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  1. #1
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    Default "What is Varroa good for?"

    Last Sunday my Minister gave a sermon about a number of things, one of which was about an Entomologist who studied Grasshoppers in Wyoming(if I recall correctly). He studied grasshoppers for 20 years getting to know them intemately. He loved grasshoppers. Like beekeepers love bees I guess. But his real job was to get to know them so he could kill them. You see, grasshoppers have great ag economic impact. For eight years grasshoppers eat lots of crops, but come the ninth and tenth years they eat EVERYTHING. So he had to figure out how to kill the thing he loved.

    When he would go to partys he often got asked "What are grasshoppers good for?" I don't recall that an answer was given. But what was pointed out was a different way of looking at the problem. The entomologist figured out that the tried and true method of killing grasshoppers by spraying everything not only didn't work very well after a number of years, he figured out that there was another way to address the problem. He figured out that if a certain insecticide was applied to only part of a crop that it would kill grasshoppers on that plot and then other grasshoppers would notice no grasshoppers over there and they would invade and eat the dead grasshoppers, thereby lowering the amount of insecticide applied by 90%.

    All that to ask, what are Varroa mites good for? How can we come to love varroa enough to understand them well enough to get to the point where we can come up w/ effective "controls" which severally lower use of and exposure to miticides? Certainly there must be some Arachnidologists out there who know this critter really well.

    That entomologist quit entomology and now teaches creative writing.
    Mark Berninghausen "That which works, persists."

  2. #2
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    Default Re: "What is Varroa good for?"

    >what are Varroa mites good for?

    "I’ve thought a lot about how in the world to describe what’s really happening in an apiary that hasn’t used treatments of any kind for more than five years; where mites are now considered to be indispensible allies and friends, and where the productivity, resilience, profitability and enjoyment of the apiary are just as good as at any time in the past. I wouldn’t dream of killing any mites now, even if I had an easy and safe way of doing so. The serious problems I have at the moment are of a completely different nature..."

    "Even though I was trained by my mentors to see pests and diseases as friends and teachers, I was terrified of these mites when they first arrived, and I reacted the same way most beekeepers did—by killing them any way I could that seemed safe and easy. As long as I continued on this path, the apiary, slowly but surely, became more fragile, vulnerable and stressful to operate. When I lost my fear of the mites, stopped killing them, and determined to learn all I could from them, the apiary went through the same process all insects go through in natural systems when they receive a serious challenge or shock—a period of collapse into some fraction of their former niche; followed by a rebound into the unoccupied space, with greater vitality and resilience than they had before the shock occurred.

    "Without adopting the tracheal mites as mentors, I would never have been able to find a satisfactory solution to the Varroa problem.

    "I watched the bees go through this process twice—first with tracheal mites, and then with Varroa. I was very lucky that there was a space of several years between the arrival of tracheal, and then Varroa mites. Without the experience and tutelage of the tracheal mites, I might not have had the courage to face up to Varroa mites in the same way. "--Kirk Webster, A New Paradigm for American Beekeeping
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  3. #3
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    Default Re: "What is Varroa good for?"

    A change in mind set changed the varroa. How one thinks about something is paramount.

    "You won't see it until you believe it." Or something like that.
    Mark Berninghausen "That which works, persists."

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
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    Fort Walton Beach, Florida
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    Default Re: "What is Varroa good for?"

    Mark, what an interesting and thought-provoking thread subject. I hope it will stimulate some useful discussion, because I've wondered about this too. It strikes me that bees, as a species that has been around largely unchanged for millions of years, must be quite resilient. It puts me in mind of the Neitzsche/Conan Paradigm: "That which does not kill us makes us stronger."

    Michael, elsewhere on the forum, Michael Palmer has said that Kirk has had very high losses recently. Do you know the reason for this?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
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    Houston, TX, USA
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    Default Re: "What is Varroa good for?"

    Varroa!
    HUH! Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa
    What is it good for?
    Absolutely nothing! Say it again, yall!

  6. #6
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    Default Re: "What is Varroa good for?"

    I look forward to hearing Kirk expound on this attitude at the MSBA annual meeting later this fall. I was out in one of my bee yards with a novice this morning and we never got to mite testing. Of far more immediate concern were colonies with no stores when not twenty feet away were colonies filling supers and putting up good looking slabs of honey in their double deeps. In spite of bountiful natural pollen available now I put patties on some colonies and this afternoon I'll go back with sugar syrup. I don't have enough empty boxes to surround my paint cans so I may have to unretire some hive top feeders. Mite treatments? The label for MAQS says hives should have both pollen and nectar stores before treating. My testing will wait a bit too.
    Master Beekeeper (EAS) and Master Gardener (U Maine CE) www.beeberrywoods.com

  7. #7
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    Jun 2013
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    New Mexico, USA
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    Default Re: "What is Varroa good for?"

    I would take a guess that most commercial beekeepers love the varroa, why else would they be breeding them for strength and resourcefulness by killing all the weak ones. My guess is the varroa problem started when we began looking at mites as a pest. Once we began treating for mites the ones that survived adapted to prey on bees since the rest of the micro fauna had been wiped out.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: "What is Varroa good for?"

