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  1. #1
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    Default Do "Strong Hives" Die from Mite loads?

    In the thread about Live and Let Die, Stonefly7 wrote:

    "...I don't do mite counts either, not interested. The weak ones are weak for a reason."

    This made me think about the parasite/host relationship, and the idea that in many instances, an imbalance in which the parasite overwhelms the host is caused by weakness in the host - that the parasite serves the purpose of weeding out weakness. I find with my houseplants, that the appearance of a parasite is often the sign that I have over-watered, or the plant isn't getting enough light, and that my error has made it weak, allowing the parasite to gain the upper hand.

    I said in the same thread that I do not believe that all colonies who have mites will ultimately die because of them, but that is a theory at this point.

    Many would suggest perhaps, that the situation we are seeing now - with so many bees dying from mite-related issues - is due to the overwhelming strength of the parasite, in contrast to a host which is not accustomed to the pest.

    But is this really the case?

    My questions are aimed primarily at those of you who have had enough experience with treatment free colonies I guess, but I'm interested in all perspectives.

    • Will a truly strong colony succumb to mite-related issues?
    • Or do these strong colonies tend to find a balance and maintain lower mite loads?
    • Or does it really appear to be random? Do you find really strong, thriving, productive colonies that just nose-dive and die due to mite issues?
    • Do Treatment free failures tend to be "total", where all colonies meet a similar fate, or do the failures just tend to be cumulative, or of too-high-a-percentage for the individual beekeeper to tolerate?


    Adam

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Do "Strong Hives" Die from Mite loads?

    I cannot answer most of your questions definitively, but in my experience, large prosperous colonies do not "crash" or "collapse". They dwindle first, a process that may take 1-2 years. My large prosperous colonies tend to stay that way over the course of several years and may eventually wane or may maintain their status. I am not talking about first year colonies.

    As to the last question, large loss rates tend to be at the beginning of a program and diminish over time. There have been other modes, as Specialkayme can attest, but I have not seen them personally.

    I interpret prosperity to be hand in hand with mite resistance if prosperity exists. I have not seen a diseased (in any sense) hive do well in producing honey.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Do "Strong Hives" Die from Mite loads?

    I've seen the strongest colonies crash and die off, fall into winter. I figure strong colonies have more brood so have more mites? I've also had stronger colonies fair just fine over the same time period with less to minimal mites in them... so go figure. Treatment free vs Treating, I've done both, lost hives both ways. I think over all management practices play as large of roll as just "Treating" by itself.

  4. #4
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    Sep 2012
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    St. Petersburg, fl, USA
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    Default Re: Do "Strong Hives" Die from Mite loads?

    I really feel that chemical (hard treatments) treatments are not the way to go. Poisons are usually toxic to the host as well as the parasite; it's just a matter of tolerance.
    Fatal doses of chemicals are usually rated at LD50 (the lethal dose that kills 50% of the exposed test subjects) so a mite might have a LD50 of 1 microgram and a bee 50 but that does not mean the stuff is not toxic to the bees. So any toxic chemical affects the bees in some way. Soft treatments like powdered sugar reduce the mite populations with out affecting the bees. I already see bees that are genetically resistant to the mites. Those are the colonies that we need to requeen from. But in the mean time we need to keep our other bees going until we can requeen with them. So treating with soft treatments keeps us in business short term but long term we need to breed for resistance.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
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    Lewiston Idaho USA
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    Default Re: Do "Strong Hives" Die from Mite loads?

    Adam, mites do attack and kill strong hives. Here is the reason why. If hives are not tested and treated for mites the population of mites grows exponentially, just like your honey bee population. As the season ends several things happen, queens slow their laying to prepare for winter, drones are kicked out, the laying of drone eggs slows and then stops and mite populations continue to increase. All this results in higher mite populations per worker bee cell going through the roof. The mite levels grow to a point larva never forms into a bee or very deformed bees from wing deform virus carried by the mites. I know from personal experience one can have full blown hives in August, to nearly dead hives at the end of September/October. I will treat from now on. It's really the moral thing to do if you think about it. What would you do if animal had ticks, lice, flees? Although it's true we can seek out mite resistance honey bees, I'd rather not risk the economic loss again, nor have mite attached to the back of my honey bees sucking their hemolymph(honey bee blood). When this happened to me, I realized I need to treat and to break down my hives into nucleus boxes so the remaining colony would have less space to heat. I also lined them up in two rows, back to back, with space to create a channel. I put two inch risers on each nuc to lift the lid and placed 1 inch insulation under the lid and laid 4x8 insulation board across the top of the hives. I treated my bees with the Oxalic acid drizzle method and which seemed to have worked rather well. Lastly I placed a ceramic heater in the channel between the hives and plugged it into a thermo cube that turns on and 35 degrees and shuts off at 45 degrees.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Do "Strong Hives" Die from Mite loads?

    Yes they do and have for 20 some odd years since the mites came to the US--this is not a new phenomena. I have seen strong hives that SEEMED HEALTHY collapse in less than a month exactly at this time of year in my area from mite infestation. I say SEEMED HEALTHY because unless you do some kind of a mite count, you really have no Idea what the mite load is--waiting for deformed wing virus or other symptioms late in the stages of the mite infestation are usually found too late to take action.
    http://www.peekskillnurseries.com
    Specialists in Ground Cover plants since 1937. Talk to me about ground-covers!

