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  1. #1
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    Default Removing Drone Brood in a KTBH

    Hi,

    I just did some drone brood removal in my two ktbh's and thought I might share some observations. This is only my second season, and I never removed drones last year, but had huge mite numbers by last fall, and decided to try drone removal this season.

    First, off I'll say that I don't like removing drone brood. It's messy, slow, and gets the bees more angry than anything else I've done to them. If I continue to do this next year, I think I might eventually buy some of that plastic, green drone comb, cut it to fit my tbh's and adhere it to a bar, with hopes of simplifying the process. At this point, there is drone brood here and there throughout the broodnests of both hives, and this makes for tedious work.

    One thing I tried today and would advise, is to have a squirt bottle of water/apple cider vinegar mix on hand - as well as my usual smoke. The smoke is good for they usual puff in the entrance and under the bars to keep general calm, but when you stab into some drone larvae, the chemical release really angers the bees. The squirt bottle allows you to easily target an area of comb before you scratch it, and I found this to greatly reduce the reaction. Squirt an area, then scratch it.

    I also found that having some sort of bar/comb holder (similar to Phil Chandler's on biobees) is really helpful, as it allows you to more easily hold the comb steady and secure as you work the comb.

    Regardless of my smoke and cider vinegar, eventually the bees were as hostile as they've ever been to me, shooting up from between the bars and into my face near the end. So if you get into doing this. Expect magnified hostility...

    I used a dinner fork, and wish I had a 'real' capping scratcher. I found the fork to work, but it was not super easy. Its narrow shape allows for going at a few cells at a time, but I do wonder if the wider cap scratcher would work better. Perhaps others can say.

    Questions remaining for me are:

    How many drone larvae do you need to remove in order to get a good idea of mite counts?

    Second, should you check drones from different parts of the hive, or is one area good enough?

    Lastly, does anyone have any tried-and-true methods of keeping drone cells in one area of a tbh that they might recommend?

    I removed about 100 from one hive and found two mites. I scratched a bunch more, but left most of it, as I know the bees want the drones around. This hive has over-wintered and already has some flying drones.

    The second hive is a package installed June 5, and they don't have many drones yet. I removed only 10-20 drones there and found no mites.

    Adam

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Removing Drone Brood in a KTBH

    A couple more thoughts:

    I wonder if just scratching the drone comb - causing the bees to remove them and clean out the cells - is still an effective means of controlling drones, or if the have to be removed entirely to do the job. My thought is that if the bees remove the dead larvae, the mites inside are still disrupted and there's a better chance of the mites being killed in the removal process.

    I also wonder if any of you have used some sort of artifical drone comb in a tbh? I'm thinking of buying a couple of those green, plastic drone frames, and cutting them to fit the ktbh. Then I can concentrate the drone brood and more easily remove and freeze it.

    Again, I have no interest in eliminating drones - only in controlling mites. If the numbers are low, then I'll let the drones develop.

    Adam

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Removing Drone Brood in a KTBH

    Why don't you just pull a brood comb with the queen on it and let the hive go through a brood break? All that drone comb you are cutting out is where they should be storing honey for winter and for harvesting once the drone brood emerges.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Removing Drone Brood in a KTBH

    Adam,

    We've thought of using a piece of plastic drone comb for the same purpose. We haven't seen any mites, but know that they're probably there. But, I was under the impression you needed to kill the mites in the uncapped cells (by freezing) to be effective. Can someone answer that?

    Delta Bay,

    Are you saying to remove the comb and queen and put in a nuc for a few days to break her egg-laying cycle?

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Removing Drone Brood in a KTBH

    Delta,

    I'm not removing the comb, just pulling the brood. The comb is left in there. As Steve asks, I'd like to know more about the "brood break" you speak of...

    Steve,

    Did you get one of those plastic green combs and cut it to fit? Are you having any trouble with the bees using it, are they keeping most of the drone brood in it, or is it still all over the place?

    I find that to be part of the challenge. The drone brood is scattered all over the place, making it hard to remove/scratch and with the warm weather, messing with it makes it easy to cause a comb collapse.

    Adam

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Removing Drone Brood in a KTBH

    "...I wonder if just scratching the drone comb - causing the bees to remove them and clean out the cells - is still an effective means of controlling drones..."

    Varroa foundress (mother) mites enter brood cells shortly before the cells are capped and begin to reproduce shortly after capping. If you remove the cappings before the offspring are mature enough to survive outside the brood cell, your idea might work to kill the immature offspring mites.

