I did the Sugar Shake mite test and... Help!
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  1. #1
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    Default I did the Sugar Shake mite test and... Help!

    So I did the sugar shake test on my 3 hives, all are double deep brood boxes. The mite counts came out to 4, 12, and 7. The hive with 4 does not have any honey supers as they are already a little weak; very slow to grow, but they have a queen and brood. My 12 and 7 each have had honey supers on them for the last 2 week and are starting to fill them with honey already.

    Now obviously, the hive with 12 is very worrisome and should be treated before they get overrun. Should I just call the honey super a loss and treat now (early July in NJ, temps are easily 85-90 daily). I have Mite Away strips, but they are pretty harsh on the queen. I only have the 3 hives, so investing in an expensive mite treatment isn't going to happen this year. Any suggestions?

    I also read that you should double the number of mites to account for those within the capped brood. Is that true? If so, how do any hives stay below the 8-12 mite count that recommends treatment?

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: I did the Sugar Shake mite test and... Help!

    Doubling the figure to allow for mites under cappings would not be enough. It is often considered that 75% or more of total hive mite numbers will be under cappings.

    I am taking supers off entirely from some colonies and reducing to one or two on others. We just have had too little flow for them to produce much surplus.

    I dont know what you can expect from fall flow; I cant depend on it at all in my location. Local advice will be much more valuable to you than mine.

    Hoping against all hope, though, is not so location dependent. Due to being relatively isolated from other bees has allowed me to have a comparatively easy time maintaining low mite levels. Stay ahead of them; coming from behind makes the game harder!
    Frank

  4. #3
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    Default Re: I did the Sugar Shake mite test and... Help!

    In my experience, doubling is still conservative. I'd treat.and not half way. If you're going to treat, then do it. I don't think you'd appreciate your doctor treating you for one lung of pneumonia. If you have a queen issue, address it early.

    A dead hive from mites means that all your bees, including your queen, are gone. Treating and losing your queen is an actionable event.

    For this question, the answer is strategic.
    "My wife always wanted girls. Just not thousands and thousands of them......"

  5. #4
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    Default Re: I did the Sugar Shake mite test and... Help!

    ... follow.

  6. #5
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    Default Re: I did the Sugar Shake mite test and... Help!

    SciFiLover84,

    This science fiction author thinks formic acid, such as MAQS, is just the thing for a summer treatment, as long as you follow the current instructions to a T, especially their recommendations for temperature.

    We've never had formic harm a queen. Our best queen ever survived several treatments over the years, then finally swarmed this summer (her third) leaving behind a beautiful brood pattern.

    Varroa mites are nearly extinct in our apiary this year (knock on wood). Formic, just one dose, when needed in the summer. Chase with oxalic acid vapor when broodless in early winter. Danged mites don't stand a chance.

  7. #6
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    Default Re: I did the Sugar Shake mite test and... Help!

    SciFi>>> looks like we may have 3 consecutive days coming, Tue-Wed-Thurs of this week to treat with MAQS. The forecast looks favorable- and the first 2-3 days of the treatment are the most harsh on the bees, the last days of the treatment the least harsh.
    MAQS can be used with honey supers on but if you don't favor that way, why not pull the super off and put it on one of the other hives to finish?

  8. #7
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    Default Re: I did the Sugar Shake mite test and... Help!

    Are you saying 4%, 12% and 7%? If so you are in real trouble. You did a sugar shake so the first thing you need to do is at least double those % as the sugar shake only gets from 1/3 to 1/2 of the mites present on the bees. Then you need to triple or quadruple that number for the ones sealed in brood. My target this time of year is no more than 2% by an alcohol wash which gives an accurate number unlike the sugar roll.

    Your spring flow is about done now in NJ. Pull the honey supers and put on apivar strips. That will take out the mites and get them ready for the fall flow if you get one.

  9. #8
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    Default Re: I did the Sugar Shake mite test and... Help!

