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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.
    “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” – John Muir

  4. #4
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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
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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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    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?

    Once strong colonies may die from varroa infestation, if that's an answer. I imagine there is a critical mass ratio between bees and mites and the damage they do getting the upper hand on the colony.

    Adam,
    I don't know or understand everything as well as I might aught to, but, I believe if a person uses a rotation of treatment materials one will find the most benefit. If any resistance is created then it would be to the rotation I guess. Some folks believe that not treating buildfs a population of bees that can deal w/ the mites, to oversimplify.
    Mark Berninghausen To combat Ebola, please consider supporting http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org


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

    Mark,

    The there is so much information out there, but it doesn't lead to many clear conclusions. So I don't claim to understand or have a great grasp of much in this regard myself. But a constant schedule of treatment suggests that the bees are always 'sick', and that's basically true.

    Tony Rogers asks "...What would you do if animal had ticks, lice, fleas?"

    Well Tony, I understand your analogy to a point. But if say, my cat had ticks to the point of near death, every season, season after season, I'd be looking to change something other than just killing ticks. I'd question where I lived, or perhaps think about keeping my cat inside, or inside during part of the year, etc. etc.

    It isn't the presence of the parasite, it's the consistent presence to the point of killing the host. It's the consistent imbalance that's notable here - an imbalance that is proving deadly to the bees, and crippling to the beekeeper.

    Adam

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    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
    adam, you have a knack for asking really good questions.

    i believe the effects of the treatments you mentioned and some others are covered on randy oliver's site.

    i committed a couple of weeks last winter to go through all of his papers, and plan to do it again soon for a refresher. do you have an opinion on this work?

    for me, as i am not an expert in this field, i have to rely on those who are experts for information. and, as with any science, the understanding changes and evolves with time and new discoveries.

    i am curious as to why you say 'the mites do not appear to be getting anything but stronger'.

    i am too new at this to know, but it seems to me that i have seen opinions to the contrary suggested here from time to time.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  14. #14
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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).
    I like fit. Strong is good too. I have had quite a number of fit hives which were not strong, never made honey, but wouldn't die either.


    Quote Originally Posted by squarepeg View Post
    my view is, that we are in a position to 'help' the bees as they struggle to adapt.
    It's my position that most of what we do ultimately hurts rather than helps.


    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.
    What would be the point? You'll remove the new queen's stimulus. She may appear to do really well and then mites take her down. On the other hand if she is tested from the beginning, she won't be fooling you when she does well.


    Quote Originally Posted by sqkcrk View Post
    I don't know or understand everything as well as I might aught to
    It would make this whole beekeeping thing a lot easier if someone knew everything about it.
    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?

    >>It's my position that most of what we do ultimately hurts rather than helps.

    i know it is sol, and i respect your position.

    i believe it is possible to help more than hurt.

    it's the old risk/benefit ratio. i imagine a scenario where the new queen might be great under 'normal' circumstances, but doomed to fail if the odds are stacked against her right off the bat. plus, her offspring won't be around for a few weeks anyway, so they may never get a fair chance to be tested.
    Last edited by squarepeg; 11-22-2012 at 07:11 PM. Reason: added 'a fair chance'
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  16. #16
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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

  17. #17
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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

  18. #18
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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.

  19. #19
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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

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Do "Strong Hives" Die from Mite loads?

    Quote Originally Posted by squarepeg View Post
    ...randy oliver... do you have an opinion on this work?...
    i am curious as to why you say 'the mites do not appear to be getting anything but stronger',
    Beekeepers the world over are throwing everything from cow urine, to nematodes, to essential oils, to organic acids and 'hard chemicals' at mites and have been for 20 years, and just about every hive of bees has still got mites. The should've called it varroa indestructable.

    I have read a number of Randy's articles with great interest. Just as I have read articles and listened to the findings and opinions of others. He seems like a smart and thoughtful person, just like most of them do. The problem is that all these smart people come to conflicting conclusions. That means that the only way to find out what works or doesn't work is to try it for yourself. But trying everything takes a lot of time. So what if we aim more at NOT doing stuff? That brings me to trying to reduce my activities as much as I can, and follow an approach which basically says:

    "Whenever you can choose a path that the bee would take without you, choose that one."

    So if it is possible that the bees can work it out with the mites without me adding some mite killer, then I have to try to allow for that. If I wasn't around, the bees would have no oxalic acid or essential oils, or formic, or MAQS. Would they live on their own? They may not, and after some time losing my bees to mites, I may decide that I can no longer choose that path as a beekeeper. But the truth is, I have never really tried not treating before. I have just taken everyone else's word for it, and believed that they would die. I have never seen for myself.

    I believe that the bees are still quite a ways beyond our complete understanding. If that is true, then anything we're doing to help could just as well be hurting.

    If that is true, then it seems logical to make as few human interventions as possible. Less is more.

    The challenge then becomes finding out how little is too little.

    Now, a lot of people might say that the path I've described is "something we all want". But I think a lot of us only pay lip service to that kind of approach. The truth for a lot of us is that we like to do stuff with the bees. We like to be active and involved with those bees! Just look at the stuff we do: landing boards, pollen substitutes, queen excluders, all kinds of feeders, all kinds of feed, instrumental insemination, swarm prevention, foundation, large cell, small cell, plastic, styrofoam hives, heaters, ventilation, moisture absorbers, navigation aids... it goes on and on and on. We're excited by the bees and we want to "help" them and "improve" them; maximize, increase, produce...

    All of this is well-meaning and for many, the pressures of necessity are there as the bees are tied directly to their income. All of this makes plenty of sense from the human perspective.

    But which of these "improvements" or inventions has actually made life harder on the bee? Any of them? All of them? If so, how?

    No, I don't think that a minimal approach is the norm for beekeepers. If any of us were really of a mind to let things alone, we wouldn't be beekeepers. Beekeepers mess with the bees to one degree or another by default. I'm guilty there for sure. If anything, I feel that a minimalist approach is something some might get to once they have a great enough depth of experience to reach it. I'm making it a goal to work toward.

    I'm just trying to find a balance point where the bees at least appear - to my own deepest and truest judgment - to be unharmed by my interest in them.

    Adam

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