    Quote Originally Posted by Pipiyolti View Post
    I would take a guess that most commercial beekeepers love the varroa, why else would they be breeding them for strength and resourcefulness by killing all the weak ones. My guess is the varroa problem started when we began looking at mites as a pest. Once we began treating for mites the ones that survived adapted to prey on bees since the rest of the micro fauna had been wiped out.
    I respectfuly suggest that you have no clue what you are talking about. Or that you forgot a smiley or other emoticon.

    Let's suppose for a moment that you are in fact serious with your post: What are the mites supposed to have lived on prior to honey bees?
    Master Beekeeper (EAS) and Master Gardener (U Maine CE) www.beeberrywoods.com

  9. #9
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    Default Re: "What is Varroa good for?"

    Quote Originally Posted by B-Rant View Post
    Varroa!
    HUH! Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa
    What is it good for?
    Absolutely nothing! Say it again, yall!
    Something I might have written in response. Thanks B-Rant
    Mark Berninghausen "That which works, persists."

  10. #10
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    Default Re: "What is Varroa good for?"

    Quote Originally Posted by Pipiyolti View Post
    I would take a guess that most commercial beekeepers love the varroa, why else would they be breeding them for strength and resourcefulness by killing all the weak ones. My guess is the varroa problem started when we began looking at mites as a pest. Once we began treating for mites the ones that survived adapted to prey on bees since the rest of the micro fauna had been wiped out.
    Having been around to experience the same years of Tracheal and Varroa as Kirk has, but w/ different eyes, I would say that the way we have addressed Mites from the beginning is much as we responded to Al qaeda after 9-11, we sought to eradicate and then we saught to knock them down so our bees could survive the infestation.

    How would you suggest we look at them in a different way and favor the weak ones letting the strong ones dwindle?

    They had already been preying on bees before they adapted to treatment materials, not the other way around. As you seem to suggest. (asked in a friendly tone)
    Mark Berninghausen "That which works, persists."

  11. #11
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    Default Re: "What is Varroa good for?"

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Dewey View Post
    What are the mites supposed to have lived on prior to honey bees?
    We know that already, you and I, don't we? Other bees. Bees native to SE Asia.
    Mark Berninghausen "That which works, persists."

  12. #12
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    King County, Washington
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    Default Re: "What is Varroa good for?"

    What are they good for?

    From an ecological perspective:

    Wax moths benefit from their presence, which in turn benefit those animals that eat wax moths..the old food web thing.

    But the issue is varroa isn't anything like your ordinary pest such as a grasshopper. They did something unusual..they jumped the species barrier and due to human activity has be come prevalent in places where it would normally take 200 to 300 years to colonize.

    So I really don't think you can compare the scenario you posted.

    I suppose you could study the effects on it's natural host in Asia.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: "What is Varroa good for?"

    Quote Originally Posted by sqkcrk View Post
    We know that already, you and I, don't we? Other bees. Bees native to SE Asia.
    Correct as usual, King Friday. I was anticipating some other answer.
    Master Beekeeper (EAS) and Master Gardener (U Maine CE) www.beeberrywoods.com

  14. #14
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    Default Re: "What is Varroa good for?"

    Probably from someone else too.

    Ha,ha,ha. Had to websearch that one.
    Mark Berninghausen "That which works, persists."

  15. #15
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    Apr 2012
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    Baytown, TX., USA.
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    Default Re: "What is Varroa good for?"

    The one thing Mr. West gave me was to switch to Russian bees.What are VM good for? Well, they reduce the competition.
    Julysun elevation 23 feet. 4 Hives, 2 years.

  16. #16
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    New Mexico, USA
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    Default Re: "What is Varroa good for?"

    Quote Originally Posted by sqkcrk View Post
    How would you suggest we look at them in a different way and favor the weak ones letting the strong ones dwindle?

    They had already been preying on bees before they adapted to treatment materials, not the other way around. As you seem to suggest. (asked in a friendly tone)
    I once had a problem with wild birds eating all my tomatoes when they would just ripe, a real downer and it caused a little hate in my heart for the birds until I realized they weren't eating my tomatoes they were drinking the pulp. A few bird baths and the problem was gone... unless I forget to top them off. What I am saying is give the varroa an easier target than the honey bee. By the way, I look at gentle bees and I see weak bees
    Last edited by Pipiyolti; 08-27-2013 at 02:24 PM. Reason: edited for clarity

  17. #17
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    Default Re: "What is Varroa good for?"

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Dewey View Post
    I respectfuly suggest that you have no clue what you are talking about. Or that you forgot a smiley or other emoticon.

    Let's suppose for a moment that you are in fact serious with your post: What are the mites supposed to have lived on prior to honey bees?
    I am serious. Antibiotics and pesticides inadvertently breed stronger pathogens and pests, it is well documented.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: "What is Varroa good for?"

    I hate it when the varroa get in my honey and I have to pick them out.
    NM desert/mountain beekeeper - Black Mesa Honeybees.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: "What is Varroa good for?"

    Quote Originally Posted by Pipiyolti View Post
    What I am saying is give the varroa an easier target than the honey bee.
    Which would be what?
    Mark Berninghausen "That which works, persists."

  20. #20
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    Cookeville, TN, USA
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    Default Re: "What is Varroa good for?"

    Varroa and other challenges to beekeeping keep it from being easily scaled and corporatized. IE they make beekeeping more profitable for those independent beekeepers who are able and willing to deal with them.

    If it was easy everyone would do it.
    Since '09-25H-T-Z6b

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