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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
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    Tucson, Arizona, USA
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    Default Certain cause of death

    I know Varroa mites are a nasty parasite. They vector diseases, and rob vigor from our bees.

    When I first heard about them and checked for them, there they were, easy to see, there seemed to be so many, too. But, of course they had already been in my hives for more than a decade, and hadn't caused any "obvious" problems. I'm not saying they aren't a problem. I know they are. I certainly prefer that my bees didn't have to deal with them.

    It's just curious to me how, so often, whenever any survivability issue, with honey bees is being discussed, it almost always comes down to how, no matter what actually did the bees in, Varroa mites are given the credit for the KILL. When, realistically, there is only one thing, and one thing only, that invariably leads to mortality, in honey bees, and all other life forms, we know of -- and that is, being alive in the first place. If honey bees weren't alive, neither Varroa mites, nor anything else would ever bother them.

    Seriously, though, I almost expect to read about, how a newbee watched as an irate neighbor sprayed his hive with a bug bomb. Afterwards, the colony struggled to recover, but finally succumbed. Then, I wouldn't be surprised to hear someone suggest that they could have recovered, if they had a lower population of parasitic Varroa mites in the hive. And maybe they could have, but it wasn't the Varroa that "killed" the hive, it was the neighbors insecticide. Varroa were just a possible facilitator, weakening the struggling bees, not the direct cause.

    Even when an impaired driver strikes a pedestrian, we don't usually blame the vehicle, or even whatever impaired the driver. We blame the driver, if driving while impaired was his/her choice. If Varroa didn't vector diseases, but just ate hemolymph, they might not then be the scourge that they are. But maybe they are, I'm just not so sure that they are the immediate and direct result of nearly every lost colony, for the past two decades, or so. I remember, before Varroa, when a colony ran out of stores and starved, they starved. Now, when a colony starves, I hear how the Varroa were responsible for the colony starving. That, without the interference of Varroa, that colony would likely have done just fine.

    And maybe all that is true. So what were we blaming all our losses on, before we had Varroa?

    Every so often, I lose a hive, usually, every late summer, early autumn, some of my smaller/weaker nucs get robbed out by the larger/stronger colonies, before I can make other arrangements for them, but not too many. I don't blame that on Varroa. Sometimes a colony loses their queen, or their virgin fails to return from a mating flight, I give them another ripe queen cell. I don't blame that on Varroa. And, rarely a colony becomes laying-worker, where I either work to get them right again, or spread them out to other colonies, giving up on saving them. I don't blame that on Varroa.

    Sure, Varroa are disease vectors, and blood suckers. But are they the "driver" or just the vehicle?

    Many of my nucleus colonies are taken away by customers, similarly my queens. I don't blame that on Varroa, either.
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
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    Grosse Ile, Michigan, USA
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    2,902

    Default Re: Certain cause of death

    I lost an occasional colony in pre-mite days (1970's), almost always it was during the winter, starvation most likely from what I can remember. When I took those deadouts apart they were full of dead bees, headfirst in the cells, bees packed between the frames, 6-7 frames worth at least, thousands of dead bees on the bottom board.

    Fast forward to today. My losses now are significantly different in many ways. Booming colonies during the spring and summer, great honey production. Then, starting in September, those same colonies experience a rapid decline in population to the point where many are dead by November, and the few stronger ones make it till December or early January. When I take those colonies apart, there is the equivalent of about a softball size amount of bees at best, and yes the queen is usually there too. The dead cluster is almost always on food when they died.

