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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Springfield, MO, USA
    Posts
    102

    Default How do you KNOW that mites caused the hive to crash?

    I have seen several people state that "my hive died due to mites" or some variation on such. How do they tell? I have mites in my hives, like most people. I know that mites help transmit viruses and cause other problems. My question is: HOW do they know mites caused the crash? Is there some diagnostic test I have never read about in the magazines or books? What are the determining criteria?

    I have had many hives die over the years. Some looked real strong and I don't know why they died. Some were weak and I expected them to die. And, there were several cases of the exact opposite of those two scenarios. But, when a hive dies, I find it very difficult to determine exactly WHY they died. So I am curious how these folks can make such definite statements?

    I approach the mite and bee survival by breeding better bee lines for my area. I work hard at tracking my genetic lines, keeping notes and measuring how each hive perfoms so that I can do solid comparasions to determine which lines to continue to breed. My bees survive for years without mite treatments. My marked queens live for 3-4 years (my oldest just died after 4 1/2 years and she was still outproducing the younger queens. Why they superceded her when she was doing so well is a mystery).

    I do a lot of cut-outs so I get to see a lot of feral beehives. It has been very educational to see how these bees cope with mites and SHB (I've only seen 2 cut-outs where there were not SHB). The cut-outs also provide me with a wide range of genetic material to work with. Ok, now I'm just rambling.......

    Please respond with SPECIFIC CRITERIA/EVIDENCE that helps you make a COD determination. I'm looking for something more than a lot of non-specific responses or "I read this once in a book" type of answers.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    Manitoba Canada
    Posts
    5,763

    Default Re: How do you KNOW that mites caused the hive to crash?

    Have you watched a hive crash from mites? Alot of it has to do with viral infections, and seeing Deformed Winged bees being carried out of the hive is one sure sign of high varroa mite populations. Its the mite that vectors the virus into the bees, and the virus that takes the hives down. Before we encountered these waves of viral infections our hives were able to tolerate up to 10% mite loads without death, now our threshold has been lowered down to 3% because of viral infections. Compound that with Nosema, any you have a full plate.

    Its not just mites that cause the hives to crash, mites are one of the main factors in the crash.
    your asking for specific symptoms, its not that easy
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Lottsburg, Virginia USA
    Posts
    121

    Default Re: How do you KNOW that mites caused the hive to crash?

    I think a lot of hives sucumb to heavy mite loads in the late fall to winter due to the loss of bees and brood critical to carry them thru the winter, the numbers dwindle DWV is obvious some dead brood and most of the brood frames will have white varoa feces on the sides of the cells . the mites will be aparent in any capped brood opened, that is all I can think of at the moment.
    Johno

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    Manitoba Canada
    Posts
    5,763

    Default Re: How do you KNOW that mites caused the hive to crash?

    sounds about right
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Massillon, Ohio
    Posts
    3,380

    Default Re: How do you KNOW that mites caused the hive to crash?

    For anyone who does periodic counts on a sticky board, dead mites can be pretty conclusive. If a strong colony rapidly dwindles and dies with a handful of bees left in the box, check the bottom board or sticky board for mites. I've had it happen to me and found thousands of mites on the board. I was fairly confident at that point the hive crashed from mites, or virus' related to mite infestation. Many times you will find their calling card left behind, on the bottom board.
    .
    To everything there is a season....

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Location
    Camas, WA
    Posts
    1,918

    Default Re: How do you KNOW that mites caused the hive to crash?

    If you are looking for the thing that "broke the camel's back", I think that will be difficult to determine most of the time. Back before mites I didn't lose many hives at all. Most of the time it was starvation or a queen that failed over winter. After mites everything changed. They can't deal with other stresses as well. I would bet that over 80-90% (maybe closer to 100%) of my loses have mites as the base culprit. Now they may have died from some other stress at the end, but without mites, most would have made it.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Pepperell, MA.
    Posts
    3,736

    Default Re: How do you KNOW that mites caused the hive to crash?

    I'll agree with Mike. I've had colonies start withering away and die no matter what efforts I put in to save them. With screened bottom boards the evidence is not so obvious but I've had boxes with a regular bottom board and there they were. In the long run, I could have diagnosed sooner. Lessons learned......
    "My wife always wanted girls. Just not thousands and thousands of them......"

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    jackson county, alabama, usa
    Posts
    4,273

    Default Re: How do you KNOW that mites caused the hive to crash?

    ravenseye, are you saying mites are easier to miss with a screened bottom board? how do you check for them theses days?
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  9. #9

    Default Re: How do you KNOW that mites caused the hive to crash?

    Quote Originally Posted by Maddox65804 View Post
    I approach the mite and bee survival by breeding better bee lines for my area. I work hard at tracking my genetic lines, keeping notes and measuring how each hive perfoms so that I can do solid comparasions to determine which lines to continue to breed.
    What do you measure and record? If you are doing solid comparisons then you must be doing some form of objective mite testing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Maddox65804 View Post
    But, when a hive dies, I find it very difficult to determine exactly WHY they died.
    If you are doing any objective mite testing you must have an idea if mites were a significant factor.

    Sometimes a collapse by varroa is obvious. Dead mites on the bottom board. But for the most part there is very little evidence left behind.

    Mites are a factor in the vast majority of colony failures. Nosema, foulbrood, dwindling and many unnamed collapse syndromes are influenced by varroa. They parasitize bees during development resulting in substantially weakened adults. They parasitize adults. They vector all types of disease. Your bees ability to cope with EVERY other pressure is dramatically impacted by the mite load. And if you aren’t testing in an objective fashion, you are flying totally blind. And if you are testing, you already know the answer to your original question.
    Dan www.boogerhillbee.com
    Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    45,343

    Default Re: How do you KNOW that mites caused the hive to crash?

