Mites Have Pushed Me To The Edge... I'm Jumping
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
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    St Albans, Vermont
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    Sad Mites Have Pushed Me To The Edge... I'm Jumping

    Yesterday, I went through my two top bars and opened the broodnest with a couple of empty bars. We've had a warm spring, and the bees are building up fast. There were a few bees with deformed wing early when brooding up first started, but overall, they look really good. I pulled a couple of old combs which still had foundation in them from when I first installed a nuc in 2010 . I also pulled a complete comb of capped drone brood.

    So I closed them up and then sat down with a couple of sharp tools and that drone comb in the sun. I opened every one of the cells and pulled the brood. Tons of mites. Tons. One thing that saddened me was how easy it is to miss them. The brood is easily destroyed, and it's white ooze will easily disguise a mite and you'll miss it. Another thing that I saw for the first time were white immature mites. In the bright sun, I saw a lot of them, and I had never noticed them before. pulling drones during an inspection and without really bright light, you'd never see them and count one adult mite, and miss the several others. Bottom line: Even if you're pulling drone brood, chances are you're not seeing a lot of the mites that are actually there.

    This is a hive that I hit with oxalic vapor in the fall. It wintered well, and appears to be booming now. But there they are: mites everywhere.

    So I sat there, covered in mite-ridden drone goo, with all the conflicting varroa information swirling around in my head. Decades into having mites in North America, and most of us still aren't even sure of how long an adult mite lives. Every expert tells a different story and has different advice on what to do. Even our "knowledge" of bee behavior varies so much from one person to the next. What do we actually know collectively? Anything? How much is universally agreed upon?

    So sitting there, I knew one thing: I don't know anything for sure, other than the fact that I have lots of bees, and I have lots of mites. I don't know if anything I've done over the last couple of seasons has done a bit of good. And then, in that mite-induced, near-insantity a voice spoke in my head.

    "They know what they're doing", it said.

    The bees know what they're doing. And with all the lack of clear understanding, and the impossibility of finding it in the collective wisdom of other beekeepers, I think it might be time for my beekeeping activities to turn as hard as they can in the direction of getting out of the bees' way.

    My original hive is now in its third season. My second is in its second. I have lang-based swarm traps out. I think I might just expand as much as I can this season. I have gear for three more top bar hives, six full 8-frame langstroth hives and ten 5 frame nucs. That would be 21 colonies of different sizes. All my brood frames are 1 1/4", and I haven't put in any foundation yet.

    I might just hang up my guns on this mite thing and just keep hunting bees with swarm traps and any cut-outs that come my way. Keep bringing in local bees and breed from whatever lives. No small-cell foundation, no brood trapping and scratching, no organic acids, or essential oils, no sticky boards or sugar dusting, no drizzling, or fuming or gassing or rolling. Maybe all the bees will die, but I guarantee that I'll save the cost of nucs in the labor time I'll save - particularly in the area of reading about how to deal with mites.

    I've been paying more attention to mites than bees and I'm tired of it.

    Goodbye, cruel mite-world!!!


    Adam
    Last edited by Adam Foster Collins; 04-28-2012 at 02:49 PM.

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    El Dorado County, CA
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    609

    Default Re: Mites Have Pushed Me To The Edge... I'm Jumping

    good for you! it's what i've done and i feel quite successful. all my bees didn't die and they're even expanding.
    another thing i've done is i've stopped grafting from limited hives i decided were best. to many of them would be boomers one year but not the next. this also lets the bees make more choices and do more of the work.
    now i split from all hives. those that can be split multiple times have gotten split multiple times through out the season.
    so in a way those that are more vigorous expand while those that aren't don't.
    when given star thistle make honey

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    Washington County, Maine
    Posts
    3,796

    Default Re: Mites Have Pushed Me To The Edge... I'm Jumping

    I feel your pain. I exchanged e-mails with the state apiarist for Maine yesterday and his mantra regarding mites is "test and treat." I have some yards that I will be doing that it in. I have two yards of Russians that I won't be treating, but they made hardly any honey last year and if they don't make substantial honey this year I will end that experiment. I just this week ordered 8 packages from Bee Weaver to see what these survivor bees are all about. They won't get treated and as best I can do I'll leave them alone. I won't look to get any honey out of them this year - but next they'd better produce. I'll be posting details of my adventures with survivor bees on my web site.

    Please keep us posted on how things end up for you with your new focus. I for one will be eager to hear how it goes.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    pomfret, ct,USA
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    162

    Default Re: Mites Have Pushed Me To The Edge... I'm Jumping

    Adam,

    Did you by any chance compare some capped worker brood to your Drone brood?

