Index

Thesis

The Principles of Selective Breeding

Establishing Resistance

Thinking about Selection

The Importance of Genetic Variation

The Politics

Further Thoughts

Selected Links

Plants for Bees

Failure to Select: The Cause of Weakness in Bees

        An analysis of the major cause of the worldwide problem affecting Honeybees, made in the terms of evolutionary science and the traditional practices of plant and animal husbandry

An Outline of the Diagnosis

Since the arrival of the varroa mite the official advice has been to medicate all hives.  Since the mite has become endemic, this has led to systematic medication.  The result of this is that bee strains that cannot deal with the mite - and that is most of them - are now used to produce new colonies, which, of course, cannot survive at all without being similarly medicated.  Only a proportion manage to over-winter successfully.  This had led to what is known as 'Colony Collapse Disorder' (CCD).[1]  

There are many different theories for CCD, most centered on particular secondary infections.  Most research is currently centered on the same thing that is actually causing the problem - more and better medicines.  Such efforts are futile.  The use of sick animals to supply the genes for the next generation is in complete contradiction to the principles of good animal husbandry.  The foundation of the traditional breeding practices that have served for millennia is the unbreakable principle: the healthiest stock are used for breeding.  

The systematic combination of medication and subsequent reproduction of sick strains is the major cause of CCD and of the similar demise of feral bees.

Beekeepers and their regulators are the agents of the crisis of the Honeybee

It can be seen that modern beekeeping practice is the sole cause of the crisis affecting both wild and domestic bees.  The solution lies in the hands of beekeepers and their regulators.  Not only should stocks that need to be medicated in order to stay alive not be used for breeding, they should not either be allowed to send their sickly genes into the wild, where they undermine the process of natural selection that would otherwise allow feral bees recover their health.  

'Evolutionary' beekeeping

The first step in locating the best paths forward is to understand the several different dimensions of the problem.  It is the aim of this website to disseminate the above diagnosis of both the disease, and an understanding of the mechanisms preventing most beekeepers knowing about it.  The hope is to point the way toward a permanent solution that will allow restoration of rude health to the honeybee population through the recovery of an understanding of what good husbandry entails.  This I have described as 'Evolutionary' beekeeping, as the scientific understanding of the processes by which species adapt to changes in the environment - which of course includes the 'disease environment' - is Evolutionary Theory.  

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 The website contains only the items supplied by the links to the left:  

The main article (Thesis): supplying a detailed diagnosis of the causes of CCD.    

A short supporting essay: The Principle of Breeding: Seed Selection, outlines the crucial principles that are required for successful stock-keeping.  Ignorance of these once commonly held principles is perhaps the single most important factor in causing CCD. 

Establishing resistance is a short exploration of the difficulties of establishing resistance in the honeybee population. In it a contrast is drawn between Norman Carreck's 'top-down' approach of mass breeding of resistant strains with my own 'bottom-up' strategy, involving grassroots changes of practice.

The Importance of Genetic Variation is no more than the brief introduction to a subject of the greatest importance to the future of the Honeybee.  I hope to develop this more in the near future. 

The short article Thinking about Selection, uses the successful methods of medieval monks to help us think about what is important in bee husbandry.

A short article The Politics, outlines the main drivers of regulation that ensure the failed 'medical' approach continues.

These are best read in the order presented, although if you are unfamiliar with the principles of husbandry and evolutionary theory it may be better to read the articles on husbandry and selection first.

Further Thoughts holds a growing collection of ideas, mostly taken from my posts to discussion lists. The newest are, blog-like, at the top..

The Selected Links lead to websites offering information that will support beekeepers wishing to learn more about the causes of the problems. 

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Feedback of any kind on these pages will be very welcome.  Please write to mikebispham@aol.com

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What's New

6th July: The Importance of Genetic Variation page added

5th June: Selected links page updated and improved

2nd June 2009: Further Thinking page added - to be updated as matters develop.

27th May 2009: Hit counter added. 

23rd May 2009: The Politics, Constructive Links and Thinking about Selection added; An Outline of the Diagnosis (at the top of this page) added.

19th May 2009: An introduction to the principles of good husbandry added

18th May 2009 Main article uploaded 

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[1] For a variety of reasons there is resistance in some quarters in the UK to the description 'CCD'.  I use it here to indicate that 'disorder' which causes high winter losses, which are universally linked with varroa.  It is my position that the precise causes of losses are not all that important, and so what we call the losses, or their immediate cause, is irrelevant to understanding the deeper cause.  What _is_ important is that the sciences of breeding for good health and natural selection supply the means to adapt to _any_ disease; and it is the lack of good breeding, and ignorance of the importance of selection that is at the root of ill health in bees. 

 
For problems or questions regarding this web contact mikebispham@aol.com

Last updated: Feb 1, 2010    Hit Counter ( 27th May 09)