jacob wustner wrote:
I get this, but what I don't get is how the STUN technique transfers from plants to livestock. Are there examples of livestock breeding where leaving the animals alone for four years was used to select survivor stock? I am sure there maybe, but it seems quite extreme and inefficient to me. For honeybees, I feel that this selective breeding has already been done in nature, and not with the help of humans. And there is no need to try this STUN technique when all you need to do it open mate your queens or catch feral swarms.
Saw this and had to register in order to respond. Yes, Jacob, there are examples of livestock breeding where breeders leave the animals alone for years on end - I have one. Kiko goats. They were bred from feral goats in New Zealand, crossed with dairy goats, and left alone. Breeders of kikos today still do this. They don't help with births, they don't worm, they don't medicate, nothing. My kiko doe was probably handled twice before I bought her around 8 months of age - once to have her ear tagged, and once to be sold to me. I LOVE her; she is my favorite goat. No, I don't neglect my animals - I'm out there twice a day no matter what, often more often, feeding, watering, cleaning, and I lock all my animals up at night. But I don't use chemical wormers (I use an herbal wormer and have multiple animals that worm each other instead), and I don't vaccinate. I think my kiko doe likely does the best of all my goats. She benefits from the care I do give, but is self-sufficient enough, and has strong enough genetics, to not need to be propped up they way my Nigerian goats do.
So, back to bees. You really can't classify bees in with other livestock. I mean, yes, they are, in my opinion, and they have a job to do on my farm, just like all my other livestock. But the rest of my livestock are stuck with me. Like I said, I lock all my animals up at night in barns or coops, and I have fences. I've designed my fences that my animals stay within them. I can't do that with my bees. Okay, sure, I could purchase queens with clipped wings, and that might keep them around, but eventually they'll supersede a queen, and then I'd be right back where I am now: if the bees don't like it here, they'll leave. They've done it before, and I'm sure they'll do it again.
I do have a question: how can you tell a feral swarm from a swarm that comes from a commercial beekeeper, or from a backyard beekeeper like me? I can't. I would LOVE to capture a feral swarm, but I kind of doubt that'd be possible for me. So while I'm not confident enough to completely do the STUN technique with my bees, once I get a few more hives going, I might do the STUN thing with one or two hives, just to see. And like others here, I really feel that is more humane than dumping a bunch of chemicals in my hives.
Regarding your comments on urban vs rural landscapes for bees, you have a point on the pollution. However, I believe (and I know I've read it multiple places, but don't have any quotes for you) that, at least where I am (Western WA), big farmers out in rural areas dump a LOT more pesticides, etc, on their crops than are used in urban areas. Depending on the urban area, there are probably entire sections of cities that use next to nothing when it comes to chemicals, just because of the culture of the area. I'm in a rural area, but live within a couple hours' drive of Seattle, and could totally see that happening there. Seattle's very yuppy, and being "green" is very hip right now. Plus, I'm pretty sure (again, unfortunately, no quotes for you) that big monoculture farmers are allowed to dump much scarier chemicals, in much higher concentrations, onto their crops, than urban dwellers are allowed to dump on their flower gardens. If all I wanted was bees, I'd move back to suburbia.
If nothing else, this thread has been a hothouse of excellent ideas worth investigating. Nothing that will change my beekeeping this year, but years down the road - who knows? Thank you to all who have contributed and caused me to waste WAY too many hours online tonight, and stay up WAY too late!