    When I find thousands of dead Varroa on the bottom board and white flecks (Varroa feces) in the brood cells, I assume they died from Varroa. When I can't find more than a few Varroa and no feces, I assume it's something else.

    If the cluster is not in contact with stores, I assume they starved. If the cluster is very small and we've had some bitter cold, I assume they froze. If the cluster is scattered or many separate little clusters and a lot of "K" wing, I would assume it was tracheal mites.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  11. #11

    Default Re: How do you KNOW that mites caused the hive to crash?

    Quote Originally Posted by beemandan View Post
    if you aren’t testing in an objective fashion, you are flying totally blind.
    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    When I can't find more than a few Varroa and no feces, I assume it's something else.
    Two contradictory sermons. Choose the one you believe will serve you best.
    Dan www.boogerhillbee.com
    Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Herrick, SD USA
    Posts
    4,232

    Default Re: How do you KNOW that mites caused the hive to crash?

    Perhaps I am misreading but the tone of the OP seems to be a challenge to prove what he may not accept and that is that varroa kills hives. It may not always do so overtly but it is an everpresent fact of life in beekeeping whether one chooses to accept it or not. Given the fact the op has only kept bees post varroa (his profile says he began in 1998) it is entirely understandable to not be able to completely understand how dramatically beekeeping changed in our apiaries when varroa showed up. We were all pretty ignorant at the time and assumed it would just become a non-factor or a minor pest like tracheal mites were becoming. Many beekeepers went out of business, most resorted to lots of different remedies that may have worked for for a short time only to see infestations return with a vengeance. Having been a commercial operator for nearly 20 years pre varroa and over 20 years since its impact let me say the differences are stark and unmistakable. The beekeepers who have survived in this industry have learned a lot in how to deal with varroa, bees are better able to withstand varroa pressures and there are better tools at our disposal, but the best tool is knowledge. Understanding as much as you can about your adversary and accepting that there is a problem is paramount in learning how to deal with it and deal with it safely and sanely. Many will simply choose never to do mite counts and assume all losses are totally unrelated to the worst pest our industry has ever dealt with. That's everyone prerogative, it's not the path I have chosen. There is lots and lots of information out there about how to identify varroa infestations and evaluate hive deaths you can choose to read it or to ignore it. To each his own.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    Manitoba Canada
    Posts
    5,763

    Default Re: How do you KNOW that mites caused the hive to crash?

    Jim, you didnt provide "SPECIFIC CRITERIA/EVIDENCE" in determining your hives died due to mites
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Herrick, SD USA
    Posts
    4,232

    Default Re: How do you KNOW that mites caused the hive to crash?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ian View Post
    Jim, you didnt provide "SPECIFIC CRITERIA/EVIDENCE" in determining your hives died due to mites
    Right you are.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    jackson county, alabama, usa
    Posts
    4,273

    Default Re: How do you KNOW that mites caused the hive to crash?

    dead mites on the bottom board, mite feces in the brood comb, deformed wings on the dead bees,

    these would all be presumptive and after the fact evidence that a collaspe was mite related.

    high mite counts preceding the death of the hive would be a more certain indicator.

    most of the time when opinions have been rendered on the forum that 'it was probably mites', it has been after the fact, too late anyway.

    i'm beginning to believe more and more that the second most important tool in beekeeping, (second only to the hive tool), is an alcohol or ether jar for taking mite counts. i've got mine.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  16. #16

    Default Re: How do you KNOW that mites caused the hive to crash?

    Quote Originally Posted by squarepeg View Post
    i'm beginning to believe more and more that the second most important tool in beekeeping, (second only to the hive tool), is an alcohol or ether jar for taking mite counts. i've got mine.
    Amen brother (sister?)
    Dan www.boogerhillbee.com
    Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    jackson county, alabama, usa
    Posts
    4,273

    Default Re: How do you KNOW that mites caused the hive to crash?

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

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Ka'u Hawaii
    Posts
    169

    Default Re: How do you KNOW that mites caused the hive to crash?

    [QUOTE=Michael Bush;881823]When I find thousands of dead Varroa on the bottom board and white flecks (Varroa feces) in the brood cells, I assume they died from Varroa. When I can't find more than a few Varroa and no feces, I assume it's something else.

    I
    Well, Michael, this is a first. Are you saying that you still have hives that succumb to mites? I thought that mite were no longer a problem for you.

    They are for me, and I haven't gotten very good at doing 'mite counts'. I do think that looking at formerly occupied brood comb cells to see signs of mite feces is helpful.

    And as far as bees dying from mites, I can assure you that hive death happens much more rapidly when mites are involved than it ever did in the 'pre mite' days.

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Atlanta GA
    Posts
    274

    Default Re: How do you KNOW that mites caused the hive to crash?

    Quote Originally Posted by squarepeg View Post
    i'm beginning to believe more and more that the second most important tool in beekeeping, (second only to the hive tool), is an alcohol or ether jar for taking mite counts. i've got mine.
    Can you explain this? What do you do with alcohol for mite counts? I use the sticky board for mite counts.

  20. #20

    Default Re: How do you KNOW that mites caused the hive to crash?

    Quote Originally Posted by SallyD View Post
    Can you explain this? What do you do with alcohol for mite counts?
    Hi Sally, this fellow has some pretty good descriptions of varroa testing....including jar sampling.

    http://scientificbeekeeping.com/figh...mite-sampling/
    Dan www.boogerhillbee.com
    Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards

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