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Well since this is my thread, I think I get to push back on this in a good-natured way without the risk of ending up in the 'tailgater' thread. ;)

While I'll grant you that we can't be sure of "intelligent design" we can't be sure of strictly random chance being the source of this amazing living planet we live on either.

What we can be sure of is that all lifeforms are currently adapting in response to the pressure that their environment is placing on them, and that we humans wield better than average influence in this arena, particularly in this industrialized age we are living in.
Afternoon @Litsinger
I'll also give a wee push on the last paragraph you stated.

with foxes and hares, one side gets low and it affects the other "in nature" IE when the foxes eat all the hares they having less food start a population decline to the point only a few are left, then the rabbits recover, etc... on and on.
this is intelligent design, self leveling of prey and predator.

So with bees there is a chance the mite would have reduced the bees enough by now, that the mite would have less food and be in a natural decline. BUT man has split and propagated/packaged the bees way beyond what Intelligent Design would have done.
So as the "mite food" is replenished by man, the Mites keep on growing. there is no balance, both are ramping up, one supported by Man (bees)and the other supported by mans support of the other. (Mites)

Unless the "better than average influence" you mentioned was "Bad" And I miss interpreted what you said.

In such man disturbed lifeform area, as beekeeping, the intelligent design is out the window. One could argue that cloning Gazelles and releasing many, many, of them would not reduce the lions but increase them. The intelligent design is trying to control the increasing Gazelles.

you have went from 0 to 40ish hives in the last 10 years, How many mites are you feeding, it was zero at some point .
:)
Mite food for thought.

GG
 

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Discussion Starter · #2,123 ·
Unless the "better than average influence" you mentioned was "Bad" And I miss interpreted what you said.
Good post, GG. To be honest, I was a bit purposely obtuse in my response, recognizing that man can likely exert either good or bad influence upon the biosphere but honestly tends toward the bad due to our inherently selfish nature.

In my worldview, God created the universe and all the life therein declaring it all 'good'.

He then gave man a stewardship mandate and gave all life plants for food:

Genesis 1:28-29 - God blessed them; and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth." Then God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food"; and it was so.

But as a result of sin this whole balance has been altered- so while I contend we see specters of this perfection in our current environment and the fingerprints of an intelligent designer all around, I suggest that we also unfortunately see the consequences of rational humanity, marred by an innate selfishness that permeates and impacts just about every aspect of life.

As to your point about the balance between mites and bees- I wholeheartedly agree with you. My selfish desire to keep 40 colonies in one location where I can see them out my bedroom window while simultaneously managing them for my own purposes puts a definite finger on the scales of the balance that nature is trying to develop. Shame on me.
 

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Good post, GG. To be honest, I was a bit purposely obtuse in my response, recognizing that man can likely exert either good or bad influence upon the biosphere but honestly tends toward the bad due to our inherently selfish nature.

In my worldview, God created the universe and all the life therein declaring it all 'good'.

He then gave man a stewardship mandate and gave all life plants for food:

Genesis 1:28-29 - God blessed them; and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth." Then God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food"; and it was so.

But as a result of sin this whole balance has been altered- so while I contend we see specters of this perfection in our current environment and the fingerprints of an intelligent designer all around, I suggest that we also unfortunately see the consequences of rational humanity, marred by an innate selfishness that permeates and impacts just about every aspect of life.

As to your point about the balance between mites and bees- I wholeheartedly agree with you. My selfish desire to keep 40 colonies in one location where I can see them out my bedroom window while simultaneously managing them for my own purposes puts a definite finger on the scales of the balance that nature is trying to develop. Shame on me.
I was not thinkin to "shame on you"
I also went from 20 to 40 to overcome losses so I am feeding 2 times the mites I once did.
Just wanted to point out the we cannot be fiddling with populations, and talking nature and balance as if we do not matter. 300 years ago there was Zero Mite food in the USA and Canada
totally agree with your post.
So lets then be good stewards.
I was just tweaking you a bit too keep you focused.

Have a great day.

GG

Have a great day.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2,125 ·
I was just tweaking you a bit too keep you focused.
Please always feel welcome to keep me on my toes- I welcome it.

The new paradigm relative to varroa mites reminds me of chestnut blight- the disease is so pervasive and effective that we were collectively left to wonder whether the American Chestnut could ever survive after being rendered effectively extinct.

Thankfully, there were a small percentage of the trees which survived and display immunity to the disease (one such tree is in a neighboring county to me) and using germ from these trees and a little help from their Asian counterparts, it looks like my grandchildren might be able to once again see these majestic trees.

And hopefully it is so with honey bees- while acknowledging the fact that they are not native to our shores, one can hope we are alive to see the day when bees and mites find an equitable balance... And I can shamefully harvest a good bit of surplus from the convenience of my home yard. ;)

Thanks again for the feedback. I hope you have a great day too.

Russ
 

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Discussion Starter · #2,126 ·
I harvested all the mites for an assessment of mite damage when time will allow.
Had the opportunity to evaluate the mites this afternoon. I like conducting mite damage assays in the Winter for three reasons:

1. The cold weather mitigates the risk of mite damage being misappropriated to scavenging pests.
2. There is less mite drop and thus a more manageable number of mites to assay.
3. The phoretic nature of the mites and lack of hive activities (I think) allows the colonies to amplify 'mite biting' efforts.

Having conducted these assays for a few years now, I have begun focusing on the mouthparts and find that all colonies express fairly significant 'mite biting' behavior.

I have not employed this as a discrete evaluation tool, but rather as more of a screening tool to compare various stocks of unknown origin.
 

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Can't help but to think of Schwarzenegger looking at these nasty things..."You're one ugly...."
 
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Discussion Starter · #2,128 · (Edited)
Colony #1911 mite drop total of 125 is an outlier, and is reminiscent of the profile of colony #1910 last season. Similar to #1910 last year, colony #1911 has not swarmed, has built-up an epic bee population and has a commensurate spike in mite drop figures from March.
#1911 has been the 'class of the apiary' this season and is still loaded with bees. It is reminiscent of #1910 which was a colossal unit last year that had high mite loads all summer and then failed late in the winter. I will continue to evaluate what sort of trends emerge, but the data may suggest that more modest hive volumes, allowing swarming and commensurately modest surplus gathering may be the balance that must be struck to continue to be reasonably successful in a TF context (in my setting).
Per the same evaluation, I am keeping a close eye on #2003, #1911 and #1803.
So as of today, the attached photo identifies what remains of #1911. Dead ladies walking.

Two outlines of trends appear to be emerging based on the mite drop data collected to-date:

1. The mite drop counts at the Summer Solstice are proving to be one of the more reliable predictors of viability. Similar to Dr. Seeley's observations, a 24 hour drop much North of 30 likely portends trouble in my yard.

2. It may be difficult to simultaneously manage this current genetic stock both for TF viability and for high production. In the last two years, the equation for the best-performing colony in the yard has been:

No Swarming + High Productivity = Bad Outcome.
 

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I wonder if spotting that big, productive hive and figuring out some specific management wouldn't get it over the hump. I seem to recall you saying you don't have much of a fall bloom. If so, I wonder if pulling the queen into a nuc in August or September and forcing her to start over without brood wouldn't be the trick. Then either recombine after enough time has passed, or even allow the main colony to go it's own way, making a new queen or staying queenless as luck happens. No loss if they are just going to die anyway.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2,130 ·
... figuring out some specific management wouldn't get it over the hump.
Good idea, AR1. I like your thought.

More generally, the idea of recognizing trouble coming at the end of Spring based on the mite drop should prompt me to take proactive steps to manage these colonies differently if I conclude that they are genetic dead-ends. They can still be utilized as good production colonies, and like you suggest pulling the queen and giving them an early Summer brood break will do nothing but help the situation. Like you correctly noted, most years our flow is effectively over by the end of June anyway.

In very broad strokes, it seems there are two predominant genetic profiles that are appearing in the yard:

Type 1- Similar to #1911. More broody and seem to respond better to the addition of space to forestall swarming. Good at drawing-out comb. Also tend to start winter lower in the stack. Could simply reflect more of a commercial influence.

Type 2- Seem to slow down brood rearing when resources are not coming in. Once overwintered seem to be bent on casting a couple swarms. Rear winter bees early. Spend all winter at the top of the stack. Maybe more of a feral influence.

I'll plan on making more generalizations along these lines in future posts, but kind of makes me wonder if Dr. Seeley and Kirk Webster are not on to something- namely we might be better served guiding our selection efforts and management approaches toward a post-varroa bee that might look a lot different than the archetypical pre-varroa bee.
 

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Type 1- Similar to #1911. More broody and seem to respond better to the addition of space to forestall swarming. Good at drawing-out comb. Also tend to start winter lower in the stack. Could simply reflect more of a commercial influence.

Type 2- Seem to slow down brood rearing when resources are not coming in. Once overwintered seem to be bent on casting a couple swarms. Rear winter bees early. Spend all winter at the top of the stack. Maybe more of a feral influence.
Me thinks, the Type 1 vs. Type 2 is a basic reflection of more locally acclimated bees vs. more seemingly imported bees.

Interestingly the Type 2 will vary location by location as well - due to the local/regional differences.
For me the Type 2 will be more like "northern-trending" bees that winter more efficiently vs. the "southern-trending" bees (those that flew about yesterday, January 12th, afternoon).

What is also interesting, however, that from the bee production side I can not easily dump the Type 1 either.
Honey still matters.
 

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Type 1- Similar to #1911. More broody and seem to respond better to the addition of space to forestall swarming. Good at drawing-out comb. Also tend to start winter lower in the stack. Could simply reflect more of a commercial influence.

Type 2- Seem to slow down brood rearing when resources are not coming in. Once overwintered seem to be bent on casting a couple swarms. Rear winter bees early. Spend all winter at the top of the stack. Maybe more of a feral influence.

I'll plan on making more generalizations along these lines in future posts, but kind of makes me wonder if Dr. Seeley and Kirk Webster are not on to something- namely we might be better served guiding our selection efforts and management approaches toward a post-varroa bee that might look a lot different than the archetypical pre-varroa bee.
To make it clear, I am not advocating 'just let them die'. Quite the opposite. If you catch them early, remove the queen, all the current brood is over and done hatching out in a month. Mite reproduction at that point is done. No mite bombs (as long as they don't go laying worker). Queenless hives can make a lot of honey, maybe even in your weak fall flow environment...if they are not feeding brood? And the original queen is hopefully repopulating with lower mite levels and will be ready for a second round of honey production the following year.

However, if the original hive successfully requeens, there is limited advantage. My belief is that mites are well-adapted to the normal hive life cycle, and a month or two of brood break due to the requeening process merely slows them down for that short period. At that point some other 'treatment' is needed, whether removing the first-capped brood, drone brood removal, OA of the broodless hive. Something.

Re your last comment, I wonder if we are just breeding for a bee that isn't good for anything but backyard hobby beekeepers. Nothing wrong with that, especially, but large honey crops are a nice thing too.
 

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I wonder if we are just breeding for a bee that isn't good for anything but backyard hobby beekeepers.
I doubt it very much that anyone is intentionally and specifically breeding bee for the backyard hobby beekeepers.
Backyarders are just getting what is given to them - as long as the bee is mild enough for the backyards, the rest does not matter much (nor the backyard'ers know any better).
 

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Please always feel welcome to keep me on my toes- I welcome it.

The new paradigm relative to varroa mites reminds me of chestnut blight- the disease is so pervasive and effective that we were collectively left to wonder whether the American Chestnut could ever survive after being rendered effectively extinct.

Thankfully, there were a small percentage of the trees which survived and display immunity to the disease (one such tree is in a neighboring county to me) and using germ from these trees and a little help from their Asian counterparts, it looks like my grandchildren might be able to once again see these majestic trees.

And hopefully it is so with honey bees- while acknowledging the fact that they are not native to our shores, one can hope we are alive to see the day when bees and mites find an equitable balance... And I can shamefully harvest a good bit of surplus from the convenience of my home yard. ;)

Thanks again for the feedback. I hope you have a great day too.

