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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Location
    Harvard, MA
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    17

    Default Varroa mites! Now what?

    I have a couple hives that I purchased as small cell nucs last year. They've been treatment free since then. The state inspector took a look at them on Friday and told me I have pretty bad varroa populations and the start of some European foul brood as well as deformed wing virus. He recommended Mite Away Quick Strips (formic acid) as a way to take down the mite population. I'd prefer not to do that, but I don't know of any other options that are in keeping with treatment free ideals. I can't afford to just let both of my hives die. Is there a treatment free option? I've read the Idiot's Guide to Beekeeping, and their section on varroa says "we don't have a mite problem". And that's it. Well great. That's no help.

    Anyone have suggestions?

    -Nate

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
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    Default Re: Varroa mites! Now what?

    Quote Originally Posted by Nate Finch View Post
    Is there a treatment free option? -Nate
    What is your goal? A treatment free treatment?
    Mark Berninghausen #youmatter

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Menomonee Falls, Wis.
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    2,698

    Default Re: Varroa mites! Now what?

    Do a search of thread that discuss drone brood striking, and splitting/brood breaks. Do that next time, before you get this far behind. About your only option now is to do as Ray Marler says, RIGHT NOW!!!

    Crazy Roland

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    Houston, Texas, USA
    Posts
    460

    Default Re: Varroa mites! Now what?

    You could also buy a couple of the Plasticell drone (green) frames, put one in and when 1/2 -3/4 full put it in a plastic bag and freeze it for 2 days. When you pull frame #1 put #2 in and repeat. Take the frame out of the freezer, keep in the bag, use a decapping fork to decapp/remove drone brood. This one can go back in when the #2 is pulled/frozen. Mites love drones and this should help a lot, plus in dropping the mite population your foul brood virus should greatly reduce. I am a newbee, but this is what I would do to be as chemical free as possible.
    Mike
    N5RWH - 9a

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Glennville, Georgia, USA
    Posts
    67

    Default Re: Varroa mites! Now what?

    Isn't this the "treatment free beekeeping" part of the forum? Although passive, isn't drone brood striking/freezing/removal a form of treatment? Everyone has to figure out where their "line in the sand" is, find yours and don't cross it, whether it be treatment free, passive treatments, soft treatments, etc. JMHO

    Garrett

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    Houston, Texas, USA
    Posts
    460

    Default Re: Varroa mites! Now what?

    Quote Originally Posted by NGAnderson View Post
    Isn't this the "treatment free beekeeping" part of the forum? Although passive, isn't drone brood striking/freezing/removal a form of treatment? Everyone has to figure out where their "line in the sand" is, find yours and don't cross it, whether it be treatment free, passive treatments, soft treatments, etc. JMHO

    Garrett
    Sorry, I will go back and read the forum rules. My take was treatment free was not using chemicals treatments. I also use nematodes that are specific to SHB, but they are in the ground around the hive, not in the hive.
    My bad and I did not mean to step outside the forum rules so my apologies.
    Mike
    N5RWH - 9a

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
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    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
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    Default Re: Varroa mites! Now what?

    Quote Originally Posted by Nate Finch View Post
    I. Is there a treatment free option? -Nate
    I must say Solomon, I wondered why this question didn't get the Thread itself Deleted. As I understand things.
    Mark Berninghausen #youmatter

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Location
    Denver, Colorado
    Posts
    5,079

    Default Re: Varroa mites! Now what?

    Quote Originally Posted by sqkcrk View Post
    I must say Solomon, I wondered why this question didn't get the Thread itself Deleted.
    Turning over a new leaf, as they say. There is redemption. "A man is not measured by his power, but by his mercy." - Solomon Parker
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    Leominster, MA USA
    Posts
    170

    Default Re: Varroa mites! Now what?

    Hi Nate,

    We wrote The Complete Idiot's Guide from our experience...we do not struggle with mites. What has seemed to help the most is regressing our bees to small cell and breeding from our survivors. We do both grafting and direct release of the virgins, and letting the bees make their own queens from a frame of young larvae. Neither are complicated or difficult.

    We also mention several times in the book the importance of building up colony numbers...you need more than two hives to stack the odds in your favor that you will have survivors to work from.

    Even if you lose your hives, you will have comb to work with for new packages which you can then requeen with (treatment-free) queens of your choice. Not sure where you got your nucs from and if they were treated or not and if so, what with, but the comb is still valuable for starting more than two more packages if you split it up.

    I know it is a real struggle to figure out the right thing to do. Just remember that treating does not guarantee survival. There are plenty of folks in Worcester County who treat and lose their bees. Also, as has been pointed out by Solomon and others more than once, there are so many factors and variables at play in beekeeping that it is difficult to see linear cause and effect relationships.

    If we had hives in your situation and got the advice you did, we still would not treat. We wrote the book based on what we actually do, not on what we think others should do. It helps that there are two of us and that we can talk things through and support each other through the difficult decisions...it is not always easy to go against experienced advice, but remember, the advice is coming from that person's perspective...this is true no matter who is doing the dispensing.

