so if i am understanding correctly jim, for the average beekeeper there was no easy way to make the diagnosis and not much in the way of treatments, unlike varroa.
sounds like a very different scenario, and one that nature seems to have taken care of.
perhaps with tm it was more like getting resistance to just one virus, as opposed to the frank parasitism along with having multiple pathogens being vectored by varroa.
Diagnosis of tracheal mites requires disection of the prothorasic tracheal of the individual bees which is done in a Lab by taking off the head of ther bee and cutting a disc of the front of the thorax w/ a razor. The disc is placed in a solution of KOH (potasium hydroxide) over night which clears the muscle mass leaving the trachea (tracheii?). The trachea are then examined under a microscope to determine presence or absence of mites.
I have heard that some folks have done field diagnosis for presence w/ a hand lens. I have no experience doing that so I don't know how well it works.
When I was a kid a book I read described how to diagnose it, they had a little device with two pins sticking up, and the bee was impaled on these through the back of the lower thorax, ie, the bee was in an upside down position.
The two front legs with that section of the thorax were cut off, and according to the photos provided, this exposed some of the main tracheal tubes. The infested ones showed clearly very dark, going by the pics a good magnifying glass would be all that would be needed, or someone with very keen eyesight may be able to see it unaided. Non infested bees the tracheae were almost invisible being the same pearly white colour as the rest of the surrounding material.
Being a schoolboy bee geek at the time I built one of the devises, but the mites did not make it to my country so I never got to try it. I did impale and dissect a few bees on it though LOL
Mike Bispham don't ask me for proof or references I don't have any.
so did it follow that if a diagnosis wasn't readily available that there was also no good way to know what if any effect the treatments were having?
thanks mark. so how devastating was tm to the managed bee population? what were the losses like and for how many years?
My recollection was that TM showed up in 1984 or 5 and was pretty much gone, or overshadowed by Varroa, by 1987. Losses were somewhat similar to Varroa mites have been.
Im kind of fuzzy on that. I remember our losses running a bit high for a few years after our first positive diagnosis, dosent seem like they were at unmanageable levels though. APHIS got pretty panicky when it was first diagnosed and started depopulating hives that tested positive thinking that they could control it. A neighboring beekeeper had just moved his bees back to South Dakota from an area where they had been found so they came out here started testing then decided they all had to be killed. It was all pretty crazy. Within a couple years pretty much everyone had tested positive.
Yes it got to the US in 84, from South America (I think). But it had been around in England for a lot longer and was one of the things the Buckfast bee was designed to defeat. American bees threw it off pretty quick but the English bees struggled with it for many years, and possibly still have it in small doses.
My impression is that by the time tracheal mites arrived in America, there was already some resistance in American stocks. I recall reading somewhere that in Florida, researchers had a hard time finding infected colonies to use in studies of the problem.
It's interesting t speculate on what might have happened to varroa mites had aggressive treatments not been available, as was the case with tracheal mites in the UK in the 20s.
you often hear that the pollination by honeybees is responsible for a big portion of the world's food supply. is that true? are there any reliable estimates of what would happen to the food supply if managed bees suffered a 90% loss in a given year?
Years ago Steve Taber speculated in an ABJ Article that if all US Beekeepers were willing to go w/out treating Varroa that in 30 years we would have Varroa tolerant bees. He also said that we also wouldn't have any Commercial Beekeepers.