    So what's different now? The mite population climbs in the fall compared to the bee population that declines, the mites parasitize the bees and drive the population down rapidly to the point where the cluster is so small going into winter that they cannot generate the heat to stay alive in the cold climate that we have here. Its pretty simple, the mite has changed everything, believe it.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Aberdeen, Idaho
    Posts
    498

    Default Re: Certain cause of death

    Joseph I wish I had the results you and other non-treaters have. Maybe if I did I could accept your thinking. In my local it is simple, a hive with mites dies, a hive that does not have mites lives. It is just that simple. I have bought a bunch of mite resistant bees over the years. Some of them definitely had some tolerance levels. Some were just disasters. The majority were just right down the middle of the road. Without mites, in our area beekeeping would be simple.
    Dave

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
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    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
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    Default Re: Certain cause of death

    Quote Originally Posted by Joseph Clemens View Post
    So what were we blaming all our losses on, before we had Varroa?
    Diseases such as AFB, EFB, viruses, pests like bears and skunks, and starvation. Those were the things that killed bees before Varroa/virus.
    Mark Berninghausen To combat Ebola, please consider supporting http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org


  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2012
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    Knox, Pa. USA
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    1,270

    Default Re: Certain cause of death

    I have kept bees pre 1985 when the critters first appeared here in the U.S. Anyone who has can truly remember the good old days!
    we has an occasional bout of AFB, Or chock brood in the area that caused alarm. But overall it was different. I tell a lot of entry level beekeepers that it was back when beekeeping was easy. Many a beekeeper set up a hive and pretty much left it alone. When they saw signs of a problem only then did they take action. Varroa and Small hive beetles simply were not here to deal with. Wax moths could be a problem, but a good strong colony could easily keep them in check. Since the introduction of Varroa , and SHB every beekeeper must take a more proactive roll in beekeeping. Therefore it would be reasonable to assume that the pressures they place the population of a hive assuredly take a toll on the hives longevity.
    That being said I do tend to agree that Varroa get a greater blame in the equation of colony failure than they actually guilty of. Yes, They do play a role in any colony failure , However so do many other factors, some that the bees have dealt with for centuries.

    I do not think that every colony that has mites is doomed, nor do I think that every colony has mites. I have inspected man that are completely mite free! for how long who knows.

    There has to be some measure of management be it a natural approach, or a scientific one. for bees to continue under human husbandry, we must follow some sort of logical regiment. The division will be how much time one has, or desires to put into managing and or caring for the bees.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
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    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
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    Default Re: Certain cause of death

    Keep your mites in check in whatever way you feel is personally proper and losses will be minimal and attributable to other causes such as starvation and disease.
    Mark Berninghausen To combat Ebola, please consider supporting http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org


  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
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    Herrick, SD USA
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    Default Re: Certain cause of death

    Joe: Good questions and observations. Having kept bees long before varroa here are my experiences pre varroa.
    Yes some years our losses were pretty high. We used mostly packages and southern queens and wintered most on location in South Dakota. Late summer dearths followed by severe winters would take their toll. We had no regular requeening schedule so drone layers were pretty common to see. AFB was a serious problem as well as were insecticides such as Penncap, and parathion, just to name a couple and a highly unregulated farming culture where virtually any chemical could be purchased and applied by any farmer or rancher.
    We always hauled 4 to 500 south each fall to split and supplement our packages. It used to be almost any hive you moved down south in the fall would be a boomer by late March. Now that we are palletized we move them all but don't necessarily end up with hives as good as those wintered up north pre varroa.
    Perhaps one needed to experience beekeeping pre varroa to understand the profound change that varroa brought to beekeeping. Many operations went out of business many others took desperate measures. Beekeepers weren't given many tools to work with though. Government agencies talked more about what we shouldn't do than what we could.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  8. #8
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    Feb 2005
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    Tucson, Arizona, USA
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    Default Re: Certain cause of death

    Aha, I think I'm finally realizing what's going on with my bees and Varroa.

    As many others have mentioned, most of my hives in late summer/early autumn have their populations drop drastically. This could, quite possibly, be due to Varroa. I believe that if my local winter temperatures were any colder than they are, I'd likely lose many more colonies to what would look like starvation.
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
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    Reno, NV
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    3,072

    Default Re: Certain cause of death

    When you are present at every fatality. you are no longer an innocent bystander.
    Ass for what came before. I have reading in one old book the comment that bees did not have much in the way of diseases. Langstroth comment quite a bit about concerns for the wax moth. other than that it was overwintering ventilation and starvation as far as I can tell.
    Stand for what you believe, even if you stand alone.

