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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
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    Redmond Oregon
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    174

    Default Survivor bees vs regular stock and mite counts

    Question - Since survivor bees are supposed to be better at cleaning themselves of mites, would it make sense that a mite count for them would be higher than for non-survivor bees?

    I'm comparing a package of carniolan bees (california stock - I'm in Oregon) to survivor bees sold by Old Sol. The package of Carnies was installed in mid April and has been a roaring success. I'm about to harvest honey. The Survivor stock is from a very strong nuc installed amonth later in mid May. They are doing well also and I just added a honey super. Both hives are on a combination of small cell plastic and foundationless frames, though there are five large cell frames in the bottom deep that came with the nuc. Recently I noticed about 3 bees each day crawling on the ground in front of the survivor hive. Looks like frayed wings to me but I dont have the most experience at this and may not know deformed wings if I was looking at them. Completed a mite count on a sticky board with the following results.

    The regular stock carniolans had a mite count of 10 in 24 hours.
    The survivor stock had a mite count of 50 in 24 hours.

    My problem is I don't know if survivor stock normally shows a higher count because they are supposed to clean off the mites better. I'm not going to treat the survivor stock, so that is not an issue. I bought them with the hope of them taking care of themselves. I am curious to know if a mite count would be higher for survivor bees over regular stock under normal circumstances.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Location
    Denver, Colorado
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    5,079

    Default Re: Survivor bees vs regular stock adn mite counts

    Unfortunately, mite drops don't tell the whole story. There are mites in the cells as well as wandering around the hive and hanging on to individual bees as well. What percent of these mites are to be found on the bottom board? Nobody knows exactly.

    Applying my own cognitive biases to this finding, I could say that there are more mites on the floor of the survivor hive because they're actively getting rid of them whereas the Carniolans are not. That's a justification, not necessarily the correct answer.

    There are quite a number of mechanisms by which bees are able to deal with mites. Perhaps they are deficient in one of the mechanisms by which they prevent reproduction, but proficient in a mechanism which rids the hive of grown mites. Again, not necessarily the correct answer.

    Real understanding of a colony's abilities comes over the course of a year. I used to live a few miles from Old Sol (my nickname in the future probably) but I don't really remember what times of the year you'll find different behaviors. I do know that your area (SO as well) is generally in a dry time this time of year, brood production may well be declining, leaving more mites wandering around the hive, being knocked to the floor more often. If you are committed to treatment-free practice, watch and wait. High instantaneous mite count does not necessarily correlate to any specific long term condition with treatment-free bees. Last winter I had a hive visibly crawling with mites, and yet it's still alive today.

    Keep us updated.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Redmond Oregon
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    174

    Default Re: Survivor bees vs regular stock adn mite counts

    Thanks Solomom. You are correct in saying its dry here. I live on the east side of the mountains north of Bend. Brood production could be down as you say. I am going to wait and watch. I might try a powdered sugar dusting just to compare mite loads between the two hives, more out of curiosity than anything else. I will keep you posted.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Location
    Denver, Colorado
    Posts
    5,079

    Default Re: Survivor bees vs regular stock adn mite counts

    I've been to Redmond, Richardson's Rock Ranch, Big Lake, The Cove Palisades State Park and other areas around there. Maybe a little drier than I like and higher altitude, but like most of Oregon, very beautiful. I wouldn't refer to most of Arkansas as 'beautiful', no offense to any native Arkansans. The mountains aren't big enough and the trees aren't the right height.

    I used to recommend sugar dusting (not in this forum of course) for those who just couldn't not treat until I discovered a survey (posted a couple of times a few months back) which showed slightly higher (though not statistically significant) mortality on colonies that were sugar dusted. So my view is that if it doesn't help, and may actually hurt, why do it? In truth, much of my case against treatments has hinged on the fact that even the best treatments show only 5-10% lower mortality rate. I don't see that as an acceptable trade-off, not when success is to be had totally treatment-free.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Redmond Oregon
    Posts
    174

    Default Re: Survivor bees vs regular stock adn mite counts

    Thanks Solomon. With that info. I will pass on the powdering as it was only a curiosity in the first place. I'm looking forward to a honey harvest in about a week. Seems I always do the best with new hives and struggle with the supposedly established ones.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Flora,IL
    Posts
    2,644

    Default Re: Survivor bees vs regular stock adn mite counts

    You need to use randy Olivers mite count method. 1/4 cup bees in alcohol. any more than 5 is bad. you may be right survivors may be kicking them off, but I Doubt it very much. If they kicked them off regularly you wouldn't have any to count. your bees kicking off 50 a day means there are a lot to kick off. I could make a comment here about small cell is supposed to cure all that but I won't.

