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Moving Bees, Smothering Mites

Date: Sun, 29 Mar 1998
From: Andy Nachbaur
Subject: Re: Moving Bees, Smothering Mites, Etc.

Hi xxxxx and All Beekeepers,

xxxxx, I always enjoy your comments and scientific reports and appreciate your help but expect different then what I read here from any scientist…beekeeper or not. My comments are critical but not to be taken personal and should and could be applied to many in the bee science community who use the tired old refrain “more scientific study needs to be done before I will accept any opinion”, which seems to talk down to us poor lousy bee folks who are not near as dumb as we may pretend to be to the tax man or bee regulator and only express our opinions here based on personal thinking and experiences.

I believe we all have a right to express our opinion, and I respect yours as I do the newest poster to this list or the guy with no hives who is just thinking about keeping bees. At the same time I expect that these opinions right or wrong can and should be challenged by others with differing views, but do not accept that one opinion is necessarily wrong because scientific research has NOT been done to show it to be right. It would be far better if an opinion was wrong because research or experience had a different result and would be good reason to change anyone’s opinion but not because science has not researched the subject yet or even plans to in the future which in most things is not the case.

The continual challenge of any beekeeper’s opinion because of the lack of science does not add anything to resolving problems and changes only the few with flexable opinions and in my opinion is the wrong path that so many scientists seen to need to use, maybe only to express their own lack of practicable experience or knowledge. I do agree that more scientific study of bees is needed but because of this attitude expressed by so many of the bee scientists for many years in the US I see little real beekeeper support for increased or even continuing public funding of it. I talk often to scientists who are just entomologists and chi mists, or you name it and none of them talk down to me or any beekeeper because they recognize the vast experience and knowledge beekeepers have in cross dimensional fields of scientific interests and value the kind of hands on type of experience most beekeepers have. We solve problems everyday without academic or scientific help and live with those we can not solve. An exception would be those beekeepers who use this list as most are “friendly” to bee science and I think their opinions should be treated with a little more…difference…will lets say a little different from the average every day beekeeper who would never read a scientific bee paper and would like them all removed from the beekeeping journal’s and put into their place in the entomology journals which at the least would give them more exposure to real critics with doctorates.

It should be stated that much seen here does seem to leave this list and make its way to the real world.

I question why is it that so often if any beekeeper would suggests a common action such as “MO smothering mites” without citing chapter and verse of science text it always brings on the rhetoric “more research is needed”? The truth may well be that “oil kills mites” or “essential oils kills mites” and for most beekeepers who have a problem today this is all they need or want to know. If it does not, they will also know that soon enough and more times then not long before any scientific research can be done as most science require years of planning before anything positive is even started and then there is no guarantee that the solution will match with the original problem. This is the problem of the bee scientists but does little to address my problems which are today’s problem and may or may not be a problem years from today. There are not enough bee scientists to expect that in any beekeepers ten lifetimes every idea, problem or anything else bothering us as beekeepers will ever be run as an scientific experiment and some things we will always have to do because of our own experience or that of other beekeepers. These things are no less the right thing to do because science has not approved of them first then those that have been approved by scientific testing…much of which is never used by anyone else including other scientists who’s interest may only be in proving the first scientist wrong anyway.

At the same time to cite lack of science and then cite lawful speed limits of astronomical values without any reference to any laws and in which states is hard to understand. (not to say you are wrong)

I am NOT a scientist just a reader and at many times what I read I do not remember it as it was written so I always try to indicate what I write is my opinion on what I may have experienced or heard from others or even read,,, but I expect more from those with doctorates working with bees as it is hard to tell the difference from their personal opinion from
scientific facts when so many times what a beekeepers writes is challenged because his opinion or experience lacks scientific research. I want to believe the science is correct, but if it is mixed with opinion that I have not found by experience to be the way it is in my small world then a problem develops with believing the science part. And I know from experience that some scientists in beekeeping are not honest in their own work, as in some “killer bee” research.

Having been a commercial beekeepers and I have always been one and I can say for a fact that the majority of bees in the US that are moved long distances are moved by common agricultural carriers who specialize in transporting bees. The bee hives are netted to keep the bees from flying off the load and causing problems. These trips are planned with NO stops for fuel or food during daylight hours other then emergency except when the weather is so cold the chance of any bees coming out is null.

