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  1. #1
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    Jul 2011
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    Richardson, TX, USA
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    Default V. Mites, Chemical treatments, small cell.............what to believe?

    Everything I read says that if I don't treat my hives for v.mites then they will eventually die but I am also reading stuff about the chemicals used to treat v.mites also maybe getting into the honey even if the honey supers are put on after treatment. (Maybe the bees moving around honey. Not sure). And, the chemicals might not even be effective.

    Then there's this stuff about small cells and it preventing mites from being able to reproduce. But, the feral bee population (producing natural cell sizes in their combs) has supposedly been mostly diminished by v.mites and the only thing keeping European honey bees from going extinct are the beekeepers.

    I'm a first year beekeeper with 30 untreated hives going into the cold Jan/Feb months for Texas and I don't know what to believe now but I am worried about my hives. This coming spring my intentions are to split my hives into 100-120 hives (split in March and then early May).

    My hives all started out as nuc hives created this spring. All of them are double deeps now and some three deeps with lots of honey stores for the winter. Some say that because my hives started as nuc hives this year then I don't need to be as worried about v. mites for the first year. I don't understand that rational either.

    I just want to get my hive count up to a level that it generates a positive revenue stream to pay for my "bee habit". I plan to do this through some honey sales (giving away some honey to family members) and some pollination contracting. But I need to be able to keep my bees alive and my honey clean in order to achieve my goals.

    Would anyone care to give me their two cents worth?

  2. #2
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    Nov 2011
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    Rader, Greene County, Tennessee, USA
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    6,110

    Default Re: V. Mites, Chemical treatments, small cell.............what to believe?

    Quote Originally Posted by RichardsonTX View Post
    Everything I read says that if I don't treat my hives for v.mites then they will eventually die .....
    Before the the war starts, lets get one thing out there that everyone can agree with! Whether you treat your hives for mites or not, they will eventually die! Every creature on Earth, humans, dogs, cattle, birds, etc will eventually die. All types of individual plants also have a limited lifetime. With the exception of species going extinct, new individuals of each species are "born" (so to speak) in some manner to replace those that are dying. Bees are no different.

    OK, now stake out your positions. Fire when ready! (Don't worry about the aiming part ...)
    Graham
    USDA Zone 7A Elevation 1400 ft

  3. #3
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    Feb 2006
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    Herrick, SD USA
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    4,368

    Default Re: V. Mites, Chemical treatments, small cell.............what to believe?

    Quote Originally Posted by RichardsonTX View Post
    I'm a first year beekeeper with 30 untreated hives going into the cold Jan/Feb months for Texas and I don't know what to believe now but I am worried
    you have asked enough questions here to make Beesource debate fodder for months. There is lots of good reading on here about your other questions but let me just focus on this one. If your cluster sizes are adequate at this time of year (when fairly tightly clustered volleyball size is adequate, basketball is great) then perhaps do some mite testing on a fairly warm day. Again lots of good info on here on testing. If you are finding real high numbers (doubtful if your clusters look large and healthy). Then you might want to consider a mid winter OA trickle but only if you catch a warm spell. At this point, though, considering you are planning on splitting everything this spring I think your best course of action is to most likely hold off on any treatment decisions until your nucs are up and running.
    We all worry about our bees, perhaps you are getting a bit ahead of yourself even putting a timetable on when you might want to start large scale pollination until you get a bit more comfortable with what you are doing. Perhaps in your climate and your area making nucs and raising queens in addition to honey production would be a bit more viable revenue stream until you reach a point where you can put together your own semi load of bees.
    So there's my .02 worth, hope it helps and best of luck.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    Washington County, Maine
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    2,871

    Default Re: V. Mites, Chemical treatments, small cell.............what to believe?

    Greetings from Maine!

    A couple of things to keep in mind:

    Your plan to heavily split your colonies next spring may very well do all the Varroa treating next year that you need to do in that as depending on how you do your splits you may have a significant brood break, both for the bees and Varroa. In any event the only way to know for sure what your Varroa levels are is to test. Randy Oliver has descriptions of the various means of testing on his web site scientificbeekeeping.com

    Are the feral bees in your part of Texas africanized? If so you'll want to take that into account in your splitting plans, and make arrangements to purchase queens for your splits.

