Looking for beekeepers in Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia who would like to test the varroa threshold.
Dewey Caron (U. Delaware), Mike Embrey (U. Maryland), Dennis van Englesdorp (PA Dept of Ag.) and Nancy Ostiguy (Penn State) are looking for beekeepers who would be willing to monitor varroa levels in honey bee colonies. We need to test the mite threshold level in a large number of colonies to determine if the threshold value works.
What do you need to do?
Be willing to monitor for varroa at least every 3 weeks throughout the summer/fall
Be willing to consider not treating colonies that are below the threshold
Report on winter survivorship
Contact Nancy Ostiguy at Penn State: Department of Entomology, 501 ASI, University Park, PA 16803; firstname.lastname@example.org; or 814-863-2872.
darn, wish we were included.
> ...looking for beekeepers who would be willing to monitor
> varroa levels in honey bee colonies. We need to test the
> mite threshold level in a large number of colonies to
> determine if the threshold value works.
I remain bemused at the perception that beekeepers
would be asking for a "threshold".
The basic concept of a "threshold" is apparently
based upon the hope that a single number can be
a meaningful and useful measurement.
But a single data point is meaningless without
context. It should be obvious to even the casual
observer that no two colonies are exactly the same
strength, and it should also be obvious that a larger
bee population will produce a larger mite drop than a
smaller colony with the same (or even a much higher)
percentage of varroa infestation.
Worse yet, it is impossible to know from a single number
the rate of change in the varroa population from "last
time", as there IS no "last time".
I am not sure if I should be amused or insulted that
the bee research community either:
a) Feels that beekeepers need to be handed a simple
numeric "threshold", rather than being told that
one wants to treat when varroa population growth
starts to "go exponential", or "grow more rapidly".
b) Has shrugged its collective shoulders, and "given
in" to beekeeper demands for "a solution" that would
require only a single varroa drop reading, and somehow
be used to make a treatment decision on the spot.
Hey, even beekeepers can plot points on graphs, and many
of us can even do calculus! With a little effort, we can
be taught to understand simple concepts, like:
a) Knowing the speed of a car at a single instant says
nothing about the rate of acceleration of the car.
Is the car speeding up, slowing down, or cruising
at a steady speed? To know, multiple measurements
b) Comparing varroa population acceleration to car
acceleration, we can come to realize that there
IS no way to do this IPM stuff "in one step" if
we want to do it correctly, and have our hives survive.
c) That the threat of varroa appears to be the RATE OF
POPULATION CHANGE, which requires multiple counts
to track the "delta" between counts.
If I were to use a single-point numeric "threshold", I would
be treating my largest and most robust colonies, and perhaps
not treating colonies weakened by varroa to below the "critical
mass" required to sustain a viable colony.
> What do you need to do?
> Be willing to monitor for varroa at least every 3 weeks
> throughout the summer/fall
So, to test the "threshold", one is asked to take regular
readings. It should be clear that by comparing the CHANGE
in varroa drop counts between consecutive readings, one can
gauge the rate of population growth of varroa. Clearly, this
is the only measurement that is useful across colonies with
populations that vary if one wants to do "good science".
Does it seem counter-intuitive to anyone else but me that
the verification methodology for a "threshold" is a series
of readings over time? Does it seem strange that these
series will be used to somehow justify the use of a single
absolute number as a valid trigger for treatment?
If single-measurement "thresholds" were a valid way to
"count varroa", why would anyone be asked to monitor varroa
"at least every 3 weeks"?
In my view, a series of readings is the exact process that
should be promoted as the only valid measurement technique
capable of driving one's IPM program for varroa.
If it is the minimum required for "good science", it follows
that it is also the minimum required for "good IPM".
The price of honey is eternal vigilance.
This means that we all need to invest in a pencil and a
79-cent notebook, or stop claiming that we are using "IPM".
