Co-evolution of Bees and Mites

coevolutionAt Beesource, Mike Bispham shared a paper describing the co-evolution of two bee populations in Europe.

Host Adaptations Reduce the Reproductive Success of Varroa Destructor in Two Distinct European Honey Bee Populations

Dr. Tom Seeley has  suggested a similar process is at work in the Arnot Forest near Cornell University. Check it out.

Years ago, I setup a small cell test yard optimized for the scientific method. But when those small cell hives become mite tolerant, I dropped my scientific approach and switched all my hives over to small cell, including the control hives.

At the time I was more interesting in running healthy, productive hives. And less interesting in proving something.

Since then, I’ve always wished I’d left a few of those control hives untouched. I’ve still got a few questions about that experience that nag me. And the impacts of natural selection and co-evolution are at the top of the list.

And that’s why, besides still having some small cell equipment, I’m going to try and replicate those past small cell successes. This time I’ll be more interested in the whys and less interested in the hows.

As a natural beekeeper, I’ve found that the more I can cooperate with the natural processes, the better my bees do. But as with any natural process, there’s an interaction of a whole scheme of things:

  • bee genetics
  • mite genetics
  • colony health/stress
  • environment
  • colony decisions
  • colony management

Alter just one and the results can dramatically change.

Beekeepers tend to focus on bee genetics and will go to great lengths to get the right stuff. As a small time queen producer I focused on bee genetics and found out the hard way that:

  • when you select for something, you are also selecting against something

And that something that was selected against often becomes the bee’s next weakness in the co-evolutionary dance for survival between the bee and its pests.


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