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  1. #1
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    Default outbreeding mites and overwintering nucs

    I have just read about this method by Mel Disselkoen, I realize its not anything new, its been around many years already, but I was wondering if anyone has put it to the test with their own bees to see what the results were. To me, it sounds like it may work fairly well at outbreeding the mite, but its not a method for everyone depending on your operation. If you are mainly into honey production, your main flow would have to be over by late July-very early August so that you can benefit from using your pre-split colonies to produce a honey crop. After this is when you split the hive up into nucs and either give them a queen, queencell, or let them raise their own queen. Then you have the problem of successfully overwintering the majority of all these nucs, not an easy task with my track record at nuc wintering. I would prefer to get responses back from those that have actually tried his method rather than getting speculation on how you think it would work.

    John

  2. #2
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    Default Re: outbreeding mites and overwintering nucs

    John, I have tried it, and then combined the bees for honey production. My bees overwintered well, but honey production was concentrated in Mid-July for me and I felt I lost out on some early honey; At the time I didn't have much drawn comb, and that might have contributed to the lower honey crop. I did enjoy seeing the nucs produce queens and greatly enjoyed the process. However, my lack of experience meant that I missed a few swarms - I didn't expect the new splits to swarm but they did very early which means I think I missed some q-cells (more than one in each nuc). If I was looking to expand this is a system I could employ.
    What really intrigues me is Mel's theory on the timing of the splits. I have 18 nucs in 5 groups and have paid attention to the time that I made them up in an attempt to see if there is a difference in survival rate.
    I am trying to work on a system that incorporates Mel's and MP's methods for overwintering and Roland's method of honey production. I think this has great potential for producing colonies without Chemical mite control, and a decent crop of honey as well.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: outbreeding mites and overwintering nucs

    Adrian,

    So you made the splits early rather than later in the summer. I would have to do my splits in late July/early August because the bulk of my honey crop comes between May 1 and mid-July and I depend on that. The timing thing is interesting if it works as he says. I believe he based his opinion on later splits having a better survival rate on Doolittle's experiences. I am most interested in whether or not the bees outbreeding the mites will occur in a high percentage of hives, it seems to me it would based on Mel's theory and I assume his experience with his own bees, or he wouldn't be promoting this method as an option to chemical control. I will be trying it this next season to get my mite loads down, as I am noticing an increase this year in particular, currently I am treatment free and want to stay that way. John

  4. #4
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    Default Re: outbreeding mites and overwintering nucs

    Quote Originally Posted by Adrian Quiney WI View Post
    I am trying to work on a system that incorporates Mel's and MP's methods for overwintering and Roland's method of honey production. I think this has great potential for producing colonies without Chemical mite control, and a decent crop of honey as well.
    Interested in the methods referred to In this thread - MP and Roland. Can you post the full name or a link so we can look it up? thanks!

  5. #5
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    Default Re: outbreeding mites and overwintering nucs

    Queenie sure MP is Michael Palmer, a regular poster on Beesource. Here are two links to his lecture an hour or so of the best viewing you can spend. http://vimeo.com/23178333
    http://vimeo.com/23234196

    Roland is also a regular poster on Beesource - this is a thread I started about my experimentation with his methods.
    http://www.beesource.com/forums/show...y-be-crazy-but

  6. #6
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    Default Re: outbreeding mites and overwintering nucs

    Adrian, what time of the year was it that you put the empty boxes under the hives in your experiment? I am wondering what months it was when they drew out all that comb, was it spring, summer, fall, or winter?
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  7. #7
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    Default Re: outbreeding mites and overwintering nucs

    Maybe I should have put this in the Bee Forum. I can see not many people have tried Mel's method themselves to comment on it, so does anyone have anything to say about how they think it would work at outbreeding the mite?

    John

  8. #8
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    Default Re: outbreeding mites and overwintering nucs

    We've tried it but felt it really impacted our honey production because we have a major flow in August and September. Our best winter nucs here are made up the 2nd week of August. We found later gave us enough food production, due to our flow timing, without overpopulation/crowding. Wintering nucs in the north was very challenging but we did have some suprising results. Our best success configuration was by far wintering in 5 frame styrafoam nucs. We were concerned about condensation but have not had any problems in the 5 or 6 years. Because they are water tight on the bottom you can emergency feed by introducing liquid feed into the bottom through the entrance hole. We are convinced the insulation value of the material has a huge impact as even with nucs they are laying early and often and booming by the end of April here in the Finger Lakes. As many know from my posts we also wintere wooden nucs inside an unheated building. It worked well enought but man what alot of work. The area has to be absolutely dark and the temperature variations really suprised me. If you had a building to spare, vented it and light sealed it it would work well. Incidentally - don't leave any empty nucs w/frames over the summer as the wax populations will explode if they are not treated. We have successfully wintered in cardboard MDA boxes which told me that with the right bees, stores and weather 5 frame nucs are great to winter. We keep half our bees north for the winter and everyone is in singles now, although we are wintering some nucs this year as well. I think one advantage of outbreeding vs treating is that in time your bees become more tolerant to mite populations.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: outbreeding mites and overwintering nucs