Pennsylvania has a very good inspector program. Part of this program involves doing a sugar roll mite drop test when inspecting an apiary. Knowing most beekeepers do not do test regularly, they are trying to formulate a guide as to what the counts actually mean at that particular time, given that one test. If you have 1-3 mites, or 5-10, or 10-20, they all could be judged differently. And advise to whether treatment, (and yes most beekeepers still use strips), should be made to the beekeeper. They are testing threshholds to determine if hives can now and perhaps in combination with SBB, better genetics, etc, handle particular loads, before recommending treatments. These numbers can be based on time of year for enhanced value.
If your job includes making recommendations, to beekeepers on all levels, then what do you base these on?
At what point would you change treatments, go to strips or do any additional care of a hive if you didnt have any assigned values for the number of mites? Remembering that most do not do REGULAR testing throughout the year. If you were an inspector, and after doing a test found four mites, and then asked "what do four mites mean?", whats your reply suppose to be, "It means you have four mites, duh!
In collecting the data, they are asking for beekeepers to do a number of tests throughout the year, so this data when collected, can show the cycle of the mites in a particular year, and what levels are acceptable and which are not. Do you always need to treat if one mite is found? what about two? you get the point.
They also know most do not have foggers, small-cell, and the like. Outside of this forum, its minimal. But alot use chemicals. And if the state can determine when these would be most needed, or not needed, than isn't that good for beekeeping?
Pa., will also reimburse you, while funding exists, for hive loss. They are also willing to provide you with chemicals, or allow you to input your own test equipment or ideas into this program.
I wonder what a state like Virginia is actively doing with their beekeepers at this time. How about expanding on your own accomplishments and state contributions into the beekeeping world.
If you (jfischer) do a test, and find some number of mites, what does it mean? Maybe you could define numbers as to your high, medium, or low thresh-holds. Whether some IPM is working or not?
The state does not have the time or money to analyze each hive as to strength, history, and other factors. They are dealing with broad research to help in general terms. With information for all to benefit from. I think its a worthwhile effort. And don't understand the criticism. Maybe expounding upon your own states contributions, or your own, it will help everyone understand your angle.
Seems to me that if the research comes up with a static threshold number, this would be of particular interest and PRIMARILY important. THEN the delta.
If I sugar roll test a hive and find the number of mites from the perscribed bee sample size MUCH larger than the threshold, I don't need a delta to know to treat NOW. If I find 1 mite, again, I don't need a delta to know not to treat NOW. The static test defines my immediate tasking.
The delta defines (or helps to define) what my FUTURE tasks will or will not be. If mite delta down, I will probably not have to treat. And vice versa.
If I find a "slow" increase in mites over several tests, I might try some oils or other alternative means of mite control because the CHANGE in mite level is at a RATE where I have some leeway to try some methods that have question marks tacked to them. If I find a fast spike, yea, I call and order Checkmite or Apistan cuz I will need something proven to save the colony.
Point is, seems both types of data (static) and dynamic) tell us usefull things. Considering the scope of the research as outlined above, finding a threshold would be more graspable and feasible. It should take precedence over dynamic evaluations if we have to choose. Seems the researchers will be getting delta data in any case and I would hope to see this info in the final report rather than just a single threshold number.
My two cents increasing to three, for what its worth. :-}
Thats what they are trying to come up with. Not just a threshhold number, but an outline to show time of year, etc. Various factors will come into play. 3 mites in april means something different than three mites in Oct.
I have seen the preliminary stats that was started last year, but at this point they do not want to pass this information along as it is a small sampling and was in an early stage. They would like to build better stats. The interesting thing is that they also would like to hear from beekeepers about other mite control items, and will incorporate this info into the data and testing. How would the threshhold differ with SBB, with russians, with essential oils, etc. And how would the mite counts be effected throughout the year with the different control items in place? That information alone can set a course for at least allowing you to focus on the combination of IPM tools that could make or break a hive.
