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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
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    Barrie, Ontario, Canada
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    Default High mite count, thoughts?

    I did a three day sticky board check and came up with over 130 per day. This is my first check. Other than the high count, the colony seems fine. Drawing comb with the fall flow here and already weighing in over 100lbs. No sign of DWV. Can a colony continue to function and successfully overwinter with a mite count this high? I have come to terms with the fact that they may not. I am just to trying to get sense of whether survival is realistic and if there was anything that other treatment free beekeepers had done in this situation?

    Thanks

    Adam
    Last edited by zhiv9; 08-28-2012 at 05:21 AM. Reason: spelling/grammar

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

    Default Re: High mite count, thoughts?

    Survival is possible with a high mite load. How high, and how likely are subjective measures. There are so many factors that doing the math is pointless. If you develop bees that don't have mite problems as I have, eventually, they start dying of other things. There may not be a mite in the hive, but it can still be dead. Mites step in to take advantage of weakness.

    Other treatment-free beekeepers do a number of things, striking drone brood, forcing a break in the brood cycle, splitting, etc. I do nothing. I plan ahead by having enough hives so that losing a few is just part of the process. But I'm a purist. Few want to take my approach. It's too simple.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  3. #3
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    Aug 2012
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    Barrie, Ontario, Canada
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    416

    Default Re: High mite count, thoughts?

    Quote Originally Posted by Solomon Parker View Post
    Survival is possible with a high mite load. How high, and how likely are subjective measures. There are so many factors that doing the math is pointless. If you develop bees that don't have mite problems as I have, eventually, they start dying of other things. There may not be a mite in the hive, but it can still be dead. Mites step in to take advantage of weakness.

    Other treatment-free beekeepers do a number of things, striking drone brood, forcing a break in the brood cycle, splitting, etc. I do nothing. I plan ahead by having enough hives so that losing a few is just part of the process. But I'm a purist. Few want to take my approach. It's too simple.
    I actually really like that approach. I really just want to keep and enjoy the bees. Its just hard to get started on a budget when its a numbers game. I bought a colony this year and plan to buy one or two nuc's next season. If I lose the colony this winter and the other two next winter, I am back to square one. It would be nice to build up to enough bees to tolerate failures.

    I weighed the hive and did the mite count as part of an attempt to assess it's overall health and to possibly help diagnose winter failure should it occur. In some ways I just wish I hadn't counted the mites at all.
    Adam - Zone 5A
    www.adamshoney.com

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    Leominster, MA USA
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    169

    Default Re: High mite count, thoughts?

    As less expensive way to build up your numbers may be packages instead of nucs. If your bees are frugal and make it through the winter, you may have frames of real honey to feed the packages on. If they don't make it, you have all your frames from this year available to start new packages on next year. You can give the packages queens of your choosing, hopefully from someone who has treatment-free queens. (Not sure what your prices or supply situation is in Canada.) Split off the package queens until you are sure your requeening is successful then sell the package queens to help your budget

    You're never back to square one if you have clean, well-drawn comb - you can get new packages up and running.

    I understand what you mean about having mixed feelings about doing a mite count. If you are committed to no treatments, a mite count doesn't really help. What does help is having enough hives to cover your losses, which is definitely a numbers game. To me, this is one of the most important parts of beekeeping, whether you treat or not. When you only have one hive, the loss is total. The more hives you have, the more will survive. Even a 90% loss of 100 hives still leaves you with 10 that you can build up from.

    We don't do fancy manipulations to deal with mites either but we have increased our numbers, both by making splits and requeening new packages with queens we raise from our survivors. We never have difficulty finding homes for the package queens.

    Ramona

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    Barrie, Ontario, Canada
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    416

    Default Re: High mite count, thoughts?

