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  1. #1
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    Default Bee School Quandry

    How does one impart to new beekeepers – specifically those taking a Beekeeping 101 type class – that thinking Beekeepers take time to consider Pest/Parasite loads before deciding on a method of dealing with the pest/parasite?

    Please don't have this thread become a treatment/treatment free argument.

    What I'm after instead is a methodology that very inexperienced beekeepers can successfully adopt to follow an IPM strategy.

    For those not familiar with IPM (Integrated Pest Management,) the concept is in very rough terms 1) identify the pest/parasite/disease that is present, 2) determine a threshold of injury that you can live with, 3) develop an understanding of the life cycle of the pest/parasite/disease so that steps can be taken (cultural or chemical) to reduce their impact, once the economic threshold is passed.

    Beekeepers have a bit of an advantage in that Varroa and Nosema are predictable problems and tend to be annual in occurrence.

    I'm trying to avoid saying “you'd best treat for Varroa in August to help ensure that you have lots of healthy parasite free winter bees.”

    Many of the new beekeepers I work with are not interested in testing or making detailed observations, nor are they necessarily starting with bees that have any genetic ability to coexist with the pests/parasites/diseases in question.

    Please keep in mind that we are talking about people new to beekeeping and that simple often oversimplified answers are what are remembered.

    I'm tempted, and I caught myself a bit in class last night, to talk about beekeeping requiring a thorough understanding of both colony and individual bee life cycles, so that when confronted with a pest/parasite/disease there is an understanding of the impact to the colony.

    A thorough understanding of colony/bee life cycles is beyond what can be taught in the limited time of a Beekeeping 101 class, especially when students are worried about 1) sourcing bees, and 2) are they going to get stung when they install their bees?

    Do you say “Welcome to the adventure and by the way there are intermediate and advanced classes on all these topics offered by our state Association and EAS.”

    As an instructor I want my students to succeed in beekeeping, to keep their bees alive through the winter, making some surplus honey along the way.

    I don't want to say “3/4 of you will find yourselves with dead hives next spring.”

    Thoughts?
    Master Beekeeper (EAS) and Master Gardener (U Maine CE) www.beeberrywoods.com

  2. #2
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    Northern Virginia
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    Default Re: Bee School Quandry

    Then teach IPM. That's what we do.
    We have a 7 week class. One class is pests and diseases. The next week that is followed up with an overview of IPM, multiple sampling techniques and multiple treatments. We also bring in our regional inspector when we can to teach that disease class.
    karla

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Bee School Quandry

    @Karla - thank you for your thoughts. Teaching IPM is what I do. My quandary comes about because I see students not instituting IPM and instead treating according to the calender.

    I'm not sure why students don't test - uncertainty with how to perform tests, reluctance to kill bees (alcohol wash), uncertainty of how to use the results, or a general belief that beekeeping shouldn't be so hard.

    A 7 week class sounds luxurious with less pressure to shoehorn what I think of as fundamental knowledge into the class. We do six classes which includes a field day. Participation in the field day (which comes months after the class) is not very high and a lot of time is spent reinforcing id skills - this is worker brood, this is bee bread etc. Perhaps the answer is to recruit a number of instructors to do a very comprehensive field day where students practice IPM observations and testing as well as things like how to light your smoker and keep it going.

    I see some Bee Schools that operate on a single weekend afternoon and others that meet for 2 or 3 evenings. I wonder if they are skipping reams of material or are simply more effective teachers than I am.
    Master Beekeeper (EAS) and Master Gardener (U Maine CE) www.beeberrywoods.com

  4. #4
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    Nov 2012
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    Springfield, Ohio, USA
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    Default Re: Bee School Quandry

    It sounds as if the main tension here is between your desire to share your love of beekeeping with the realities of doing so successfully. More to the point, you want to do the best by your students and the bees that you can possibly do.

    Let me ask you this: How would you feel if someone sold you a new car based on all the 'features', and then you later found out the hard way that it required high test gasoline, regular tuneups, frequent tire rotations and storage in a heated garage?

    There are ways in which you can lead them to where they need to be. In the end, it comes down to an approach with which you are comfortable. Were I in your situation, I would be sure to give the students the basics, with details, and help them to understand the ideal situation (brood cycle, etc.). I would do my best to make sure that they understand these to a reasonable degree. I would let them know that this is an ideal situation, and that you'll be adding more to the mix soon. I would then add mites, nosema and varroa, etc. to the mix once I was sure that they had the basic understanding. I don't teach about bees, but I do teach a subject that is difficult for some. I have learned that all of us in the room together have a much more meaningful experience if the basics are learned first, followed by the realities and details. (Note: there is a saying about leading a horse to water......)