I did a lot of research last fall in order to find some methodology / guidance on which bee colonies were in trouble from varroa and required treatment. In doing this, I looked at various research reports on threshold levels for guidance - there are many of them out there(I will not reproduce them here as a quick search on Google will turn them up).
Static Threshold number is of Primary Importance? I do not agree with this - nor do most researchers who have done the studies. There can be no one single number that works in all cases. What are the variables that may effect this number? Are you in the Northern or Southern Hemisphere? What time of the year is it? Are the bees raising brood, still in the cluster, actively foraging? What type of bees are in the hive? Does the queen exhibit hygenic behavior? Each of these will have an effect on the number of varroa that a hive can handle without treatment. I do, however, believe that there is a single number which indicates that no colony, during any time of the year, could handle. But is that useful?
Another thing which effects the accuracy of treatment regimes based on a single number (current count of varroa) is that most of the tests have an error rate that will vary depending on how the test is conducted. For example, on a sugar / ether roll you will get very, very different results if you select young bees from the center of the broodnest than if you had collected foragers. It has also been proven by research that the absolute numbers produced by a sugar test, ether test, twenty four hour drop test, etc are not highly correlated. In other words, an ether test could prove that you have a problem while an overnight mite count could prove that there is no problem. Which one do you believe? How do you tell a novice beekeeper how to interpret these results, considering all the variables?
Research has shown that there is an exponential explosion in the number of varroa in colonies before a crash. This happens in all cases, at any time of the year, the only difference being in the magnitude of the explosion. If a beekeeper does an overnight drop count every week, in the same way each time, and sees a sudden very large increase - they can know that the colony is in trouble and will die off very quickly if left untreated.
By monitoring for trends, rather than a single number, all of the variables mentioned above (and those not mentioned) can be eliminated from your calculations. This is easy to explain to novices as well - when you see a large spike in varroa counts (independent of the method used to derive those numbers), get the bees treated as quickly as possible.
Everyone keeps mentioning this majic one "golden" number, apparently being sought after. (which is not the case.) Where is this coming from. Who did you speak to in reference to this? Do you even know what is being done?
I have been in contact in reference to these tests. They are interested in individuals input and various mite control methods. Willing to provide sticky boards, strips, hive loss compensation, and guidance, amoung other items. Willing to work with any beekeeper, and their choice of mite control efforts. On a site like this, I thought people would be fighting for a deal like this. Finding miteload threshholds for a multitude of equipment configurations, and trying to provide guidance as to proper information to pass to state beekeepers is in my opionion worthwhile.
Bringing southern hemisphere vs northern into the conversation proves what? Babble....... I can honestly say nobody is worried about southern hemisphere beekeeping. Even if you think its relevent to bring it into the conversation.
What is the number that NO hive can handle that you make mention? I'm very interested. You must of spent massive amounts of time and effort in coming up with it.
Now you question as to what the impact or relevence of one number can mean? Again, where is this based upon, thinking that a search is on for one number? Have you been in contact with ANY of the people mentioned so intelligent comments about the research can be made, or is this just off the cuff?
Its amazing that not one person has asked, unless at the same time criticizing, about what the tests are aimed at achieving. Has anyone looked into this? Can any good come out of it?
Various comments from multiple people are below:
> Everyone keeps mentioning this majic one "golden" number, apparently
> being sought after. (which is not the case.) Where is this coming from.
Is it coming from the announcement that started this thread:
"Looking for beekeepers in Delaware,
New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania
and West Virginia who would like to
test the varroa threshold."
The mere use of the term "threshold" is enough to tell one
that someone thinks that they can do ONE mite count, and
make a treatment decision right then and there. This is
such bad science that it isn't merely "wrong", it is a
complete non-sequitor. In beekeeping, it is a rare
example of a one-word oxymoron!
> Thats what they are trying to come up with. Not just a threshhold
> number, but an outline to show time of year, etc. Various factors
> will come into play. 3 mites in april means something different
> than three mites in Oct.