  10. #10
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    Dec 2005
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    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
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    Default Re: Certain cause of death

    DanielY,
    Maybe the reason why diseases weren't noticed as a problem and wax moths were could be the actual level of knowledge and recognition of the diseases. I don't have my Diseases,Pests, and Predators book handy, but I am sure there is a time when AFB was recognized. Before that hives may have died from AFB or EFB and then wax moths destroyed the combs and got the blame for killing the colony when it was the disease that caused the death.

    People today blame wax moth when wax moth are actually an indicator of a problem, not the problem itself.
    Mark Berninghausen To combat Ebola, please consider supporting http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org


  11. #11
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
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    Solano, California, USA
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    1,380

    Default Re: Certain cause of death

    Quote Originally Posted by sqkcrk View Post

    People today blame wax moth when wax moth are actually an indicator of a problem, not the problem itself.
    I also have heard this "blame the wax moth" comment more often than you would believe. It's just a statement based in ignorance of bees and their "predators."

    Not wanting to step into the evolution vs creation debate here but I am a firm believer that whatever path you believe on those subjects the wax moths were either created or "developed" as one of the best methods to clean up combs that are either diseased or are old enough to harbor pathogens that would be better turned into a pile of WM castings anyways......all for the safety of the neighborhood.

    On one hand I hate the suckers but on the other hand I understand their purpose in keeping us off of the "chem" trail.

    The logical conclusion of this makes me think that if I had the funds to do so I would "dispose" of ever comb I ever build on its 7th anniversary.

    Out of here.......... time to do my part to up the anti in the global warming debate and burn some frames........

    Does anyone know if frames over 7 years old fit into the category of "fossil fuels?"

    Guess i'm gonna have to ask my local state senator to write a bill giving my "breaks" for reducing global warming when I let the wax moths eat them instead of burning them. Any other local beeks up for taking a trip to Sacramento to "wax" the palms of those who can get this done?

  12. #12
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    Nov 2011
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    Rader, Greene County, Tennessee, USA
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    6,369

    Default Re: Certain cause of death

    > Does anyone know if frames over 7 years old fit into the category of "fossil fuels?"

    In my book, wooden frames and beeswax & cocoons are "renewable" fuel sources. Use the correct wood in your replacement frames, and you too can be "certified".
    Graham
    --- Practical reality trumps philosophy!

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
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    Pleasant Shade, TN
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    454

    Default Re: Certain cause of death

    This may be a really ignorant question, but what if taking the majority of honey stores causes the rapid decline? For instance, if my family was gathering the food necessary to support "x" amount of members, new members came and gathered "x" amount of food to support another "x" amount of members, and then all of a sudden the food was taken away. Wouldn't it be a natural reaction for my household to lose a substantial number of members?
    I wonder if leaving a super of honey on top of them at honey harvest would perhaps lead to a different outcome? Honey is their natural food, not sugar syrup. Of course, bees also decline in response to a declining nectar flow due to brood reduction.
    I'm sure mites and the other notorious pests compound the problem, but leaving honey for them instead of harvesting it all is just a thought.
    Please, don't blow me out of the water.
    A man is worth just as much as the things about which he busies himself- Marcus Aurelius

  14. #14
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    Jan 2009
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    Grosse Ile, Michigan, USA
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    Default Re: Certain cause of death

    Quote Originally Posted by Joseph Clemens View Post
    Aha, I think I'm finally realizing what's going on with my bees and Varroa.

    As many others have mentioned, most of my hives in late summer/early autumn have their populations drop drastically. This could, quite possibly, be due to Varroa. I believe that if my local winter temperatures were any colder than they are, I'd likely lose many more colonies to what would look like starvation.
    If its not varroa causing the drastic drop, what is it? All colonies experience adult population decrease in the fall as a result of dearth and queen slowdown, but its the sudden and uncontrolled downward death spiral that I see so often at that time of year. Its simply not normal. A hive with no queen problems should not go from a single deep and 4-5 mediums stuffed full of bees to the top in July, down to just a couple frames of bees in the deep in a couple months, and then proceed to completely die off by late November/early December regardless of how well provisioned they are. I see this repeat itself over and over every year. Most of my hives are not surviving for a full 12 months from start to finish. No, I don't treat. My opinion is that we are losing the battle against the varroa mite. I used to be able to keep hives alive for 2-3 years without any treatment. When I read on the forum about all the losses that parallel mine lately, I can only think that varroa is evolving into a much worse enemy than we originally thought it to be, and at the same time the honey bee is offering much less resistance to the mites effects. Double trouble.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Hamilton, Alabama
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    1,212

    Default Re: Certain cause of death

    While I had a few colonies of bees in 1969, I was a serious hobby beekeeper from 1976 until tracheal mites wiped me out in 1988. I bought some bees and got some Buckfast queens until varroa wiped me out again in 1993. I also had to burn colonies for AFB, saw chalkbrood a few times, found EFB in one colony, and stone brood (fungal disease) in another. The major hurdle to beekeeping pre-1985 was AFB. It could be controlled with terramycin so most beekeepers just treated in the fall and ignored it otherwise. Honey crops were far more reliable because it was easy to keep bees alive. I could set out a dozen empty boxes in early spring and catch a dozen swarms from feral colonies.

    So how are things different today? Well, I don't have to worry about AFB. I haven't seen it since about 1995 or so when I helped a friend inspect and re-queen some colonies. We burned a large colony of bees that day and buried the remains deep. What happened to AFB? Feral colonies were wiped almost entirely out by varroa which eliminated disease being brought into my managed colonies from the ferals. The guy with AFB in 1995 had purchased some bees in very old equipment pre-dating varroa by at least 10 years. I keep an eye out for diseases as I work my bees, but have not seen anything in the intervening years.

    I have varroa tolerant bees now so varroa is not on my radar screen.
    DarJones - 44 years, 10 colonies (max 40), sideliner, treatment free since 2005, 11 frame broodnest, small cell

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
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    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
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    Default Re: Certain cause of death

    Keep in mind that if we track the growth of a colony of bees in a hive over a year and then also the growth of the population of the varroa mites in a hive and you graphed both you would see two arches running somewhat parellel to each other. And along w/ the varroa mites, nosema spores and viruses gaining a foothold and growing in numbers, doing their damage.

    So seeing growth in brood and adult population numbers and then what appears to be quick decline is what should be expected, considering the effects of the stressors of mites, viruses, nosema, and pests like SHBs place on a colony of honeybees.
    Mark Berninghausen To combat Ebola, please consider supporting http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org


  17. #17
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    Dec 2005
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    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
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    Default Re: Certain cause of death

    "What happened to AFB? Feral colonies were wiped almost entirely out by varroa which eliminated disease being brought into my managed colonies from the ferals."

    Varroa wipes out colonies before AFB gets a chance to do its work. I suspect.
    Mark Berninghausen To combat Ebola, please consider supporting http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org


  18. #18
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    Dec 2008
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    syracuse n.y.
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    Default Re: Certain cause of death

    Quote Originally Posted by Honey-4-All View Post
    Does anyone know if frames over 7 years old fit into the category of "fossil fuels?"
    looking at all the articles recently I would think they would be considered hazardous waste, and you would need placards on your truck to move them
    mike syracuse ny
    I went to bed mean, and woke up meaner. Marshal Dillon

  19. #19
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    Feb 2006
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    Herrick, SD USA
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    Default Re: Certain cause of death

    Crediting the virtual disappearance of AFB to varroa is an interesting theory. The timeline does seem to match up pretty closely and yes wax moth would in fact render the remaining comb uninhabitable. Hmmmmmm. Interesting. My hatred of wax moth is beginning to dissipate somewhat.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
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    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
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    Default Re: Certain cause of death

    W/ the abandonment of apiaries by some commercial outfits not finding someone to take over for them and by hobbyists giving up over frustration over continuous losses seems like there aught to be more AFB out there. But, maybe varroa kills the bees leaving the comb to wax shb and wax moth to clean up.
    Mark Berninghausen To combat Ebola, please consider supporting http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org


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