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Just so it happened, I scored 100 pounds of fondant for free (well, for the cost of an hour of apple tree pruning consultation).
Sounds like a good trade to me... I'll have to figure out what I can swap with you to consult me on my orchard- the last two years have been an exercise in finding creative ways to fail.

Speaking of failure...

That was my sense of it, but your source seemed solid enuff I decided not to challenge it as I don't do a lot of it

for me anyway, liquid feed for as late in the year as you can, I want feed in the combs we it belongs.

MT camp /sugar blocks/fondant put on later as an insurance policy on lighter hives
Thanks for your feedback, MSL. To be fair, I took quite a bit of liberty with his approach and I am in a little warmer climate than he, so less than stellar results might have been expected. I do however take solace in the sentiment that Thomas Edison once famously deadpanned, ‘Results! Why, man, I have gotten a lot of results! I know several thousand things that won’t work.’
 

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GWW:

As always, I appreciate your perspective- you often help me frame things in the proper context.

After considering the situation I am in (and in the spirit of experimentation), I decided to feed only those founder colonies that I was convinced have no chance of survival without my intervention. In my specific situation, I elected to assist the following colonies: 2002, 2005 (nuc), 2010, 2011, 2016 and 2017.

My logic (flawed as it might be) was as follows:

1. Under no circumstances will I supplementally-feed an overwintered colony, particularly when I have not collected any rent from them.

2. Excluding beekeeper error, no Warre 'resource hive' gets any assistance.

With these ground-rules in place, I was left with eleven (11) new Langstroth colony starts from this year, and I elected to feed six (6) of them.

Without fail I discovered that the colonies I had noted as 'Light' during my inspections had some drawn comb in the upper entrance rim but it was either mostly or totally empty.

By contrast, the colonies I had noted as 'Marginal' during my inspections had a significant amount of open and closed nectar in the comb in the upper entrance rim. A good example of this is colony 2013 (photo attached).

Additionally, with the exception of 2002, all the hives that received supplemental feeding are later swarms. I struggled with whether to feed 2002 given that their early swarm date (April 16th) suggests this colony might not have what it takes- but the swarm queen overwintered in colony 1908- so who knows?

Also, I decided to experiment with feeding a 'sugar mush' generally along the lines of the recipe Mr. Bill Gibson with the Perry County Indiana Beekeeper's Association shared in the latest Purdue 'Winter Cluster' presentation:

I mixed 50# of sugar with 10 cups of warm water in a 5-gallon bucket and distributed 3-4 scoops of the 'mush' to each colony atop a piece of tissue paper that is provided between sheets of wax foundation. An example of this is included from the photo of colony 2005 (attached).

I'll continue to monitor these colonies every week or so, and see how they progress in packing this slurry away.

Thanks again for all your help and input- I always appreciate it.

Russ

View attachment 58749 View attachment 58751
Hi Russ,

odd you have no honey to take, AND have light stores.
2 thoughts come to mind
1) race of bee, do they turn all stores into bees?
2) location, location, location, of the Apiary?

I have bees now in 6 different places, 2 are only 5 miles apart.
EVERY place behaves somewhat different, I would encourage you to "shop around" for a better place.
think about the dearth's in your locale, and where is something blooming at that time else where?
Reason being, apart from the drive (one site I have is a 4 hour drive) it takes as much time to do beekeeping when you have no crop as it does to get a crop, sometime with feeding, more time.

another idea is that "bees" could be your crop, IE sell NUCs

IMO unless you have a big farm planting stuff is not the best choice to increase flow.

good luck wintering, i had 2 , I fed of 24 this fall, I liked the genetics. :)

will watch your thread for updates. Also I plan to do some "Buckeye" hive builds this winter, so I may offer some pics of that process.

GG
 

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odd you have no honey to take, AND have light stores.
2 thoughts come to mind
1) race of bee, do they turn all stores into bees?
2) location, location, location, of the Apiary?
GG:

Thank you for your response. I always appreciate your insights. I make no excuses and offer no concrete explanations for the storage woes. One thing I do know, the colonies (in general) had more surplus availability at the end of the Spring nectar flow than they did at the end of the Fall flow. So I do expect that excess brood rearing was at least a contributing factor, and this likely motivated at least in-part by their preferential use of upper entrances. Without exception, all colonies primarily used the upper entrance, and most only used the upper entrance. Thus as a minimum I plan on eliminating this variable from the equation next year to assess how this might impact the colony's approach to developing their nest structure.

Also, if I can keep the wax moths from destroying them I will actually have surplus drawn comb available prior to the flow this year for the first time so I am hopeful this might tip the scales in my favor a bit more, allowing me to pull off some honey before July and maybe forestall the temptation of colonies to burn through it.

Beyond this, I think you may very well be exactly right in questioning the foraging availability- particularly now with more colonies in the mix (GWW also wondered about this). So, multiple yards likely should be in the mix going forward, for more than one reason.

will watch your thread for updates. Also I plan to do some "Buckeye" hive builds this winter, so I may offer some pics of that process.
I do hope you will post pictures of your Winter projects. I was unaware of a 'Buckeye' hive- based on the following I get the sense it is essentially a double-walled Langstroth?


Speaking of Winter, how are your colonies looking heading in?

I am always glad to see your posts, and I do sincerely hope all is well with you and your family.

Russ
 

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While watching a recent presentation by Dr. Tom Seeley, he made reference to a recent study he had published which outlined his findings from three years of treatment-free beekeeping.

