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View Diary: 37 million bees died in Ontario. Do you want to guess how? (149 comments)

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  •  How do you know (6+ / 0-)

    the perspective of the worker bees?  

    Here is why so many drones are necessary:

    Let's say a queen dies due to any number of causes such as pathogens, toxins, old age, accident due to beekeeper hive management, etc. Queens die abruptly all the time. Each hive has one queen, so they're vital to the hive.

    So the hive is then queenless. Let's say it is in the springtime, when voluminous egg laying is extremely vital to produce enough of a population (at least 60,000 bees) to bring in the honey crop during the honeyflow in the spring and summer when nectar producing flowers are blooming (in case you don't know, bees eat honey and pollen, and they need to store anywhere from 40 to 50 lbs to 70 lbs or more of honey to survive until next spring, depending on the length and coldness of the winter. That's a lot of honey, which requires thousands of worker bees to produce.

    So the worker bees find several fertilized eggs or young larvae, which is in a comb cell, feed the larvae a diet of royal jelly, which produces a queen, which hatches in about 16 days. Then it may take as much as 10 to 13 days to become mated, and a few days after that to begin laying eggs. That is about a month of egg laying loss to the hive, which is potentially devastating.

    Imagine when the queen emerges, and later takes her mating flight, if there were no drones at the DCA (see comment above for definition) to mate the queen. And since this is spring, its swarm season, with lots of new queens emerging from colonies in the area, and potentially hundreds of queens are out trying to get mated (in an area with lots of hives).

    If drones were not available in sufficient quantities, some queens might miss the chance to mate, since weather changes could keep the bees (including the queen and drones) hive-bound. If this happens, the queen will lay only unfertilized eggs, and the hive would have to start all over again to raise another queen, once the worker bees realize the queen isn't producing. And by then, no more young larvae (less than 3 days old) will be available to raise a queen, so the hive dies.

    Queens don't mate with drones from their own hive, by the way. They must find a drone from another hive in the DCA. And there must be enough drones to serve all the queens needing mating at any given time.

    Another interesting fact is the drones are removed from the hive by the worker bees in times of starvation, and drone populations in the winter decreases substantially.

    So, according to you, millions of years of evolution just didn't produce an efficient species, and too many drones are in the hive. That doesn't stand to reason. There is a need for the drones, or natural selection would not have produced this trait.

    "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

    by ZhenRen on Sat Jul 06, 2013 at 05:27:44 PM PDT

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    •  good lord. (0+ / 0-)

      They are lazy do-nothings, all right? Please stop condescending to me ("mmm, yezz, as you are p'haps unaware, bees eat honey ..."  Wow!! And here I thought they used it to power their elevators! Tell me more, tell me more!!).

      And in fact, my official stance is that worker bees don't have a fucking perspective, if you mean, "how do they actually feel about the situation", but they nonetheless have a perspective in the context of, "how do they expend their energy and their time, and what do they get for their trouble", and that perspective is open to objective inquiry: I assert that they spend a lot of their energy and their time feeding a bunch of slackers who wouldn't know how to feed themselves if left to their own devices, and the vast majority of whom will never contribute a damned thing in return for all that devoted service.

      As for evolution, don't play that card with me oh wise and allknowing beeskeeper: evolution is often excruciatingly inefficient, both in its own operating processes and in its results, because lacking an intelligent designer, it often can't help but be so -- the path it takes allows for no more efficient outcome than the one into which it bumbles its way. Here, you are dancing the dance of the naturalist fallacy.

      I can't believe you're taking this all so Very Seriously, but since you insist on doing so, I'll make the same observation I made in response to another comment in this subthread: If I showed you a human culture in which the only service the males ever provided to the tribe was timely fertilization of females, no rational human being would describe the situation as one of harmonious, nonexploitative cooperation in which all participants were giving their share and getting their share. We would all recognize those little sperm bubblers for what they were: lazy pieces of self-aggrandizing shit, unworthy of our respect, admiration, or support.

      Apart from which, they're just fucking bees, all right? They aren't moral models of any kind for anybody with an ounce of sense. They. Are. Just. Bees.

      To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

      by UntimelyRippd on Sat Jul 06, 2013 at 05:50:34 PM PDT

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      •  LOL (6+ / 0-)

        You've got to be facetiously pulling my leg. If evolution produces an inefficient species, that species wouldn't survive for very long. Bees have been around for a long, long time.

        The oldest, completely preserved honeybees, found in amber, date back 50 million years. How would they have survived that long with the enormous flaw of wasting their energy and food on a useless 30% of their colony's population?

        Anyway, I'll leave you to your hostility and ridicule. I hope you're at least having fun, even if at my expense.

        Yep, I'm too serious about bees. Fuck 'em. I grew up with a father who had 3,000 colonies, and my family depended on them for income. Fuck my families history as well.

