Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted. - Emerson
I am not so closed mind that when my eyes are seeing something not work that I don't reconize I need to make some kind of adjustment. If you start something that you have never did and there are lots of choices out there, you have to look at them and put your common sense to it and then pick one and then try and then see. You "might" know a little more after you see. Being so open minded that you never get to the point of even trying one thing would not move you too fast in any direction either.
Beemandan, itīs not about confirming bias if you have a goal. The goal will stay though. The path might change. Iīm not understanding how beekeepers will stay in that treatment treadmill but itīs their choice. I understand about the fear of loss.
And they might perform better in a Lang hive on foundation than they are for me in a TBH totally foundationless. I think if it were gently suggested to them they build less drone comb, they might.
They brood up huge a month earlier than any of my other bees, and were easily my most productive hive in the early part of the flow. But, they raise more drones than any other 3 hives combined. This may be poor management on my part; I'm just starting to figure how to cull drone brood without breaking comb, and if I had done more of that earlier I might not be in this place now.
(Ruth: frames of drone brood where nest turns to honey, and in the middle of the honey. Anywhere they can find outside of the first 5 frames or so. So much I thought the queen had gone drone layer. It wasn't failure... it was her strategy).
Still, for me, mostly foundationless and in a very hot climate, these bees are always "turned up to eleven". They cause me a lot of labor, and pay me back with 2 swarms a year and nearly no honey, and mites. I would love if I had found a trick which enabled me to keep them healthy and productive. But if any blame is to be had, I place it firmly on me. As a clueless newbie beekeeper, they survived me for 2.5 years. (they are tougher than I am clueless, which is saying something). I just think they are too far gone now for me to save, except for the remaining drones giving a little DNA back to the queens I will raise in the next month.
I will definitely try Carnis again, but maybe when I'm a better beekeeper than I am today.
Glad that you posted this AvatarDad. It gives me things to ponder over and take a different look at how I am and will manage my bees...
I have long said that keeping bees is kinda like playing chess with yourself. So now I gotta think out my next move...
Working to propagate my survivors and staying treatment free USDA Zone 7b
I think you raise some points that could well support a cause and affect genetic relationship in your particular situation. I have zero experience with top bar hives and little on foundationless. My experience is mainly with strongly carni type bees in foundation supplied Langs. I can certainly attest to my bees inclination to build lots of drone comb if given the foundationless opportunity. Lets suppose this is one contributor.
Have you ruled out the possibility that the queens fertility was waning (perhaps through disease) and she was producing an inordinate number of drones. I had this happen to me. There were even supercedure cells built containing drones! I suspect disease rather than poor mating. Had this occurred in the fall rather than mid summer I could easily have not found out till spring when they would have undoubtedly failed to brood up! Mite counts in my case were virtually zero though.
I would question whether the events in your case were the product of the queens "strategy" rather than the product of circumstances.
I played with cullling drone brood but was not happy; In a top bar hive that might be far more than an unhappy exercise. Yes they can quickly get the swarm urge. Since I switched to skewing the hive population demographics with the Snelgrove division boards it has made the swarming problem go away and seems to have cut down the drone production but the latter is only a hunch. I try not to deceive myself but I still do at times!
I have seen some very convoluted explanations put forth to try to substantiate preconceived notions. It is often very hard after the fact to establish a clear and factual chain of cause and effect but I think it is important. Having the right answer for the wrong reasons really doesn't cut it!
It sure would be nice to know whether that very productive queen had a fatal flaw or whether some other unidentified issue appears to give her a bad name. Perhaps those drones do have great value genetically.
One of my colonies went from a 0 mite count end January to 10% two months later. During that time they were producing drones like mad (maybe 50% of brood by area), which I suspect had something to do with the super sharp mite ramp, but I really don't know, because that is less than three cycles of capped drones. The queen is a granddaughter of an Italian, don't think that matters. In the future, I will take steps to limit drones to 2-4 frames because they produced a ridiculous amount of drones when left to their own devices. My other hive had a similar trend, but went from 0.5% to 5% over the same time period.
This rate of increase is too high to be through mite reproduction in just two months. There has to be some transfer between hives involved.
Please keep in mind that honeybees prefer to keep more drones around in their hive than we beekeepers think are necessary. If you want fewer drones, make sure to place the empty bars in the brood nest between drawn combs of worker brood. That will usually result in more worker brood. You can also employ vertical queen excluders in the topbar hive to keep the queen out of the honeycomb (or to sequester the drone comb behind the excluder for them to use as honeycomb once the drones have emerged.
I'd argue that a hive that has survived for 2.5 years is not one to do away with lightly. Their natural instinct is to produce a swarm (and in doing so achieve a brood break), so help them out by moving the queen over to a Lang nuc and watch that she doesn't revert back to what you are expecting. As for the big hive, let them build queen cells, thus achieving the brood break they need (and you might consider helping them out with the mite issue with the powdered sugar, if that isn't against your religion)
I have plenty of booming topbar hives that have laid 5-6 combs of drone brood. I pull each of their queens over to a nuc and let the bees fill up the empty drone comb with my main honey flow. Then I can get that comb out of the hive and the new queen will have worker comb to lay in when she is ready.
I wonder if this is IPM or just an imitation of a natural behavior, as in swarming ( except the harvest).
I have 10% natural comb from cut out corners on my foundation, which is used for drones and later for honey. So I donīt cull. The empty frames with drone comb are at the outside and later after reduced drone breeding they are filled with honey too and I can use them for splits or to provide before winter.
The drone corners are used for drones throughout the year in changing numbers. I observed that they are used for drone breeding in mite stress situations before winter bee breeding in the survivor hives. I had a higher number of drones bred in autumn in this hives than in summer.