During dry or warm weather movement arrangements are made ahead of movement for watering stops. Some carry special equipment to make watering fast and easy, others make arrangement for the use of them at pre arranged water stops. Something that I have not seen much written about is what beekeepers do before loading the hives and this includes some very efficient watering systems that vary from beekeeper to beekeeper. I have helped load many truck loads of 400-500 hives of bees most of the time without the need for a veil because of the better watering systems in use today.

NO not everyone follows the shippers instruction but these drivers are soon found out and eliminated from moving bees. And for sure some beekeepers just throw a load on the truck with little care for the bees that fly off and are lost or sting every living thing for miles around. We all pay a price for this small minority and they sometimes find themselves and property wrapped up in damage suits that no one really wins.

I know of no states that allow 85 mile per hour speed limits for these commercial carriers that move the majority of bees cross country, but I am not current with the laws and many of you know more on this subject then I and would like you to cite those highways or states for me that commercial trucks can go 85 so I will know and can inform others as they would be interested if not down right shocked to think anyone driving with a 50,000 pound cargo of bee boxes would or could legally travel that fast.

How may loads of 400 to 500 hives have you moved, helped to load, or hired moved in the last ten years? It seems to me that if we applied the same scientific principals to the work so many others are doing we would serve our selfs and others well. I am sure it was not intend to say we are doing it all wrong because we do not have the scientific research needed to prove we are right. We do have a very good success ratio and having bees die in transit from suffixation is not one of our worry’s today or even a minor problem in moving bees for the majority of the bees and beekeepers who move them. More hives of bees are lost in traffic accidents and they are, thank
God, rare.

Beekeepers have been watering bees for as long as they have been moving them, in fact the cost of shipment of bees by train in the old days when this was the preferred method always included the added cost for one person to go along with the bees to water and care for them. Even the first chartered air fright of bees had a bee man to care for them. I know of no scientific research to show this extra care was necessary or do I see the need for it today but I am positive that beekeeper experience of that day gleaned them the knowledge to judge for themselves what was necessary to ship their bees. It was easy to see when the cargo doors were opened on that early air plane and sugar ran out that was not the way to do it and expect the plane to make many trips. So walk in or dry sugar feeders were used. Around here in the old days when bees were moved with a team of mules water was also hauled for the animals and bees. Movement was at night and during the day the team was released from the wagon to graze away from the flying bees. One of the old time honey plants around here was named by beekeepers because it grew so high it was a real job to recover the animals when it was time to hitch them back up to the wagon loaded with bees. This is “Jackass Clover”, now a rare plant because it grew on flood plain land that is now cultivated. It produced in the late summer or fall a very large crop of light colored mild flavored honey. I have seen it grow so high that I would have to climb on top of the cab of the truck to find the bee yard.

This I only add to make a point that beekeepers have some experience moving bees without the benefit of up to date scientific research. I have left out telling of those who moved their bees up and down the Sacramento river system from blooming field to blooming field and how they over come their problems for another story.

All one has to do is find at the end of his bee movement trip a large number of his bees are dead to know something different needs to be done. The fact is that today I see no problem with the way we are moving bees as far as the health of the bees is concerned, interesting but not something I would like to spend my time and money on.

At the same time it would be very productive to work out the bee environmental problems that have been experienced in hauling bees enclosed in a refrigerated van as that would contribute to the next advance in moving bees when the public could be 100% protected from exposure to bees, out of sight out of mind. I guess it could be said it is needed to do the basic research on the netted loads to advance to the van stage of the future.

>As far as I can determine, the notion that Mineral Oil smothers
>mites is a “guess” promulgated by this list. It seems to be
>derived from the fact that Vaseline smothers mites.

Well what I have read is a little different from what you have read and I know of no reason for the readers of this list to “promulgate” anything, but their own personal opinions which I am sure comes from much more then reading this list and includes some experience in many walks of life other then beekeeping or beekeeping science, I call it common sense by virtue of life’s little experiences.

>Studies of various oils and greases have come up with other
>explanations. My first guess was that the bee became too
>slippery to hold on to (I’m joking).

It may be a joke to you but it was not to the people (bee scientists) who proposed this as the mode of control with other substances . I hope they have a sense of humor, of course they were not American and we all know all others can not be trusted in beekeeping science especially those in India who may have had the vampire mite a few years more to study then we have but have such a poor record with hive bees.

> A better guess may be that the oil or grease interfers with the
>ability of the mite to properly find and identify its host (with
>some pretty good evidence that this is the case for the blind
>tracheal mite).

