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Discussion Starter #1
Hello everyone,

I'm not sure where to post this thread.

This is my first spring with over wintered bees. One hive, two mediums almost full of bees.
I have successfully regressed them to 4.9mm. I used PF-125 to get them small and now in the process of rotating those out and replacing them with SC wax foundation. They are drawing out the wax foundation perfectly. I just did a natural drop mite check and found 30 mite over 24 hours! This seems high to me especially with all of the new foundation that they are drawing out and the queen now is laying in. Is this a high mite count? What can I do and still remain treatment/chemical free? Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you!
 

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Local feral survivors in eight frame medium boxes.
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> I'm not sure where to post this thread.

"Diseases and pests" would make sense.

It's early in the year so the number should be lower earlier (but I'm not in CA and don't know what is "early in the year" where you are). A lot of how "normal" it would be depends on how many bees there are. A booming hive with 100,000 bees that isn't as high a number as in a moderate hive with 30,000 bees or a struggling hive with 10,000 bees.

Phil Craft's recommendations:
Maximum acceptable natural drop in 24 hours with 30,000 bees in the hive:
3-10 Spring
30-60 Fall

You might keep an eye on them and see where the number goes.
 

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I'm in Southern California, so there wasn't a real winter to serve as a brood break here. You may want to do a sugar roll or alcohol wash of about 200-300 nurse bees scraped from a frame to see the percent infestation. You may want to add some drone foundation to attract some mites away from the worker brood. Splitting and brood breaks are common treatment free strategies. It seems to be very difficult to keep a single treatment free hive.
 

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Do a confirming test before you do anything. In my view natural mite drop is good for seeing trends only, and is not in and of itself an accurate way to determine mite infestation levels.

If you do in fact have high mite levels and are determined to remain treatment free you are in a tough place. Most anything you do at this point will have some sort of an effect that you might not like. Learn a bit about Varroa population dynamics and the Varroa life cycle. You could interrupt Varroa population growth by creating a brood break, but this will have the consequence of slowing future bee population growth too, as there will not be any eggs/larvae/pupae created in the pipeline so to speak for the duration of your brood break. If you are counting on this hive to produce a sizable honey crop for you, this is probably not the plan to follow.

If the mite load turns out not to be significant, no worries and full steam ahead.

If the mite population is as high as you think it is and the hive is showing signs of being stressed by Varroa, you may need to change up genetics with a bee better able to coexist with Varroa or better able to keep the Varroa population at low levels.

Let us know what you decide to do. A wise treatment oriented bee inspector that I heard last night said that many times the beekeeper is their own worst enemy and that interference in the hive often does NOT help the bees out any. Food for thought. In your case I'd not do anything out of panic; instead find out what the level of Varroa infestation of the hive is, and then take action as you deem appropriate.
 

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Why are you afraid of drawn out wax entombed plastic? I would put a foundationless frame in which the bees will draw out 100% drones and after the drones are capped, you could cut them out, use them for chicken feed or really excellent fish bait and repeat as required to control you mites. That is, if a sugar roll of bees taken off open brood shows you have a problem.
 

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>
Phil Craft's recommendations:
Maximum acceptable natural drop in 24 hours with 30,000 bees in the hive:
3-10 Spring
30-60 Fall

You might keep an eye on them and see where the number goes.
I like Phil Craft. Did a great job as KY state Apiarist. His appearance on KET about urban beekeeping (public television) was the reason I started beekeeping. Heres a pic of Him speaking Summer 2012 at Wendy Hagan's beautiful estate.

Wendy-2.jpg

Mite drops require consecutive sampling, one day is not enough data to catch all of the variation in a bell curve. I would sample a couple days or weeks accumulation over a month.
 

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I agree about immediately repeating the drop tests. I test almost constantly (out of curiosity, mostly) and there can be occasional unexplained spikes in the mites levels, particularly if you only ran the test for a single 24 hour period. Leave the boards in for at least three days and average the number by dividing the total number of mites by the number of days. I believe the treatment thresholds that are published are based on average 24 hour count over at least three days.

I'm not sure where you are in California, but it would pay to hunt up local treatment threshold numbers that reflect your climate, and its liklihood of having had an extended winter brood break to suppress the mites. If you have had a brood break, and still have averaged numbers that high you may need more drastic tactics. But in parts of CA that are never without brood, those numbers may not be so alarming.

I'm in northern NY, so I'm only familiar with the thresholds for very cold, eastern areas.

Enj.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks everyone for the reply's.

I did a sugar roll with 1/2 cup of bees from open brood and found 3 mites.
 

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> I'm not sure where to post this thread.

"Diseases and pests" would make sense.

It's early in the year so the number should be lower earlier (but I'm not in CA and don't know what is "early in the year" where you are). A lot of how "normal" it would be depends on how many bees there are. A booming hive with 100,000 bees that isn't as high a number as in a moderate hive with 30,000 bees or a struggling hive with 10,000 bees.

Phil Craft's recommendations:
Maximum acceptable natural drop in 24 hours with 30,000 bees in the hive:
3-10 Spring
30-60 Fall

You might keep an eye on them and see where the number goes.
How many bees does it usually take to cover both sides of a deep frame?
 
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