For what it's worth, I had a colony with very high sticky-board mite drop around 2010. I was new and "treatment free" so I did not do anything. Direct descendants from this colony are our best producers. I had given them quite a bit of foundationless frames back then, and they have a lot of drone comb. So, not only do we get a good honey crop from them, they are contributing good survival genetics to the local area.
Now, "knowing better" I probably would have treated and requeened.
Just out of curiosity I should do a sugar roll this spring.
the op reports using alcohol washes to determine infestation rate.
can you update date us on the status of the colony in question avatardad?
journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives
Yes: I used an alcohol wash using best practices. the only variation I made on the standard procedure is the bees soaked in the alcohol about 10 minutes before the shake and strain. (I took a sample at the hive, dumped them into the alcohol jar, did a little maintenance and closed up, and walked up to the house to do the wash). I used a microscope to confirm I was seeing mites and not something else. Mites covered the bottom of the jar.
When I went back in on the sad day 3 or 4 days later, the hive was even more depopulated. There were open queen cells but no sign of eggs or larva, and a very low population of workers and even drones... the hive was nearly empty. (About a two comb's worth of bees spread over 10 combs). I'm thinking a virgin queen got eaten by the cardinal who hangs out near the hive. there was a clump of workers on the front of the hive, even though the hive was very empty.
I've never been stung in 3 years of beekeeping, but on this day I got about 10 on my hands (heavy work gloves... the first 15 or 20 stings didn't get through, but the next 10 did). The honey which was in good shape i froze and will give back to other hives during a dearth. Some of the nectar was already infested with SHB and was beginning to smell of mead. Although that might have been savable, I was not feeling in the mood to risk it. All that comb got melted down.
So, that's it. I feel this was a growing experience for me as a beekeeper, even though I felt like a murdering failure the whole time it was going on. Killing a sick hive is not easy or fun, but I figure it is part of the job description. I caught another swarm about the same time (definitely different bees... much lighter in color, healthier in aspect, and nicer in disposition), so I'm still at 4 colonies. I'm a firm believer in mite washes now. And swarms: catching more swarms is my new mission. They are my most productive, healthiest hives.
Last edited by AvatarDad; 05-24-2018 at 02:29 PM. Reason: gloves <> hands
Our bees start brooding in mid February. If we assume 50 mites in the colony at the start of brooding, then as the first capping cycle starts, pretty much all of the mites will migrate into a cell. When the first hatch begins then, those 50 mite will become 100. Mites stay phoretic for an average of 4.5 days (from literature), so those 100 mites will start heading into cells 5 days later (round numbers). The mite population growth initially will be more or less in sync with the bee population cycles as the constricted size of the early brood nest doesn't give opportunity to get into cells right away. So most of those hundred mites will go into cells during the capping phase of the second brood round which is beginning in the second week of March (March 7 to 14 roughly), but capping starting around mid March. So here was my aha moment on this when I worked up the math on it all. We used to do a first mite count around April 1 timeframe, and always got extremely low number. BUT, when you work out the math on the bee and mite life cycle, it suddenly makes sense, in that timeframe the VAST majority of the mites will actually be under cappings. It's not till the third round of bee brood that the mite growth cycle can 'unhinge' from the bee growth cycle because there is starting to be enough brood in all phases that the mites always have a place to find an appropriate aged larvae to go into.
Where this leads, my April 1 count is skewed because with a count of 50 mites in the colony at start of brooding, there are now around a hundred mites reproducing under cappings and virtually no phoretic mites. But, a little over a week later we get 200 mites emerging with the second round of bees. At the same time, the bees are starting to raise a considerable number of drones, so those 200 end up targetting drone cells and will turn into 600 over the first reproduction cycle in drone brood. It's only at that point when this round emerges that the mites and bees are able to run completely independant brood cycles. Prior to the first round of drones emerging, an alcohol wash or sugar roll count will be skewed significantly by the timing of when you actually do it. You can see a count of 0 one day, then a high count only a few days later due to emergence cycles.
The effect of cycle timing and co-incidence between bee and mite life cycles disappears completely by the 3rd round of bee brood for a large colony, 4th round for a smaller start, because the brood nest will be full size, ie, larvae in all stages of both worker and drone brood at all times, so mites are no longer forced to wait on bee brood of the appropriate age to enter a cell.
If you want a reliable early season count, it needs to be taken the day before they begin capping the second round of bee brood. Take it a week later, and you will almost certainly get a zero count, even from a fairly infested colony. The mite brooding cycle will stay in phase with the bee brooding cycle until the brood nest is large enough that there is open larvae in all stages from egg to capping all the time. Once the bee brood nest reaches that state, then it takes another couple of weeks before a sample from the brood nest will give a reliable number on any given day.
Yes, it is possible in the early season to do a count, get zero, then do another count just a week or two later and get a sky high number without any incoming mite drift. It's actually highly likely until the brood nest is sufficiently large that the mite reproduction cycle and bee reproduction cycle can get out of phase with each other.
Well said, grozzie2.
Same with counting mites on boards. Plus, those can be groomed off or dying mother mites. No use without microskoping.
A wash or shake only makes sense with mostly open brood.
Maybe the takeaway is "mites can grow dramatically in a short time". We've likely all seen Randy Oliver's graph which says exactly that. I'll sample every hive 4 times a year from now on, at a minimum. We cannot just sample in February, get a "1" and call it good, was what I took away from robassett's story. We cannot just assume "if they survive they are fine" is the lesson I learned from my own.
good thread, thanks for sharing mike and thanks to the other contributors for participating.
i was wondering how you accomplished the euthanization, freezing?
journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives