Relative Mite Counts in a Treatment-Free Context
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  1. #1
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    Default Relative Mite Counts in a Treatment-Free Context

    My apologies if this question has already been posted, but I am curious as to what if any conclusions/patterns can be derived from relative mite counts at various points in the season in an explicitly treatment-free management setting?

    This year marks the first full season of my personal effort at treatment-free management and all regressed colonies. While doing so, I have maintained oil traps for SHB (maybe considered a treatment) and can observe relative mite drops which differ by hive and by time of year.

    Beyond the obvious observations to be made relative to drone populations and egg laying, have any of you more-experienced treatment-free keepers been able to determine anything predictive regarding relative mite counts throughout the year? Have you employed counts in guiding any interventional management you do?

    Thank you for your input. I really enjoy gleaning so much practical advice from this forum.

    Russ

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  3. #2

    Default Re: Relative Mite Counts in a Treatment-Free Context

    I try to find a threshold by monitoring mite counts on the slides once in spring, once after splitting when the first brood hatches, and once in summer before winter bee breeding.
    I count ten days in a row counting every day at the same time and taking the average. If the numbers stay the same up to late summer and under my threshold of 30-40 mites a day I do not treat. If they rise, I treat in late summer.
    Future is to treat by culling a capped brood comb.
    Plus: Iīm looking for VSH and microscope the mites if they are bitten.
    I plan to breed from the best then when they survive winter.

    Milbenmonitoring 2018-2.pdf Milbenzahlen 2018 bis Herbst-4.pdf

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Relative Mite Counts in a Treatment-Free Context

    SiWolKe:

    Thank you for the excellent input and the feedback concerning how you evaluate mite counts in your own apiary. Very fascinating information. I am impressed that you are actively looking for mite-biting behavior via a microscope- this is something I will have to add to my apiary "wish list".

    Thank you again for your reply and detailed treatment threshold protocol. I sincerely appreciate it!

    Russ

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Relative Mite Counts in a Treatment-Free Context

    i've only taken a handful of samples and all of them have been in the fall using alcohol wash.

    the mite counts ranged from 8% to 14% which is pretty high by most standards.

    i picked my longest lived colonies to sample and in most cases they survived winter and built up to be good honey producers the next season despite the high mite counts.

    one of these days i hope to have the time to do more frequent sampling as well as track # of frames of brood and other metrics to be able to use randy oliver's mite model.

    with these data and the model one can generate what is referred to as an 'r' value which is a measure of a colony's mite resistance.

    this 'r' value can then be used to compare one's stock to other stocks for which that value has been determined, as well as using that information to select breeder queens.
    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Relative Mite Counts in a Treatment-Free Context

    These mite counts are of value when dealing with generic, commercial bee with near 0 resistance.
    Then high count is bad and low count is good - straight forward.
    Then these numbers are fine predictors.

    Per my scanning of the TF sources, it feels as-if mite counts are not very useful when dealing with resistant bees.
    Since the "resistance" a multi-variable equation, where the variables vary population to population - the counts become less useful.
    Some bees are operating fine with higher counts (as SP shows here).
    Some bees are operating at the lower counts as a norm and that what they require and maintain.
    Some bees are somewhere in between.

    Meanwhile, things are changing upon every new mated queen and the bee context is changing around that queen.

    This is now a gray area and I like the other SP's approach - just ignore the counts because no one really knows the meaning of those numbers and how to react to those numbers in a meaningful way.
    If the bees stay afloat whatever the number - that what really matters.
    I don't know what my counts are.
    I just know there are mites and don't lose sleep over it.

    Well, OK, if you have time and desire - go ahead and count your mites.
    Last edited by GregV; 10-29-2018 at 08:39 PM.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  7. #6

    Default Re: Relative Mite Counts in a Treatment-Free Context

    You are very welcome, Russ.

    Here is the microscope I use, itīs cheap but working beautifully. A member here, Nordak, sent me the link once.
    You can take it with you to the yards and make pictures with your smartphone and if you are a family man your kids will be fascinated!
    here a pict:

    M3.jpg

    https://www.amazon.de/Carson-MM-300-...0884129&sr=1-5

    I don't know what my counts are.
    I just know there are mites and don't lose sleep over it.
    Yes, loose your bees but not sleep.
    My high losses hurt me but I want to stay tf. Iīve had survivors always which drives me on.

    My co-worker one week ago killed two of my splits I gave to him having this your opinion. It went as far as neglecting the food situation because he believes the bees must survive on their own but they starved.
    That said,
    I want to know whether my high mite number hives survive or whether my low mite number hives die, I want to see whether my managements to prevent drift succeed.
    I want to propagate mite biting because I rather fight the source of things not the symptoms.
    Iīm a curious person who wants to know everything happening and I try to see some correlations because I want to improve my hive configurations.
    Plus, I want to see if the genetics water down with my open mating.
    Last edited by 1102009; 10-30-2018 at 01:53 AM.

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Relative Mite Counts in a Treatment-Free Context

    Squarepeg:

    Thank you for your helpful response. It is most appreciated. So if I understand you correctly, your long-term goal would be to promote queen genetics which are driven at least in part based on the baseline mite load in the hive season-over-season? Part of my rationale for asking the question is that my (admittedly unscientific) observations of relative mite drop throughout the season seem to have no discernible pattern either within or between hives other than the predictable (i.e. relatively high bee population = relatively high mite drop). It may very well be that by keeping close tabs on this information at frequent intervals over a period of years as it appears SiWolKe is doing, one may be able to develop an analog between mite drop and colony response at various points throughout the year that might help steer TF management practices? Thank you for your input- it is most appreciated!

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Relative Mite Counts in a Treatment-Free Context

    GregV:

    Thank you for the excellent observations. I have observed that many in the TF community regard relative mite counts as unimportant and I can certainly appreciate that position. As you said, "If the bees stay afloat whatever the number - that what really matters." And, I agree this is by far-and-away the most important consideration.

    Also, I concur with your assessment that, "...resistance" a multi-variable equation, where the variables vary population to population - the counts become less useful."

    So the question in my mind is can anything predictive be gleaned from these values, either in isolation at a particular point in time (i.e. Fall Winter Bee Rearing) or evaluating a baseline over a period of years (i.e. seasonal average mite drop) to help direct any management decisions? If I understood SP correctly, it sounds like he might consider promoting queen stock that all things equal comes from colonies that have lower average relative mite loads.

    Thanks again for the input. I really appreciate it.

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Relative Mite Counts in a Treatment-Free Context

    SiWolKe:

    Thank you for your reply. The microscope image you posted is impressive and you are right- my kids would really enjoy being a part of this kind of experiment. This might also help justify the expense as now it is educational

    I really appreciate your scientific approach to your apiculture and the fact you are trying to establish predictive markers which might help you make management decisions in your apiary going forward, including whether open-mating is augmenting or diminishing any VSH / mite tolerant genetic profiles in your yard.

    Thanks again for your input. I do appreciate it.

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Relative Mite Counts in a Treatment-Free Context

    Thanks for the link to the microscope Sibylle. That looks like it would be handy for several applications for me.

  12. #11
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    Default Re: Relative Mite Counts in a Treatment-Free Context

    Quote Originally Posted by SiWolKe View Post

    ..Yes, loose your bees but not sleep..

    ..Iīm a curious person who wants to know everything happening and I try to see some correlations because I want to improve my hive configurations..
    Yes, I have been told many times now how I mismanage and abuse my livestock.
    By these standards, Siberian hunters also mismanage their hunting dogs (because they leave them outside to sleep in the snow).
    I am just doing what MB or SP have been doing for long time now.
    Why don't you call them out too then.
    So, let's move on.

    Look, I am curious too.
    But I also have other life happening around me (my kids, for example, are much more important than my bees; so the bees lose).

    So, I have no time for micro-management down to mite counting daily and such.
    In fact, value of the micro-management is in question very much for an average backyard beek without well qualified scientific goals.
    The more micro-details you learn, the less you know what to make of them and how to react if at all - micro-details can be end-less and require time and dedication to digest.
    Some of these micro-details are plain human errors and not even real facts.

    I stick to macro-management - ongoing apiary expansion/geographic colony distribution and redundancy/my own drone production and drone coverage/colony splitting/natural comb/hive designs supporting small colony management/acquiring promising queens and testing those lines by hard bonding (I got 4 promising mutt lines in testing just as we speak - no fuss and no fancy names to brag about - just some mutt bees).
    Last edited by GregV; 10-30-2018 at 08:45 AM.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  13. #12
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    Default Re: Relative Mite Counts in a Treatment-Free Context

    Quote Originally Posted by GregV View Post
    Yes, I have been told many times now how I mismanage and abuse my livestock.
    You are not alone I rarely do counts, because ultimately I will not treat the colony. The counts that are done are for curiosity purposes of boomers or slackers, & are isolated if needed. Re-queened, never allowed to totally crash, and/or get robbed out.
    Please excuse me, I am now free to go manage & treat ;)
    my ladies the best way I know how.

  14. #13

    Default Re: Relative Mite Counts in a Treatment-Free Context

    Quote Originally Posted by Litsinger View Post
    SiWolKe:

    Thank you for your reply. The microscope image you posted is impressive and you are right- my kids would really enjoy being a part of this kind of experiment. This might also help justify the expense as now it is educational

    I really appreciate your scientific approach to your apiculture and the fact you are trying to establish predictive markers which might help you make management decisions in your apiary going forward, including whether open-mating is augmenting or diminishing any VSH / mite tolerant genetic profiles in your yard.

    Thanks again for your input. I do appreciate it.
    Thanks Russ.
    Introducing queens in some queenless splits I used capped comb from a highly infested colony. This colony survived two seasons and one winter but was one of my strongest despite a mite drop of + - 200 a day in summer 2017 for some weeks, it came out of winter the strongest of all. Now mite numbers are not as high but I have restricted them to a nuc with my managements.
    I did not do this on purpose, I used the combs because they were so many and the others were weaker.

    The splits and queens I donated them either brought down the mite numbers very quickly or the numbers stayed just as high as before. One hiveīs numbers rose daily, I treated those to make them last until winter to crash ( I donīt want to set free mite bombs in my beeyards.)

    The countings mean to me not to disturb the hives too much as with alcohol wash or looking at brood frames. Allcohol wash is not giving you an overall view of what happens daily in many weeks, it just shows the status of one moment. I believe the bees communication ceases for some time with opening a hive.
    Bees talking to each other is important because the bee hive is a unit and unites to defend.

    Providing the colonies with robber screens all season long and placing them some m apart has reduced the drifting very much, so itīs getting more easy to evaluate a colony.
    Iīm not moving frames except while splitting so the colonies must develop on their own.
    The only thing I do is to feed when they starve or when I do small splits. The moment they are able to care for themselves I watch how they develop..and compare.

    The colonies which get bigger and bigger in short time are those crashing the first normally. There is no balance in this hives and not much defense. The mite numbers confirm this.
    The one hive talked about above is an exception but I was not able to let them be undisturbed this year, I needed the bee numbers after my losses.

    But I need much more time for my observations. I had to learn about tf beekeeping under my circumstances first and this learning must go on.
    2015 I started to do bond following MB, but I quickly realized it would make my bees extinct in no time, no matter if I use more resistant stock. I have to breed from the best and shift the queens or move the susceptibles to another beeyard so not to have those drones near. Itīs just too crowded with neighbor bee hives, my locations.

    This managements will go on forever I fear as long as treaters are around me. But I donīt care about the work, I just want bees tf.
    Last edited by 1102009; 10-30-2018 at 01:21 PM.

  15. #14
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    Default Re: Relative Mite Counts in a Treatment-Free Context

    Siwolke “I want to know whether my high mite number hives survive or whether my low mite number hives die, I want to see whether my managements to prevent drift succeed.”

