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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Location
    Redlands, CA USA
    Posts
    101

    Default Drone comb loaded with mites

    I checked my back yard top bar hive which was started with a feral swarm. It seems to be doing well, though it has stopped expanding after filling about two thirds of its four foot length. I have harvested about a bar of honey over each of the last two months, and added a bar to the brood nest 4 times. Yesterday I pulled a heavy bar of capped honey--the bottom third was drone comb. I was a little surprised to find 2-4 mites on each of the drone larvae.

    I haven't done an alcohol wash. Does the count in drone brood correlate with a dangerous level of varroa indicating need for treatment? How effective is drone comb culling in controlling mites?
    9 months, 12 colonies, TF (so far)

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Algoma dr. Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    717

    Default Re: Drone comb loaded with mites

    I think it is high. Worker cells will be lower rate of infestation than the drone cells, but in my climate with cool spring I think that load of mites would really slow down buildup. Here is a pic of some drone comb I culled in August. Did not find any visible mites. The culling was mostly to check the effectiveness of the OA vaporization I did in April.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Grosse Ile, Michigan, USA
    Posts
    2,831

    Default Re: Drone comb loaded with mites

    What I would do if I found that many mites on the drone brood as you did, is take your capping scratcher and go throught the hive and scratch open all the drone brood so the bees will remove them and the mites.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    fairfield,ohio
    Posts
    672

    Default Re: Drone comb loaded with mites

    Remove the drone comb and freeze it

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand
    Posts
    5,847

    Default Re: Drone comb loaded with mites

    If 25% of drone larvae have a mite in them, at that level it is likely that 6% of worker brood will have mites in them.

    But you have to sample around 100 drone cells because the mites can "cluster" in one small area of comb and give a wrong reading in a small sample.

    The 25% drone brood infestation is considered a critical level for the hive, the level at which many textbooks recommend the hive is treated. For you though, it is a simple matter to remove the drone brood thereby removing a good portion of the mites. As above, the comb can be discarded, or frozen then returned to the hive.

    Just to complicate things , there is a body of thought in the treatment free community, that mite levels should be left to run their course in the hope that maybe the hive will throw off the mites. However if this is your only hive & you want to play safe you would treat it or at the very least remove drone brood and continue to monitor.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Aberdeen, Idaho
    Posts
    438

    Default Re: Drone comb loaded with mites

    You will need to completely remove the drone brood. If you just scratch them open and leave them in the hive the mites will crawl out of the opened cells and into another one faster than the bees can remove them.
    Dave

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Algoma dr. Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    717

    Default Re: Drone comb loaded with mites

    I have frozen complete deep frames of drone and returned it to the hive. It was a bad experience since the bees seem to dump most of the carcasses within a few feet of the entrance. That amounts to 4 or 5 pounds of stinking mess that attracts flies, ants, hornets etc. Even covering it with ashes the smell lingered for a long while.

    You can uncap and blow the larvae out with air hose or a water hose sharp spray nozzle but that is a bit of a mess too, including your glasses. I tried a few foundationless frames and they get drawn out quickly and you can just cut the whole slab out leaving a fringe on the top bar and throw it back in immediately. My chickens enjoy cleaning the comb for me!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Location
    Redlands, CA USA
    Posts
    101

    Default Re: Drone comb loaded with mites

    My fish pond took care of the drone larvae--no chickens. Are bees the gateway drug for chickens or vise versa?

    The section I removed was the only drone comb I saw and there had to be at least 300 mites in that section of about 150 cells with an estimated 90% infestation rate. Guess that means treatment, but I'll try my first alcohol wash tomorrow to confirm.

    Thanks for the responses.
    9 months, 12 colonies, TF (so far)

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
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    Redlands, CA USA
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    101

    Default Re: Drone comb loaded with mites

    Quote Originally Posted by Oldtimer View Post
    Too much coffee or something?

    Sorry for troubling you.
    Actually, too many beers after golf, apologies.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Location
    Redlands, CA USA
    Posts
    101

    Default Re: Drone comb loaded with mites

    Quote Originally Posted by jmgi View Post
    I think what we need here on the forum is a top notch entomological geneticist who can sift through all this speculation and give a once and for all answer. But something tells me that even then there will be some who think they know more than that person and will disagree.
    This ultimate arbiter is driven by pressures to publish and obtain funding. Forums are free, but don't pay well, or add to resumes. Fortunately, some knowledgeable folks do post, and those are a real treat, and appreciated.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Grosse Ile, Michigan, USA
    Posts
    2,831

    Default Re: Drone comb loaded with mites

    Not all are appreciated, especially when they disagree just for the sake of disagreeing, or maybe a grudge, or envy.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    Lakeland, FL USA
    Posts
    784

    Default Re: Drone comb loaded with mites

    .

    I'm backing Michael Bush's reasoning in this matter based on his results for the past 10 years of beekeeping - treatment-free - and almost 30 years of beekeeping previous to that - probably mostly treatment-free, as well, before the varroa arrived..

    .
    www.savebeesflorida.com (Honeybee removals and top bar hives)

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    Canada BC Delta
    Posts
    421

    Default Re: Drone comb loaded with mites

    I don't see that commercial colonies leave much room for drone production other than between frames. Breaking boxes apart could be considered a subtle form of culling.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Location
    Austin, Texas, USA
    Posts
    9

    Default Re: Drone comb loaded with mites

    The practial (read lazy) beekeeper would skip culling if the bees can thrive without it. Why not?

    On the micro-level, will the bees in your apiary become more hygenic or mite-resistant if you keep culling drone cells? --I guess I don't want to bring up the selective breeding argument again, but this seems logical to me. If they're dieing from mites, maybe they should die. There certainly are bees thriving without treatment/culling. That seems like ideal selective breeding to me.

    Lastly, I am convinced by those who say that the bees naturally prefer a certain percentage of drones/drone comb in the hive. I don't want my bees spending all their time/resources building new drone comb because I keep cutting it out making them feel unbalanced.

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