    In the end, your role as a responsible instructor comes down to giving your students the knowledge they need to succeed, and it certainly sounds like you are focused on being the most responsible instructor you can be.
    Pete. New 2013, 7 hives, zone 6a
    To study and not think is a waste. To think and not study is dangerous.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Bee School Quandry

    I feel your pain. I've taught an annual beginning beekeeping series for over a decade now. You cannot possibly teach all of the things that are essential to long term success in a beginnner's series. The information is overwhelming. I encourage them to continue learning, find an experienced mentor, join a club and avoid the internet .

    My second lecture (January) I informally call 'the dark side of beekeeping'. Pests, parasites, IPM strategies and treatments. And in August (the last session) we do a beeyard workshop where we actually test for mites and again discuss strategies.

    And a year or so later I'll get a call from a former student wanting to buy replacement bees as they ignored or forgot the lessons and their colonies finally collapsed.

    If those were the only students I heard from again....I'd surely have given up. But there are those others. Those who actually test. Those who actually follow their personal treatment philosophy and do so armed with knowledge. Many who continued to educate themselves and have become excellent and successful beekeepers. I will confess that they are the minority but a large enough minority to restore my spirit.
    Dan www.boogerhillbee.com
    Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards

  6. #6

    Default Re: Bee School Quandry

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Dewey View Post
    My quandary comes about because I see students not instituting IPM and instead treating according to the calender.
    If none of your students ever follow your advice....then you should review your lessons.
    If some do but many don't....I think you can apply the old adage....you can lead a horse to water.
    Many people go into beekeeping but only a few really develop a passion. Nothing you can do will make that different...in my opinion.
    Dan www.boogerhillbee.com
    Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards

  7. #7
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    Feb 2012
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    West Bath, Maine, United States
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    Default Re: Bee School Quandry

    Teaching beekeeping without bees is a tough job. It has to be like teaching a cooking class without ingredients, stirring pretend flour.

    What I walked away with from my class was that the instructor really liked beekeeping. That and your job as a keeper is to observe. You may not understand what you are seeing, that is what your reference materials are for. If you do not really see the hive, why are you keeping?

    You can't bring bees to class, what about videos? A video with an explanation is way ahead of you tube.
    4 yrs, Peak 14, back to zip, T lite; godfather to brother's 3.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Bee School Quandry

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Dewey View Post
    I see some Bee Schools that operate on a single weekend afternoon and others that meet for 2 or 3 evenings. I wonder if they are skipping reams of material or are simply more effective teachers than I am.
    I think that regardless of how much information is presented....in such a short period of time only a small fraction can possibly be retained......those crash courses do a disservice to aspiring beekeepers....in my opinion.
    Quote Originally Posted by Saltybee View Post
    Teaching beekeeping without bees is a tough job.
    I think it is impossible without. I am currently running two parallel classes...one just north of Atlanta and one in Athens. The Atlanta class had their first beeyard workshop on Sunday. I demonstrated opening a hive and removing a frame. I passed out hive tools and the students did the rest. They went through 5 hives...down to the bottom boards in two hours. And they did an excellent job. No amount of lecture could possibly replace that experience. One student came up to me after class and stated that she couldn't imagine me allowing a bunch of total newbies to disassemble and reassemble my hives. I told her....that's what those hives are for.
    Dan www.boogerhillbee.com
    Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Bee School Quandry

    @Dan - I would dearly love to figure out how to do a course with hands on bee work as part of the primary course but I'm puzzled by how to time it effectively. Where we are I may get into my hives by the end of April - which is just about the time packages are being delivered. This area sees some intense commercial pollination with bees brought in to do the pollination. Why? Because our local bees don't have the weather conditions to build up the substantial populations required to be effective for pollination (wild blueberry primarily.)

    Bees are predictably available for working/manipulating from Mid-May through Mid-October. This summer season is primarily when people up this way earn their livings - leaving a long winter for things like bee schools. I'm going to devote some brain power to seeing how a summer bee school could work. I agree with Saltybee that trying to teach beekeeping without bees is tough.

    On another note - Barry has suggested moving this thread. I have no problem with that as long as folks still contribute to it.