    How do you manage drifting? Thanks, Deb
    Western Catskill Mountains
    Proverbs 16:24

  16. #15

    Default Re: Relative Mite Counts in a Treatment-Free Context

    Quote Originally Posted by Cloverdale View Post

    How do you manage drifting? Thanks, Deb
    I use robber screens all season long and I place apart the hives as much as possible. The entrances of the robber screens are going into different directions.
    Compared to former times I estimate the drifting to be reduced 40%.

    Platzierung Elgon.pdf

  17. #16
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    Default Re: Relative Mite Counts in a Treatment-Free Context

    Quote Originally Posted by Litsinger View Post
    So if I understand you correctly, your long-term goal would be to promote queen genetics which are driven at least in part based on the baseline mite load in the hive season-over-season?
    perhaps. it would at least be interesting to see how much of a correlation there is or isn't between measured resistance and survival/productivity.

    what i've been doing so far is looking to my longest lived colonies and their offshoots as a starting point for breeder queen selection. along with longevity i'm interested in response to swarm prevention and honey production which tend to go hand in hand with each other.

    that said i haven't done any grafting for a couple of seasons now. most of this year's splits were made with emergency cells produced above an excluder after pushing the queen down below it. (sort of snelgrove like)

    i also picked up a few queens that ended up surplus to a 22 year treatment free friend operating in the next county over from here.
    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  18. #17
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    Default

    SiWolKe: Very fascinating feedback- you have put much more thought into this topic than I, and I enjoyed considering some of the hypotheses you put forth. For what it is worth, I do hope you are able to develop resilient survivor stock in your area that makes your TF efforts progressively easier over time. Maybe you simply need to flood your area with survivor drones who will change everyone's genetic pool for the better 🙂 Thank you for your help and input. I do appreciate it!

  19. #18
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    Default

    Squarepeg: As always, you have excellent and imminently practical advice. As you pointed out, it seems prudent to, "...see how much of a correlation there is or isn't between measured resistance and survival/productivity."

    Ultimately, the question in my mind is whether mite counts (either in isolation or in conjunction with other variables) provides any predictive information that one could utilize in their management. It seems that the responses suggest it might factor in one's breeding program but may not have immediate bearing in most instances on seasonal management decisions of individual hives. Thank you for your help. I sincerely appreciate it!

  20. #19
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    Default Re: Relative Mite Counts in a Treatment-Free Context

    Mite resistance by definition is the limitation of the mite population so it dosen't build up to high numbers (or build as fast)

    Mite tolerance is the ability to deal with high mite numbers.
    Kefuss etal 2015
    According to Schneider and Ayres
    (2008), resistance and tolerance are two separate major
    pathways for survival to infestations. Raberg, Graham,
    and Read (2009) define resistance as “the ability of a
    host to limit parasite burden” and tolerance as the
    ability of a host “to limit the damage caused by a given
    parasite burden”.
    Mite tolerance is not often seen in survivor stock, likely do to the fact its viruses that cause the crashes, and they are constantly changing. As a whole the long and short is hives with the lowest counts do best as they suppress the vector. Be it , keffus, Gotland, or the Arnot forest, that's the mechisim that keeps coming out on top. tolerance at the moment is a pipe dream
    In honey bees, Danka, Rinderer, Spivak, and Kefuss
    (2013) defined resistance as the ability of a hive to
    “keep V. destructor at a relatively low level”. Efforts to
    document resistance to varroa focus on the maintenance
    of colony fitness being associated with reduced
    numbers of infesting mites. Fitness in honey bees can be
    measured in a number of ways such as amount of
    brood, colony size, survival, queen, and honey production.
    Although tolerance to the haplotype of varroa found
    in Europe has not been demonstrated
    (according to the
    above definitions), efforts to do so would have to focus
    on the maintenance of colony fitness with elevated numbers
    of infesting mites.
    one only needs to look at Kefuss 2015 to see the results..
    In both test populations, the number of mites found per 100 bees decreased compared to that found on the original population 1 of 1999 where 75% of the colonies had more than 5 mites per 100 bees. In 2001, 66.2%, 2002 65.5%, 2008 87%, 2009 92%, and 2010 80.8% of the colonies had less than 5 mites/100 bees

    hives with high mite counts "removed' them self from the study.
    Mite counts are very predictive to a hives survival. The key for TF fokes is to us a larger threshold number.. your looking for a number that tells you that hive is not going to be TF and to remove its genetics, traditional thresholds are set for production and economic reasons