    The reality is that your survivor stock is probably that because it swarmed on a regular basis, swarming breaks that mite cycle. I do the same thing by removing queens as part of my mite control. Might consider that, cause that many on a drop board is an issue.

    For DWV look at teh frames of brood. it will be obvious there, never noticed it outside the hive myself.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Baker Oregon
    Posts
    2,370

    Default Re: Survivor bees vs regular stock adn mite counts


    I am just finishing a week on Lake Billy Chinook. The Bass fishing has been slow this year and the weather colder and wetter than in the past. Still a great time though.
    Dan Hayden 4 Years. 9 hives. Tx Free. USDA Zone 5b.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Redmond Oregon
    Posts
    174

    Default Re: Survivor bees vs regular stock adn mite counts

    Billy Chinook! Do you live around here?

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Redmond Oregon
    Posts
    174

    Default Re: Survivor bees vs regular stock adn mite counts

    Charlie, I will have a look at the frames of brood and see what I find. As to the small cell, my attitude is that it can't hurt. What I'm really in the process of doing is moving to foundationless. I am seeing great success with it in the second super and in honey supers. I like it and will be trying to figure out a way to move in that direction in the deep supers.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Location
    Santa Monica, CA, USA
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    1,495

    Default Re: Survivor bees vs regular stock adn mite counts

    Quote Originally Posted by whalers View Post
    The regular stock carniolans had a mite count of 10 in 24 hours.
    The survivor stock had a mite count of 50 in 24 hours.
    I have survivor bees. Right now, my smaller hive (1 deep, 1 shallow) has 24h count of 2. Another hive, which is huge, 6 mediums and very active, has constant mite count around 50. At the beginning, it concerns me since 50 sounds like a huge number. Nevertheless, hive is doing extremely well (by my observation) for the last 10 months. So, I agree with you, that higher mite counts are not necessary an indication of the problem - bees just clean themselves better, thus - more mites away from the hive. My bees actually have a dedicated area at the landing deck for cleaning - they spent quite a bit of time cleaning... there are special controller-bees, who actually do "quality control" and let clean enough bees in, seriously!
    Also, I think, the mite counts must be normalized to the number of bees in the hive. In my case, weak small recently swarmed hive has much smaller counts. I would expect the increase of mite counts as hive is getting stronger. The dead bees at the front is alarming sign. I do not have it. I would watch the hive to see if help needed. So far, I did not treat my bees in any way, they are natural as much as they are. And yes, I am foundationless. I love my survival bees! Sergey
    Last edited by cerezha; 07-19-2012 at 09:29 PM.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Baker Oregon
    Posts
    2,370

    Default Re: Survivor bees vs regular stock adn mite counts

    Quote Originally Posted by whalers View Post
    Billy Chinook! Do you live around here?
    Nope, over in Baker City. However my family reunion is at the reservoir each year.

    Back to bees, I am also using a mix of small cell and conventional. The only hive (1/8) that I know that I have major mite issues (seeing multiple bees with mites on board) is on the conventional cells. I am letting the bees do as they will do, but keep pulling the conventional frames and replacing them with small cell.
    Dan Hayden 4 Years. 9 hives. Tx Free. USDA Zone 5b.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Sangamon county, Illinois, USA
    Posts
    3

    Default Re: Survivor bees vs regular stock adn mite counts

    I would assume that survivor stock should have fewer mites than unelected stock. However, NWCs have been selected for Varroa resistance and also have been crossed with European CArnis that are supposed to be quite resistant.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Baytown, TX., USA.
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    651

    Default Re: Survivor bees vs regular stock adn mite counts

    CEREZHA;"Also, I think, the mite counts must be normalized to the number of bees in the hive." Makes sense, first time I have seen that point.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Menomonee Falls, Wis.
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    2,674

    Default Re: Survivor bees vs regular stock adn mite counts

    Please take a cappings scrapper and open up drone brood in both hives and report back with your findings.

