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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Have a hive from a nuc that built up real quick this past spring. It seemed to be doing pretty well, in fact it was the only hive that I got honey from this year. When I tested for mites in August though, my other 3 hives had between 0 and 3 mites per 100, and this one had about 8.

I gave them all 3 OAV treatments 5 days apart. After the third treatment, there was still a very large mite drop on this hive, so I gave it another 5 days later. After another 5 days, I opened the hive today to see how it was doing, and to assess if I could add one of the queens I've got laying in a small nuc. Still plenty of stores, but nearly all the brood areaa larva is empty of eggs or larvae. On a handful of frames, there is some very spotty brood, some capped, some not, some punctured, and all looking dead or not well. I pulled out a couple from under caps and saw at least one white larva with 2 or 3 mites attached.

As I was looking, I noticed there are still a decent number of bees in there, but saw more than a few with deformed wings. Only sign of queen was a larva I saw, maybe 1st or 2nd instar.

At this point, I'm wondering if the broodlessness and dead brood may be a result of the OAV? The other hives treated looked ok, with brood in all stages, though only this one got treatment #4. Either way though, can the hive be saved if I combine with one of the laying nucs, or will that just perpetuate the problem? With the lack of brood, I've got to think the mites are all but gone, but will the DWV continue to spread without them?

Thanks,

Keith
 

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I doubt very much that OA caused the problem...but could have perpetuated it as OA doesn’t penetrate the cells and didn’t kill as many mites as you hoped ( and, I understand the reason for the multiple weekly treatments). This time of year, brood production is ramping down and mite levels are peaking with exponential increases in mites. So, to me, it Sounds like you are describing lots of mites and parasitic mite syndrome to me.

Once you see deformed wings, perforated cells and high mite drops you are in trouble...not just mites but also the viral load (like DWV et.al.) they vctor. Some would say that your bees are dead...they just don’t know it yet. Is it worth the time, money and effort to try and resurrect a diseased colony? You decide but probably not worth it at this time of year.

I would be treating all my colonies with formic-pro or MAQS and save the OA for late fall and winter when they are mostly bloodless and it is most effective.

IMO, Combining an infested colony could perpetuate the problem or spread the problem/mites/viruses to your other colonies. Also, avoid creating the “mite bomb” situation that can occur by bees from “healthier” colonies robbing out the weakened colony with the DWV.
 

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Keith,

The fourth treatment is probably not the cause of the broodless and dead brood. I have often done four (or even five) treatments with no evidence of problems.

However, OAV is not the best treatment for colonies with high levels of mites when they also have brood, because so many mites are protected by the cappings. For colonies like that formic acid is a better choice, because it starts killing mites right away at both ends of their development cycle, so to speak.

What you're seeing seems more likely to be PMS.

DWV takes about 12 weeks (23 weeks in cold weather) to works itself out of a colony, even though you will pretty quickly see fewer affected individuals.

From your description, however, there is also the small possibility that what's going on is European Foul Brood which can have a somewhat similar appearance to PMS. I would get a test kit for that, just to rule it in or out, because it is contagious. And you can easily spread it among your hives by moving frames and using the same tools and equipment. Its principal visual manifestation is sick-looking larvae and little to no capped brood because most larvae don't live long enough to get capped. (A few do, and that results in punctured cappings, which is the primary hallmark of the much-worse American Foul Brood. But the "rope test" on punctured EFB cells doesn't produce anything that will rope out like AFB does.) In EFB you will see eggs and very young larvae (assuming there is still a queen and enough bees to tend them) but an absence of healthy older larvae and not much, if any, capped brood.

If you're seeing mite-infested pupae after an OAV treatment series, you haven't, yet, achieved effective mite control. I would consider an immediate round of formic acid (MAQS or FormicPro.) And as a precaution, order up a couple of the EFB test kits (about $14/ea) and use them to see if that is the problem with the unhealthy-looking brood. After good mite treatment, the DWV will work its way out.

The main question is whether this colony will be able to raise enough healthy winter bees before winter arrives to sustain itself and then start building up again in the spring. DWV (and other mite-vectored viruses) shorten the lives of bees, even those without the characteristic deformed wings. If you don't have enough healthy bees at the end of winter to care for and protect the the new season's brood the colony will stall out and die, even if it technically "survived" winter.