Here we go again with “guess” work from a “Bee Scientist”, but from an lowly bee keeper it would become a “joke” or group hysteria, I know you did not want it read that way but that’s how I could read it.

>Using enough oil to physically smother the mites would be
>pretty messy – and I would expect that much oil to be obviously
>harmful to bees.

Well for a fact I have looked at these small mites under low power and small amount of material applied to them does make them look a mess. It would take very little to smother them at least none I looked at lived, and to the human eye would not be a detectable mess. Have you done research on this or even looked at live mites in the lab on a greased slide so they could not move out of view or are you just speaking “beekeeper talk” and not scientific facts?

>Anyway, I am prepared to keep the subject open until someone
>shows me the results of well designed experiments aimed at
>properly identify the mechanism(s) involved.

That’s nice of you, I hope you will let us know when your satisfied….but don’t be disappointed if we don’t wait for you….hardly a satisfactory answer to the beekeeper who has a problem today and looking for todays solution. I would guess there will always be a difference between the way someone with a problem looks at that problem and any solution and the doctor looking for a proper scientific treatment, especially if one life style is suffering or could suffer because of the problem.

>Unlike most commercial beekeepers, we drove during the day
>and stopped for a few hours at night.

I have been on the road with bees as many as 200 nights and days per year and never have met a beekeeper, commercial or otherwise, that stops during the day except in an emergency or a pit stop when moving bees. I have met many at truck stops across the nation during the night when we stop for fuel and food but believe me the norm is to drive during day light hours, even some have been know to have two drivers while others have two log books so they don’t have to stop for sleep. But I am sure you are telling the truth, just not sure you are right about the putting this label on all or any commercial beekeepers as the many I know do not plan on stopping during the day and all the problems that causes for their bees and the public. We are not scientists but we do know the difference between right and wrong and burden 100% of the responsibility for our own actions when it comes to working with our bees or the actions of those who work for us.

> Why? Because the bees can’t thermo-regulate properly when the
>truck stops during the day. They can fan, but need water and lots
>of air movement. At night, when the sun is no longer beating down
>on the boxes, they have a chance of cooling (don’t need as much
>air flow) – if they can get water.

Interesting, but very old information…and one only need a small amount of common sense and not a doctorate to figure this out I hope.

>One lesson that we learned very quickly – refueling stops during the
>day are when things can quickly escalate out of control. Pull in to a
>fuel station, stop, and the temperature begins to climb in less than
>5 minutes (down right scarey). In our case, we added a small
>generator and fan to move air through the load (during these stops
>or any roadside breakdowns). Without the fan system – don’t stop!

Proper every day normal pre bee movement planning would include amounts of fuel, coffee, sodas, and junk food so day time stops are not required. This is a no brainier for most beekeepers who move bees long distances. To add this kind of equipment to bee trucks would reduce the number of hives that could be carried and increase the cost per hive for every load moved. We are looking for things to increase our productivity not increase costs. Loss from breakdowns is very rare and any bee loss of bees is covered by cargo insurance that is required before any trucker moves bees commercially over the road. Beekeepers who move their own bees are assumeing this loss risk by not having cargo insurance. Most hives are now value at over $120. for cargo insurance coverage because so many are going to or from pollination jobs.

>Typically, the western part of the trip is hot and dry and water is
>critical. As we near the east coast with its high humidity, we
>sometimes had the opposite problem – the confined bees could
>literally drown in their own condensation. In fact, after three years,
>the only bees lost in transit were from excess moisture -

For sure when large amounts of bees expire due to suffocation their appears to be an excess of moisture. I have never tested it to see what it really was, heck I never even tasted it. In the old day when hives were screened top and bottom this moisture was thought to be nectar that splashed out and drown the bees but in most cases I am sure this was not true but in some I am also sure it was as I did taste it once and it was nectar. I can tell you from experience and for a fact it matters not what the condition or humidity of the air is as all bee suffocation have this excess moisture appearance in common even in areas of little or no humidity such as the highs of the Rocky mountains or the arid southwest.

>overnight move of only a couple of miles. So, when working under
>humid conditions, be sure to provide plenty of ventilation and keep
>that air moving.

The rule beekeepers should remember is that cold bees can be revived but seldom are overheated ones and even if they live don’t have much value…Cold bees will fall down in a package bee cage but this seems not to harm them and they do not smother because of it and will get back up when warmed up. When hot bees drop and smother each other and they are dead and don’t get up.

ttul, Andy-
Los Banos, California

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