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Author Topic: Varroa - to treat, or not to treat ?  (Read 582 times)

Offline little john

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Varroa - to treat, or not to treat ?
« on: May 04, 2016, 01:31:23 PM »

For millennia the Varroa mite was kept away from Apis Mellifera by geographical separation, but subsequent to the activities of human beings Varroa has now spread throughout most countries of the world and currently poses one of the biggest challenges facing beekeepers. 

With regard to how best to deal with Varroa, beekeepers have become entrenched into two opposing camps: one which advocates treatment, and the other advocating being 'treatment-free' ... which is usually synonymous with being chemical-free, although there are several other types of treatment available, such as physical, and procedural (being essentially methods of brood interruption), but although some of these may be very effective methods at a local level, the overall problem continues to persist.

It is common knowledge that drones from one hive freely enter other hives, regardless of whether that other hive be in the same apiary or not. And although it is generally considered that guard bees prevent foreign foraging bees from entering, this guarding activity is not 100% effective, for sometimes foreign foraging bees DO manage to enter.  I first suspected this (the entry of foreign foragers past guard bees) as being the source of communication which leads to robbing under conditions of nectar dearth, and it was effectively 'confirmed' when - having sealed all my hives at midnight on several occasions - one or two bees were observed waiting patiently to be let into their hive entrances the following morning.  But where had they spent the night ?  These bees were observed to always be in good condition, and so had very clearly spent the night somewhere warm, and most likely had been 'topped-up' with some kind of carbohydrate in order to fuel their return flight home.  Spending the night in another hive, at another apiary, is the only obvious conclusion which can be drawn.

This is why 100% mite-kills in (say) a Thermo-Solar hive, or even by the use of numerous Oxalic Acid Vapourisation applications, are doomed to failure if a neighbouring apiary is being run treatment-free, and where a small residual population of mites are being tolerated. Thus, an apiary might well be mite-free immediately after applying the treatment of choice - but will not remain mite-free for very long after that.  For beekeeping is a communal activity, in the sense that your bees will always affect neighbouring apiaries, and vice-versa.  The philosophies of treatment and treatment-free can then be seen as opposing philosophies and as such cannot co-exist effectively. That is why the problem of Varroa continues to persist, even in those areas where feral colonies are absent or few in number.

To be treatment-free for a number of years may sound like a success story - and I suppose it IS when viewed at the individual apiary level, but when viewed from a wider communal point-of-view, it is just so many years of fostering a seed source of this parasite which may well have been spread during that time by natural inter-apiary foraging activity.

I cannot offer any solutions to this riddle, but it is very obvious to me that the current scenario of some treating for Varroa and some not treating, has generated an untenable situation which is analogous to the constant bailing-out of water from a leaky boat - insomuch as it ain't solving the underlying problem.

LJ


Offline Michael Bush

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Re: Varroa - to treat, or not to treat ?
« Reply #1 on: May 05, 2016, 12:47:15 PM »
If everyone continuously treats for Varroa the problem is unsolvable.  The feral bees (our only real hope for the future genetics of bees) will still have Varroa.  As soon as everyone stopped treating for Tracheal mites the problem went away.  The problem is not the people not treating.  The problem is the people treating.

?If you?re not part of the genetic solution of breeding mite-tolerant bees, then you?re part of the problem?? Randy Oliver
My website:  bushfarms.com/bees.htm en espanol: bushfarms.com/es_bees.htm  auf deutsche: bushfarms.com/de_bees.htm
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Offline sawdstmakr

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Re: Varroa - to treat, or not to treat ?
« Reply #2 on: May 05, 2016, 12:59:51 PM »
I had heard that India, due to lack of money for treatment, decided when they were first infested with mites, that they were not going to treat them across the country. The first 2 years they lost most of their hives but then they recovered. Treatment free. I go with treatment free. This spring, most of my hives were dropping mites like crazy, I was worried but did not treat. It took about 2 to 3 weeks to clear up. Now I rarely see them in the dry oil trays.
Jim
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Online Rurification

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Re: Varroa - to treat, or not to treat ?
« Reply #3 on: May 05, 2016, 01:53:02 PM »
I totally get what you're saying here, but I keep losing colony after colony and when I do the postmortems the answer inevitably comes back as being related directly or indirectly to mites.   So, am I just supposed to spend the next decade paying huge amounts of money to replace my bees every year?    If they were cheaper, I might feel differently, but the prices are still skyrocketing around here.   And catching feral swarms is not feasible.   