    8F here this morning.
    Master Beekeeper (EAS) and Master Gardener (U Maine CE) www.beeberrywoods.com

  10. #10

    Default Re: Bee School Quandry

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Dewey View Post
    @Dan - I would dearly love to figure out how to do a course with hands on bee work as part of the primary course but I'm puzzled by how to time it effectively.
    I understand the quandry. My first beeyard workshops are tricky. The ten day forecast for last Sunday was 45F and overcast. I watched as the day approached....and lo and behold it changed and turned out well. My Athens workshop is scheduled for this Sunday....the ten day forecast looked awful but has since improved. As often as not these earliest classes have to be rescheduled. It often becomes a juggling act. It kills me. I need every nice day I can get in my beeyards and then the only ones we seem to get must be used for classes. But....it is a commitment.
    Our second beeyard workshops often coincide with the students getting their bees. It is a tight schedule and makes me extra crazy every spring.
    I was considering taking a couple of years off from teaching. Then, just this week, a former student came by to pick up a nuc box. He took the class a few years ago. He is a serious hobby beekeeper and by day a physician. Without any prompting on my part he said 'taking your class was the best thing I've done for myself in many years'. And in that moment my faith was restored....even if only momentarily.
    I don't know how you can do it in your world....but I cannot imagine doing it without hands on time.
    33F here at the moment....which is why I'm at the computer.

    PS if you do facebook and are interested I shared a few pictures from Sunday's class on my page....Booger Hill Bee Company
    Dan www.boogerhillbee.com
    Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards

  11. #11
    Join Date
    May 2013
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    Chattanooga, TN USA
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    Default Re: Bee School Quandry

    The root of the problem as I see it is that human beings are, by our natures, lazy. We don't do things we feel aren't necessary, and will take the easiest way of doing what we do have to do.

    When you tell them that they can go through and do a lot of work to determine conditions, or that you can just do it every October, people are going to take the easiest way and go by the calendar.

    The trick to getting them to do it the hard way is to play up the negative aspects of treating when you don't need to. Tell them about chemicals building up in the wax, tell them about the damage it can do to the bees, go through all the stuff that could go horribly wrong and play it up to some degree. Make it clear that treating when you don't need to is a bad thing, and something that you should avoid whenever possible.

    Liken it to getting a medical procedure done. You don't go getting chemo if you don't have cancer, you don't go on antibiotics when you don't need them, you don't go for exploratory surgery when there is nothing wrong, so same mindset you don't treat a beehive unless you know there is something there to treat because it won't do any good and it
    Beekeeper since 2013. Read my bee blog at:
    http://harrisonbayhoney.blogspot.com

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Bee School Quandry

    Quote Originally Posted by Edymnion View Post
    The trick to getting them to do it the hard way is to play up the negative aspects of treating when you don't need to. Tell them about chemicals building up in the wax, tell them about the damage it can do to the bees, go through all the stuff that could go horribly wrong and play it up to some degree. Make it clear that treating when you don't need to is a bad thing, and something that you should avoid whenever possible.
    This nicely sums up my frustration at treating by the calendar.
    Master Beekeeper (EAS) and Master Gardener (U Maine CE) www.beeberrywoods.com

  13. #13
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    Dec 2013
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    Austin, Texas
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    Default Re: Bee School Quandry

    I'm a relatively new beekeeper, 12 - 20 hives, well read, with advice available from a number of very experienced beeks. These are guys running treatment free or at most using soft treatments, and relying mostly on good genetics. After reviewing their IPM strategies applying 30 yrs of process analysis experience and running my thoughts by my wife with similar experience in adult education, I’ve adopted one that I believe works for inexperienced beeks.

    Screened bottom boards with an IPM insert and a 24 hour natural mite. All but one of these guys use solid bottom boards but, acknowledge the usefulness for those of us who can’t diagnose DWV with a casual glance at a landing board. The one who jokes that he’s “heard of screened bottom boards” had no debate on screened vs. solid, and said he’d recommend to leave the IPM board in for the Winter.

    Using Randy Oliver’s site, I developed a chart that indicates a conservative mite load (24 hour drop) on a full strength colony. A 3 day average increases count accuracy.

    I’m testing hives against these numbers this year but, at the moment this is a sample of what I’ve gathered:

    Month Count Note
    Jun 3-6 (above 18 = failure)
    Jul 4- 11 (above 35 = failure) /cull queens
    Aug 7-18 (above 75 = failure) select for next year’s breeder colony
    Sep 17-33 (above 150 = failure)

    I do believe that uncertainty with how to perform tests, reluctance to kill bees and uncertainty of how to use the results, are a major issue so we've tried to address that as much as possible.

  14. #14
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    Jun 2013
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    Default Re: Bee School Quandry

    Why not teach the importance of mite-level knowledge, by routinely teaching sticky board testing?

