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

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  •  This is simply not true: (1+ / 0-)
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    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

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

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        •  Heh (1+ / 0-)
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          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

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          •  In other words... (2+ / 0-)
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            Mathazar, Cassiodorus

            Bees with natural levels of drones can easily feed themselves if the honey is left to the bees, rather than removed from the hive.

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

            by ZhenRen on Sat Jul 06, 2013 at 10:10:13 PM PDT

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