Realistically, what are we who want just a few hives supposed to do?
Robin Edmundson
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Offline Michael Bush

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Re: Varroa - to treat, or not to treat ?
« Reply #4 on: May 05, 2016, 02:25:51 PM »
>And catching feral swarms is not feasible.   

I don't see how it's not feasible, but the first step is to get bees that are surviving without treatments.  The feral bees have already taken their losses.  If you don't want to trap them or get on a swarm list or do a cut out then try these for next year:

http://www.fatbeeman.com/bees-honey/
http://www.wolfcreekbees.com/
http://www.goldstarhoneybees.com/shopcontent.asp?type=How%20to%20get%20bees%20for%20your%20Gold%20Star%20top%20bar%20hive
http://anarchyapiaries.org/hivetools/node/32
http://www.enjoybeekeeping.com/

And if they are all sold out you can call or write:
Kirk Webster
Box 381
Middlebury, Vt. 05753
802-989-5895 (no voice mail)

Myron Kropf
2233 LITTLE WOODS RD
BEXAR AR 72515-9509
870-458-3002 (no voice mail)

And there are others.  Likely there are some treatment free beekeepers near you.


My website:  bushfarms.com/bees.htm en espanol: bushfarms.com/es_bees.htm  auf deutsche: bushfarms.com/de_bees.htm
My book:  ThePracticalBeekeeper.com
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"Everything works if you let it."--James "Big Boy" Medlin

Offline cao

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Re: Varroa - to treat, or not to treat ?
« Reply #5 on: May 06, 2016, 01:13:23 AM »
My opinion about treating for varroa is more in line with Michael Bush(don't treat).  But probably not totally for the same reason.  I decided no to treat my hives because to me bees are complicated enough to understand.  Then throw in trying to learn what chemicals to get and how much to apply and when.  And then there is the extra cost.  It is too much for me.  I'll just concentrate on trying to give the bees what they are asking for(the basics: food, water and shelter).  And maybe being left alone.  I'm not so good on that one. :wink: 

I do believe that we have to learn to live with varroa.  In the big picture, I don't see how in the long run that treating our hives will help.  But I do see that individual beeks with a couple hives that don't want to lose them will treat.  This is my 4th summer with bees.  Started with 3 nucs, lost one the first winter (big loss at the time).  Now I'm up to 20+ hives and a dozen nucs.  Probably going to make up more nucs in a week or two.  I don't know if my bees have varroa(I assume they do).  I haven't really looked for it.  Although I think I might have seen some in the oil trays.  Not for sure since I didn't look close. 

I just hope that I'm just part solution not the problem.


Offline Jim 134

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Re: Varroa - to treat, or not to treat ?
« Reply #6 on: May 06, 2016, 08:00:25 AM »
I have several treatment free beekeepers Within an hour from me who raised Queens for sale. I believe this is the second largest one in New England.
http://nhbeekeeper.com/
https://www.facebook.com/Hall-Apiaries-146558695363964/?fref=ts

You may like to consider Russian bees. Certified Russian bees seem to be able to handle varroa mites well.
Also several other very good hygienic bees. Available in the USA. I did go to Russia and several years ago and grateful I did. The only place I know where you can get certified Russian Queen bees. Is from anyone who belongs to the association.

http://www.russianbreeder.org/

The vice president of this Association only lives 30 minutes away from my house. His mating yards are about 15 nautical miles away.


                   BEE HAPPY Jim 134 :)
« Last Edit: May 07, 2016, 06:29:22 AM by Jim 134 »
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Offline little john

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Re: Varroa - to treat, or not to treat ?
« Reply #7 on: May 06, 2016, 11:09:36 AM »
On another thread, someone asked me why - if OAV is so effective - the problem hasn't been solved by the administering of such treatment over the last 20 years.

I would turn that question on it's head and ask - for those who've been running apiaries treatment-free for 20 years - how come the problem hasn't yet been solved by that methodology ? Because - if treatment-free really IS the solution, then colonies which do not have a hygenic trait will duly perish, and drones from those with a hygenic trait will spread that hygenic trait gene (if such a thing really does exist) far and wide - at first to neighbouring colonies and onwards and outwards from there, regardless of whether treatments are being administered elsewhere or not.