    The bee supply situation is a little different than in the US. Since we need special permits to import from the US, there are no packaged bees available from the US. There are some packages/queens available from New Zealand and Australia but I question how well they would do in our climate. Most bees are sold as nuc's. Bees in general, are more expensive here (a 5 frame nuc goes for about $150). There is a mite resistant co-operative breeding program here in Ontario. The focus seems to be on hygienic behaviour, with a mix of Russian and local Ontario stock. I am hoping to get the nuc's from within this program next year.
    Adam - Zone 5A
    www.adamshoney.com

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Maryville, tn, usa
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    208

    Default Re: High mite count, thoughts?

    mite count gives you an idea of what is happening with the hive. Same reason you do an inspection to get information about its well being. Now you must define yourself are you a chemical free bee keeper, truely treatment free (Im not doing anything to them let the strong breed out the weak), or a IPM beekeeper using varied approach depending on how bad the situation is... I have read enough in this forum to stop there less i be erased. "anything that other treatment free beekeepers had done in this situation" sounds like you are asking for a advice you may not be able to get here. That is a high mite count best of luck with winter coming you will get a brood break in canada that should bring that number down.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Oshawa, Ontario
    Posts
    200

    Default Re: High mite count, thoughts?

    Hi Adam

    Do you have screened bottom boards?
    That can help on a lang.

    You also might want to try top bar hives.
    I have 2 and they're my favourites.
    They're cheaper, equipment wise (20 - 30 bucks/hive and bars vs 100 for a lang), and I find the bees generally more laid back; I watch them for hours.
    I also put a window in my TBH's.
    If you want to chill and watch the bees there's no better way to go.
    I can get you started next year if you're interested.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Oshawa, Ontario
    Posts
    200

    Default Re: High mite count, thoughts?

    Oops!
    Just saw the SBB and 10 frame thing at the bottom of your post.
    Question answered.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    JACKSON OHIO
    Posts
    485

    Default Re: High mite count, thoughts?

    That is what i do beat them with numbers and only the best will thrive.
    Quote Originally Posted by Solomon Parker View Post
    Survival is possible with a high mite load. How high, and how likely are subjective measures. There are so many factors that doing the math is pointless. If you develop bees that don't have mite problems as I have, eventually, they start dying of other things. There may not be a mite in the hive, but it can still be dead. Mites step in to take advantage of weakness.

    Other treatment-free beekeepers do a number of things, striking drone brood, forcing a break in the brood cycle, splitting, etc. I do nothing. I plan ahead by having enough hives so that losing a few is just part of the process. But I'm a purist. Few want to take my approach. It's too simple.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Westchester NY
    Posts
    238

    Default Re: High mite count, thoughts?

    I probably should not be responding to this thread but......
    [Edit]I look at it simply as a numbers game--yes it is possible to be treatment free, but only if you have enough hives to take some losses and see if you can find some survivor stock--im talking at least 15--20 hives minimum. One hive is not nearly enough to get the ball rolling and so you are starting at a great disadvantage. Also the idea to "just let them die"and buy new nucs and packages YEAR AFTER YEAR gets very expensive and tiresome very quickly. Finally in regards to SBB I think they are useful as a tool for counting mites, but in the long run have no effect on the mite levels in the colony, despite people spreading this claim for years.

    Good Luck whichever way you choose
    Last edited by Solomon Parker; 09-03-2012 at 05:29 PM. Reason: This is the Treatment-Free Forum. Please read the Unique Forum Rules.
    http://www.peekskillnurseries.com
    Specialists in Ground Cover plants since 1937. Talk to me about ground-covers!

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
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    Barrie, Ontario, Canada
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    416

    Default Re: High mite count, thoughts?

    Quote Originally Posted by Gord View Post
    Hi Adam

    Do you have screened bottom boards?
    That can help on a lang.

