genetic quick-fix honey bee breeding program,
characterized by an open, multiple-male mating system. In spite of
this, Dr. Burgett doesn't advocate stopping the search for and
development of improved lines of bees. The genetic solution when
found, however, cannot stand alone, he concludes, but must be part
of a generally improved system of beekeeping practice.
1995 BEEKEEPING CALENDAR
Continuing a long tradition, the North Carolina State
Beekeepers Association is selling its 1995 calendar for $6.00 (send
check or money order to NCSBA, 1403 Varsity Dr., Raleigh, NC
27606). Authored by Stephen Bambara, the calendar is sure to help
you schedule your beekeeping chores. It's written with an eye for
North Carolina conditions, of course, but there's plenty of other
information if you're not interested in what's happening each month
in the coastal plain, piedmont or mountains of the tarheel state.
In July, there's discussion of the arrival of the "golden bee" in
America; the native bumble bee's lifestyle is portrayed in August.
There are even recipes and tips about cooking with honey.
My favorite topic of the month (November), right in tune with
the bee breeding theme of the previous article, is the linguometer,
developed in the 1880s by John H. Martin of Hartford, NY. This
instrument was advertised to determine the potential "reach" of
each bee into the long-corolla of red clover flowers, much in vogue
by farmers in that era. According to an article in the Beekeepers'
Magazine (May 1882): "If we wish to breed for the reaching power,
this instrument will enable us to do so without trusting blindly to
the development of this quality. A general trial with a correct
instrument will soon teach us if large yields of honey from certain
swarms is dependent on this quality of the bees. It will also tell
us if climate makes a difference in this reaching power."
The inventor concludes that his bee's tongue tester
"...occupies but a few minutes of time and the tongues of any honey
loving insect from a fly to a bumble bee can be measured." Always
the optimist, Mr. Martin admits to designing the instrument so that
it could measure up to a full inch, "in anticipation of the arrival
of Apis dorsata."
Malcolm T. Sanford
Bldg 970, Box 110620
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL 32611-0620
Phone (904) 392-1801, Ext. 143
BITNET Address: MTS@IFASGNV; INTERNET Address: MTS@GNV.IFAS.UFL.EDU
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Copyright (c) M.T. Sanford 1995 "All Rights Reserved"