I think it is much more likely that hygenic behaviour is the result of a genetic tag, rather than a genuine genetic mutation.

BTW - I don't think quoting Randy Oliver's opinion is really very helpful.

LJ

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Re: Varroa - to treat, or not to treat ?
« Reply #8 on: May 06, 2016, 03:10:02 PM »
Thanks for the extra suggestions.   I would much rather be treatment free both for the big picture reasons and for the reasons that CAO gave.   

It happens that the one colony that made it through the winter this year is the daughter of a Russian queen I bought with a package last year.   They didn't like her and replaced her late in the year.   I used quilt boxes this winter and that tiny colony made it through.   They are a little more defensive than the Italians.   

I also have 2 more nucs coming from Stuart Ratcliff in Bedford, Indiana, who does not treat.   

This is my 5th year I'm hoping to really get things going.   If I could get to a point and maintain 8-12 hives/nucs then I wouldn't worry when I lost one to mites/whatever.   I'm comfortable feeding, making splits and dealing with queenless hives, letting them make their own queens, etc.   I just can't keep them alive for more than a season or so.    I don't know if it's just that I don't know enough yet, or if it's the bees, or the mites, or poor winter prep or what.    ...   which is why I started to wonder if maybe I should just treat.
Robin Edmundson
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Offline Psparr

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Re: Varroa - to treat, or not to treat ?
« Reply #9 on: May 06, 2016, 07:40:52 PM »
Rurification, if it helps or not, I use a quilt box as well, and have not lost a hive yet. The only one I did lose was because a tree branch fell on it knocking off the cover and they got wet. I also didn't treat last year. Saw quite a few mites on the screened bottom board, but still didn't treat. They are booming now.

Offline little john

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Re: Varroa - to treat, or not to treat ?
« Reply #10 on: May 07, 2016, 02:19:53 AM »
Thanks for the extra suggestions.   I would much rather be treatment free both for the big picture reasons and for the reasons that CAO gave.   
[....]
I don't know if it's just that I don't know enough yet, or if it's the bees, or the mites, or poor winter prep or what.    ...   which is why I started to wonder if maybe I should just treat.

Robin - seeing as this thead is concerned with this issue of treating or non-treating, and you're debating in your mind whether to or not - if you haven't already done so, you may find reading http://scientificbeekeeping.com/the-rules-for-successful-beekeeping/  to be helpful.

I hope so.
LJ

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Re: Varroa - to treat, or not to treat ?
« Reply #11 on: May 08, 2016, 09:46:44 AM »
psparr - Thanks for the comment about quilt boxes.   I'm really hoping that in my little microclimate, the quilt boxes will make a big difference.

LJ - Thanks for the link.   I read it and it makes sense.    I had spent some time on that site a couple of years ago and had forgotten some of the things he talks about so it was nice to have the refresher.   [And I've saved the link this time to my bee folder.]

I've got a new sugar roll kit and my goal this year is to learn how to use it easily since I have solid bottoms and can't do a mite drop count.    Let's say my mite numbers get high in June/July or I see some DWV.   If I go treatment free, is my only option to just let them alone?
Robin Edmundson
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Offline Jim 134

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Re: Varroa - to treat, or not to treat ?
« Reply #12 on: May 10, 2016, 03:01:08 PM »
A different view on treatment-free beekeeping. That you may not have heard. Kirk Webster of Middlebury Vermont. In my opinion Kirk Webster is way a head of all the other treatment-free in the USA .
 
http://tfb.podbean.com/mobile/e/treatment-free-beekeeping-podcast-episode-32-kirk-in-vermont/

You can read his articles here.

http://kirkwebster.com/



     BEE HAPPY Jim 134  :smile:
« Last Edit: May 10, 2016, 03:21:09 PM by Jim 134 »
"Tell me and I'll forget,show me and I may  remember,involve me and I'll understand"
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 John F. Kennedy
Franklin County Beekeepers Association MA. http://www.franklinmabeekeepers.org/

Offline Michael Bush

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Re: Varroa - to treat, or not to treat ?
« Reply #13 on: May 10, 2016, 04:23:45 PM »
>I would turn that question on it's head and ask - for those who've been running apiaries treatment-free for 20 years - how come the problem hasn't yet been solved by that methodology ?