    New beeks can easily do sticky boards regularly throughout their first summer. It's dead simple to do, can be done without any disturbance to the bees (or killing them like with some of rolls). And the data, if done and recorded diligently, is a pretty good basis on which to make treatment decisions.

    I have read some controversy over interpreting the results, and you do have to understand the differences in what you're actually sampling, but if you're looking for something that has a decent chance of actually getting done by a new beek, then sticky boards will, when rolls won't.

    I'm not really interested in occasional tests, like once or twice a season. This tells you almost nothing, except on the (hopefully) rare instances when it confirms an imminent catastrophe. I think to get the most from sticky boards then weekly, 72-hour tests are the only way to go. Once you begin to build some data from tests done that frequently and begin to wrap your head around what the tests signify in terms of the varroa life cycles, then a new beek s engaged in the process.

    I am not even a 9-month beekeeper, and though I found out about sticky boards in late July last year, I truly wish I'd had them in place from Day One. (And they will be there for any new bees I get in 2014.) I read about rolls, first, and recoiled from both the idea of killing my bees AND from the "scariness" (to a new beek) of collecting enough live bees from the frames to do even a sugar roll. I really get a kick out of using the sticky boards, because it answers for me one of the mysterious, but crucial, questions of present-day beekeeping: what's happening with your mite levels? And it answers that question using a method that I CAN EASILY DO, so it builds my confidence in my bee-caretaking skills.

    Now, I have to 'fess up: I am also a vegetable farmer, and I do bug scouting (and some disease scouting, too) in my fields all summer long, sometimes every day. Scouting is monitoring by another name, and using different methods, but I already understood the goal: knowing when you're nearing the line where treating is imperative in order to forestall a certain level of crop loss. Scouting is a fundamental tool for using an IPM program (vs the spray by the calendar methods), but about 40% of the time it keeps me from treating, at all. And in almost all instances it reduces the amount of treatment I even consider doing.

    Every new beekeeper wants to be treatment-free, and I think this even more important to new beekeepers of the hobby or backyard sub-group. And there is a lot of what one of my correspondents recently described as the "pink fog" of wishfulness around TF. I think it (TF) can be done, but only by very skilled, pretty lucky, perhaps somewhat isolated, beekeepers. Which does NOT describe the average newbee, myself included. But the opposite of TF does not have to be a chemical stew in your hive. And that's where sticky-boarding can help: it not only can give you confidence about your bee skills, it can give you information about the levels of mites in your hives, and it powerfully counteracts any wishful thinking you've allowed to creep into your thinking because you're not "seeing" bugs on your bees, and as a new beekeeper you may not recognize some of the associated viral symptoms. But the boards don't lie. If you see a spike in your numbers that you've been collecting all season, something's up and it's time to face reality. But armed with that knowledge you still have choices, including not to treat at all if you are so inclined.

    In my case last summer, I was good until mid-September when my daily average went over the 12 mites/24 hr which wa threshold I decided to use for that part of my season. I treated that hive with Apiguard - and kept monitoring it and the others. Ten days later, a second hive approached that threshold and because I was running out of warm-enough weather I began to treat it, too. (Though I only got half the treatment done before cold weather ended it.) But my third hive, never got to the threshold level, so it has never been treated. All three are still alive and apparently doing OK. My alternative would have been to do nothing and just hope for the best since the level wasn't "catastrophic" and perhaps I would have lost the first hive. Or I could have treated on the basis of the calendar and dosed all three in August, on the principle of hatching healthy winter bees. Experience will teach me whether these were good choices, or not. But no matter what happens, it won't happening in the dark because I know what my mite numbers were, all season long.

    So if I was teaching Beekeeping 101 (though given my personal experience level it would have to be something on the level Beekeeping 0.009), I would teach sticky boarding right along with using a smoker.

    I really do see it not only as an information gathering tool for treatment decisions, but as a technique for building new beekeepers' confidence, because while it is clearly bee-related, it can be done even by Nervous Nellies who are still plucking up their courage to get "up close and personal" with their bugs. Mount your boards so they slide out from the back of the hive and you can even insert and pull the boards in the dark, so people who are away at work all day can still do good 72-hour counts during the week when they're not messing with bees like on the weekends. I happen to think disturbing a hive during a test clouds the results, so I don't run tests on any day when I've also got my paws in the hive, except to pull them before I start with the bees (at the end of a test period), or insert them after I'm done (to begin a new test period).

    Heck, I've even been doing continuous (though irregularly counted) sticky-boards all winter, and I'm in northern NY, with heavily insulated and packed hives so just getting to the slots is a complicated affair. That's how keen I am on sticky boards!

