makes sense db. i think a vigorous new queen and the ability of an establishing colony to out breed the (split) mite population is what is responsible for the successes. for splitting not to interfere with honey production in my location the splitting would have to done after the main flow, and the colonies would require supplemental feeding to allow them to become established.
Thanks Fusion-Power. I seem to be covering most of those bases in my general operation. I have not really tested for VSH, but have observed Allogrooming in my general population. I would imagine they are related. The Cordovans i mentioned earlier WERE NOT VSH and it was quite obvious. They could not keep up.
I do practice timed brood breaks, and use mostly foundationless natural cells for my brood-nests. For the aforementioned Cordovans, I removed the queen for a month and fed them syrup laced with Spearmint oil, so i guess that is a soft treatment by definition. I also smoked them heavily with creosote bush smoke and gave them new drawn comb. It seems to have helped and they have re-established themselves. We will see if they pull through the Winter. If they do not, I will not grieve the loss of their genetics.
Rhaldridge, My observations with the Beeweavers is that the particular ones I got are a rather hit or miss affair. They seem to hold their own as far as treatment free goes, but several of mine were very slow to get established compared to their feral derived cousins. One queen was particularly slow and was evenually re-queened with one of my own. As a whole, I just don't feel they build up as fast or are as acclimated as the ones I can raise from my own stock. They seem better than the regular domestic variety, but not quite up to the same level as the bees I have been raising for the last few years. Somewhere in the middle I guess. Oh, and every so often you get some really mean ones. Luckily I did not.
I worked a hive of Beeweavers for a local beginner, to diagnose a possible disease problem, and those bees were far meaner than any I possess or would want to possess. She was just starting out and didn't know the difference. I offered her one of my queens, but she did not take me up on it. At the time, we were in the middle of the main honey flow, and I was not even using smoke on my hives. Her bees tore us up.
That is part of the reason I moved my Beeweavers to an isolated alfalfa field, because I don't want them near humans in case they get overly defensive. I keep 12 of my feral derived mountain bee colonies in my back yard on my 1 acre lot with very little issues. I will not do that with the Beeweavers - just in case. I am sure they are good bees, so far mine seem to be somewhere in the middle. One good thing is that they are colored different and easy to spot. They have whitish striping on their abdomens that my feral derived bees, which are normally dark with brown or grey banding if any, do not possess.
FYI about the splits I do - We have two flows around this region of NM. The Spring flow (Mostly Mesquite) is the one I harvest from, then I split around Mid-Summer, and let the bees have the next flow (Chamisa/Wildflowers/Etc.). Sometimes I break up the oldest hives in the Spring and restart them as Nucs. On a good year with lot's of rain (if we ever see it again) mesquite will bloom twice. The limit of my migratory operations is to cart my production bees up and down the mountain to catch the mesquite or wildflowers. I only have a few on alfalfa as a test right now. I am not sure I want to expose them to agricultural products, and I get a ton of honey off the mesquite if I do it right.
I've been treatment free for years, but something has to change for me too, just too many losses from mites. What I have been thinking about doing this season is a brood break followed immediately by a mite trapping. Here's the details: In my area the main flow ends around mid-July or so. At that time I will go into every hive and remove the queen and two frames of brood to a four frame nuc that I will set up right next to the main hive. The nuc will also have a frame of food and an empty drawn comb to go along with the two frames of brood w/queen that I removed. The original hive will raise a new queen. A few days after the queen emerges I will take a frame of unsealed young brood from the nuc and exchange it with a frame from the hive with the new queen. That frame of brood that I put into the original hive will be removed as soon as it is capped and put into a freezer to kill the mites. That frame of brood most likely will be thick with mites seeing as how that is the first brood that those mites have had the opportunity to infest in a couple weeks. I believe that giving them a brood break and trapping mites in that donated frame of brood will deal the mite population a severe blow going into fall. Not only that, but the main hive will have a new queen which will lay at a high rate once she gets mated, and will outbreed what's left of the mite population going into fall. Hoping that this will improve my winter survival rates greatly.
JMGI . . .
I have been thinking of this same strategy myself. Making nucs from production hives and doing this.
Interesting Jmgi, I have used virtually the identical method, just, requeened with a cell rather than let them raise their own.
I had high expectations but although the mite count was greatly reduced, they seem to have a way to keep numbers up, I think numbers were reduced around 40% or so. However for you, since some of your bees are already surviving, maybe a 40% reduction would be enough.
I have wondered if it would work better if drone brood was used but did not actually try that.
Oldtimer, are you introducing the cell after a week or so, or immediately after dequeening the hive? As I was thinking through the process I would use, I initially thought of using a frame of predominately drone brood, but then I thought that might be hard to come up with that many frames of drone brood if you are doing this to many colonies at once as I would be doing. I am thinking that even a frame of worker brood will work very well because the phoretic mites "should" be desperate to get into any cell of brood after being deprived of it for a couple weeks. I am really anxious to try this whole thing out this season. The only downside is having to remove the frame of mite infested brood and freezing it, and having to do it to lots of colonies at once. But, if it works as well as I hope it does, I promise not to complain about having to do it in the future.