    I tried several of Mel's ideas out this summer. This was my first season back in bees. I started with 25 nucs in March and used them as a lab with no concern for honey production this year.

    My biggest problem was a lack of drawn comb which greatly slows down the whole process. 2 frame May splits were slow to build comb. Having the biggest drought in our history didn't help either. August 1st splits did much better as I had built up more comb and we had rain by then. I was pretty nervous about making 2 frame splits so late in the season, but most did build up handsomely, and I gave drawn comb from the failures to the others to further enhance development.

    Mel's notching technique for making queen cells worked pretty well. I found that using the corner of my hivetool to notch specific cells gave me better control than notching the full width of the hivetool. At first I thought this wasn't working, but then discovered the "smashed area" caused by notching is repaired quickly, and appears as a slight indentation within a few days with a great queen cell protruding downward from it. Having an aversion to grafting due to poor eyesight, I plan to try this again next spring with more combs on hand and hopefully some summer rain.

    Mel promotes 2 frame splits. I can see why most others, including MP, promote 3 frame splits. I'll try both next year in a hopefully "normal non-drought" year.

    I haven't treated yet, but am not writing it off at this point.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: outbreeding mites and overwintering nucs

    Mel's method is multi-fold. He advocates taking a colony and breaking it down to multiple 2 frame nucs 4-8 weeks before a honey flow. You let each of those 2 frame nucs build up and rear their own queen. The break in the brood controls mites. Then, you can either take those nucs and let them expand as usual, or you can combine most (or all) into one colony a few days before a honey flow, which will boost your forraging force and create a larger crop.

    The goal is to manage around your honey flow, and break the brood cycle around the peak (or just before) of summer. If your honey flow and the peak of summer occur at the same time (or better yet the honey flow after the peak of summer), it conceptually makes sense. For me my main flow is in April. Then it just trickles from May through June. Then everything stops in July. If I were to break down my colonies 4-8 weeks before the honey flow, that would mean I'd have to do it in February, or March 1. I won't get much benefit from doing that, and it won't help with mites. If I did break the cycle during the peak of summer (the dearth of July, or end of June), those 2 frame nucs will succumb to robbing and be lost.

    I talked with Mel about adapting his system for my area, and he gave me a number of pointers. His system seemed logical for his area, but not for mine.

    Someone at EAS last August was discussing breaking the brood cycle, through the use of nucs or by just removing the queen for 2-4 weeks. He seemed to have success with it though.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: outbreeding mites and overwintering nucs

    Joel,

    Thanks for your response, I agree that Mel's method can be hard as far as timing when you are a honey producer, I guess if you are completely dedicated to staying treatment free you may have to sacrifice a little bit of your honey production in order to keep the mites from getting above that economic threshold, which ends up costing you.

    Interesting that you find styrofoam nucs to be your best wintering nucs, you don't hear that too often, maybe I should try it. Do you make your own?

    John

  12. #12
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    Default Re: outbreeding mites and overwintering nucs

    Sfisher, I put the empty box under after I had taken the crop off as I recall it was in August, and then we had a huge Goldenrod flow. That was 2011.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: outbreeding mites and overwintering nucs

    Don,

    So are you overwintering nucs this year? How are you doing it? Thanks

    John

  14. #14
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    Default Re: outbreeding mites and overwintering nucs

    Specialkayme,

    So the most benefit in terms of mites is gained by splitting later in the season rather than earlier? That way the mites don't have the time to outbreed the bees before winter.

    John

  15. #15
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    Default Re: outbreeding mites and overwintering nucs

    Quote Originally Posted by jmgi View Post

    So the most benefit in terms of mites is gained by splitting later in the season rather than earlier?
    http://scientificbeekeeping.com/scib...cks-graph1.png

    If you look at the chart (courtesy of Scientific Beekeeping :http://scientificbeekeeping.com/sick...o-brass-tacks/), the yellow line shows bee population. About mid summer (June 18 in this chart) resources start to slow down. Pollen slows, honey flows slow, and as a result bees begin to rear less brood. That results in a decrease in population as they prepare for winter. The mite population (as represented by the black and red lines) continues to increase, despite the fact that the amount of brood is decreasing. This results in more mites than brood (in a manner of speaking), and you end up with many more mites in each worker cell, and more mite issues. This causes the crash of a colony.