    Crazy Roland

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Location
    Santa Monica, CA, USA
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    Default Re: Survivor bees vs regular stock adn mite counts

    Quote Originally Posted by Roland View Post
    Please take a cappings scrapper and open up drone brood in both hives and report back with your findings.Crazy Roland
    Roland
    I find it adequate to use a sticky board to evaluate mite counts in my two hives (permitted in SM). Since, the count is stable for the large hive for the 10 months, I feel there is no need to do more invasive counting - it would not change the picture to me. As for small hive - I attribute low counts to recent dramatic swarm, when literally 75% of colony left... My current theory is that the mite count is composed from "mites per bee"; bee's "cleaning efficiency" coefficient; screen efficiency (% mites catch by sticky board) and probably few more factors. Assuming that "cleaning efficiency" and screen factor are constant, than, mite count will increase if (a) population of bees increased and/or (b) "mites per bee" increased. Thus, we need to watch both: bees count and mites count. If bees count decreases and mite count increases - this would be very alarming signal to me - reason, to do a deep inspection. Since, in my large hive, bees number increases and mite count is stable, it actually means (if my theory is correct) that number of mites per bee is decreasing, which is good. Since, I permitted to have only two hives, the management is different from "classical" approach. I am practicing a natural beekeeping.

    By the way, alcohol mite count (1/2 cup of bees) is normalized to amount of bees, 1/2 cup. This is probably most accurate method. Also, in bee class, they told us that on the frame if you actually do see a single bee with mite attached - this is sign of very serious infestation. It corresponds to 10-15 mites in alcohol test (we did a comparison).
    Sergey
    Last edited by cerezha; 07-20-2012 at 09:48 PM.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Baytown, TX., USA.
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    651

    Default Re: Survivor bees vs regular stock adn mite counts

    Roland, Good post. Info I can use. I think I will use the alcohol method. Will need to read up a bit, not sure what bees to take old or new.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Menomonee Falls, Wis.
    Posts
    2,674

    Default Re: Survivor bees vs regular stock adn mite counts

    I find it adequate to use a sticky board to evaluate mite counts in my two hives

    And I don't, which is why I asked for a drone brood report. I do not care how many mites are dying, I care how many mites are being born.

    Cerezha wrote:

    I am practicing a natural beekeeping.

    SO naturally you will have mites? Or are natural mites better?

    Crazy Roland

  18. #18

    Default Re: Survivor bees vs regular stock adn mite counts

    Quote Originally Posted by whalers View Post
    Question - Since survivor bees are supposed to be better at cleaning themselves of mites, would it make sense that a mite count for them would be higher than for non-survivor bees?
    Just to add another angle to the issue of bee grooming;
    Neonicotinoids interfere with grooming behaviour in honey bees

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Location
    Chippew County, WI, USA
    Posts
    650

    Default Re: Survivor bees vs regular stock adn mite counts

    "Since survivor bees are supposed to be better at cleaning themselves of mites, would it make sense that a mite count for them would be higher than for non-survivor bees"

    Only if you have two colonies with the same mite infestation, then yes, a more aggressive grooming colony would have a higher mite count.

    Whalers, dont that this the wrong way ok because this statement is not directed to you. Any experience beek with a few years experience knows and will expect a higher mite load in a colony stared from a nucleus colony than a package! In fact I would expect exactly what you are reporting. Why? Because the nucleus colony had brood and therefore it easily had 3 times the mite load from the moment you installed it into a hive. The package only had varroa that hitched a ride on the bees, wile the Nucleus had hitch hikers, and a generation of reproducing varroa mites.

    If you want to understand and compare mite loads accurately between two colonies then you need to take a capping scratcher and pull drone brood to see how many varroa per Drone pupa you find. Otherwise the only thing you are doing adequately with a sticky board or mite drop is forming wild theory about survivor bees versus normal bees.

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
    Posts
    26,804

    Default Re: Survivor bees vs regular stock adn mite counts

    Or you could say that mite drops only tell you how many dead mites there are, not how many live mites there might be. ot having much experience w/ sticky boards, recently, I tend to prefer ether rolls as an indicator of mite counts in a hive.

    My sticky board experience is 25 years old when we used sticky boards to see how much mite kill occured in the first 24 hours after the application of Apistan Strips. Maybe we should have had sticky boards in the same hives the previous 24 hours to be able to tell natural mite drop, but we didn't.

    What was amazng to me was the amount of mite kill which occured in the first hour, from the time we installed the first sticky board and strip in the first colony, finished applying strips to the rest of the yd and then checked the first stickyboard for our own curiosity. Amzing amount of kill.

    In any one mite control application, most of the kill occurs in the first 24 hours or so.
    Mark Berninghausen "That which works, persists."

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