That's still a "threshold". A single reading. Please explain to
me how ANY single number, even if one has a different one for every
month, can apply to bee colonies, which tend to vary widely in
population. As I said before, thresholds mean that you will treat
your most robust colonies, and may ignore your weakest, when it is
the weakest ones that suffer the most from a low-level varroa infestation.
While I agree that thresholds for pests make perfect sense when
one has a field crop, with plants at regular spacing, and one
puts out traps with the goal of tracking pest levels, a bee
colony simply does not fit the same "model" as a field of plants.
You KNOW how many plants or acres you have. You have an inherent
plant-to-pest ratio. All I have seen in regard to beekeeping
"thresholds" has been a lot of hand-waving about "weak" versus
"strong" colonies, which, while it is a tacit admission that there
is no such thing as "one-size-fits-all", does not make the
"threshold" any more useful as a tool.
And I understand that many beekeepers may "take the 'threshold' with
a grain (if not a 10-lb bag) of salt", but there are many that will
NOT do so, which will likely lead to re-infestation of well-managed
hives that had been treated based upon an appropriate tracking scheme.
> If your job includes making recommendations, to beekeepers on all
> levels, then what do you base these on?
I'd make it clear that there is no such thing as "Microwave Cooking
Instructions" for beekeeping! I'd point out that it takes at least
TWO points to draw a line, and that the SLOPE of the line is the only
way to know what is going on with varroa.
> At what point would you change treatments, go to strips or do any
> additional care of a hive if you didnt have any assigned values for
> the number of mites?
Tracking anything other than a trend will not tell you about a trend.
The threat posed by varroa is "the trend".
When the varroa population starts to trend upward at a scary rate,
that's when you treat.
But you can't even just do two varroa counts, treat, and move on.
You have to come back and do ANOTHER count to verify that your
treatment had an impact. So now, the minimum number of varroa
counts you need to do is up to THREE.
> Remembering that most do not do REGULAR testing throughout the year.
This is the essential problem. Promoting the use of a "threshold"
encourages people to remain lazy, remain oblivious of what is going
on with their hives, and continue to avoid implementing a program of
REGULAR monitoring, data collection, and tracking.
> If you were an inspector, and after doing a test found four mites,
> and then asked "what do four mites mean?", whats your reply suppose
> to be, "It means you have four mites, duh!
Well, if I counted a 4 mite drop, and last time I had a 22 mite drop
on the same hive using the same test, I'd be very happy, wouldn't I?
On the other hand, if I had ZERO mites "last time", and 4 "this time",
I might want to use a treatment to knock the mite population back to
"near zero" if it were early spring, and I had nothing slated for that
colony except pollination work.
On yet another hand, if I had a 4-mite count on a newly-hived package,
I would be more than slightly disappointed in the producer who sent the
packages to the new beekeeper I was helping.
And on the last hand, if I had 4 mites this time, and 4 mites last
time, and only 4 mites the time before that, you'd see me dancing
around the colony, VERY VERY happy, and moving the colony with care
into my "barnyard beeyard" so I could watch it, as that colony might
be the "Holy Grail Of Modern Beekeeping", a colony that keeps the
mites under control. (That would be a "million-dollar colony" if I
was a person who looked at beekeeping as an income generator.)
It should now be clear that a single data point is USELESS.
"BeeCultivador" clearly "gets it", and is one person who
can be expected to not have massive losses. "BeeCultivador" said:
> Research has shown that there is an exponential explosion in the number
> of varroa in colonies before a crash. This happens in all cases, at any
> time of the year, the only difference being in the magnitude of the
> explosion. If a beekeeper does an overnight drop count every week, in
> the same way each time, and sees a sudden very large increase - they can
> know that the colony is in trouble and will die off very quickly if left
> By monitoring for trends, rather than a single number, all of the variables
> mentioned above (and those not mentioned) can be eliminated from your
> calculations. This is easy to explain to novices as well - when you see a
> large spike in varroa counts (independent of the method used to derive those
> numbers), get the bees treated as quickly as possible.