    As for your other questions, I am not a scientist and can't give you a definitive answer. I will give you some opinions though, and I like to think they are well founded:

    Bees can have varying degrees in quantity of African genetics. Africanized bees seem to be able to handle Varroa ok, but some of there means they handle them by (frequent swarming for example) are not especially beekeeper friendly. And of course temperament can be an issue. All I've read of Africanized bees states that they are smaller than the usual commercially available European Honey bees, and draw out "small cell" comb in their nests. I don't think "small cell" in and of itself is what solves the Varroa problem.

    As for honey purity, it is important for you to research what compounds you will be placing in your hives to deal with Varroa and once you've decided on one be sure to read, follow and understand the "label" for use. Find out if the mites in your area are resistant to any particular products (Here in Maine we are told mites are resistant to both Apistan and Checkmite.) Remember that the bee supply companies are in business to sell you products.

    Good luck, and keep us posted on what you decide to do and how it works out!
    Master Beekeeper (EAS) and Master Gardener (U Maine CE) www.beeberrywoods.com

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
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    jackson county, alabama, usa
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    Default Re: V. Mites, Chemical treatments, small cell.............what to believe?

    rich, my .02 is also likely overpriced but,

    sounds like you already have a considerable investment of time and money in your operation, and are about to get in even deeper.

    as far as how 'responsible' you feel for keeping the bees healthy and free of pests that is one you will have to determine for yourself.

    as far as how responsible you feel for making sure your operation doesn't become a source of diseases and pests to nearby colonies is also something will have to determine for yourself.

    either way, if you were like i was, and put doing mite counts down towards the bottom of the list of things you have to do when getting into beekeeping, than my suggestion is moving it up the list.

    without knowing exactly what is going on in your hives, it's hard to know how much or how little of a problem you have or don't have.

    there are different methods of testing how infested your hives are, and the threshold for how much infestation requires action is not well established.

    as you have read, there are many methods for dealing with infestations, that vary from doing nothing and letting the bees die, to using insecticides that will get in the wax and have the potential for getting in the honey.

    it's probably one of the more brain racking decisions associatied with beekeeping, and the source of constant debate and strong disagreement on this forum.

    if you haven't already, spend some time this winter on randy oliver's website scientificbeekeeping.com.

    most if not all of what you need to know about varroa to make an informed decision you will find there.

    good luck!
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
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    Lititz, PA, USA
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    709

    Default Re: V. Mites, Chemical treatments, small cell.............what to believe?

    Mine is only worth 1c. And I predict this thread may become 5-6 pages worth of posts.

    I'm a backyarder, and fairly new at that, which is why my opinion isn't worth as much. But here's the deal as far as I'm concerned. Everyone loses hives, that's just the way it is. Each hive, due to a myriad of factors like queen verility, stores, weather, mite load, virus load, etc, has a certain chance of not making it. Things you do or don't do as a beekeeper affect those chances.

    Mites are a huge factor in those chances of death vs survival. So what do you do to help? Having hygienic queens helps. Even though I think the studies aren't very sure of it, I think there's enough people saying small cell helps that I won't discount it. Good nutrition is a big help. All these things work to reduce a hives chance of dying. Most of these things have very mild if any side effects.

    Now you look at chemical treatments, both "hard" and "soft". Clearly the chemical treatments have side effects and impose restrictions on your management. Things like you can't treat with honey supers on the hives, the treatment bonds to the wax, the treatment is temperature dependent, the treament is hard on the queen, and the list goes on. Each treatment has its own set of side effects and impositions. But most, if not all, of these treatments deal a death blow to mites or they wouldn't even be on the market. Knocking mites back at the right time(s) of year for your location, in my opinion, is a *huge* advantage to your bees. Mites don't just kill a bee, they spread viruses. The question is simply around your own feelings on treatment of your hives. For many, their own view on the treatments is that the treatments are so detrimental in the long term that they don't even want to start using them. But I believe that for most of these, not all, but certainly most, their losses overall are higher. This simply goes back to my statement that each hive, due to all the conditions it faces internally and externally, has a certain chance of dying. Treating lowers that percentage, I believe dramatically. So in the end it's up to you. Statictics as well as the real world I believe bear out that the more hives you have going in, the more hives you'll have coming out. But not treating mites in any way means you'll have more losses. It's up to you if those higher losses are worth saving money on the treatments and the feeling of knowing that you're not treating.