        "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

        by ZhenRen on Sat Jul 06, 2013 at 06:05:23 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  This is simply not true: (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          If evolution produces an inefficient species, that species wouldn't survive for very long.
          One answer to your conundrum is simple: Perhaps they simply could not evolve so as to produce a behavior that reduced the drone population below where it is, so they had to settle for the best available alternative. It's amazing enough that they evolved the extraordinary suite of behaviors they did; why presume that there exists some magical DNA combination that would result in the hive producing only .1% males? Again: Lacking an intelligent designer, there is no reason to think that evolution has a path to the most efficient solution, but beyond that, there is no reason to assume that the biological problem in question has an optimally efficient solution. Happily, for a species to survive, it need not be optimally efficient -- only sufficiently efficient. I could retrofit your logic to produce a reductio ad absurdum: Obviously, it would be more efficient for the hive to have about 30 drones most of the time (thus giving it a little security against some sort of minor drone catastrophe), so why didn't evolution produce bees whose drones are sufficiently robust that a population of 30 will suffice? Well ... why suppose that such a species is even possible?

          However, the most likely truth of it all is that the population of drones in a hive represents a balance between two competing forces:

          A. What's best for this particular hive.
          B. What's best for the genes that each of the drones carries around in him.

          You will note that there is no "C", corresponding to what is best for the individual bees in the hive. And in the end, A and B are not really separable: if the colony fails, the genes in each drone fail; in the most reductionist analysis, all that really matters is B, and A is just something that factors into B.

          Each drone in the hive competes for mating privileges, not only with all of the other drones in that hive (who may have 10 or 20 different sires), but with drones from other hives in the vicinity. A gene carried by workers AND drones that stimulates the workers to produce more drones, will give itself that much better chance of having a representative get to an available queen -- provided it doesn't stimulate the workers to produce so many drones that the whole hive starves. It has nothing to do with the "interests" of the individual worker bees, or even of the drones, or for that matter the workers or drones as classes, but only of whatever genes manage to carry themselves forward by striking just the right balance of cost and benefit in setting the drone population.

          BTW, I was surprised by your 30% figure -- the sources I've checked are all over the map, but none put the drone percentage at higher than 20%. Some clearly state that many beekeepers consider drones to be largely a cost-center for the hive, and implement procedures (of varying success) to minimize the number of drones their workers nurture.

          To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

          by UntimelyRippd on Sat Jul 06, 2013 at 07:35:50 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I corrected that figure i gave (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            regarding drone populations here:


            Which I must have been writing while you were replying. I suspected the number was high, but I explain how I arrived at the number. I'd always thought it was much lower, but came across new estimations for feral hives. But it's closer to 15% when bees build comb naturally, instead of with commercial hive management techniques. With commercial techniques, the latest research indicates drone populations as low as 4%, or even lower, which is a practice some beekeepers are questioning. And as I pointed out in the other comment, this serves to further bolster my point that reducing drone populations is not a good idea, since the numbers would be even lower. A biologist and queen breeder friend agrees with this point, as do many others in the field. These are things beekeepers argue about amongst themselves, and there are various points of view represented, depending on goals and motivations.

            And there is another point I neglected to mention before: Queens are mated in their single mating flight about several times (about 16 times according to one study), and that requires many drones, which gives even more reasons why drone populations have to be large.

            What my entire premise is about, is the need to encouraging honeybees to develop natural immunity to the plethora of viruses and fungal diseases they're faced with, as well as better hygienic traits for removing Varroa mites from cells. This is much discussed in beekeeping circles and by queen breeders these days, and is the hope we have in keeping bees alive.

            Anyway... this is tedious. I see you have found some references about bees. That's great. Read up on bees. You're repeating things to me I've been reading about for years, as if you're an expert intent on instructing me. Have you ever opened a hive? Kept one alive? Nursed one back to health? Introduced a queen? Grafted a larvae?

            This probably isn't the best place for me to be discussing bee genetics, which is a complex topic involving bee issues I see frequently affecting in my own hives. It's personal to me. I'll stick to the bee forums with other beekeepers from now on.

            "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

            by ZhenRen on Sat Jul 06, 2013 at 08:51:41 PM PDT

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            •  I have no doubt you know more about bees (0+ / 0-)

              than I do. Nonetheless, what you've been sharing of that knowledge has been your  personal understanding, leaving me to go off and find out what other people have to say about it. I didn't mention that

              Some clearly state that many beekeepers consider drones to be largely a cost-center for the hive
              in order to teach you anything, I mentioned it because you were suggesting that your opinion was The Arcane Trvth Known Only To Beeskeepers, when in fact it turns out it is just one opinion among others over which Beeskeepers themselves debate. It's fine that you're an expert, but it is disingenuous to come in here and act all experty and explain that because you spent your youth motorcycling across America with your best friend Eric the Bee, whatever you say overrides whatever I say -- even though it turns out that there are lots of other Bee Riders who agree with me. If you're going to play The Expert Amongst the N00bs, it's your obligation to cop to what you know, versus what you think and what people who disagree with you think.