    The countings mean to me not to disturb the hives too much as with alcohol wash or looking at brood frames. Allcohol wash is not giving you an overall view of what happens daily in many weeks, it just shows the status of one moment. I believe the bees communication ceases for some time with opening a hive.
    studys suggest the opposite. The alcohol wash is the gold standard for research
    sticky boards are just short of tea leaves, and practically meaningless unless you know whats going on inside the hive.

    swinging back around
    sold time tested beekeeping is what is needed... not tea leaves, pipe dreams, and faith based beekeeping


    Robert G Danka, Thomas E Rinderer, Marla Spivak, and John Kefuss-2013 Comments on: “Varroa destructor: research avenues
    towards sustainable control”


    selecting “blindly” for resistance, i.e., by
    using an approach that simply targets low mite infestations. This has
    already, however, been documented to be a viable breeding approach
    that has led to honey bees that now are used by both small-scale and
    commercial beekeepers with no or minimal acaricide input: Russian
    honey bees in the USA (Rinderer et al. 2010; de Guzman et al., 2007)
    and bees bred by John Kefuss in France (Büchler et al., 2010; Kefuss
    et al., 2004). Resistance in other untreated bees selected for survival
    may be functional but has not been documented with rigorous testing
    breeding by mite counts works, and works well. Spiting what lives.....not so much

    Honey bee strains that are resistant to varroa are a valuable resource
    that beekeepers are using successfully. Although these bees
    have not completely solved the problem, we are in fact moving toward
    the ideal of sustainable varroa control described by Dietemann et al.
    (2012). Further research to determine the best IPM procedures to
    support the full expression of resistant phenotypes would move us
    more quickly toward ending reliance on acaricides.
    an IMP path is likely the fastest and most realistic way forward.
    Last edited by msl; 10-30-2018 at 09:59 PM.

  21. #20

    Default Re: Relative Mite Counts in a Treatment-Free Context

    Quote Originally Posted by Litsinger View Post
    SiWolKe: Very fascinating feedback- you have put much more thought into this topic than I, and I enjoyed considering some of the hypotheses you put forth. For what it is worth, I do hope you are able to develop resilient survivor stock in your area that makes your TF efforts progressively easier over time. Maybe you simply need to flood your area with survivor drones who will change everyone's genetic pool for the better �� Thank you for your help and input. I do appreciate it!
    The flooding with drones will not work, because I canīt have so many hives and my locations are flooded by weak genetics.
    My aim is to work with others as a group to find an isolated mating place, either for open mating different survivor lines ( diversity) or artificial inseminate. I hope it works out.

    studys suggest the opposite. The alcohol wash is the gold standard for research
    I left behind the belief in studies under unrealistic circumstances and being to short in time and follow my own research. Science never helped me much and in my hives I rather see different things happen which are never considered.
    To a research believer this might be absurd but as beekeeping is local there is no standard to be followed.
    I did the alcohol wash in sweden but I saw that it did not give exact numbers so it must be repeated. I saw that mite biting was not considered which I think most important.

    sticky boards are just short of tea leaves, and practically meaningless unless you know whats going on inside the hive.
    Perhaps it is good for some to learn how to read a sticky board just as much as to learn about the entrance traffic.
    Sticky board reading is one of the valuable things I learned in bee class 2014 because itīs part of a treatment management here and taken very serious.

    I found it interesting that I was contacted by professional research scientists after the austrian conference. They use the data of all tf beekeepers they know of to find out about the location impact.
    Thatīs a very good approach and shows that past reseach did not lead to standard results we might use. It was Yves Lecompte who did this. He works with J.Kefuss.

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