However I would give it the opportunity to turn things around by getting rid of the mites ASAP and also checking to see if there was any chance they had EFB (and then treating the whole yard if the test was positive). Of course, make sure this troubled hive has a decent amount of stores, and feeding rim installed before winter. But I wouldn't be moving frames of stores or additional equipment to the stack before I'd ruled out EFB. Meanwhile, until you know about the EFB, one way or the other, take proactive active steps to make sure this weakened colony cannot get robbed - install a robbing screen - even a temporary, home-made one - today. Because aside from beekeepers moving equipment and using contaminated tools, EFB is spread by the bees through robbing behavior. Make sure that doesn't happen in your yard.

Good luck to you and your bees!

Nancy,
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Nancy, Orthoman,

Thanks for the advice and feedback. As far as EFB, I did try to pull a few brood and none seemed "ropy" at all, they all came out pretty easy. I also didn't notice a smell. I have uploaded a few pics though for reference. Since I have the extra queen anyway, if I can verify what they have is something like PMS, and that the viruses are not necessarily a problem so long as I can knock the mites down, I was thinking of treating, combining, and consolidating the frames -- see if I can get them through and make use of the existing comb and honey, if not the remaining bees.

https://imgur.com/a/QX0vhFZ

Keith
 

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The third pic down tells the story of a massive mite load for a long time. Much white mite poop everywhere. At this point I would call PMS and about to collapse completely. It will take some time to recover from that if at all but condensing them down and add a couple frames of brood from a healthy colony to help with numbers and healthy comb to lay in. As far as whatever there is in larval stage, if they have a tan or light brownish tint to them, better buy that EFB test kit. I'm seeing a few what would appear to be some melted larva in a few cells.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Should also mention, I've had a robbing screen on since late July, so hopefully covered there for the short term at least.
 

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Keith,

EFB doesn't rope, and the scales come out easily. Smell is often absent

AFB ropes an inch or more and the scales are hard to pry out. Smell is a more typical sign.

Before I had EFB in my yard I sort of had these two distinctly different diseases filed together in my mind. (Filed under Trouble I Don't Even Want To Think About.)

EFB infects and kills larvae usually before they are capped, the dying larvae are discolored, and have a grey, yellow tannish look to them. They are slumped or melted down in the cells.

AFB infects and kills larvae after they are capped, hence the typical sign of swathes of capped brood with punctures or flattish-looking cappings. They die stretched and lying on their backs in the cell, sometimes with their tongue protruding grotesquely upward in death. They rope out easily until they are dried out into a highly infectious scale which sticks hard on the cell wall.

(If you want some mnemonics to remember: EFB kills Early (before capping); AFB kills After (capping). EFB scales are Easy to remove; AFB scales Adhere tightly to cells.)

EFB can be arrested by using antibiotics to clean it out of the nurse bees' guts, so they don't unwittingly infect additional larvae while feeding them. The combs and equipment stay infectious for some time (often described as 18 months after the infection clears up.) But the bacteria doesn't form a long-lived infectious spore.

AFB can also be stopped by antibiotics, but the gear remains contaminated and dangerous for decades, at least. And that's why it is usually summarily burnt.

I don't think you have AFB.

But you might have EFB, which shares lots of visual characteristics with PMS. Based on the time of year, it is more likely to be PMS, rather than EFB, which is seen more often earlier in the year. Another argument that this is PMS, not EFB is that you have a lot of mites. One of the outcomes of EFB is that the mite levels crash after a long siege of EFB simply because if the bees can't get brood capped and matured, then the mites can't reproduce well, either. (Not recommending EFB as a mite-control strategy, however!)

But because EFB is quite infectious and can be spread by common beekeeping practices, such as combining and moving frames of brood and stores, and because it remains infectious on equipment for more than a year afterward it has been cleared up, I think it is very important to run field tests on any colony with any possible signs of the disease. Better safe than sorry. A $14 test can save you hundreds, if not thousands, in equipment costs alone, never mind keeping healthy colonies from being exposed to major trouble.