    Richard, I think his numbers are counts, not percents. I agree with your assessment if they are percents but even if they are count, he still should follow the advice on here.

  10. #9
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    Default Re: I did the Sugar Shake mite test and... Help!

    Yes, I'd treat (at least) the one with 12 mites recovered by the test with MAQS this week if you have a three to five day window of slightly cooler temps coming up. My personal limit is 81-82 F expected day time highs in the early period. Of course, be sure to have the required extra ventilation by removing entrance reducers (substitute screened anti-robbing devices if needed to control access). I, too, have never lost a queen during MAQS treatment. Bees don't like it much, but they get over that quickly.

    No, I wouldn't pull the super, but you could if it worries you. One of the main advantages of MAQS is the ability to leave the supers on.

    Now, let's talk about your test results. Assuming you did the test correctly and used the Michigan Method which involves rolling the bees around in the powdered sugar in the early stage as opposed to shaking them hard up and down, and then gave them the required short rest period to heat up slightly before shaking them vigorously to dislodge the mites, there is no reason to perform additional mathematical gymnastics to arrive at your mite numbers.

    The number of mites collected yields the percentage of tested bees with phoretic mites, no doubling, tripling required. Yes, there are more mites under cappings but that doesn't matter since the test is not attempting to quantify the total number of mites in colony anyway. The test is making an assessment of the percentage of younger adult bees (the ones in closer contact with the brood) that have phoretic mites on their bodies. Although this test produces a number that is often expressed as a "percentage of bees affected" it is not a absolute measure of the total number of mites in the colony, it's only a number in relation to number of bees actually used for the sample. But it still produces actionable information.

    Again, assuming you made an accurate measuring of the volume of bees tested, then when then number of mites recovered is divided by number of bees in the sample it yields the percentage used to decide whether you have reach a treatment threshold.

    Different experts use different thresholds, which have been steadily lowered in the past few years. I personally use Randy Oliver's 2% top limit. But I think it's also reasonable to use 3%. Three percent is an easy one to work with because in practice it means that as long as your number of mites collected during the test is in the single digits (0-9 mites) then you are below the treatment threshold. Recovering 10, or more, mites means you need to treat. No calculator needed.

    But keep in mind the two inherent variables in both sugar AND alcohol tests: accurate estimation of the total number of bees tested and consistent age-class of bees collected. If you try hard to keep these two factors the same for every test you will gradually discover what is your personal threshold for mid-summer mite testing.

    This is an important thing to keep in mind because right now there are many more mites not vulnerable to being caught during sampling because lots of them are protected under the brood cappings. When you do your late season sugar rolls (say in October) a much higher number of the mites will be out and on the worker bees, so your mite numbers will likely be higher even if there are the same number of mites in the colony.

    All types of mite tests only give you a surrogate number to compare to the threshold for that particular type of test. The only kind of test that gives consistently unusable results is the test NOT DONE.

    Good on you for doing the tests now (in the early mid-summer stage). Be sure to test any treated hive a two weeks afterward to verify the treatment was effective. And test everybody, again, in a month. I have 14 colonies and I do sugar rolls for every colony about monthly by rotating through them doing some colonies every week from late April to late October. This gives me a rough picture of my yard's overall mite levels on a continuing basis. (And gives me confidence that I know what my mite levels are all the time.) With three colonies you could test one every 10 days. It's an easy schedule to remember. And doing sugar rolls all the time ups your skill level in doing them and that consistency will improve the validity of your test results. Don't forget the write down the numbers!

    Enj.
    Last edited by enjambres; 07-04-2017 at 10:23 AM.

  11. #10
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    Default Re: I did the Sugar Shake mite test and... Help!

    Thank you all for your responses. To clarify a few points...

    - The 4, 12, and 7 were the mite counts, not percentages. They are not adjusted to account for mites under the brood caps. It is the number of mites I saw shaken from the 1/2 cup of bees.
    - I did perform the Michigan Method (rolling, then rest, then shake), but I was unaware there were different methods. I had always seen that way, so I assumed it was just how it was done. Thanks for making me aware there are some different options.