100s of thousands of package bees with poor genetics being dumped into the gene pool every year is not helping.  But not treating is working better than treating in my experience and every bit as good by most of the polls being taken.

?If you?re not part of the genetic solution of breeding mite-tolerant bees, then you?re part of the problem?? Randy Oliver
My website:  bushfarms.com/bees.htm en espanol: bushfarms.com/es_bees.htm  auf deutsche: bushfarms.com/de_bees.htm
My book:  ThePracticalBeekeeper.com
-------------------
"Everything works if you let it."--James "Big Boy" Medlin

Offline little john

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Re: Varroa - to treat, or not to treat ?
« Reply #14 on: May 10, 2016, 05:39:56 PM »
A different view on treatment-free beekeeping. That you may not have heard. Kirk Webster of Middlebury Vermont.

I don't know if your post is addressed to myself, but Kirk Webster and his philosophies are very well known to me.
But the question remains - if non-treating is so successful, then why haven't Varroa-resistant genes already spread to neighbouring apiaries, rendering treatment there unnecessary ? 

There is a guy living in Swindon, in central southern England, who claimed to have developed a Varroa-resistant bee decades ago. So where are these bees now ?  Why haven't they flooded the country and made that guy a fortune ?

My suggestion is that what is probably being experienced is not a genetic mutation at all (some of which can take centuries to develop), but rather an epigenetic 'tag' which, by switching on or off certain genes gives the illusion that a mutation has occurred.  But - unlike a true genetic mutation, the inheritance of a 'tag' can be both temporary and random. It may be passed from one generation to the next a few times, or it may not - there are no guarantees with tags ... and this is pretty-much the story I'm hearing from people who have purchased queens allegedly with Varroa-related genetic mutations.


BTW, there is a very interesting paper on the Web, entitled "Survivor Stock - A Protocol for Small-Scale Beekeepers" by M.E.A. McNeil.

In that paper - which is largely about Sue Cobey's strategies - there are a couple of quotes which I think are worth making:
Quote
?Programmes and especially gene selection programmes can never adequately keep up with the changing environment, certainly not to the extent that a ?live-and-let-die? approach can. Allowing natural selection to determine who the winners are will always be the most sensible strategy.?
"That is how Danny Weaver of 'BeeWeaver' developed 5000 untreated hives kept between Texas and North Dakota; but Weaver sacrificed thousands of colonies to that goal."

Now this may indeed have been a close approximation to Natural Selection, but who can afford to sacrifice thousands of colonies to achieve such a result (especially if the result may not be long-lasting) ?

And as we continue to read this paper, any attempt at an emulation of Natural Selection soon runs into farce.
Sue Cobey: ?The ideal is for an II (instrumental insemination) lab to inseminate the breeder stock ..."; ?it is ideal for beekeepers to control mating areas using resistant drone saturation; it will make the process much faster. Every time a queen open mates (with unknown drones), the colony goes back into the random gene pool. But if you must and are near beekeepers who treat, give them some free queen cells.?  So much for Natural Selection ... 

Why not let your resistant drones compete with non-resistant drones - isn't such competition between drones at the very heart of Natural Selection in Honey Bees, where drones and not females are responsible for fecundity ? 

But of course, this is NOT Natural Selection at all - it is Beekeeper-Selection, where human beings think they can outwit Mother Nature. Indeed, I think we need to remind ourselves from time to time that although Queens ARE the carriers of DNA in the sense of being the repository, it is the drones which spread that DNA far and wide and thus determine the larger gene-pool.  Which of course is precisely WHY honeybee colonies produce so many drones, much to the displeasure of honey-farmers.

LJ

Offline little john

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Re: Varroa - to treat, or not to treat ?
« Reply #15 on: May 10, 2016, 06:03:24 PM »
>I would turn that question on it's head and ask - for those who've been running apiaries treatment-free for 20 years - how come the problem hasn't yet been solved by that methodology ?

100s of thousands of package bees with poor genetics being dumped into the gene pool every year is not helping. But not treating is working better than treating in my experience and every bit as good by most of the polls being taken.