I would not change a word. THIS is the message that researchers should
pass along to beekeepers. Yes, it is a real bummer to not have an easy
one-step "solution", but if you want "easy", consider giving up beekeeping,
and raising sea-monkeys instead.
I'll take that as a no as to whether you spoke to anyone actually doing the research. Thank you for defining every word and breaking it down the way you did. You should be proud. With this, I'm sure beekeeping will move forward by leaps and bounds.
I encourage those in the area for testing, please call and find out for yourself what is involved, and how you may contribute. No one has all the answers and the researchers are wanting input, and those with open minds.
Obviously there are many experts willing to write large amount of type, as if they anjoy "hearing themselves" speak.
Double post, sorry.
[This message has been edited by BjornBee (edited March 12, 2004).]
Its interesting how a posting that in my eyes seemed so well meaning has become such a bunch of junk.
I know Dewey well enough to know that he
has many demands on his time. Nancy is
bogged down right now with the Organic
Program for honey.
Dewey and I will be speaking at the same
meeting later this month. It can wait
until then. I can both ask him about this
in person, and, with luck score some of
whatever he has been smoking.
"Threshold"? Must be gooood stuff
Lighten up, willya Bjorn?
There's nothing wrong with being "hard on
the issues", but it does not require one
to be "hard on people", does it?
I assume Robmountain was just passing along information. I not sure he is the official spokesperson or has a detailed message with specific language for accurate "word by word" phrasing of the tests. I know one resulting number is not the case.
If you want to break down every "key" word you feel is important and then use this breakdown to crap on someone trying to do something good, then I guess your right, maybe I shouldn't say anything. I'm just not that type of person. Sorry.
Glad you acknowledged the fact that you did not speak to anybody actually "more" in the know up till this point. Having an open mind myself, I will be interested in what you find out.
Anyone wanting to email, and get the letter stating some of the information and tests, including your choice of mite control, ox..acid, free sticky boards, hive loss compensation, and other support...to help testing in a BROAD area...email email@example.com
This is Nancy Ostiguy's email, she will help.
I'll ask my wife to help me cut/paste or somehow get the letter I have posted on this site. But I'm not good with computor stuff.
aNY AND ALL DATA THAT CAN BE COLLECTED ON MITES AND THEIR INTERACTION WITH HONEY BEES CAN BE HELPFUL. if we are not here to be helpful to oneanother then don't bother sometimes criticism is helpful but lets try to keep it civil the post was an honest questioning of the idea but the info gathered in this test could prove useful provided all the particulars are provided and presented as a whole and not boiled down to a conclusion. good luck with the experiment.
BjornBee, your assumption is absolutely correct; I simply posted information from MAAREC, Mid-Atlantic Apiculture Research and Extension Consortium at http://maarec.cas.psu.edu/varroaStudy.htm , and I really thank you for supporting what is obviously going to be extremely beneficial to the entire beekeeping industry. I am just sorry that this is not being extended to KY.
Just to mention I have the utmost respect for Nancy DR. Nancy Ostiguy http://www.ento.psu.edu/Personnel/Faculty/ostiguy.htm and Dewey Dr. Dewey M Caron http://copland.udel.edu/~dmcaron
If a job is worth doing - Then do it well
One of the things to keep in mind, is that the mite life cycle, what causes or enhances population explosions, what the mite count means in relationship to the chances of hive survival (meaning wieghing the cost of chemicals for large operations vs the % of loss anticipated), how different management concepts and individual mite prevention tools might come into play, etc.
They are only asking basic questions, and the tests go deeper. The primary concern is getting beekeepers who are willing to let thier hives die if needed. Testing and doing studies all year long and then having the beekeeper change the control hives by other means is not what they are after. They are trying to see what survives and what die under a host of different set-ups. I think its useful. Perhaps calling it a threshhold study is what needs to be changed.