    If you allow the mites to develop linger than that, I suspect some daughter mites might be mature enough to survive when you just scratch off the cappings, so I'd think timing would be critical. Even if you can get the timing down pat, I doubt you will kill the foundress mite. Perhaps the bees will kill some foundress mites when removing the damaged drone larvae, but it seems likely that some -- perhaps most -- will survive and attempt to reproduce again.

    The survival of the foundress mite as well as the need to be very precise about timing would be the reasons why I think it it might not work as well to just scratch the brood cells open for the bees to handle. You would reduce reproduction, but not as well as if you completely removed the brood or froze the brood.

    Here's a quote that might be helpful regarding timing:

    "...Reproducing Varroa females lay the first egg approximately 70 hours after host cell capping (Ifantidis 1983; Steiner et al. 1994). This egg is unfertilized and develops into a male, while the 3–4 subsequent eggs that are laid at approximately 30 h intervals are fertilized and develop into female offspring (Rehm and Ritter 1989; Martin 1994). The male mates with the female offspring in the brood cell and only the mother and daughter females emerge...."

    Source: GARRIDO, C, and ROSENKRANZ, P. The reproductive program of female Varroa destructor mites is triggered by its host, Apis mellifera. Experimental and Applied Acarology. 31: 269–273, 2003.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Removing Drone Brood in a KTBH

    We usually find at least one full bar of drone comb in each colony in the spring, so we just remove that bar and freeze it (to kill any mites before we put it back in the hive). Later we thaw it out and check for mites, and then re-insert it into the hive after trying to scratch off the cappings. You can put it back in the brood nest if you want to do more drone trapping, or put it in the honey area if you want it back-filled with honey. We usually leave drone cells on the same bars as worker brood alone.

    The capping forks work great on langs with frames at work, but so far when we've used one on our KTBHs at home we tend to end up ruining the comb to the point we can't re-use it. The comb seems to be a bit too fragile to do this on top bars. If you use the green drone foundation (especially if you build a frame around it) I imagine the capping fork would be more successful. And as you say, it might help keep the drone brood more concentrated.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Removing Drone Brood in a KTBH

    Conifer - yes, the top bar comb is fragile - particularly in the heat of summer, which is often higher when you remove a comb than it is inside the hive - so I find that when you take a comb out and start to remove drone comb, the comb often will rapidly get softer as you work.

    I destroyed one comb in my last visit as it came loose from the bar. Luckily it was the most drone-filled comb in the hive.

    I will try the plastic drone comb next year, I believe. I don't really like to add plastic at all, but my bees are scattering drone comb all over the place, and it's making quite a labor-intensive job to remove.

    Adam

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Removing Drone Brood in a KTBH

    I'm amazed that anyone wants to be this invasive! What makes you think you know better than bees do how many drones are needed in a hive, or where they should be?
    The Barefoot Beekeeper http://www.biobees.com

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Removing Drone Brood in a KTBH

    And I'm surprised you think this thread is about getting rid of drones. It's about monitoring and controlling varroa mites.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Removing Drone Brood in a KTBH

    It started that way, but then seemed to stray into drone culling -

    >>I wonder if just scratching the drone comb - causing the bees to remove them and clean out the cells - is still an effective means of controlling drones, or if the have to be removed entirely to do the job. <<

    Having monitored them, what do you do next?
    The Barefoot Beekeeper http://www.biobees.com

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Removing Drone Brood in a KTBH

    >>I wonder if just scratching the drone comb - causing the bees to remove them and clean out the cells - is still an effective means of controlling drones, or if the have to be removed entirely to do the job. <<

    I see your point. I'm assuming Adam meant "controlling mites" instead of "controlling drones".

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Removing Drone Brood in a KTBH

    I'm not a fan of drone trapping, but if you are going to do this, you have to understand a few dynamics.

    _Most_ beekeepers have no trouble using either drone foundation or foundationless in order to get the bees to lay up a bunch of drones in one spot. Of course, this is largely because of management....the near universal use of worker foundation insures that no "properly kept" hive is "drone right"....reducing the number of drones was one of the major selling factors for foundation when it was first available (read AI Root on this).

    If you are running a TBH (or lang) without foundation, your bees are probably drone right...they've built as much drone comb as they want, and the queen has laid it up to her hearts content. In this situation, the bees are unlikely to be so quick to draw out and lay in the drone foundation, or to build/fill drone comb in an empty space.