    I'm coming to think of beekeeping as a long-term process/commitment, something like a spiritual discipline...you have a desire and goal and while there will be teachers to guide you, in the end you have to stick to a path that will ultimately be yours with no guarantee of outcome...progress may be incremental and maybe not even be visible at times but there may also be times of great leaps forward. No matter the appearance, you can never go backward

    On a side note, all we heard from Worcester County beekeepers this past fall/winter/spring (including the inspector) was how the bees were short on stores due to dearth/burning through stores due to warm winter and that copious feeding was mandatory. We did not feed and most of our hives made it through alive with honey to spare, enough that we could give frames of food to the 26 packages we started this spring. Several of these were 5 frame nucs that wintered with screen bottoms directly on the ground. All were from queens we raised from our survivors. We talked a lot in the book about acclimatizing the bees to your area and we feel we are finally seeing this play out in our operation...our bees just "act different".

    Not sure if this helps any more than what we put in the book...

    Ramona









    Quote Originally Posted by Nate Finch View Post
    I have a couple hives that I purchased as small cell nucs last year. They've been treatment free since then. The state inspector took a look at them on Friday and told me I have pretty bad varroa populations and the start of some European foul brood as well as deformed wing virus. He recommended Mite Away Quick Strips (formic acid) as a way to take down the mite population. I'd prefer not to do that, but I don't know of any other options that are in keeping with treatment free ideals. I can't afford to just let both of my hives die. Is there a treatment free option? I've read the Idiot's Guide to Beekeeping, and their section on varroa says "we don't have a mite problem". And that's it. Well great. That's no help.

    Anyone have suggestions?

    -Nate

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    Rutherfordton nc
    Posts
    79

    Default Re: Varroa mites! Now what?

    U could requeen with more hygenic stock and as long as u got enoughstores ud be fine depending on the stock.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    Barrie, Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    459

    Default Re: Varroa mites! Now what?

    6-8 weeks ago I had very high mite counts in my hive. I looked at the treatment options, thought about why it was that I got into beekeeping and decided not to treat. I did continue to monitor mite levels and saw a steady decrease over the last 4-5 weeks. I can't explain this. I hope my bees survive but have resigned myself to the possibility that they won't. A possibility that always existed regardless of treatment.

    I wish you all the best, you're not alone in making this tough decision,
    Adam - Zone 5A
    www.adamshoney.com

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
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    Default Re: Varroa mites! Now what?

    How did you monitor mite levels? How did you notice this decrease?
    Mark Berninghausen #youmatter

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    New York City, NY
    Posts
    4,317

    Default Re: Varroa mites! Now what?

    sqkcrk:

    Perhaps someone in this situation could switch to a different smoker fuel? The colony is about to go broodless, and mesquite or red cedar might be able to drop enough mites to make a difference.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    Barrie, Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    459

    Default Re: Varroa mites! Now what?

    Quote Originally Posted by sqkcrk View Post
    How did you monitor mite levels? How did you notice this decrease?
    I used an SBB with a sticky board. First time was ~130/24hr, the second was 55/24hr, the third was 30/24hr. There was a two week gap between checks and I did a hive inspection after each one. There were capped and uncapped brood after each inspection, so no brood break.
    Adam - Zone 5A
    www.adamshoney.com

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    jackson county, alabama, usa
    Posts
    4,531

    Default Re: Varroa mites! Now what?

    i haven't faced mite infestation yet. but, i would consider making them queenless, killing all emergency cells, and requeen them with the best available at the time.

    i might consider the shake out and restart on foundation if there was a strong flow, (i avoid feeding syrup), or maybe combine the shake out with a growing colony.

    but this late in the season i doubt i would do anything with the bees and just see what happens, being careful to at least salvage the comb.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    JACKSON OHIO
    Posts
    485

    Default Re: Varroa mites! Now what?

    i would be more worried about the foulbrood than the mites at this time

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Phoenixville, PA
    Posts
    579

    Default Re: Varroa mites! Now what?

    Quote Originally Posted by wadehump View Post
    i would be more worried about the foulbrood than the mites at this time
    I'm with wadehump.

    I've found strong colonies trump cures. Two sources that helped me with mites:
    http://bushfarms.com/bees.htm Michael is very even handed and draws from vast experience.
    https://agdev.anr.udel.edu/maarec/ MAAREC is academic sourced lab based research.

    Funny thing about success. If it works for you, it must be good for everybody, forever. Both formal and hard knock education have their place and all will benefit more if adversary is replaced with collaboration. Plumbers also saved more lives than every kind of doctor.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    Sacramento,California,USA
    Posts
    3,670

    Default Re: Varroa mites! Now what?

    If you want to stay treatment free then here is a way... Oh shoot, I just noticed where you are at. Winter is close by for you. OK, here's my idea. Shake all the bees into a new box of foundation and keep a syrup feeder on them so they get it drawn and full of stores for winter. Be quick about it if you're going to do this way. It will remove all infecteced combs, break the brood cycle also, but will cause you to try over wintering in a single deep box nuc. Good luck on whatever you choose to do.
    “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” – John Muir

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Location
    Denver, Colorado
    Posts
    5,079

    Default Re: Varroa mites! Now what?

    With all due respect, if you're looking to keep the bees alive above their own inability to do so, you're probably looking in the wrong place.

    The truth is, you don't know what they can handle until you let them. Treating them would be caving to the fear that they will die. To be treatment-free, you must put that fear out of your mind for it is left to the bees to figure out whether they will survive or not. You don't have anything that is above healthy survivor bees' natural abilities to cope with.

    The inspector is only doing what he does for a living, identifying disease and suggesting treatments. All our bees have mites. The question is whether or not they can handle them.

    I'm sorry if I seem callous. If it were easier, there would be more people doing it.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

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