bees, honey and other sticky subjects

Monday, September 27, 2004

The Russians are coming

As I've mentioned before (with some of the genetic details), there is ongoing research at USDA in Baton Rouge, Mississippi, USA into using Russian bee genes in an attempt to combat varroa. In one of the longest paragraphs I have ever read, is a bit more of the story of what they are doing.
Russian bees suffer only a third to half of the mites that plague Italian hives, Rinderer said, and the new lines have enabled some beekeepers in New York to forego using chemicals to control mites... “I’m going without chemical treatment on the Russian hives I have,” said Harper, vice president of the Louisiana Beekeepers Association. Harper sells Russian breeder queens to other queen bee breeders. This year he shipped queens to New York, California, Florida, Mississippi, Texas, Arkansas, both Carolinas and Georgia.
The origin of the Russian bees is interesting:
After the USSR was formed, the Primorsky naval port of Vladivostok was closed to outsiders because of its military activities there, Rinderer said, but military officers assigned to the seaport enjoyed beekeeping as a hobby. After the USSR collapsed, Rinderer ventured to Primorsky to explore the possibility of bringing Russian honey bees to the United States as a possible solution to the varroa problem. The Primorsky beekeepers didn’t seem to be worried about the mite problem, Rinderer said... But getting the honey bees from Russia to Rinderer’s lab in Baton Rouge wasn’t a casual endeavor. “It took two years just to get bees in Vladivostok to a bee yard here,” he said.
As are their habits in Louisiana:
“They’re a different bee,” Rinderer said. “They look pathetic in the springtime.” After winter, the colony is small -- with no brood being produced until late spring, he explained. “They look like they’re on the verge of death.” The Russians aren’t fooled by the sudden warm-ups of Louisiana’s early spring, he said, but once the pollen flow begins, the Russian bees shift into high gear. “They sit back until it’s obvious spring is here,” Rinderer said.



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