Last year I had two colonies that were actually killed by smoke from a fire in March, so I "knew" what caused their deaths. When I used their frames and equipment resources in other colonies later that spring I unknowingly spread EFB to my other colonies. I didn't realize that they were already infected with EFB before the fire. And I didn't realize at the time that I could have tested some of the dead larvae before using those resources and avoided a really big problem.

Nancy
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Nancy,

Thanks for the explanation. That was the third hive I opened yesterday, and I was concerned enough to blast my hive tool with a torch before opening the last. When I took a closer look at the pics I took, particularly the third in the post, I did notice several of the emerging bees had their tongues lolling out, which has also given me concern.

I looked into ordering the test kit from Mann Lake or Amazon; sadly the only retailer nearby (Brushy Mt) doesn't seem to carry them. From what I read, the test kits seem to only be good for a single larva -- safe to assume any of the dead ones would be carriers I assume?

I went into August looking like I'd have 4 hives to winter. Yesterday I discovered this situation, and another hive that may be too hot to even requeen in my residential neighborhood, so it's definitely a blow! Going to go ahead and order the test, and hope for the best though.

Thanks again,

Keith
 

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The tongue-out thing occurs in other situations so it's not as definitive as some other AFB signs.

I don't think you have AFB, though, so I'm not sure I would even test for that. (The kits only test for a single disease.)

You can collect more than a single dead larva (from a single hive, of course) to get a better "average" to be tested. I wouldn't scoop up more than say, two or three, though for a single test. The test is looking not for the bacteria, but for the proteins that are released by the infection. Even a faintly positive result, is a confirmation of the disease. There's is no quantitative aspect to it.

I know that Betterbee also sells the kits. They are very lightweight and the shipping shouldn't be expensive. I'd get at least two in case you mess up the first one somehow. The directions are clear and unambiguous, but you never know when clumsy fingers will drop something. A second test kit on hand means you won't have to wait through another shipping cycle to get results. And if you do have a positive result, you can immediately test any other hive that may be infected, too.

I really think you'll discover that it's mites/PMS, not EFB. Relatively speaking that is the better outcome because it's easier to fix and carries less risk for your other colonies.

Good luck!

Nancy
 

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I looked at the pic - sadly it is showing the signs of a strong hive overcome with mites. DWV visible in center of pic, a mite in lower right quadrant on the back of a bee - and if it is on her back, it means the good spots for sucking are taken. It is possible to start OAV too late, and your other hives are at high risk of re-infection if they rob this one. And usually they will. SO expect to treat with OAV again for those hives in 3 weeks or so - assuming the post-vaporization mite drop is less than 20. And that is also assuming your battery and wand AND dose are appropriate. YOu need a car battery, ideally not YOUR car battery or if so when the car is running, and you need 2 scoops of 1/2 tsp or so, and you need to see a full burn, with visible vapor coming out of the entrance-sealed hive for at least 1min 30 sec. And bottom board IN. And vapor mask (N95 or better) and eye pro (goggles would work). Upwind isn't an effective protective measure. ;)

EFB always presents with larvae that look caramel colored, with a brown "spine" on their back - if the hive isn't so hygenic that they r removing them ASAP. Also it often results in a low mite load, as so many larvae don't make it.

Do learn how to detect mite frass - if you turn the frame so you're looking from the bottom, tiny flecks of pure white will be at the lip of the cell (not deep inside). Mites leave mite poop when they successfully reproduce. More than 5 or so per 10x10 square of cells is very bad news.

The hive can recover, if the following are met: 1) you have a laying queen. Eggs will be evidence of this. No eggs, I would call it a bummer and save the comb for next year's splits - be sure to freeze for a stretch if you won't have a 20 F or lower night coming in the next 2 months or so. A few eggs here and there could be laying workers.
2) the ability to donate two shakes of nurse bees from another hive, and also 2 frames of capped brood covered in nurse bees, and 3) enough time - like 6 weeks - before a hard freeze so the queen can lay out brood during that time to make winter bees. No long-lived and pampered winter bees means no survival. Also you will need to feed. Minimize foraging, then you extend life span. Winter is coming....

At any rate, I would overwinter this hive as a nuc, 5 frames over 5. You can covert a 10 frame over 10 into a nuc with a board that fits like a frame to restrict the brood nest, or I have used that rigid foam insulation to make a side-wall to make a 10 frame into a 5 frame for a while.