    I'll be putting the MAQS on today (Wed, as the temps are a nice low 80s) and hopefully the queens won't die. I've lost queens about 1/3 of the time in the past, but I wonder if it was due to temperatures... I used to do it with days in the low 90s, so we'll see what happens this time.

    Also, one last question. I am planning on treating the 12 count hive, leaving the 4 and 7 hives alone. Is there any reason why I SHOULD treat the lower mite count hives? I wonder if the mites will just get worse, so am I shooting myself in the foot by not getting ahead of the curve?

    Thanks!

  12. #11
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    Default Re: I did the Sugar Shake mite test and... Help!

    Quote Originally Posted by SciFiLover84 View Post
    Thank you all for your responses. To clarify a few points...

    - The 4, 12, and 7 were the mite counts, not percentages. They are not adjusted to account for mites under the brood caps. It is the number of mites I saw shaken from the 1/2 cup of bees.
    - I did perform the Michigan Method (rolling, then rest, then shake), but I was unaware there were different methods. I had always seen that way, so I assumed it was just how it was done. Thanks for making me aware there are some different options.

    I'll be putting the MAQS on today (Wed, as the temps are a nice low 80s) and hopefully the queens won't die. I've lost queens about 1/3 of the time in the past, but I wonder if it was due to temperatures... I used to do it with days in the low 90s, so we'll see what happens this time.

    Also, one last question. I am planning on treating the 12 count hive, leaving the 4 and 7 hives alone. Is there any reason why I SHOULD treat the lower mite count hives? I wonder if the mites will just get worse, so am I shooting myself in the foot by not getting ahead of the curve?

    Thanks!

    I can think of three reasons to treat them all.

    1. Bees, especially drones, drift from hive to hive and may reinfest the one you treated.

    2. The mite populations will keep rising into maybe August, at which point the bee populations starts falling, so the mites per bee increases further. If you go ahead and get it over with now, while you have a cool stretch, you avoid having to treat in a panic in August.

    3. Forum participant Winevines is of the opinion that the only good mite is a dead mite, and her version of treatment thresholds is that she treats if she sees them. She has a very good record of hives surviving the winter.

  13. #12
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    Default Re: I did the Sugar Shake mite test and... Help!

    Quote Originally Posted by Phoebee View Post
    Winevines is of the opinion that the only good mite is a dead mite, and her version of treatment thresholds is that she treats if she sees them.
    That statement made my day. I picture a gal with a magnifying glass and a kitchen knife
    Zone 7a - 1650ft

  14. #13
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    Default Re: I did the Sugar Shake mite test and... Help!

    I would treat all three, too. Not because I expect to eradicate them (ever, sad to say) but because it nearly zeros out the whole yard in one go. You might chase your tail all summer treating them one at a time as drifting bees re-infect each other, one after the other. And with MAQS having highly specific safe temperature range, when you've got a week that's good - seize it!

    Regarding the Michigan method vs "other" sugar shake methods: it used to be taught to shake the bees initially to cover them with sugar. This results in them voiding and vomiting and dampening the powdered sugar which then forms clumps. And clump sugar resulted in poor-quality mite retrieval, which gave sugar shakes a (deserved in that instance) bad reputation for accuracy. I saw the Michigan sugar roll method demonstrated last year at the NY BeeWellness summer conference and it was as effective at finding the same number of mites as the lethal-to-the-sampled-bees alcohol washes.

    So I no longer bother with alcohol washes in my own yard (although I expect alcohol washes, especially with two experienced operators, are faster to do.) And more importantly I no longer teach anything but Michigan sugar rolls to my beginning students because I found reluctance to kill bees every month in every colony was resulting in NO tests done at all, which is far worse. IMO. For hobbyist/back yard beekeepers testing so important that any barrier to doing it is really unfortunate, and leads to needless colony losses.

    Enj.