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Do "Strong Hives" Die from Mite loads?

    Do not confuse "strong" (as determined by the beekeeper) with "fit" (as determined by nature).

    deknow

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Do "Strong Hives" Die from Mite loads?

    Quote Originally Posted by deknow View Post
    Do not confuse "strong" (as determined by the beekeeper) with "fit" (as determined by nature).

    deknow
    and "fit" hives would not be mite ridden and full of virus.

  9. #9
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    jackson county, alabama, usa
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    Default Re: Do "Strong Hives" Die from Mite loads?

    being that the varroa mite is a relative newcomer on the scene, the definition of 'fit' is being refined.

    my view is, that we are in a position to 'help' the bees as they struggle to adapt.

    synthetic miticides have been shown to leave toxic residuals in the wax, and aquired resistance to them has been documented. for me, these are off the table for my personal operation.

    and now that i know that successful treatment free beekeepers tend to use requeening as a method to select for mite resistance,

    i am still not seeing the reasoning for not ridding the hive of mites with a noninvasive 'soft' treatment prior to the requeening.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Do "Strong Hives" Die from Mite loads?

    Quote Originally Posted by squarepeg View Post
    ...i am still not seeing the reasoning for not ridding the hive of mites with a noninvasive 'soft' treatment prior to the requeening.
    Depending on the 'soft treatment', I still wonder what the total effects are. What is the total effect of oxalic acid? What is the total effect of essential oil? The problem I keep coming back to is do we really understand what the total effect of the actions taken to combat mites? Are we doing harm in places we're not seeing?

    Killing mites is not succeeding. The mites do not appear to be getting anything but stronger.

    Adam

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Do "Strong Hives" Die from Mite loads?

    Tony Rogers,

    As much as I like my bees I really don't consider treating for mites a moral thing to do. If my pet dog or cat needed treatment for something that wasn't going to get better on its own, yes I would seek treatment for it. I honestly don't look at the bees that way, and I don't consider the income I derive from bees as more important than the bees themselves, but I am committed to producing treatment free honey and wax for my customers, so this requires I don't treat, I don't make any more of it than that. John

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Do "Strong Hives" Die from Mite loads?

    john, how long have you been treatment free? can you describe your methods? do you have many losses?
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Do "Strong Hives" Die from Mite loads?

    Been a livestock farmer much of my life. I view my bees as another variety of livestock. they are around for a purpose and it's my job to help them produce as much as possible. Mites, virus and other diseases should be treated if possible to maximize profits. Without profits there won't be many bees left.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Do "Strong Hives" Die from Mite loads?

    If that's the case Cam, you're in the wrong forum.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Do "Strong Hives" Die from Mite loads?

    Quote Originally Posted by jmgi View Post
    Tony Rogers,

    As much as I like my bees I really don't consider treating for mites a moral thing to do. If my pet dog or cat needed treatment for something that wasn't going to get better on its own, yes I would seek treatment for it. I honestly don't look at the bees that way, and I don't consider the income I derive from bees as more important than the bees themselves, but I am committed to producing treatment free honey and wax for my customers, so this requires I don't treat, I don't make any more of it than that. John
    John if it could be proven that your mite treatments could not be detected in the honey would that change your mind or are their other reasons you feel treating may be, as you put it, "immoral"?
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Do "Strong Hives" Die from Mite loads?

    Jim, Where did you get the word "immoral" in my post, please point it out to me? John

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Do "Strong Hives" Die from Mite loads?

    Quote Originally Posted by jmgi View Post
    Jim, Where did you get the word "immoral" in my post, please point it out to me? John
    John: I think your quote "I don't consider treating with mites a moral thing to do" would equate exactly with treating being immoral. Not trying to be difficult here but perhaps you could clarify or correct as needed.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Do "Strong Hives" Die from Mite loads?

    nice post adam.

    and really, i think most of us share your frustration about the lack of concrete information ,as well as the diametrically opposed approaches.

    on the other hand, and especially for those who like a challange, like to tinker, like to experiment, and figure things out, beekeeping appears to be the perfect pursuit.

    my view is that since apis cerana has evolved to the point that the host/parasite relationship has found equilibrium, there is every hope that it's european cousins will do the same.

    i feel that is where our bees find theirselves today, in the process of establishing that equilibrium. they are obviously delevoping traits that help them be resistant. those traits are becoming more common in the feral population, and are being selected for by beekeepers.

    this is the way i see us helping the bee.

    to your op, from what i read, strong hives are every bit and maybe even more vunerable to varroa collapse. this is because you end up with many more mites in the hive, that gang up on the remaining bees as the population dwindles.

    you asked in another thread, 'what have you learned this season?'. for me, too much to post here, but up there near the top of the list would be to know the mite counts in my hives. without that, you are really shooting in the dark.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Do "Strong Hives" Die from Mite loads?

    What do you expect? We are dealing w/ an organic natural system. Tell me how to reduce the Divorce Rate in humans. You'll get all sorts of different opposing answers I suspect.
    Mark Berninghausen "That which works, persists."

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