    Edited to add: you could teach sticky boarding hands on by collecting sticky boards from hives ahead of the class from friends or your own bees. Then people could learn to see a mite and learn how to do a count. That could be done in all weathers, so it would be attractive amidst a largely listen-to-the-lecture phase of the classes. The spread with oil and stick it in the hive part of sticky boarding can be shown with slides, but nothing beats sorting through a board of debris to find the mites for teaching you what you're up against!

    Enj.

    Minus 6 here on Wednesday at dawn, expecting lower still early Thursday. When will this ever end????

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Bee School Quandry

    Ah sticky boards. I need to revisit working with those. Where I am near the coast too much fog enters the hive through a screened bottom board to make sbb a worthwhile endeavor. But early on, as I recall, there were screens that went on top of solid bottom boards, with a sticky board underneath. They were never very popular - but getting folks to do washes is proving tough.
    Master Beekeeper (EAS) and Master Gardener (U Maine CE) www.beeberrywoods.com

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Bee School Quandry

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Dewey View Post
    - but getting folks to do washes is proving tough.
    You could show them how to pull drone brood with a capping scratcher. Maybe they'll feel better about killing drone pupae and not worker bees.

  17. #17
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    Jan 2009
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    Default Re: Bee School Quandry

    How do you personally define success for a new beekeeper?

    I also participate in helping educate beginners, and I am more concerned with them developing a strong interest and not getting discouraged than in what management system they use.

    IPM - great. Treating by the calendar - fine. Making increase to compensate for losses - that's good too. Becoming beeless because you never choose - fail. Since B is the simplest (and works), and I believe in keeping it simple that is what I recommend - because many beginners want/need a recommendation.
    Since '09-25H-T-Z6b

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
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    Bastrop TX USA
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    216

    Default Re: Bee School Quandry

    I am not yet a beekeeper, awaiting my first nuc. I attended a 1/2 day 101 class attended by 100 of my closest friends, which was, of course, very rudimentary and not personal. I am too far from any classes I have found and have been unable to find a local mentor.

    Thus, I feel somewhat on my own, but am not discouraged. Rather, I am looking forward to the experience and opportunity to learn as much as I can. In that learning quest (contrary to some opinions) the internet has been invaluable. I have come to regard BeeSource as my Mentor, and the information is fantastic. Yes, there is a lot of information, some good and some bad, but by reading everything I can find I should be able to winnow out the information I need. This thread particularly has helped me understand the importance of a regular regimen of testing and observation and not being a slave to a calendar.

    I agree that an opportunity to be hands would be wonderful, and that I will make mistakes, probably a lot, but what I find on BeeSource will definitely give me a head start.

    Thank You Everyone!

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Bee School Quandry

    @David - success for me is new beekeepers overwintering bees and making a honey crop in their second year. I would prefer they not treat by the calendar as I don't think treatments are sustainable long term and I have grave concerns regarding ag chemicals in general. I do not have great confidence that the current crop of hard chemicals will be effective 5 years from now, and I want nothing to do with the year they are found not to be effective. Not so much this year but in the past I have had students announce to me that they were going to be TF - perhaps I am trying to honor their intentions too much.

    You raise a very valid point - what is success and how do we get new beekeepers to be successful. Maybe my crunchiness is showing in my old age. I am not inclined to prophylactic treatments but I've been around long enough to know potential consequences and to have decided on options. AFB=fire as an example.
    Master Beekeeper (EAS) and Master Gardener (U Maine CE) www.beeberrywoods.com

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
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    Austin, Texas
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    118

    Default Re: Bee School Quandry

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Dewey View Post
    Ah sticky boards. I need to revisit working with those. Where I am near the coast too much fog enters the hive through a screened bottom board to make sbb a worthwhile endeavor. But early on, as I recall, there were screens that went on top of solid bottom boards, with a sticky board underneath. They were never very popular - but getting folks to do washes is proving tough.
    If the IPM / sticky board is left in place under an SBB, it essentially functions as a solid bottom board. BetterBee sells the inserts that sit over a solid bottom board as well. My experience with any sort of "board under a screen" is that it will require periodic cleaning or you'll be breeding SHB and wax moth.

    While I don't see the mite drop out of an open SBB as significant, I do see the a sticky board / screen as offering a simple non-invasive sampling method. Most of our newbees want to be chemical or treatment free and mistake that for doing nothing but are then unhappy that they lose their hives in the 2nd or 3rd year. Knowing their mite counts and what levels indicate a likely colony failure over the Winter lets them know where they are headed.

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