    I'm a newbie into my 2nd year with an overwintered hive. I watch my girls everyday.This spring I have seen lots and lots of Drone larvae and those more mature with DWV dead or dieing out side the hive. No where near that of the few worker brood bees showing problems. Based on my limited experience the Mites going for the Drone comb seems to hold true. That being said I'm formulating my IPM to include plucking capped Drone comb and interupting the queens laying cycle.

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    East Windsor, CT
    Posts
    328

    Default Re: Mites Have Pushed Me To The Edge... I'm Jumping

    Adam, I think that is a fantastic decision. I have recently done the same, for 1.5 years I have been treatment free and have been pleased with the results so far. Still early but so far so good. From everything in the journals and from anecdotal evidence it seems that the people who do not need to treat are the ones that have made the conscience decision to stop treating. I do not think the answer is another chemical, different equipment, or even different IPM techniques, but the answer lies in better bees. If varroa came in the 80's and noone treated anywhere, the bees would have developed a tolerance by now. No way mites would have wiped out the species. So I believe that you, me, and others like us are on the right track. Good work!

  7. #6
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Concord, CA
    Posts
    4,487

    Default Re: Mites Have Pushed Me To The Edge... I'm Jumping

    Hi Adam,
    Just make sure you don't have too many mites from July- fall, & you'll probably be fine. This time of year you're queen will hopefully lay fast enough to keep ahead of a mite population exploitation.
    We just use powdered sugar with good results, don't know if you have screen in the bottom of you're TBH
    Dan

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
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    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand
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    Default Re: Mites Have Pushed Me To The Edge... I'm Jumping

    Adam you mention foundation in your TBH. Are some of the TBH combs built on foundation?
    "Every viewpoint, is a view from a point." - Solomon Parker

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    St Albans, Vermont
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    2,273

    Default Re: Mites Have Pushed Me To The Edge... I'm Jumping

    Quote Originally Posted by Oldtimer View Post
    Adam you mention foundation in your TBH. Are some of the TBH combs built on foundation?
    When I first started the hives in 2010, I got a nuc on plastic foundation in lang frames. I cut them and attached them to top bars to start them. So they had four combs on foundation in each hive. I had two left. I put a new nuc in hive 2 last year, and this time made an insert for lang frames that allows a transition. So that hive has all natural comb in it.

    Adam

  10. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Grosse Ile, Michigan, USA
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    3,021

    Default Re: Mites Have Pushed Me To The Edge... I'm Jumping

    Adam, I have never treated so I don't have anything to compare to, but being treatment free and letting them draw natural comb has resulted in no losses due to mites over the last four years. I have had losses due to starvation, those being nucs that I tried to winter over for the first time and did not do it properly, my fault. I don't worry about mites, don't check for them at all, what I am going to do is continue to breed from my long term survivors. John

  11. #10
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    Jul 2010
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    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand
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    Default Re: Mites Have Pushed Me To The Edge... I'm Jumping

    OK.

    Anyhow, your first post is a very honest examination of the current situation, and probably puts into words a point a lot of new beeks come to at some stage.

    The "leave the mites alone" philosophy, appears to work for some, but for others has not. As your comb is likely a bit of a mix of types and cell sizes, I'm wondering if the other part of the equation, the bees, could be your best line of defence, ie, requeen with something like Beeweavers, with claimed mite resistance.
    "Every viewpoint, is a view from a point." - Solomon Parker

  12. #11
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
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    Calvert, Md,USA
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    1,692

    Default Re: Mites Have Pushed Me To The Edge... I'm Jumping

    Welcome to "being off the treadmill". It ain't bad. Honestly, I think you will be more rewarded in your efforts. I got a swarm three years ago and decided it was an omen. No more chems. That hive supeceded the swarm queen.(not unusual) I still have that queen. I have made splits from her and she is still kicking butt. IMHO, hive health is the main thing. The second thing is to allow nature to decide. If nature produced a hive that survived, there is a statement there. "Think like the bee,,,be the bee." sorta

  13. #12
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Location
    Tyrone, Pennsylvania,USA
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    357

    Default Re: Mites Have Pushed Me To The Edge... I'm Jumping

    Adam,i to have stopped treating for three years now.I decided to keep more hives and nucs than i need to help make up hive losses due to mites or whatever may come my way.I have been working with wild stock mostly and they seem to be getting better.Lost two hives to mites last year.If i see a frame with a lot of drone brood i will pull it out,that's all i do.