Russ
The American Chestnut is a good analogy. They were completely gone here by the mid 1920's. Dad would show me downed logs that (in the 1980's) that were still 2-3' in height. He said when he was a kid they were many that were 4-6' feet in diameter lying on the forest floor. When I spent a lot of time outside, I would occasionally see a 6-8' tree, coming back from roots where the trunks died 70-80 years ago. In 2010, a family friend was hunting nearby and happened on a clump of 8-10 coming from the same root. They were 3-4" in diameter and probably 15' high. We were both pretty stoked. The pines had been cut in the area and the undergrowth was dense. I haven't been back but a botany professor told me that if they were not scarring (sores down the side) that there was no hope.

I've thought of them several times and even ventured in once to find them a few years after he lead me to them. Half hour of fighting briars and I gave up. Still wonder how long they made it. Now and then and old root stock grows one long enough to fruit, but I only know of one such tree within 20-30 miles of home.

Thousands of folks are now doing the east-meets-west transition with bees. I do believe there is a bee that will put the mites to flight and/or deal with the viruses. Maintaining those traits in a meaningful way long enough to produce a bonafide breed that can be kept without treatments (even within isolation), I'm not sure about given the staggering number of variables. However, one thing at a time.

Going through yesterday, I lost a small nuc that I abused as a starter last March. It was unremarkable all year so I expected it. There were 3 strips of Apivar in a 6-frame nuc for the full course. I lost another large (double-deep) hive that I had not gotten around to treating though I intended to do so. It had >80lbs of stores, and a field mouse had taken up residence under a medium frame in the outside slot. A pretty close inspection did not reveal mite poop, and there were 8-10 dead bees in a fully drawn 20 frame hive. Could have absconded, mouse couldn't eaten dead bees, not sure. Either way, most of the others looked good. Some have barely began to brood, and I'd say most have a few hundred eggs (though I only pulled 2-3 frames).

My feral nuc with known mites (though not an accurate count) and an introduced Russian queen were among the 2 most active. My last winter check I didn't see the queen (and no brood) so I grabbed a tiny colony next door from an EZ Nuc (with active queen) and stuck them in the same box. Really not sure which queen is brooding up the box but they will have to be placed in a hive body in 2-3 weeks.

It's entirely possibly they are brooding up to leave intentionally, but they look healthy as any and growing. This is one I'll actually need to do due diligence and count mites, as the only thing done to this was the introduction of new genetics (though my second queen intro somewhat skewed my test result). There was a good crop of winter bees before this, I was just hunting homes (aside from EZ Nucs) and this made since.

Take care Russ
 

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Discussion Starter · #2,135 ·
To make it clear, I am not advocating 'just let them die'. Quite the opposite. If you catch them early, remove the queen, all the current brood is over and done hatching out in a month. Mite reproduction at that point is done. No mite bombs (as long as they don't go laying worker). Queenless hives can make a lot of honey, maybe even in your weak fall flow environment...if they are not feeding brood? And the original queen is hopefully repopulating with lower mite levels and will be ready for a second round of honey production the following year.
Thanks, AR1. I think we are on the same page. I was simply elaborating that if the mite counts suggest the line is a dead-end, then one might as well make the most productive use of the colony by dequeening it and then possibly re-queening it after an appropriate period of time to take fullest advantage of the brood break from both a production and mite reduction strategy. Which is what I think you are saying, right?

In other words, rather than reactively letting them peter-out on their own, be proactive and use the situation to the fullest advantage- namely: increased honey production, a mite reset and the opportunity to re-queen them with more suitable genetics.

Again, good thought.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2,136 ·
Honey still matters.
Doesn't it though. And while we all likely have a slightly different value proposition for our beekeeping, part of the equation no doubt involves some of the sweet stuff!
 