    You also might want to try top bar hives.
    I have 2 and they're my favourites.
    They're cheaper, equipment wise (20 - 30 bucks/hive and bars vs 100 for a lang), and I find the bees generally more laid back; I watch them for hours.
    I also put a window in my TBH's.
    If you want to chill and watch the bees there's no better way to go.
    I can get you started next year if you're interested.
    Hi Gord,

    I started off with an interest in TBH's, but for a variety of reasons decided to go with the Langstroth. Packages aren't really available here and I wanted to start out with something tried and true. I am already working towards changing the hive to foundationless to work towards all natural comb. Here, the bees are more expensive than the equipment and the idea of cutting down a nuc for a TBH wasn't very attractive.
    Adam - Zone 5A
    www.adamshoney.com

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    Barrie, Ontario, Canada
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    416

    Default Re: High mite count, thoughts?

    Quote Originally Posted by xcugat View Post
    I probably should not be responding to this thread but......
    [Edit]I look at it simply as a numbers game--yes it is possible to be treatment free, but only if you have enough hives to take some losses and see if you can find some survivor stock--im talking at least 15--20 hives minimum. One hive is not nearly enough to get the ball rolling and so you are starting at a great disadvantage. Also the idea to "just let them die"and buy new nucs and packages YEAR AFTER YEAR gets very expensive and tiresome very quickly. Finally in regards to SBB I think they are useful as a tool for counting mites, but in the long run have no effect on the mite levels in the colony, despite people spreading this claim for years.

    Good Luck whichever way you choose
    Thanks for the reply. Though a good portion of your comments were edited (for obvious reasons), I'll try my best to respond within forum rules. It's not difficult to see why so many beginning beekeepers give up after a couple of years (and why many existing beekeepers are throwing in the towel). How do you build your numbers, when "treatment free" bees aren't widely available and feral bees(and therefore feral swarms) seem to be scarce this far north? I'll do my best to get them through winter and if things look badly mid-winter, look at getting four nuc's of the most resistant stock available instead of two. At least next winter I will hopefully be going into winter with 4 hives instead of 1. I don't know what else I can do. I want to keep bees and I want to keep them in a way that generally follows the "treatment free" definition in the forum rules.
    Adam - Zone 5A
    www.adamshoney.com

  13. #13
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Concord, CA
    Posts
    4,124

    Default Re: High mite count, thoughts?

    Depending on how firm you are on you're treatment free feelings. My wife & I use powdered sugar as our only mite treatment , the last hive we lost was 3 years ago. I'd like to be completely treatment free but am afraid to take the plunge 100%.
    Dan

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    Barrie, Ontario, Canada
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    416

    Default Re: High mite count, thoughts?

    As a follow up, I did another 3 day sticky board check this week and came up with a drop of just over 50/day, which is a bit more reasonable. Is such a large disparity between counts with no treatment in between common? This is only the second time that I have counted.
    Adam - Zone 5A
    www.adamshoney.com

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Oakland, CA
    Posts
    46

    Default Re: High mite count, thoughts?

    I am new to beekeeping and not particularly an advocate of strictly treatment free beekeeping, however Randy Oliver (scientific beekeeping.com) seems to suggest that fall whiteboard mite counts are unreliable and that you need to do a sugar (or ether) roll to get a real sense of what your mite load really is... seems like your experience would provide evidence to that idea. Apparently the mites are transitioning from living and breeding on brood, to living on the bees exclusively for the winter while the queen isn't laying and that this change causes some significant variation in a white board count for some reason... Mark


    Quote Originally Posted by zhiv9 View Post
    As a follow up, I did another 3 day sticky board check this week and came up with a drop of just over 50/day, which is a bit more reasonable. Is such a large disparity between counts with no treatment in between common? This is only the second time that I have counted.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    Barrie, Ontario, Canada
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    416

    Default Re: High mite count, thoughts?

    Thanks, I have read a lot of the material on his website but missed that bit. I did an inspection after each count, though with the last one I didn't go down into the broodnest with it getting late in the season. There were brood of all stages each time. There has been no sign of the mite related diseases so far (DWV). The colony doesn't appear to be struggling and have a good weight going into winter. I hope they survive, they have been a pleasure to work so far.
    Adam - Zone 5A
    www.adamshoney.com

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