  15. #14
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    Default Re: I did the Sugar Shake mite test and... Help!

    Alcohol washes, because they kill the bees, allow you to accurately count the bees used. For that reason, it is the "research method" used for official work where accuracy is needed.

    But a line on the mason jar calibrated by dumping 2/3 cup of dry beans into the jar is good enough for me. If I'm getting 0-2 mites, I know that's low, and statistically with that sort of count it doesn't make much difference if I have 200 or 300 bees, precision is driven by the low number of mites (the standard deviation of 2 is 1.4, and 2 standard deviations produces an uncertainty in the measurement that exceeds the actual count!). If I get 14 mites (and I never have), then the precision (about +/- 4 for one standard deviation) means little because either way I have way more mites in there than any sane beekeeper will tolerate.

    So what's your treatment threshold? Honestly, it is a wide grey line. Used to be we said 8 per 300 bees, but then we said 6, and then our bee club got the threshold Winevines uses (she's one of our bee school instructors) and it was more like 2. The fewer mites, the better. We're dealing with mite counts where precision in the number of bees in the sample is irrelevant.

    We're running a strain of bees that add a grooming trait to VSH genetics, and we're relatively isolated from other apiaries. If you get the colony clean, it tends to stay clean. If we count significant mites in the summer, we treat with MAQS. Either way, everybody gets a snort of OAV when broodless in December. I have not seen a mite in the trays in months.

  16. #15
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    Default Re: I did the Sugar Shake mite test and... Help!

    I took your advice and treated all 3. I like the "the only good mite is a dead mite" theory.

  17. #16
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    Default Re: I did the Sugar Shake mite test and... Help!

    Treating all 3 is a good decision.
    "My wife always wanted girls. Just not thousands and thousands of them......"

  18. #17
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    Default Re: I did the Sugar Shake mite test and... Help!

    >I like the "the only good mite is a dead mite" theory.

    Yet the mites continue. I think they are all just mites. Neither good nor bad.

    "I’ve thought a lot about how in the world to describe what’s really happening in an apiary that hasn’t used treatments of any kind for more than five years; where mites are now considered to be indispensable allies and friends, and where the productivity, resilience, profitability and enjoyment of the apiary are just as good as at any time in the past. I wouldn’t dream of killing any mites now, even if I had an easy and safe way of doing so."--Kirk Webster, A New Paradigm for American Beekeeping
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  19. #18
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    Default Re: I did the Sugar Shake mite test and... Help!

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    >I like the "the only good mite is a dead mite" theory.

    Yet the mites continue. I think they are all just mites. Neither good nor bad.

    "I’ve thought a lot about how in the world to describe what’s really happening in an apiary that hasn’t used treatments of any kind for more than five years; where mites are now considered to be indispensable allies and friends, and where the productivity, resilience, profitability and enjoyment of the apiary are just as good as at any time in the past. I wouldn’t dream of killing any mites now, even if I had an easy and safe way of doing so."--Kirk Webster, A New Paradigm for American Beekeeping
    When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!
    Oh boy.

  20. #19
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    Default Re: I did the Sugar Shake mite test and... Help!

    Find someone with an oxalic acid vaporizer and remove the supers to treat. You will have to do it three times but it is a viable solution. People selling maqs recommend half a dose while supers on as not being automatically lethal to queen and brood and is supposed to knock down the mite population for the time the supers are on.

  21. #20
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    Default Re: I did the Sugar Shake mite test and... Help!

    and this is why we start counting mites in March here in Southern Oregon.
    We're at 0-1 mite using only alcohol washes. We treat once a year and do brood breaks. Never have mite levels above 2...ever in the last 5yrs.
    Mites are just getting worse each year now. that's a fact.
    There are several PROVEN Apiary models out there to follow, find one and stick to it.
    Use a proven productive model with the numbers to show what they are producing.
    If the apiary will not or won't tell you their numbers then they lie.
    Don't listen to that person or apiary managers advice. Move on.

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