And remember that while there are a decent number of bees NOW.... those bees have a few weeks to live and are too old to take care of their baby sisters as well as would a nurse bee. Most are probably old enough to be foragers, which only live 2 weeks while foraging and taking care of brood. They live longer without brood pushing them to forage more, but once the queen starts brooding up, then they will disappear. Hence the infusion of young bees and capped brood from elsewhere.

Take your losses in the fall, if you don't need to save the queen... that comb will be useful for next year.
 

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Had this exact same thing happen to a colony last fall. Treated with Maqs twice in July and August. Plus Oav for good measure .I knew it had lots of mites and I killed them buy the thousands but could not get on top of it. My other colonies were fine but this one died out at the end of October. Not sure if they were robbing a mite infested colony or what. This colony also had a brood brake in June too. Once DWV sets in it really screws up the bees life cycle. Jeff
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Thanks Trish.

With the OAV, I do work to do it the right way. Certified respirator with organic acid cartridges, 1/2 tsp for 3:30, and then another 10 before I remove the wand and wadding. I use a transformer so I can run it right from 120 and don’t have to worry about lugging or charging a battery. I’ve been doing the treatments at night with a red flashlight and so I don’t typically see the fumes, but I’m fairly confident the apparatus at least is working.

I’ve had robbing screens on all my hives since mid July. We’ve had a really dry summer here and I’m still not confident enough to identify robbing from orientation or other similar behavior. On that particular hive there is a standard entrance excluder with the “medium” opening, and then a homemade robber screen with two openings near top, about 1 bee each. Hopefully that will hold off the rest until I can sort things.

I think what’s been pointed out as mite grass, I’ve always assumed was just small amounts of white pollen, so that is definitely helpful to know. I had been keeping an eye out, I thought. Tested 2 hives I had in May, didn’t turn up more than a single mite in either from an alcohol wash. At that point I assumed I was good until I pulled supers at beginning of August. I was in for a surprise.

At this point I’ve got two laying queens, each in nucs with 2 over 2 medium frames. They’ve got 2 frames of brood each, and nurses, and now it’s just a matter of assigning them to the proper hives. It may turn out that this one isn’t worth the resources, but even then, I want to be sure I can safely use the comb and honey elsewhere.

If things turn out as not EFB and just DWV and/or PMS as seems to be the consensus, I’ll have to figure out the next step. Our first frost typically isn’t until November, but if I can put the queens to better use I may just not try. In that case, I’ll assume either a combine or a shake-out is a bad idea. Would a soapy water bath be the quickest and safest way to dispatch — will that foul the frames for further use?

I looked at the pic - sadly it is showing the signs of a strong hive overcome with mites. DWV visible in center of pic, a mite in lower right quadrant on the back of a bee - and if it is on her back, it means the good spots for sucking are taken. It is possible to start OAV too late, and your other hives are at high risk of re-infection if they rob this one. And usually they will. SO expect to treat with OAV again for those hives in 3 weeks or so - assuming the post-vaporization mite drop is less than 20. And that is also assuming your battery and wand AND dose are appropriate. YOu need a car battery, ideally not YOUR car battery or if so when the car is running, and you need 2 scoops of 1/2 tsp or so, and you need to see a full burn, with visible vapor coming out of the entrance-sealed hive for at least 1min 30 sec. And bottom board IN. And vapor mask (N95 or better) and eye pro (goggles would work). Upwind isn't an effective protective measure.


EFB always presents with larvae that look caramel colored, with a brown "spine" on their back - if the hive isn't so hygenic that they r removing them ASAP. Also it often results in a low mite load, as so many larvae don't make it.

Do learn how to detect mite frass - if you turn the frame so you're looking from the bottom, tiny flecks of pure white will be at the lip of the cell (not deep inside). Mites leave mite poop when they successfully reproduce. More than 5 or so per 10x10 square of cells is very bad news.

The hive can recover, if the following are met: 1) you have a laying queen. Eggs will be evidence of this. No eggs, I would call it a bummer and save the comb for next year's splits - be sure to freeze for a stretch if you won't have a 20 F or lower night coming in the next 2 months or so. A few eggs here and there could be laying workers.
2) the ability to donate two shakes of nurse bees from another hive, and also 2 frames of capped brood covered in nurse bees, and 3) enough time - like 6 weeks - before a hard freeze so the queen can lay out brood during that time to make winter bees. No long-lived and pampered winter bees means no survival. Also you will need to feed. Minimize foraging, then you extend life span. Winter is coming....