    This is not a problem that most beekeepers using drone trapping run into....since they are near 100% worker foundation.

    deknow

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Removing Drone Brood in a KTBH

    My understanding of the miteology, is that the mother mite dies after she lays her eggs. (I could be wrong on this point though.) Then the male (brother) mates with his sister(s) and then he dies. It is only the offspring daughters that carry on the tradition of mite infestation. I just cut the drone comb out and let the birds or ants get at it. Or drop the drone comb in the wax melter that that will take care of the mites too. (However, I do not use the THB either.)
    Last edited by Peaches; 07-12-2011 at 07:06 AM. Reason: Additional words.
    Peaches
    The Beekeepers Friend

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Removing Drone Brood in a KTBH

    Nope, the mother mite does not necessarily die after reproducing. Obviously she dies at some point, but she's not like the salmon that is genetically programmed to die after spawning.

    I cannot put my fingers this morning on the reference that discusses this clearly, so I'll offer this tidbit from the Entomology Department of the University of Florida:

    "...Although the adult female varroa can infest and reproduce in more than one cell, it mates only in the cell in which it was born...."

    Source: http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/...arroa_mite.htm

    and this one:

    "...In summer mites can manage 2 reproductive cycles producing ~ 8 daughters if using drone brood...."

    Source: http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~ms...destructor.htm based on information from the Central Science Laboratory (CSL), UK.
    Last edited by DeeAnna; 07-12-2011 at 07:21 AM. Reason: add second quote

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Removing Drone Brood in a KTBH

    Quote Originally Posted by deknow View Post
    This is not a problem that most beekeepers using drone trapping run into....since they are near 100% worker foundation.

    deknow
    Whereas, I am sure that worker foundation does impact production of drone comb, especially compared to foundationless comb, I have plenty of Pierco frames w/ drone comb on them. The foundation is worker, of course, yet the comb was drawn out drone. Not all, by any means, just a patch. Makes me wonder if the bees will produce what they need regardeless of what is provided for them.
    Mark Berninghausen "That which works, persists."

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Removing Drone Brood in a KTBH

    I'd guess a couple of things, Mark.

    1. That the Pierco was introduced to colonies that already had quite a bit of worker comb, and not much drone.

    2. That you routinely have burr comb between the boxes...often filled with drones.

    The bees will try to do what they can to raise the number of drones they want. It is common for drone comb to be found in honey supers because the comb there has never had brood, and it is easy to rework the cells.

    The bees can (and will) try to overcome obstacles placed in the way of their doing what they want...but they can't always succeed. Giving them a place to raise drones in an otherwise un drone right hive and then pulling the drones before they emerge is a huge obstacle ...notice that they keep trying.

    deknow

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    Default Re: Removing Drone Brood in a KTBH

    I can see how that would be true. Thanks.
    Mark Berninghausen "That which works, persists."

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Removing Drone Brood in a KTBH

    Quote Originally Posted by buckbee View Post
    It started that way, but then seemed to stray into drone culling -

    >>I wonder if just scratching the drone comb - causing the bees to remove them and clean out the cells - is still an effective means of controlling drones, or if the have to be removed entirely to do the job. <<

    Having monitored them, what do you do next?
    Yes, Phil that was a typing error on my part. I meant to write "controlling mites" and not "drones" in that excerpt. And thank you, Steve for making that suggestion.

    And what to do next? A good question, Phil. As I said in the beginning of the thread, I do not like removing drones. And I do not think that I know better than the bees regarding the numbers of drones. I am quite happy to allow them as many as they see fit in rearing. But I was dismayed at the thousands of mites I had in my tbh's last fall, and saddened by the winter loss of one hive and the tiny cluster that survived in the second.

    So what to do? The question is exactly the reason for my questions here and my removal of drone brood as a way of monitoring the mite development. I have not removed any where near all of the drones, and I have not removed the comb either, which allows them to rear more without rebuilding comb. But will that reduce the effectiveness of removing the drones in the first place, and make all of this a waste of time? These are questions I'm working on.

    And then, as you ask, what do I do with the mites as they appear? Well, I don't know that either. Sugar dust? Eo's? Oxalic vapor? Formic? Lemon juice? Cow urine? Nothing?

    I have heard of all of these things, but it takes time to research them and try what seems to be worth trying. So the questions and the discussions continue.

    I am open to the input of the forum.


    Adam

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Removing Drone Brood in a KTBH

    Yeah, it's tricky alright. I am more and more inclined towards the 'do as little as possible' end of the spectrum, and I think that removing drones wholesale unbalances the colony. The long-term suppression of drones by means of foundation and *yuck* plastic comb has, I believe, contributed significantly to the poor mating of queens and a general decline in vigour and genetic diversity, which, along with pesticides, varroa, SHB, etc, led us to where we are now. FWIW I think drones are much more important to colony health than is generally acknowledged, and should be allowed to thrive.
    The Barefoot Beekeeper http://www.biobees.com

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