?If you?re not part of the genetic solution of breeding mite-tolerant bees, then you?re part of the problem?? Randy Oliver

But there are many countries where this is NOT happening - Varroa is not confined to the US. 

I have already commented that quoting Randy Oliver's opinion - which is (unlike most of his writings) a somewhat inflammatory political comment and not evidence-based - is not really very helpful.  Anyone can pluck such quotes from websites in order to score points in the absence of a reasoned argument.

My opinion is the reverse of Oliver's - that it is treatment-free apiaries which are part of the continuing problem.  But - like Oliver, I don't have any factual evidence to support such an assertion - it is just my opinion.  And as such, not particularly helpful.

LJ


Offline Michael Bush

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Re: Varroa - to treat, or not to treat ?
« Reply #16 on: May 11, 2016, 11:11:07 AM »
>that it is treatment-free apiaries which are part of the continuing problem

So you believe you can eradicate the Varroa if everyone would treat?  It's not going to happen even if everyone did.  There are more swarms from the treated commercial beekeepers in this country than there are hobbyists who are not treating.  All of those will continue to harbor Varroa.  In any country there are feral bees (in the case of much of Europe, possibly even wild bees) surviving in the woods.  Those are harboring Varroa.  But you can't even kill all the Varroa in a given hive without killing all the bees, so there is no point trying to kill the feral bees.  And those feral bees are your best hope for the future anyway.  The continuing problem is continuing to treat.
My website:  bushfarms.com/bees.htm en espanol: bushfarms.com/es_bees.htm  auf deutsche: bushfarms.com/de_bees.htm
My book:  ThePracticalBeekeeper.com
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Offline Oblio13

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Re: Varroa - to treat, or not to treat ?
« Reply #17 on: May 11, 2016, 08:59:16 PM »
>And catching feral swarms is not feasible.   

I don't see how it's not feasible, but the first step is to get bees that are surviving without treatments.  The feral bees have already taken their losses.  If you don't want to trap them or get on a swarm list or do a cut out then try these for next year:

http://www.fatbeeman.com/bees-honey/
http://www.wolfcreekbees.com/
http://www.goldstarhoneybees.com/shopcontent.asp?type=How%20to%20get%20bees%20for%20your%20Gold%20Star%20top%20bar%20hive
http://anarchyapiaries.org/hivetools/node/32
http://www.enjoybeekeeping.com/

And if they are all sold out you can call or write:
Kirk Webster
Box 381
Middlebury, Vt. 05753
802-989-5895 (no voice mail)

Myron Kropf
2233 LITTLE WOODS RD
BEXAR AR 72515-9509
870-458-3002 (no voice mail)

And there are others.  Likely there are some treatment free beekeepers near you.
I bought bees from both Kirk Webster and Anarchy Apiaries (Sam Cook) year after year, and year after year I lost them to Varroa.

Now I use "soft" treatments  in August and try to keep the mites beat back when the winter bees are being made.

Offline Michael Bush

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Re: Varroa - to treat, or not to treat ?
« Reply #18 on: May 12, 2016, 09:45:35 AM »
>I bought bees from both Kirk Webster and Anarchy Apiaries (Sam Cook) year after year, and year after year I lost them to Varroa.

On natural comb?  Small cell?  Large cell?  I lost all my bees to Varroa everytime on large cell foundation.
My website:  bushfarms.com/bees.htm en espanol: bushfarms.com/es_bees.htm  auf deutsche: bushfarms.com/de_bees.htm
My book:  ThePracticalBeekeeper.com
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Offline yes2matt

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Re: Varroa - to treat, or not to treat ?
« Reply #19 on: May 24, 2016, 09:18:25 PM »
I have to make this decision soon myself. One of my colonies is sugar-rolling over threshold. I've done without medicines so far, but it seems a waste to let them go. And also not fair to my neighbors.

But it also seems like genetic/ metagenetic improvement is the only sustainable solution in the long-term. And a year I treat is a year I delay going treatment-free for good.

It also seems like either scheduled treatment or treatment-free as a path depends heavily upon what my neighbors (within drone range)  are doing. And I haven't done that research. 

So I've put Apivar into and out of my "shopping cart" about three times.