    By breaking the brood cycle, you stop the mites from being able to exponentially increase their population. You want to do this BEFORE it hits a critical level. That critical level occurs when the bees begin to rear less brood but the mites continue onward. For most, that's at the height of summer, or slightly before.In the above graph that would be sometime between June 1 and July 1. When the break of the brood cycle ceases, and the bees begin rearing brood again, the mite level should have decreased below threshold levels. It took the mites from mid January through June to get to that point, so if you knock them back to January levels, it will take them 4-5 months to get back to their "threshold" level. 4-5 months from July (if it takes 4 weeks for a break in the cycle to run it's course) puts you in November or December. By that time there is little brood anyway, which helps keep numbers down.

    If you do the break in the brood cycle earlier, you are allowing the mites to increase their numbers within the brood season. If it takes 4 months to go from non critical to collapse levels, and you do a break in the brood cycle in March, you are ensuring that you have collapse levels of mites in July or August, which is the worst time to have high mite counts. That's the time of year the bees need to be (as close to) mite free in order to rear disease free, strong bees to overwinter with.

    Or, so the theory goes.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: outbreeding mites and overwintering nucs

    Specialkayme,

    What you said makes alot of sense, but I am wondering how problematic are the phoretic mites in November when there is virtually no brood. Don't those mites feeding off the adult bees cause additional bee deaths into the winter? Is varroa infestation of the brood more serious in terms of colony collapse than infestation of adults going into winter? Is there some amount of grooming that goes on in the cluster that removes many of the mites on adults so that they don't become as much of an issue compared to mites in the brood where they damage or kill the larvare/pupae and multiply their numbers? I'm not trying to minimize the seriousness of phoretic mites on adult bee health, just trying to find out what the bigger problem is.

    John

  17. #17
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    Default Re: outbreeding mites and overwintering nucs

    Quote Originally Posted by jmgi View Post
    S I am wondering how problematic are the phoretic mites in November when there is virtually no brood. Don't those mites feeding off the adult bees cause additional bee deaths into the winter?
    No doubt that the phoretic mites are a problem. How much so, I don't know.

    However, the goal of breaking the brood cycle isn't to remove all mites. It's to reduce their population so that the bees can somehow "manage" them. Or learn to live with them. The phoretic mites don't reproduce while in that stage. So by breaking the cycle you are reducing their numbers before they become a problem, not eliminating them.

    But, if you think phoretic mites are causing that much of a problem, breaking the brood cycle at any time of year wouldn't be considered a "successful treatment." The only way to remove phoretic mites (in addition to reproductive mites) would be a combination of breaking the cycle and treatments (sugar dusting, EO, or Chemical).

    I'm not an advocate of using this system. The consequences I have are greater than the return. If I have to break the brood cycle right before a dearth, I'm weakening a colony and making them more susceptible to being robbed. If I only break the cycle on strong colonies, and leave weak ones alone, the mites will migrate to the weaker colony with brood (or mite populations will just increase) causing their demise. Either way, I lose colonies from robbing or from mites by using this treatment. Plus you often have queen introduction (or queen mating) issues that cause you to lose some queens/colonies in the process. I'm really talking more theoretical. I tried treatment free for years and it didn't work for me. I tried breaking the brood cycle and it didn't work for me. Just trying to give enough information and experience so you can find what works for you.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: outbreeding mites and overwintering nucs

    I think that part of the reason it may work up here is that it suits the seasons. The midwest has a pronounced cold winter, strong early flows, a big summer flow, and a somewhat consistent fall flow. This gives us some wiggle room when making up colonies. One of Mel's concepts is that you don't need big numbers of bees all the time - only for your peak flows.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: outbreeding mites and overwintering nucs

    Adrian,

    Just to back up a bit to something you said earlier about your nucs swarming, you must have started your splits out stronger than two frames of brood as Mel does. Did you intend to cull out all but one cell in the splits, I know you said you must have missed one because you got swarms so quick?

    John

  20. #20
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    Default Re: outbreeding mites and overwintering nucs

    jmgi, some were 2 brood frame and some were 3. I thought I had culled all but one cell, but the swarms proved I hadn't. I had added some frames from deadouts to them. in the broodless period the bees filled several more frames of honey, and I think they were feeling confident. The swarms were small - I estimate less than a couple of pounds of bees a piece.

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