fixing a colony's microflora/ecosystem (practical experiences/studies)
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  1. #1
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    Default fixing a colony's microflora/ecosystem (practical experiences/studies)

    If I have a colony that's missing organisms that its supposed to have, how do I bring them back? What have people done to fix disturbed colonies, and what was the outcome? If I can't replenish all the missing organisms, what can I do to replace some of them?

    I've heard many stories of human C. diff. patients getting fecal transplants. Many patients say that a fecal transplant cured them, and nothing else had a comparable effect (including man-made probiotics). A lot of patients talk about having been on strong antibiotics before the transplant. Now that I know what works for humans, I would like to know what works for bees.

    Please share your experiences/experiments replenishing the organisms that benefit colonies. I would like this thread to mostly be about what people have done, and what the results were, but you may share studies you've found.

    search engine words: microbes microbial antibiotics bacteria micro flora microbiota biome microbiome treatments
    David Smolinski USDA hardiness zone 6b

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: fixing a colony's microflora/ecosystem (practical experiences/studies)

    I have never read or had described to me the symptoms that would lead me to believe I had a colony in that condition. My bees gut bacteria is the least of my beekeeping worries.

    The adult honey bee receives it's gut bacteria first through the colony food chain, so if I should become worried, I would introduce nurse bees from a colony that I believed to be in good condition. If the colony is deficient in pollen I would give it pollen frames or feed a supplement until pollen again became available in the field. If the colony is short on food I would exchange frames of honey/nectar, again taken from a colony in good condition.

    Don't worry about what is not a proven problem, you will have your hands full with just varroa mites.
    40 years - 25 colonies, 32 Nucs - IPM disciple - Naturally Skeptic

  4. #3
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    Default Re: fixing a colony's microflora/ecosystem (practical experiences/studies)

    Is this a joke? Anything you do would be considered a TREATMENT.

  5. #4
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    Default Re: fixing a colony's microflora/ecosystem (practical experiences/studies)

    The best way to restore or fix a colony with the good bacteria is to bring in a
    pollen frame or 2 from the good and strong colony. You don't have to brush off
    the bees on the frame. Then put in a pollen patty to get them going. I don't know if feeding patty
    is consider tf or not. Things should be back to normal again in a month or two.
    Don't mix foreign bees into a virgin hive. She might get balled 100% of the time! When will you ever learn, huh?

  6. #5
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    Default Re: fixing a colony's microflora/ecosystem (practical experiences/studies)

    My first post ever, here! You guys are great. Just wanted to post this video concerning the topic. I would call this treatment-free, maybe you all disagree?


  7. #6
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    Default Re: fixing a colony's microflora/ecosystem (practical experiences/studies)

    it's a very good question and touches on a subject that is not very well understood as of yet but one which may turn out to fundamental to bee colony health.

    i agree that it would be difficult to ascertain whether or not the microflora in the hive is nominal. and it's not just the microflora but also the other small invertebrates the hive hosts that likely play important roles as well.

    at this stage all one can do (and what i and others are doing) is to avoid introducing anything into the hive that has the potential to alter the biology in there, such as artificial feeds and chemical treatments.

    importing nurse bees, beebread, and honey frames from healthy hives makes sense and this is something that happens from time to time in the normal course of boosting weak colonies, making up splits, and spreading honey feed around as needed.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  8. #7
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    Default Re: fixing a colony's microflora/ecosystem (practical experiences/studies)

    I agree with adding a frame of bees/brood/pollen from a healthy hive. It should cover all the bases. You have what is in the bee bread, what is in the gut of the bees, anything specific to living on brood and any other microscopic mites etc.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  9. #8
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    Default Re: fixing a colony's microflora/ecosystem (practical experiences/studies)

    It makes sense that a frame from a strong healthy hive would innoculate a weak hive with microbes that might be lacking.

    The next question would be what negative microbes were present and will they be over run by the newly inserted frame.

    Additionally the question of where the bad stuff came from to start with. New package or nuc, or is this colony simply struggling against the same challenges your other colonies are thriving against?

    Would requeening be as effective, and is that the real reason a frame of brood helps so often?

  10. #9
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    Default Re: fixing a colony's microflora/ecosystem (practical experiences/studies)

    Quote Originally Posted by squarepeg View Post
    it's a very good question and touches on a subject that is not very well understood as of yet but one which may turn out to fundamental to bee colony health.
    I almost thought you said "...fundamental to bee COLON health." But actually, colon and colony are closer that you'd think.

    This paper just out, examining the gut microbes in the bumblebee. Probably quite relevant to the gut microbes in a honey bee.

    "Deep sequencing and ecological characterization of gut microbial communities of diverse bumble bee species.Plant diversity and ecosystem productivity: Theoretical considerations"

    Gut bacterial communities of bumble bees are correlated with defense against pathogens. Further understanding this host-microbe association is vitally important as bumble bees are currently experiencing global population declines, potentially due in part to emergent diseases.
    and

    Similar to honeybees, we found that bacteria in the ileum of the bumble bee species B. impatiens forms biofilms on the inside surface of the gut epithelium (Fig. 6). This suggests that bumble bee gut microbiotas may have specific functions in their hosts, such as providing nutritional benefits or defense against intestinal pathogens. Future research in these areas will have important implications for the conservation of corbiculate bees worldwide, as numerous species and populations are purportedly threatened by invasive parasites or deficient nutrition [71–73].
    The key to keeping bee populations stable is more than likely in the gut bacterial communities. Humans have a similar problem, caused by over-sterilization of foods and hands, antibiotic use, and eating a diet low in fiber. I have to wonder if all the feeding of sugar to bees is partly to blame for colony collapse and mite infestations. I've been looking at feeding trehalose instead of sugar, makes much more sense, I believe. Just way more expensive. Although it would be best to feed only the hive's own honey.