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Discussion Starter · #2,137 ·
My feral nuc with known mites (though not an accurate count) and an introduced Russian queen were among the 2 most active. My last winter check I didn't see the queen (and no brood) so I grabbed a tiny colony next door from an EZ Nuc (with active queen) and stuck them in the same box. Really not sure which queen is brooding up the box but they will have to be placed in a hive body in 2-3 weeks.
Nice post, Joe. We still have some of the chestnut stump growth around here too, but they don't ever amount to much- which always surprises me to consider how this inoculum persists with so little host around. Must be analogous to AFB it that regard. One of the things I find humbling about the American Chestnut is the fact that it has been effectively gone so long, that there is no one alive who knows what sort of forest succession that it belongs to- so there is research underway to figure out what sort of forest management that will need to be done to even allow the chestnut to re-establish itself as King of the Eastern Forest should the new genetics become reliably viable.

It sounds like your colonies are about like mine in the anticipating Spring department. Yesterday got into the mid 50's around here and while the bees were not returning with much, the orientation flights and exuberance that the colonies seemed to be expressing was very reminiscent to those first heavy days of maple forage when the bees just seem to decide it's time to turn the corner. If only I could tell them that they ought to curb their enthusiasm and wait another month and they would comply...

The problem is, it appears that the trees are thinking the same thing- if I wasn't afraid of bitter cold over the next month, I'd be tempted to do my winter pruning already. The buds are definitely swelling.

I might be more excited than you are to hear how your non-treated colonies fare. Do keep us posted if you don't mind.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2,138 ·
Nothing wrong with that, especially, but large honey crops are a nice thing too.
AR1:

I think your point is sound and I think Greg is spot-on when he says:

I doubt it very much that anyone is intentionally and specifically breeding bee for the backyard hobby beekeepers.
While I want to marinate in it a bit longer, I'm sort of wondering based on what I read and what I observe if the requirements of the average backyard beekeeper might not be best-served by an all-around generalist bee that is sort of at the 'golden mean' of where the local landrace bee wants to be- accepting that this might mean that they are swarmer than commercial stock and produce less surplus than commercial stock but are generally healthy, adapted to the local climate and forage conditions and don't require relentless artificial selection to maintain. This whole premise obviously pre-supposes the availability of a local landrace and limited genetic importation- in other words, a pipe dream.
 

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Good idea, AR1. I like your thought.

More generally, the idea of recognizing trouble coming at the end of Spring based on the mite drop should prompt me to take proactive steps to manage these colonies differently if I conclude that they are genetic dead-ends. They can still be utilized as good production colonies, and like you suggest pulling the queen and giving them an early Summer brood break will do nothing but help the situation. Like you correctly noted, most years our flow is effectively over by the end of June anyway.

In very broad strokes, it seems there are two predominant genetic profiles that are appearing in the yard:

Type 1- Similar to #1911. More broody and seem to respond better to the addition of space to forestall swarming. Good at drawing-out comb. Also tend to start winter lower in the stack. Could simply reflect more of a commercial influence.

Type 2- Seem to slow down brood rearing when resources are not coming in. Once overwintered seem to be bent on casting a couple swarms. Rear winter bees early. Spend all winter at the top of the stack. Maybe more of a feral influence.

I'll plan on making more generalizations along these lines in future posts, but kind of makes me wonder if Dr. Seeley and Kirk Webster are not on to something- namely we might be better served guiding our selection efforts and management approaches toward a post-varroa bee that might look a lot different than the archetypical pre-varroa bee.
Just curious on your problem hive in Sept.
Why not just requeen it?

GG
 

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Discussion Starter · #2,140 ·
Just curious on your problem hive in Sept.
Why not just requeen it?
Thanks, GG. I anticipated this question.

I suppose I continue to operate under the working assumption that maybe some of these colonies are going to express some varroa tolerance- and it does seem there has been some of this popping-up. For example I have not seen any external evidence of DWV in my colonies the last two years.

But the more I read (and observe in my own conditions) the less convinced I am that tolerance is anything you can reliably hang your hat on.

Because in fairness, this prototype colony is not outwardly in trouble in September- there are little to no outward symptoms and the mite drops are always lower in September than they are in June.

But what I am picking-up on (at least with a limited dataset) is that the damage is already done by the September mite drop assessment.
 
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