    I'm not sure how pollination contracts work, I've never even read one. But I'd think that the contract is committing you to having hives there for that farmer. I'm not sure the farmer is going to accept, "Well I lost more than I thought I would so I don't have your hives." Someone who knows can chime in, but if you're looking at doing pollination, the requirement of having the bees available, not just the nicety of their survival, may need to weigh heavily on your decision to treat.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Great Falls Montana
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    3,967

    Default Re: V. Mites, Chemical treatments, small cell.............what to believe?

    Consider the material at mdasplitter.com You are right to worry about mites. Chemicals are not the end of the world, but no one should use more than absolutely necessary. Just get friendly with the search feature and do a whole lot of reading and take notes including how you got to information you have read. I often can't find my way back without writing things down. Bread crumbs don't work. You have a couple months to do some serious studying. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
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    Big Stone Gap, VA
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    967

    Default Re: V. Mites, Chemical treatments, small cell.............what to believe?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rader Sidetrack View Post
    Before the the war starts, lets get one thing out there that everyone can agree with! Whether you treat your hives for mites or not, they will eventually die! Every creature on Earth, humans, dogs, cattle, birds, etc will eventually die.
    Very well said Rader,

    The key to me is becoming sustainable. Replacing losses with splits/nucs from my overwintered hives.

    Shane

  9. #9
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    Jul 2010
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    jackson county, alabama, usa
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    Default Re: V. Mites, Chemical treatments, small cell.............what to believe?

    i'm guessing for pollination, rich wants them strong out of the gate in spring.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  10. #10
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    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    46,121

    Default Re: V. Mites, Chemical treatments, small cell.............what to believe?

    >Would anyone care to give me their two cents worth?

    I have not treated mine in more than a decade and have not lost a hive to Varroa in more than a decade. I'm on natural comb and small cell and before I did that I was losing all of them to Varroa.

    http://www.bushfarms.com/beesnaturalcell.htm
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  11. #11
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    jackson county, alabama, usa
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    Default Re: V. Mites, Chemical treatments, small cell.............what to believe?

    michael, was the switch to natural comb and small cell the only change that you implemented when you got the upper hand on varroa? i.e. are the genetics pretty much the same as they were before?

    and, do you have an idea as to what levels of varroa may be in your hives that your bees are successful in dealing with?
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  12. #12

    Default Re: V. Mites, Chemical treatments, small cell.............what to believe?

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    I have not treated mine in more than a decade and have not lost a hive to Varroa in more than a decade.
    Michael Bush, did I understand that you suffered some significant losses a few years ago when you were away for an extended period or ..is my old brain scrambled?
    My recollection is that some hives had covers blown off and the bee colonies died, in all likelihood from exposure. What were your other losses during that time? And how sizeable?
    Dan www.boogerhillbee.com
    Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards

  13. #13
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    Jan 2009
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    Grosse Ile, Michigan, USA
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    2,863

    Default Re: V. Mites, Chemical treatments, small cell.............what to believe?

    The only way to know "for sure" that the residue from mite treatments is not getting into the honey you remove from the hive, is to not treat, period.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Dec 1999
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    DuPage County, Illinois USA
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    9,433

    Default Re: V. Mites, Chemical treatments, small cell.............what to believe?

    I think Jim proved that statement wrong. The other way is to have your honey tested.
    Regards, Barry

  15. #15
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    Feb 2006
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    Herrick, SD USA
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    Default Re: V. Mites, Chemical treatments, small cell.............what to believe?