  11. #10
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    Default Re: fixing a colony's microflora/ecosystem (practical experiences/studies)

    Sometimes I've found a hive that has a coldness to it, or something not quite right, and wonder if maybe something is wrong with their bioflora, so I put a comb of pollen in from a different hive.

    Can't really say that it works or that my diagnosis was correct. Long as the donor hive is healthy can't hurt though.

  12. #11
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    Default Re: fixing a colony's microflora/ecosystem (practical experiences/studies)

    "If I have a colony that's missing organisms that its supposed to have, how do I bring them back?"

    What organisms is a colony supposed to have?

    How do you determine whether any of these organisms are missing?
    --shinbone
    (6th year, 14 hives, Zone 5b, 5500')

  13. #12
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    Default Re: fixing a colony's microflora/ecosystem (practical experiences/studies)

    This sounds like Housel positioning to me.

    For 45 years I hear nothing about needing to be concerned with a hive's "micro flora ecosystem" and now it is something I have to worry about?

    Maybe with the use of plastic foundation/frames it is a concern?

  14. #13
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    Default Re: fixing a colony's microflora/ecosystem (practical experiences/studies)

    Tim gave me an idea. I just got some bees. I killed a bumblebee, mixed it in some filtered water, and sprayed it on my new bees. Later, I plan on killing 3 more bumblebees, squishing them, and adding them to each of my 3 new colonies. My bumblebees look extremely healthy. I think this couldn't hurt, and its a one time thing for the greater good. I will boost some bumblebee colonies.
    David Smolinski USDA hardiness zone 6b

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    Default Re: fixing a colony's microflora/ecosystem (practical experiences/studies)

    Quote Originally Posted by SeaCucumber View Post
    Tim gave me an idea. I just got some bees. I killed a bumblebee, mixed it in some filtered water, and sprayed it on my new bees. Later, I plan on killing 3 more bumblebees, squishing them, and adding them to each of my 3 new colonies. My bumblebees look extremely healthy. I think this couldn't hurt, and its a one time thing for the greater good. I will boost some bumblebee colonies.
    What in the hell is going on here...? Bumblebee juice...?

  16. #15
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    Default Re: fixing a colony's microflora/ecosystem (practical experiences/studies)

    Quote Originally Posted by jwcarlson View Post
    What in the hell is going on here...? Bumblebee juice...?
    JW, it's the Bond Method of gene insertion. Only the strong genes will survive and be incorporated into the genome. ��

  17. #16
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    Default Re: fixing a colony's microflora/ecosystem (practical experiences/studies)

    SeaCucumber; What makes you think it couldn't hurt?
    40 years - 25 colonies, 32 Nucs - IPM disciple - Naturally Skeptic

  18. #17
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    Default Re: fixing a colony's microflora/ecosystem (practical experiences/studies)

    Quote Originally Posted by SeaCucumber View Post
    Tim gave me an idea. I just got some bees. I killed a bumblebee, mixed it in some filtered water, and sprayed it on my new bees. Later, I plan on killing 3 more bumblebees, squishing them, and adding them to each of my 3 new colonies. My bumblebees look extremely healthy. I think this couldn't hurt, and its a one time thing for the greater good. I will boost some bumblebee colonies.
    I am now convinced I need to be more selective in choosing the threads I read.
    I'm speechless.
    Last edited by clyderoad; 06-17-2015 at 04:55 PM. Reason: clarity

  19. #18
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    Default Re: fixing a colony's microflora/ecosystem (practical experiences/studies)

    this thread is a good example of trying to fix a unproven problem that may not even exist. most beginners would do better learning basic beekeeping vs this type of thread, just more computer beekeeping.

  20. #19
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    Default Re: fixing a colony's microflora/ecosystem (practical experiences/studies)

    Quote Originally Posted by SeaCucumber View Post
    Tim gave me an idea. I just got some bees. I killed a bumblebee, mixed it in some filtered water, and sprayed it on my new bees. Later, I plan on killing 3 more bumblebees, squishing them, and adding them to each of my 3 new colonies. My bumblebees look extremely healthy. I think this couldn't hurt, and its a one time thing for the greater good. I will boost some bumblebee colonies.
    Be sure to use filtered water. You wouldn't want any calcium or the other stuff that's in tap water to react with your Bumble bee guts and poop.
    A few years ago, "boost" was a euphemism for steal. You wouldn't want to admit to committing a crime in an open forum. Shhhhh!!!

    Anonymous
    Ten years of Beekeeping before varroa. Started again spring of 2014.

  21. #20
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    Default Re: fixing a colony's microflora/ecosystem (practical experiences/studies)

    Hmm, I agree with the sentiments that some people get off on the more whacky stuff before they learn some important basics, but some of the comments may be a little overly dismissive of the original proposition in the opening post.

    We know that gut microbes play an important part in human nutrition, even synthesising for us vitamins we need that we cannot synthesize without them. So why not bees?

    There is some science behind the idea that various microflora is beneficial to a beehive, here is a link to one study on it, this and some others changed my own opinion on the matter-
    https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-00890481/document

    The problem with this discussion is that in beekeeping, sometime grandiose claims are made by people pushing certain agendas. For example the claim that miticides are harmful because of the claimed 300 different species of symbiotic mites that supposedly can live with bees. When most of us just have to open a hive to see there are not 300 different species of symbiotic mites in there and it matters not a jot.

    Therefore we get dismissive of all these types of claims. As I was. But having read some actual science on it my personal belief is there are beneficial microflora in a hive that we are better with, than without.
    Last edited by Oldtimer; 06-17-2015 at 05:54 PM.

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