  14. #13
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    North Berwick, Maine, USA
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    45

    Default Re: Mites Have Pushed Me To The Edge... I'm Jumping

    I'm a new beekeeper so I don't have any valuable personal experience to add. I've been reading Kirk Webster's articles. Here is an interesting one on Collapse and Recovery. I think I'll be making the trek to Vermont next year.

    http://kirkwebster.com/index.php/col...ree-beekeeping

  15. #14
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Denison, Texas
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    509

    Default Re: Mites Have Pushed Me To The Edge... I'm Jumping

    Adam,
    I haven't done as much to take care of my bees as you have.
    All that stuff with sticky boards mite counts is way more complicated than I want to deal with.
    I didn't see any mites last summer. I blamed it on the drought. This spring was a different story.
    When the queen started laying for real back in late January, drone brood, not just tiny patches of worker
    brood, my bees started pulling them any warm day available. The ground under my hives was littered
    with drone brood in different stages of development. I was wondering if they were ever gonna stop,
    or run out of drones to pull. During my latest inspections I've noticed some mature drones with mites
    attached to them, but there's also a whole lot of healthy drones in there and flying strong.
    I haven't seen many workers that seem sick. These hives built up so fast in Feb. that I couldn't
    stop them from swarming. Yes, I guess they got a brood break, but that's all I know of that
    could have inhibited the mites apart from their own behavior. I didn't do anything.
    I bought an 8oz. bottle of HBH winter before last. Didn't use much of it at all. Probably have
    about 7oz. left. I believe the treatment free guys have the closest solution to the mite
    problem. The bees own behavior is the only thing that's gonna save them.

  16. #15
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
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    Greensboro, North Carolina
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    3,406

    Default Re: Mites Have Pushed Me To The Edge... I'm Jumping

    Quote Originally Posted by Oldtimer View Post
    The "leave the mites alone" philosophy, appears to work for some, but for others has not.
    Exactly.

    I won't repeat my experiences, less I get more rocks thrown at me.

  17. #16
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    Sep 2005
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    Greensboro, North Carolina
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    Default Re: Mites Have Pushed Me To The Edge... I'm Jumping

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    Maybe all the bees will die, but I guarantee that I'll save the cost of nucs in the labor time I'll save - particularly in the area of reading about how to deal with mites.
    I understand your frustration, and saying "maybe all the bees will die" may work for you individually, but it isn't a mentality that will work for the industry, or the human race.

  18. #17
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    Jul 2010
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    Default Re: Mites Have Pushed Me To The Edge... I'm Jumping

    Quote Originally Posted by Specialkayme View Post
    I won't repeat my experiences, less I get more rocks thrown at me.
    Ha Ha! Yes Specialkayme, I have seen your travails!

    Anyway, good to see you back, for a while I thought you had gone for good!
    "Every viewpoint, is a view from a point." - Solomon Parker

  19. #18
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    Sep 2005
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    Greensboro, North Carolina
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    Default Re: Mites Have Pushed Me To The Edge... I'm Jumping

    Quote Originally Posted by Oldtimer View Post
    for a while I thought you had gone for good!
    Real close.

    I decided just not to contribute as much . . . and stay away from the treatment free forum entirely . . . at least for now.

  20. #19
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
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    St Albans, Vermont
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    2,273

    Default Re: Mites Have Pushed Me To The Edge... I'm Jumping

    Quote Originally Posted by Specialkayme View Post
    I understand your frustration, and saying "maybe all the bees will die" may work for you individually, but it isn't a mentality that will work for the industry, or the human race.
    You're exactly right. And please don't take this as some kind of rant against anyone's preferred way of doing things. It really boils down to me personally being sick trying to figure out the mites, and running into so much conflicting information - and just feeling like I'm trying to understand something that can't be completely understood. My comments on the bees possibly dying are in reference to my own bees - and I am a hobbyist. That means my living isn't tied to them.

    At this point, I'm not going to try and tell anyone how they should keep their bees, or manage their mites. I am totally NOT into any kind of "us against them" thing in beekeeping. I think everyone is doing the best they can to do the right thing. And I completely empathize with people who really can't figure out what that is. This decision is about my own frustration, and letting go of the need to fully understand the mites and the bees.

    I'm just going to leave more of it in the "hands" of the bees, and see how things go.

    Oldtimer. I'd love to get some of those genetics going. But we are in a closed border situation here. That's part of the specific dilemma of this region.

    Adam

  21. #20
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    Default Re: Mites Have Pushed Me To The Edge... I'm Jumping

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    That's part of the specific dilemma of this region.

    Adam
    How do you know you are not better off?

    Some people believe you have to be a biologist to raise bees. I think that is silly. Bees don't need humans. That is like saying mosquitoes need humans. If you have the will to keep bees then you will keep bees. If you are trying to make a business at it you are talking a different story. All most anybody could be a carpenter, a plumber, a painter, a mason or an electrician but if you want to be in business at it, different story.
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

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