At any rate, I would overwinter this hive as a nuc, 5 frames over 5. You can covert a 10 frame over 10 into a nuc with a board that fits like a frame to restrict the brood nest, or I have used that rigid foam insulation to make a side-wall to make a 10 frame into a 5 frame for a while.

And remember that while there are a decent number of bees NOW.... those bees have a few weeks to live and are too old to take care of their baby sisters as well as would a nurse bee. Most are probably old enough to be foragers, which only live 2 weeks while foraging and taking care of brood. They live longer without brood pushing them to forage more, but once the queen starts brooding up, then they will disappear. Hence the infusion of young bees and capped brood from elsewhere.

Take your losses in the fall, if you don't need to save the queen... that comb will be useful for next year.
 

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Why would you want to save a hive like this? They are doing you a favor if they die out in early winter without overly affecting your other hives. The robbing screens were a good idea. Winter will reduce the viral load on the comb.

Meanwhile consider your vulnerability for mites if you have generic unselected stock for mite and virus resistance. Next year plan on introducing mite resistance traits if you haven't already. If your other hives have good traits, by all means propagate them.

Trouble with too much attention on weak hives (if afb/efb is ruled out) is that strong hives are neglected. Make sure your strong nucs are ready for winter. They will be the foundation for next year.
 

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Why would you want to save a hive like this?
+1

Let them die and let them do so quickly.
Prevent robbing so to prevent infection/parasite spread.
Do NOT combine this sick puppy with any hives - you just propagate the infection/parasite over again.
End of story.

This is a good example when people focus too much on individual hives at the expense of maintaining better overall population.
Get rid of the obviously bad ones.
Propagate from the obviously good ones.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
QUICK UPDATE:

Tested hive today, negative for EFB according to test.

Spotted lots of young larvae in cells that were empty on last check - appeared as if Queen took a break.

The one thing that did unsettle me is that I pulled two dead larvae out to test. On the last check, the brood I pulled easily slid out of cells. When choosing my samples, one did pop out. The second was a bit liquified though.... came out in a more snotty consistency. I didn't detect a strong smell but it definitely made me less excited about the positive test result.

Since the hive seems almost devoid of capped (living) brood, prob for a couple more days, I plan to do another quick OAV treatment tonight. Even if I do let the hive die out, at the least I'll destroy some more mites that have the potential to migrate elsewhere.
 

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... Even if I do let the hive die out, at the least I'll destroy some more mites that have the potential to migrate elsewhere.
Of course, it is your time and your bees.
Meanwhile, if you just put a robber screen on them and walk away, the result will be similar as well.
 

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Couple of things for dealing with the hive... If it is very few bees, like 2 frames not fully covered, I will usually euthanize. Shake bees into soapy water, yes soapy water on combs will make them unfit for bees. Soapy water won't be cleanable and won't evaporate clean off.

Do reduce entrance to protect from robbing. And OAV is a great way to kill mites now...will be very effective. I am glad to hear that you are taking care with exposure to the vapors.

To save the hive... If there are more like 5 frames or more covered with bees, and it's been many weeks since you had brood, then if you can donate some capped brood (darker cappings are older), and the nurse bees...it will help a lot. Older bees may not be as effective as nurse bees - foragers have to re-grow feeding glands or something like that. If it's been like 2 since the last capped brood emerged, should be ok.

I have had hives show 2 mites/300 in May and have 20+/300 in August. It is a quick rise in pop. I now consider any mites in May as very bad news.
 

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... yes soapy water on combs will make them unfit for bees. Soapy water won't be cleanable and won't evaporate clean off..
Well, all you have to do - rinse those combs with cold water and air them out.
All it is to it.
Natural dish washing soap is not toxic.
The combs are still usable if not concerned for infection in them.

Logistically though, indeed, easiest to just dump the bees into the container with soapy water and call it done.
Melt the combs and call that done.
Torch the inside of the hive for a good measure.
 
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