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Too Few Mites to Study? Naturally!

2204 Views 6 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  heaflaw
Hi Guys,

Dr. Mangum's June 2010 American Bee Journal article on page 581 details a work-around he developed for his untreated, natural comb top bar hives.

You see, his hives have survived without treatment for more than 6 years. And mite broodnest levels, with one exception, have remained below 10 percent. Average mite loads in June were 628 mites/hive. And in August 398 mites/hive.

Now that's a problem! Especially if you think VHS is responsible for those low mite levels and would like to test for it. There simply aren't enough mites!

So, he devised a way to concentrate those few mites on a small amount of brood and do a little testing for VHS.

His experience with untreated bees, natural comb and mites isn't unique. Many other beekeepers have had the same experience including myself. I've written a little more about this here:

Thinking there are a few beekeepers who would like to have this same problem - too few mites :)
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He must have great eyes and alot of free time to count all 628 mites.
Hi brac,

Mite counting, it's the only real way to get a handle on what's happening with the mites in a hive.

I setup a test yard in the mid-1990's and starting counting mites in 1996. Natural mite drop was counted daily in a few hives, twice-a-week in half the hives, and once a week in the rest. I'd count them this way about 9 months out of the year. And then I pick a couple of hives and monitor the mite fall once a week during the other three months.

The trays were divided into grid squares which simplified the process. I could have used a statistical approach to reduce the actual counting. But I counted them all anyway.

And you get real fast and good at it after awhile. I could actually just look at mite tray and usually guestimate the number of mites within 10 percent of the actual count.

I continued counting mites this way until I experienced mite counting/bee size measuring burnout. You can read about that experience in the "Done For" towards the bottom of the page here:

It just about did both my marriage and my beekeeping in.

But there was a silver lining to that dark cloud. Through it I learned to trust what I saw with my natural beekeeping experience. And I don't need to count a single mite today.
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Re: Too Few Mites to Study? Natural Beekeeping Works

Hi Guys,

I've suffered from this same problem.

I've attempted to document small cell broodnest cleansing and was defeated.

First year, a bazillion mites, bald headed brood at the purple eye stage, and a tray full of bee damaged, dieing, and dead mites. But no camera.

Second year. New digital camera. But few mites, no bald headed brood, and an empty mite tray.

I've written more about that experience here:

Man, I thought somebody would get excited about the low mite count Dr. Mangum has been tracking and skip right by his mite counting machinations. Anybody still read the bee journals?

Maybe everybody is out working their bees while I sit here recovering from yesterday's snow blizzard. I hope so.

So little interest in this topic. Maybe I should have used a different title like: "Famous beekeeping mathematician mite counts debunks world renown scientific study!" :)))

I'm gone again.
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I am very excited about this. Last year i attended a treatment-free beekeeping conference which focused on the topic of small cell beekeeping, and since then I am eagerly making the transition to regressing the bee size and using natural comb, not feeding sugar as a routine and not adding chemicals to the hive.

In addition I purchased some small cell, treatment-free, northern raised stock to work with while I am regressing the bees I already have. It is too early to tell how this is panning out, but the beekeepers who are already doing it are reporting excellent results. Mites are no longer a problem for them.

Of course, many people are still locked into the old ways. I am glad that I am only beekeeping for three years now, because if I had a huge pile of drawn-plastic-large-cell foundation I might be reluctant change over. But as it is, I can't wait to get rid of the stuff.

There is something very gratifying about looking at bees on freshly drawn, natural comb. Some of the old comb I got with my first nucs are repulsive by comparison.

But the bees are in some serious trouble here, and so will we be with out them. So I say bees first. I am the Lorax, I speak for the bees.
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Treatment free may work with mites, I haven't had a problem with them yet, but it won't work with beetles. My 'treatment free' TBH just absconded leaving a larvae fill mess of comb full of brood and honey.
I have been treatment free for 5 years. Don't really know why. Don't count mites. The hives just keep going & going. I think it can be done fairly easily. I just stopped treating & let the bees deal with the mites. I'm looking forward to reading your site after I finish taking off honey today.
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