As the purpose was to give a brood break and hopefully force the mites into the "sacrificial" brood comb, I left them queenless for a time, then went through and destroyed queen cells at the same time as putting the new queen cell in. However it was several years ago & cannot now remember the exact time frames, it could have varied between different hives also.
However the bees I used could probably be described as having no mite resistance whatsoever, if you are using bees with better resistance you may well get better results. I just remember the pain of it because when I thought of the idea I felt somewhat elated and thought I may have cracked it. But the poor results where a bit of a let down emotionally.
However you have different bees, different location and are a different beekeeper. You may get great results. I'll be watching with interest when you update. :)
Jmgi that is close to the time I make my winter splits so they will raise new queens. I think it is a key manipulation to disrupt mites, and the same that Mr. Disselkonen advises to do. Not sure I spelled his name right.
I would consider my bees to have very little mite resistance, I'm not using any particular kind of resistant stock, just basic Italian's. I have read of many, many beekeepers having good success with brood breaks alone without using a "sacrificial comb", so I have to believe that going a step further has to be a benefit, maybe even a huge benefit, at least I'm hoping. The way I see it is the mites are breeding machines, interrupting that cycle has been proven to hurt their reproduction to some extent, and the longer you can keep them from having that reproductive medium (the brood) before introducing that single "sacrificial comb" the better, at least from my prospective. Maybe someone else has done just exactly what I have suggested doing, and can share their outcome with us.
Paul McCarty, are you treatment free? How has your success been with your splits done that way? How have they wintered? Thanks.
Ok now I have a bit more time to reply. It's amazing to find out when you think you have a new idea poof someone else has thought of it "several years ago". Thanks for sharing OT!!! One difference here to consider. If you introduce that frame too soon then there may still be capped brood with mites in the hive that will emerge once your "sacrificial" frame is capped. So you will get some, but not all or perhaps not "most". So if you let them rear a queen on their own and put that frame in at the time the new queen should be going on mating flights that I think would work the best. What I don't know is will the disruption of the hive cause damage to the new queen? I have read that you want to leave her alone for a good solid 3 weeks from emmergence. OT and others what do you think about that? Would it be better to put a frame of eggs / young larva in the day before the queen is set to emerge? Doing this you'll have about 9 days which should be enough time for the other capped brood in the hive to emerge right? The other question / thought is if you take that single frame from your newly created nuc (The one right next door with the original queen) you'll have brood in all stages on that single frame. The queen will be looking to lay in every cell possible so as soon as one is available she'll lay in it. Will this be a problem? You will have some brood that hatches out the the same time that the open brood is capped. So it doesn't seem like a perfect system, but it does definitely seem good. I want to try this this year. At least with my production hives. Perhaps I'll leave the nucs alone, but it does make great sense to do this with those hives.
Why would you make your brood break right after the main flow? Wouldn't you get more honey if you did it during the main flow, so that you would have more foragers (not having to mind brood) until the hive requeens itself?
delber, you are correct, I got my timetable wrong. It would be better if I waited until all the brood in the original hive hatched out (which would be about the time a new queen would start mating or about 8 days after the queen emerges) before I introduced the "sacrificial frame" of young brood. I have also heard that it is better not to disturb a hive for at least a week or so after a new queen emerges, so quite possibly I may have to go back to the drawing board on this. You're right, this isn't a perfect system, and I know that this idea is not completely new, variations of using brood breaks and drone combs are in use by many today, I'm just trying to refine it a bit if possible, not trying to reinvent anything. I appreciate all the responses so far, it is helping me find the errors in my thinking if nothing else.
rhalridge, yes I could certainly do it a bit earlier in the main flow and not hurt my honey production at all. It would be like doing a cut down split, which I have done before with much success. I just figured doing it later would put me closer to fall and winter, therefore reducing mite load at a time when mites normally explode in relation to queen laying.
Treat for mites sounds like this would solve your problem.
Api Guard and fogging with mineral oils would be a great start.
Try to get a more mite tolerant bee stock.
Sounds like your doing ok on everything else.
Wish you a great year with your bees.
pure speculation on my part jmgi, but an all natural diet (assuming you are in an area with adequate forage) may increase the bees' natural resistance against viral infections.
in the absence of adequate forage, a quality pollen sub in spring and fall would be a next best 'treatment'.
my basis for this is that in the small universe of successful treatment free beekeepers, leaving enough honey so as to not require syrup seems to be a common denominator. i would guess that not many are using pollen sub either, but it's the protein in the pollen that forms the basis of the bees' natural immunity against pathogens.
randy oliver is looking hard at this in his new experiments.
Maybe I was too nit-picky, I don't deny that some treatments help with mites, but they sure don't solve it in the true sense of the word.