    Quote Originally Posted by jmgi View Post
    The only way to know "for sure" that the residue from mite treatments is not getting into the honey you remove from the hive, is to not treat, period.
    This is, of course, a true statement. It is also true to state that the only way to know for sure what is in any honey is from a chemical analysis.
    "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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    Apr 2010
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    Lititz, PA, USA
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    709

    Default Re: V. Mites, Chemical treatments, small cell.............what to believe?

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    I have not treated mine in more than a decade and have not lost a hive to Varroa in more than a decade.
    As venerated as you are here and everywhere Mr. Bush, I always take with a grain of salt the comment, "I've not lost a hive to varroa."

    I liken this to a person being ill. If I have cancer and go into the hospital and I get pneumonia and die, I didn't die of cancer, I died of pneumonia. But no one would argue that cancer didn't play a part in my death. It made me weaker and drove me to go into the hospital. The same is true of varroa. Losing a hive to varroa can be said to be the situation where you see mite feces and DWV all over the hive. But all hives have mites. And those mites are damaging bees, even if the load is small or maybe not so small but simply not big enough to show the "loss by varroa" symptoms. Ridding hives of those mites could mean the difference between a hive surviving and a hive not surviving a winter or a dearth. Whenever anyone has a deadout that appears to have starved yet there's some honey in the hive, he'll say it was starvation, not varroa. But maybe had the hive been treated for varroa, the cluster would have been larger and healthier and been able to better contact the available honey, and therefore not have starved. Did this hive then not die of varroa? Not directly from varroa inflicted wounds, but the mites hurt the bees and helped them along on their way to demise.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: V. Mites, Chemical treatments, small cell.............what to believe?

    I would tend to agree with libhart. "Before I lost all of them......now in more than a decade I have not lost a hive to varroa". Is a pretty definitive statement and one that a reasonable person might well bring into question.
    "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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    Mar 2009
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    Poplar Bluff, Missouri, USA
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    Default Re: V. Mites, Chemical treatments, small cell.............what to believe?

    Let's see, Michael Bush lost a lot of hives to varroa more than ten years ago, and since developing a treatment free plan, and acting on that plan, he ascribes losses to varroa as zero. I guess he has lost hives to other causes.

    I have been treatment free for more than six years. No treatments for mites, don't even do mite counts. Don't worry about mites. My losses run between 0 and 15%. Do I have losses? Of course. Most are explainable to causes other than varroa. Have I lost any to varroa? Perhaps. Has varroa been a factor in my losses? Perhaps.

    Now my question is, how many of you who treat, do mite counts, and alll that other stuff, have losses as low as Mike Bush or me? And there are others on the forum in like circumstances. If you want to buy weak bees, treat and test and do all that stuff you do, feel free to do so. Doesn't bother me. But don't sit there with your varroa and winter losses, and tell us we're doing it wrong.

    My basic question for the original poster is, "Where did you get your nucs?" If they were bonafide treatment free, quit worrying. If they weren't bonafide treatment free, you'd better worry big time, because you WILL lose your bees. That has been demonstrated time and time again.

    Now, I buy treatment free bees/queens, have been treatment free since returning to beekeeping, don't do mite counts, and keep my bees on a combination of large cell foundation and foundationless. I had my best honey harvest ever this year. Some hives netted 170 pounds of honey here in southeast Missouri. fwiw.
    Regards,
    Steven
    "If all you have is a hammer, the whole world is a nail." - A.H. Maslow

  19. #19
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    Default Re: V. Mites, Chemical treatments, small cell.............what to believe?

    steven, i sure would like to know at what level infestation bees can live in harmony with mites.

    i wonder if i could talk you into taking a count or two next summer?
    Last edited by squarepeg; 12-21-2012 at 11:16 AM. Reason: sp

  20. #20
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    Feb 2006
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    Default Re: V. Mites, Chemical treatments, small cell.............what to believe?

    Good job Steven, I am not saying you are doing anything wrong and I am not sure anyone else is either. I wouldnt change a thing if I were you. Its pretty hard to get any hard numbers on treatment free losses vs. non treatment losses. Way too many variables to make sense of any sort of comparison but I think it is fair to say that there are a lot of losses on both sides.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

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