              Beyond all that, although you certainly know more about bee CPR than I do, I sense that you know less than I know about:

              A. Population genetics
              B. Evolution
              C. Dynamical systems
              D. Philosophies of social value
              E. Metaphors and analogies
              F. The structure of a logical argument
              G. and a whole lot more

              But don't let it get you down. I'm sure Eric is hanging around out back with a six of Leinenkugel Honey Weiss, happy to spend an evening hour or two reminiscing about the good old days On The Road, and getting buzzed.

              To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

              by UntimelyRippd on Sat Jul 06, 2013 at 09:20:06 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Heh (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Some clearly state that many beekeepers consider drones to be largely a cost-center for the hive
                I hope youn understand that those who worry about the cost of drones to bees is all about increasing honey production, not so that the bees can enjoy it, but so that the beekeeper can harvest it for themselves. And then they replace this loss to the bees with corn syrup, which could be laced with neonicotinoids.

                The drones are a problem in terms of the varroa mites, but long term, we need the drones to disseminate far and wide the new traits queen breeders are selecting in queens. There has been some success in raising bees which are more hygienic (they actually sense mites in the capped cells and remove the pupae, and the mites along with them) as well as bees which have greater immunity to all the new viruses and nosema ceranae (a nasty fungal infection).

                And if we can get the neonics off the market, that will help, as well.  

                A high percentage of colonies don't survive through the winter without human intervention of some sort. It's a serious situation. And the drone issue is a part of the problem, as well as part of the solution.

                "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

                by ZhenRen on Sat Jul 06, 2013 at 09:32:49 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

    •  I have to make a correction here... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      leftykook, Mathazar

      I'd always thought drone populations were few in the hive, although upon inspecting hives I see them abundantly everywhere. And like most typical beekeepers, I always bought into the idea too many drones cut down on profit, since drones eat honey too.  And drone comb encourage mites to reproduce, which is a fact. So, like most beekeepers, I didn't view drones favorably.

      This is a bit technical, but natural comb has more drone cells, since bees aren't held to the prefabricated size of cells of commercial comb foundation, which are designed to reduce the number of drones cells bees build in the hive.

      In my research recently, I came across information that drone cells constitute 30% of the total of cells in a natural hive, as opposed to a domesticated, traditional Langstroth hive, a number which seemed high to me, but I accepted this as fact, even though the number seemed too high, since I know natural comb has more drone brood.

      I just checked this to be sure, and as it turns out, other sources tell me this is wrong. The number is apparently more like 15%, not 30%. This actually makes more sense to me. And in managed hives, drone population can be controlled, and kept to much lower levels, and may be as low as 4% or even lower.

      So, that's a lot less drones, which bolsters my point that suppressing the drone population reduces the chances of favorable genetic adaptation to environmental pathogens. If the maximum drone population is only something like 15% at the peak season, then cutting that number down to 4% or less is even worse than I'd thought!  

      So... my point stands.

      Anyway, this is arcane stuff to most people, and I had not intention to get this far into the weeds...

      This gives people an idea of what beekeepers argue about these days. A lot of hope is placed on finding bees which can genetically adapt to the conditions they face.  The neonics affect the immune resistance of bees, leaving them more vulnerable to various viruses and fungal diseases. So a more resistant strain is being sought for among queen breeders.

      That's why drones are important, and why suppressing drone populations is a bad idea, especially when the norm is 4% to 15%.

      The downside of drones is bee killing mites, and that presents a conundrum for those of us who wants a more resistant and hygienic strain of bees.


      "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

      by ZhenRen on Sat Jul 06, 2013 at 08:24:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Hey Zhen... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mathazar, ZhenRen

      Where do the workers get the Royal Jelly?

      Is it related to honey?  Is it true that the workers do something with enzymes and pollen to make honey?

      Thanks for you informative diary. It's great that we have people here with so many kinds of knowledge to share with us!

      "Ronald Reagan is DEAD! His policies live on but we're doing something about THAT!"

      by leftykook on Sat Jul 06, 2013 at 09:33:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Uh--You were in that exchange for so long... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        ....I thought you were the diarist-sorry for the confusion!

        "Ronald Reagan is DEAD! His policies live on but we're doing something about THAT!"

        by leftykook on Sat Jul 06, 2013 at 10:31:42 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Royal jelly is a gladular secretion (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Mathazar, leftykook

        which the worker bees secrete as a food for bee larvae. When they want to produce a queen, larger amounts are fed to a young larvae in the first three days of larval development, and this copious amount of the substance makes the difference between an ordinary worker and a queen, which is amazing, since a queen can live for many years. Two years is normal and they can live five years or even longer, while a worker bee only lives on average five weeks or so.  

        Worker bees are fed royal jelly too, but smaller amounts are given, along with different glandular secretions and honey and pollen. Queens are given much more of this substance, and the hormones in the jelly cause a queen to develop.

        Pretty amazing...

        "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

        by ZhenRen on Sat Jul 06, 2013 at 10:35:03 PM PDT

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        •  My father produced royal jelly (0+ / 0-)

          commercially, way back in the 60's in Puerto Rico. I used to help him when I was a wee little kid.

          "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

          by ZhenRen on Sat Jul 06, 2013 at 10:36:30 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

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