Of mites and colony mythology (and ailing Carnis)
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  1. #1
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    Default Of mites and colony mythology (and ailing Carnis)

    I promised Squarepeg I would post this, although I now don't know if there is any educational value to the story.

    I have 4 hives: a brand new nuc grown into 3 boxes, an overwintered locally bred Italian mutt, my captured "grapefruit swarm" from last fall, and my Carniolans, now entering their 3rd year. In year 1, the Carnis were the only hive to survive, and they were booming all last year, and this one as well. (They brood up starting in late January, and by Valentines day are ready to go... this might sound awful, but down here, we have mahonia, dandelion and some fruit trees blooming then... they were right on schedule for my area). In year 2 I had 3/3 survivors.

    I'm always trying to learn new skills and knew I needed to be mite-washing. So, I got some empty peanut butter jars and some rubbing alcohol and decided to roll some bees last week. And was promptly shocked.

    I only had two jars for samples so I sampled the two oldest: the Italian mutts and the Carnis. The Italians rolled a 3.5. The Carnis rolled a shocking 50. Panic set in and I spent the next few days trying to figure what to do next. (Before a lot of questions about technique come in, I have a science background so my method and statistics are standard. The Italians had 11 mites for a rounded 1/2 cup. The Carnis were not exactly countable since mites covered the bottom of the jar, but I estimated 150 based on a quadrant I counted. It might have been more).

    I won't go into the research and decisions and panic and grief which followed. I realized that my sample from the Carni hive was at the tail-end of the nest and was nearly 100% drones. That gave me some false hope. I sampled again today from the middle of the nest and got a 30 (which is better than 50, I guess). I was hoping for a miraculous 5 or something. On going through the hive I can tell it is depopulating. I don't see any evidence of virus (no DWV or K-wing, or drunken zombie-bees). The hive population is about 50% drones. I started triage with an eye towards ending its life responsibly. (I removed 9 combs of honey and nectar today for freezing and giving to the other hives once they are pest free. I'll start freezing brood and dumping bees in the soapy water on Friday, unless someone here shows me a better option).

    [In hindsight, I can tell the carnis were probably struggling last year as well, but they pulled through and did well this spring. they appeared weak last fall, but exploded in January].

    I sampled the grapefruit swarm today (named for the puny size it had when I got it), and it rolled a legitimate 0. I washed the bees 4 times trying to get a single mite off of them. They really are a terrific colony. (I may have to rename them since they are now the size of a couple of cases of grapefruits).

    I don't know if there is any moral to the story, or an alternative to my planned euthanasia. Here's what I learned.

    * Perform mite-washes. The results might surprise, and more data can't hurt and may be a definite benefit.
    * My longest lived, very full hive was not my healthiest. I let its reputation, history, and population lull me into thinking it was fine
    * Sample from the middle of the nest (although infested drones imply infested workers). I'm not sure how important this really is: 50 or 30, either one is in "OMG" territory.
    * For my hives, anyway, there is a direct correlation between mite score and activity (not total population, but growth rate). The 0 hive I would give an A+ (growing so fast I can't keep up), the 3.5 hive is growing moderately (2 or 3 combs a week during a flow... a B), and the 50 hive was fairly stagnant when I tested it, but is now clearly shrinking in population (had abandoned 3 combs at the end of the honey area, F).
    * Sometimes your favorite hive is the one which has to go....

    Mike

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Of mites and colony mythology (and ailing Carnis)

    I would find that high ratio of drones to be troubling. Could there be problems with queen fertility as well as the obvious mite issue. It appears you have a plan under way. Are there enough eggs and larvae to inspect for possible brood disease? I have a very sensitive spot in my mind now in regard to European foulbrood which will give similar fail to build late winter and dwindle to nothing.

    I dont know if drones have better mite survivability than worker brood. Are there drones developing in worker sized cells? Bullet nose. Just thinking out loud that it would be good to know for certain that mites are the sole issue; I made some bad moves and wasted time from not properly identifying the real issue.
    Frank

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Of mites and colony mythology (and ailing Carnis)

    yikes... so sorry to here this, but thankfull you are telling your story
    Much respect to being willing to put down the mitebomb before it becomes a problem

    However Here is an alt to euthanasia to alow you to save and re-queen the resources and make some lemonade

    Take the carnies and move them 5'
    Place the queen with a comb of open brood in a new box at the old location no outher drawn comb... just foundation or IIRR in your case topbars... the field force has very little mites so it gets clean start and explosve swarm like growth.
    however you have a mess on your hand so I would consider taking the next step of hitting it with OAD/OAV. and maby adding a bit of queen exculder to the entrance to keep the drones out... don't know how that will impact pollen colection tho....

    The old hive in the new location is full of mites and queen less, give eggs larva from grape fruit and a few days later destroy all other cells, on day 10 later cut out and use as manny cells as you can making nucs , or not and just thin back to a few, day 20 hit it with OAD/OAV as it bloodless
    once you have a extra laying nuc pinch out the old queen at the old location...
    I might give an eye to having an extra grapfruit queen sitting in a nuc for the Italians for when you do a roll next mounth..

    ya it takes a bit of unpalatable treatment... but down the road you have tripled or more your out put of great drones and laying queens increasing your positive selection and adding better geneticists to the area around you. The carnies hive has been "naturally selected" to die, no reason not to use it for a positive outcome as long as the queen is killed and the gentnics end.. Think of it like organ/tissue donation

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Of mites and colony mythology (and ailing Carnis)

    I wonder if some shock therapy could be applied to the "doomed" hive.
    Since there are "doomed" what is there to loose?
    Take everything from them and do a fly back split?
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Of mites and colony mythology (and ailing Carnis)

    Thanks for the replies.

    Crofter: Hi. Although there is some capped brood, and quite a bit of drone, I'm thinking the queen is likely gone. Maybe she swarmed and her replacement died or was diseased. I saw a lot of nectar and pollen, but so little open brood today I'm not sure but that it wasn't some laying worker action. It may be she's mating, but she's doomed in that hive with as many mites as drones, and nearly no workers.

    MSL: thanks for the kind wishes. If SP had not twisted my arm I might not have posted. I thought about various rescue efforts and soft bond. (Although treatment free, my first response to the 50 was to start researching "treatments which can be used during a flow". I was seriously looking at MAQS, to be honest. As they say: there are no atheists in a foxhole). When I think back over the last 3 years, I realize i loved this line because it survived, but in retrospect, it didn't do much else. Last year I was teaching myself biology by just letting them do whatever they wanted ("let bees be bees"), and they grew like crazy, created thousands of drones, swarmed twice, and then let the drones eat all the honey. I didn't mind, because they survived. But, this year I'm seeing that as more of a pathology. This line's tendency to create tons of drones and swarm in late flow is likely a mite's feast. I'm surprised they survived last year, and I bet I would have rolled a 15 last October if I had rolled then.

    Greg: Hi. I thought about this, but other than "can survive heroic levels of mites" I don't see much value in these genetics. I might split or increase this summer, but will do it from the grapefruit swarm with some frozen and thawed comb. ("Frozen grapefruit lemonade?" I wonder what that's like?) I might get a splash of these Carni genetics back in some locally mated queens, but a splash might be all I want. I like the toughness, but not the swarminess.

    Thanks for the feedback. I felt terrible for a week, and appreciate the kind comments.

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Of mites and colony mythology (and ailing Carnis)

    i'm wondering about all of those drones.

    do you recall seeing a lot of drone brood in that hive leading up to now?

    i think it's possible that a lot of them may have originated from other hives.

    i say this because i moved a nuc from one yard to another a couple of weeks ago. within less than a minute of setting the nuc on the new spot, and before i even removed the screen from the entrance, there were a least a couple of dozen drones trying to get into the nuc.

    if for some reason this colony wasn't being too selective about letting in drifting drones this might explain in part why you are seeing so many drones and mites.

    i think the other posters have presented you with reasonable options. i'm pretty sure i would proceed with euthanization myself, but that's easy for me to say as i am sitting on a dozen colonies above and beyond my 'nominal' hive count at this time.
    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Of mites and colony mythology (and ailing Carnis)

    looks like we crossed posts avatardad, you answered my question in your last.

    many thanks for sharing your experience with us, and best of luck to you going forward.
    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Of mites and colony mythology (and ailing Carnis)

    Hey SP,

    Yes: although this year's queen was last year's daughter, they followed the same pattern. Incredibly dense and prolific worker brood in mid-January, huge nest through February, and then drones like crazy in mid-March. Last year, there were like 5 or 6 frames of drone brood. And then the swarm happens. This year was similar, but the numbers were a little lower at every stage. This line loves workers in January, and drones in April.

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Of mites and colony mythology (and ailing Carnis)

    that's interesting. i've not ever seen anything like that.

    sounds like a good strategy for the bees in terms of spreading their dna, but not at all desirable for the beekeeper looking to get a good honey crop.
    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  11. #10

    Default Re: Of mites and colony mythology (and ailing Carnis)

    Quote Originally Posted by AvatarDad View Post
    Hey SP,

    Yes: although this year's queen was last year's daughter, they followed the same pattern. Incredibly dense and prolific worker brood in mid-January, huge nest through February, and then drones like crazy in mid-March. Last year, there were like 5 or 6 frames of drone brood. And then the swarm happens. This year was similar, but the numbers were a little lower at every stage. This line loves workers in January, and drones in April.
    The carniolans are the same here, thatīs why they did not survive my tf bond test management not even the so-called resistant line which was not virus tolerant.

    They are bred for gentleness and honey stores. Treaters say they are ridden with brood disease, need many treatments, often in vain and queen cell culling must be every week in spring. Drone frame culling is done too.
    Could be they are bred to be very big hives before migration in may. This means early swarming too which must be prevented.
    In a treaters schedule in may, after drone culling, the hives are almost mite free after OA in winter and then want to swarm, but they are highly mite infested, breeding the mites, in summer if swarming is prevented.
    In fall migration they are doomed because treatments come after harvesting.

    IMO they are managed so long as if there are no mites that they donīt recognize the danger and the trigger to the defense is much too high for them even if it is much lower than in my AMM or elgon hives.

    I once thought the beekeepers move to Buckfast Bees because of more honey stores but now they tell me itīs because of more balance between brood and stores and because of more resistance and tolerance to mites and virus, probably because of breeding programs. Buckfast here seem to have less chalk and other brood disease.
    Last edited by 1102009; 05-10-2018 at 02:02 AM.

  12. #11
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    Default Re: Of mites and colony mythology (and ailing Carnis)

    Wow, Sibylle. I did not know any of this (except for what I discovered the hard way) and this is reassuring to me to eliminate this line from the yard. Your experience seems much the same as mine. Even during the good years I had trouble getting much of a crop because they spent all the extra calories on drones. And mites, I discovered.

    I'm beginning to lean towards locally bred queens and some ferals if I can trap some. There are large undeveloped forests nearby, and I have some traps out.

    Thanks!

    Mike

  13. #12
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    Default Re: Of mites and colony mythology (and ailing Carnis)

    AvatarDad, by chance are the Carni's on foundationless or in your topbar hive? Where is the queen putting all of these drone cells if they are not? Are you seeing normal worker brood in the combs? My topbar hives love to pull drone comb and fill up a hive in the spring with them. You know I am using the powdered sugar each month on each comb to knock down the mites into the DE that I keep on the bottom board. Even with all the drones in the hives that I allow, they are still not overrun with mites.

    If you have a screened bottom on this said hive, you should give that a try weekly or twice a week for 2 weeks and then retest and see if you levels have not come down to a manageable level so you don't have to kill the hive.

  14. #13

    Default Re: Of mites and colony mythology (and ailing Carnis)

    Quote Originally Posted by AvatarDad View Post
    Wow, Sibylle. I did not know any of this (except for what I discovered the hard way) and this is reassuring to me to eliminate this line from the yard. Your experience seems much the same as mine. Even during the good years I had trouble getting much of a crop because they spent all the extra calories on drones. And mites, I discovered.

    I'm beginning to lean towards locally bred queens and some ferals if I can trap some. There are large undeveloped forests nearby, and I have some traps out.

    Thanks!

    Mike
    Good idea. I plan to do IPM on the susceptibles in future, this will be Ruthīs powdered sugar management and probably the freezing of one or two brood combs before winter breeding is done.
    I start this season to multiply from only the strongest.

    But: itīs not the carniolans that breed drones in spring, the others do it too. Up to 50% this spring. Still they store honey so much they want to swarm!
    There is some special mechanism working in my elgon/AMM line, to hold the mites at bay. I have to find out yet how to propagate this by managements or improvement of hive structure.

    For example they expel a big part of the drone pupa in early spring of the first drone brood.
    But the carnis did that too.

    The other races have + - 10% drones in the hives all the time until winter. As mite trap or, if you see mites as "friends", to provide the mites with an everlasting host? I did check and mites are double numbers in drone cells.
    I had one carni hive which had no drone brood after throwing them out in summer. They crashed first.

    This getting rid of drones is typically carniolan and IMO lets the mite numbers explode and migrate to worker brood.
    So to cull drones in spring and drones expelled in summer means not much opportunity for mites going into drone brood and starts the mites going into worker brood much more which could prevent correlation.

    With respect to mite downfall the elgons threshold is 30 a day,the AMM even higher and the carniolans was 5 a day or less. Then virus starts to be seen.

    Otherwise: I have a co-worker who claims to be tf for 15 years using local carniolan mutts (mixed with buckfast) he is not isolated.
    I will visit him in 10 days and learn his beekeeping ways. This I will post in my thread.

  15. #14
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    Default Re: Of mites and colony mythology (and ailing Carnis)

    There seems to be a lot of conjecture here that the Carniolan genetics are the cause of this virtual collapse; seems like quite a bit of recall of anecdotal events to support it.

    I get very suspicious about the quality of conclusions reached this way. I suggest that if this conclusion were so easily supported in fact, it would have become common knowledge by now, and people doing quality research on mite issues would be flocking away from Carni influence.

    It sure would be nice to know what the actual chain of events are that lead up to Avatar's situation. It is all to easy to jump to a wrong conclusion which is a step away from learning.

    Easier said than done, though!
    Frank

  16. #15

    Default Re: Of mites and colony mythology (and ailing Carnis)

    The best reseach is your own observations and if you are tf and do bond test you know very quickly what will survive and if you are a good observer and keep journal for 5 years you know what happens in your hives.
    I purchased "resistant" carniolans, pure bredcolonies which showed no resistance, I purchased AMM colonies which had to adapt but the genetics survived, I purchased elgon genetics and see that they can be used, same with some of my co-workers.

    Those three "lines" were in separate locations.
    And now I will test purebred VSH buckfast. Seperate location.

    I canīt find quality research to help me in my situation. So I need to rely on my own conclusions or treat with chemicals.
    My personal opinion is that in the end all beekeepers have to use their own experience and cannot rely on theories and statistics done by science or done in different locations or done too short a time or done with different managements on beekeeping. All have to develop their own local bee stock no matter what race, but better a surviving race.

    it would have become common knowledge by now, and people doing quality research on mite issues would be flocking away from Carni influence.
    If they find a solution and produce mite resistant carniolans I would be glad, but right now the scientists admit to no resistance coming and search for more medication or mite reducing methods.

    I europe everywhere the beekeepers went to carniolans the pest and disease came and the native bees which correlated with the mites after first impact went extinct except they were protected and kept away from imported races.
    Last edited by 1102009; 05-10-2018 at 09:14 AM.

  17. #16
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    Default Re: Of mites and colony mythology (and ailing Carnis)

    Just a few thoughts;

    Strength of conviction is not an accurate indicator of veracity.

    A single persons confirmation bias is a very devious source of error; more eyes on a problem can ( and sometimes not ) help point it out.

    "Group think" is another amazing source that can totally cripple objectivity.
    Frank

  18. #17

    Default Re: Of mites and colony mythology (and ailing Carnis)

    Quote Originally Posted by crofter View Post
    Just a few thoughts;
    Strength of conviction is not an accurate indicator of veracity.
    No, only concerning yourself, but I think the op knows that.

    A single persons confirmation bias is a very devious source of error; more eyes on a problem can ( and sometimes not ) help point it out.
    Itīs done in forums thatīs what they are for. Everyone is posting his conviction. One can hope to get different opinions on a topic and clear your mind in discussion.

    "Group think" is another amazing source that can totally cripple objectivity.
    If the group is an echo room. But not if there are discussions.
    But I see no fault in speaking about experience.

    Actually I learned the most from reading the "personal experience" threads here on forum. Much more than from articles.

  19. #18
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    Default Re: Of mites and colony mythology (and ailing Carnis)

    I thought Keufus found some Carni resistance. I'm a bit agnostic about subspecies in the world of bee movement anyway. My longest living hive is a shell of its former self this year (generations removed from a Hawaiian carni). Small cluster this spring and honey bound. I freed it up to see if can start taking off. However this line has other offshoots that are doing well this year. Sometimes the daughter just happens to mate with the wrong drones, or the wrong daughter is chosen. I don't think it is anything to panic about. I'm always a bit surprised at which colony does well over time.

    Reminds me of the time I went to get some hens, chose the biggest most vigorous chicks and ended up with mostly roosters. They tasted good

  20. #19

    Default Re: Of mites and colony mythology (and ailing Carnis)

    Quote Originally Posted by SiWolKe View Post
    Actually I learned the most from reading the "personal experience" threads here on forum. Much more than from articles.
    Somehow I don't find that surprising. I'm guessing that you learned the most from those 'personal experience' threads that conformed to your existing bias.
    Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted. - Emerson

  21. #20
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    Default Re: Of mites and colony mythology (and ailing Carnis)

    beemandan
    Somehow I don't find that surprising. I'm guessing that you learned the most from those 'personal experience' threads that conformed to your existing bias.
    This is actually what I do do. Of course I do some testing out and also try and see how it works for me. I am a firm believer in what I see, just not always why I come up with why I think I am seeing it.
    Cheers
    gww
    zone 5b

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