One of the major stumbling blocks in putting Morphometry to work is the lack of concise information available, firstly in interpreting the numbers created and secondly incorporating them into a breeding program. It would seem that the external characteristic list is useful in determining where the numbers relate to particular racial strains, and from that point help ceases. It has taken a great deal of time to evaluate our numbers and their effects on our bees and now I can honestly say, I believe we are on the right track in deleting those stray dark bee genes. Over the winter I contacted a number of potential experts, some totally ignored the questions I posed and went off at a different tangent, others in all honesty didn’t understand what I was talking about, and others told me I was wasting my time and should introduce new stock!
So, I finally decided to work on my own, take more samples and by guess and hopefully good judgment I would sort it out for myself!
We started the season with a number of tested breeder queens, all had Cubital Indices well within the area we needed, between 2.0 – 2.7, but all had various degrees of negative Discoidal shift. Out of a sample of 30 bees, some samples had highs of 11 bees, others were as low as 2 or 3. At the time I felt that a high degree of samples within the range of Cubital indices we needed was a good sign for acceptance by us to add as breeder queens, to the point I ignored the amount of negative Discoidal shifts each sample showed. This on subsequent sampling proved to be wrong, it should be noted only dark bees have a negative Discoidal shift, light bees all have a positive Discoidal shift. The queens with high negative Discoidal shifts produced bees, not quite as high, but certainly not what we had expected. Whereas the queens with low or zero negative Discoidal shifts had even lower numbers in their daughters, at the same time the Cubital indices remained within the ranges we had set for. We had reduced the amount of dark bee genes while keeping the light bee genes within the range we were working for.
We need queens with NO negative Discoidal shift for future breeder queens.
Backing up to our original aim, “to remove the dark genes that we inadvertently introduced some years ago”. The new samples tell me quite simply, it’s working! We now find a range of queens with Cubital indices ranging from 2.0 – 2.6 and even zero negative Discoidal shifts which should produce offspring even closer to our requirements, provided we can improve the drone line at the same time.
Another area where we can possibly improve is within the drone range of sampling. To date we have ignored sampling actual drones, we have tested the drone mother hives, but only the worker bees. At the time of sampling, drones were in very short supply, but hopefully this year we will be in a position to test actual drone samples, this should improve the drone side of the mating equation and lighten the bees even further, late last season we did note a much higher proportion of lighter Italian coloured drones, rather than the dark gray or black drones we were accustomed to seeing.
Our future aim is to carry on as we have done this year. I firmly believe we will be successful in cleaning our bees of unwanted genes, it’s certainly not going to be achieved in one year, but the results so far encourage us to go further.