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Recommending investigation of AHB in Southern Calif

Posted by honeylove on 07 Nov 2015 at 04:44 GMT

Reading this piece with care, and as a beekeeper in Manhattan Beach CA, I am moved by this remark towards the end--- "We found that urbanization and management worsen honey bee pathogen loads through additive effects. More intense infections in managed colonies are linked with weaker immune responses. Certain populations of feral bees, although initially devastated by emerging diseases, are now coping with these threats. Continued study of the genetic and environmental underpinnings of their strong immune response may illuminate a way forward for honey bee conservation."
I have 27 hives of all feral sourced, partially Africanized, honey bees. I never treat with any meds, feed no artificial diets (pollen supplement or sugar) and use foundation-less frames in Langstroth hives. The colonies are allowed a unlimited brood nest, exhibit a typical cell size in the brood nest of 4.7 to 4.9 mm, and are robust, a pleasure to work with, and produce good honey crops. They have varroa as a background stressor, but this is managed successfully by the bees, as is all other arthropod denizens seen in background numbers.
You do not define the "management" techniques of "managed" populations, and I assume this may mean treatment with varroa suppression products, since they are so commonly employed by beekeepers. How do you tease apart the effect of acaricides on the subject bees from the "urbanization" impacts? You also do not define the genetics of the managed colonies, which may make a significant difference when comparing the ferals v.s. the managed bees. MOST of the beeks in the world are using package bees bought from breeders doing various selective breeding. These bees are bred for uniformity, docility, and predictability. In selecting for human valued characteristics, we often inadvertently de-select traits that serve the organism. You do not recognize that here. You write that the feral populations learned to cope with the invasions of exotic diseases and parasites, but fail to suggest that "management" with chemicals may have contributed to the weak responses of the managed bees you assayed and a natural evolutionary selective process allowed the ferals to rebound since they had no one "helping" them. (a strong vote for their desirability, in my opinion)
Finally, I submit that the urban environment you assayed may not be a ideal subject test site. Feral colonies are very common in the Los Angeles basin,producing brood, honey and drones practically year 'round. The true evolutionary home of the honey bee is more like Southern California than North Carolina.
I welcome your reply Susan Rudnicki, Manhattan Beach Ca

No competing interests declared.

RE: Recommending investigation of AHB in Southern Calif

eyoungsteadt replied to honeylove on 09 Nov 2015 at 20:12 GMT

Dear Susan,
Thank you for your thoughtful comments, and congratulations on your success with feral-sourced bees. You are of course correct that the management techniques vary among beekeepers. Now that we know that there is an overall effect of management on bee pathogen load and immune function in our region, determining which specific techniques may contribute to that effect would be a good subject for continued study. Genetic studies comparing the feral and managed bees in our region are also ongoing--so stay tuned. Finally, as far as the choice of study region, I would argue that any area where bees are kept IS an ideal study site. But it's true that bees and their pathogens are both sensitive to climate, so the environmental stresses they face vary regionally.
Best wishes,
Elsa Youngsteadt

No competing interests declared.