This obviously piqued my interest, particularly when he shared the results of a year-long comparison of mite levels and winter survival of three different bee stocks, namely ‘wild’ swarms from the Arnot Forest, ‘Russian’ queens from Kirk Webster and ‘Italian VSH’ queens from Olivarez.

After some searching, I found that this research was published in the August 2020 edition of the American Bee Journal in an article entitled ‘Progress Report on Three Years of Treatment-Free Beekeeping’ (attached).

While there are several interesting observations contained in the article, it can all be summed up by Dr. Seeley when he notes, “I have found that in these untreated colonies, the mite level in a colony in September is a very good predictor of whether this colony will be dead (or alive) the following April.”

A few highlights:
  1. Using wild-caught swarms, Dr. Seeley has averaged 28% Winter losses over the three-year period of evaluation.
  2. He suggests that a sugar-shake count of over 15 mites / 300 bees in September is the metric he plans on using to determine when to euthanize a colony.
  3. His side-by-side comparison of three bee stocks over the last year is very interesting and is outlined in the table below. A few other details:

  • The ‘wild’ group had two (2) queenless colonies in October. He chalked this up to likely being the result of old queens.
  • The one (1) ‘wild’ colony that did not survive is the colony with a count of 22.
  • The only Olivarez colony that survived is the colony with a count of 4.
61118
 

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nice find, I had seen one of his talks about it, but hadn't see the article
should be interesting to see how greg turns up this spring now that he has some numbers to compare to seeleys finding
 

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  1. He suggests that a sugar-shake count of over 15 mites / 300 bees in September is the metric he plans on using to determine when to euthanize a colony.
And I'll be darned.
This is exactly what I decided for myself to do - a single measure in later September/early October (since this is just about the mite peak time).
 

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nice find, I had seen one of his talks about it, but hadn't see the article
should be interesting to see how greg turns up this spring now that he has some numbers to compare to seeleys finding
I sure am glad I did this, indeed.
At least it will be something to talk about.
 

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And I'll be darned.
This is exactly what I decided for myself to do - a single measure in later September/early October (since this is just about the mite peak time).
GregV:

I think you are on to something here. In the spirit of 'black box' beekeeping, this single measure might be the most relevant to measuring the relative success of a given colony. It will be interesting indeed (as MSL suggested) to see how your data comports with Dr. Seeley's.
 

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While watching a recent presentation by Dr. Tom Seeley, he made reference to a recent study he had published which outlined his findings from three years of treatment-free beekeeping.
Dr. Seeley made a few other random comments as a function of the presentation that were especially helpful to me for consideration in a TF context:

1. The Primacy of SMR- Dr. Seeley contends that the contemporary body of research suggests that Suppressed Mite Reproduction (SMR) is likely the most important variable in conferring resistance. He expounds on this idea by reminding that SMR is not a trait but a characteristic- it is a 'blanket label' that doesn't specify a mechanism.

2. Uncapping / Recapping Vital- Dr. Seeley suggests that one of the key mechanisms supporting SMR is likely uncapping / recapping. He suggests that it is easy to test for this in colonies by applying duct tape to capped brood and then subsequently pulling it off to reveal the underside of the cappings. Any capping with a dark imprint in the center represents a cell which has been reopened and a simple percentage can be recorded to compare between colonies.

3. Selection by Controlling Drones- While intuitive once one is introduced to the concept, Dr. Seeley suggests that one easy way a beekeeper can assert some control over genetics in their area is to supply drone comb to those colonies which demonstrate high SMR (i.e. low mite population growth).

4. His Approach to 'Darwinian' Beekeeping- Dr. Seeley made mention that the ethos for his natural beekeeping pillars is found in Mr. Wendell Berry's quote, "We cannot know what we are doing [to the natural world] until we know what nature would be doing if we were doing nothing." He explained that he wasn't advocating for 'hands-off' beekeeping, but rather allowing bees to inform us of their preferences and their survival mechanisms such that we can incorporate these ideas where practical into our managed beekeeping efforts.
 

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I hadn't heard of the duct tape trick, what presentation?

r
 

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I hadn't heard of the duct tape trick, what presentation?
MSL:

My apologies for the delay in reply. I was not sure that I was at liberty to share the video, so I contacted Dr. Seeley for clarification and he replied as follows:

'I do not know if there is a standard protocol for this assay, except that researchers like to sample ca. 100 capped cells from the frames of capped brood in a colony. This can be done by pressing a patch or two of duct tape down onto a frame of capped brood in a colony, then pulling it up and studying the undersides of the cells’ cappings. By sampling 100+ cell cappings, one can get a good estimate of the % of cells that have been capped and recapped.

A cell capping that has been capped and recapped is recognized as follows: "The recapping behaviour can be easily detected as a hole in the spun cocoon of the pupated larva ranging in size from one mm to the entire area of the cap. The hole is subsequently covered over with wax by the adult bees. This hole can be seen as a dark, matte spot on the underside of the cell cap distinct from the glossy coating of the cocoon.”

This is a quote from the paper that I have attached. Fig. 1 in this paper contains excellent photos that show more clearly than the above words about how to recognized cells of mite infested brood that have been uncapped and recapped.'

I have attached the paper he refers to along with a complementing paper which provides some additional context about the mechanism.
 

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One thing that strikes me about the Seeley paper is the Olivarez Italian VSH queens.

Olivarez operates out of California, so their bees are not locally adapted to conditions in Ithaca, NY.

Without a treated control group, the poor results of 84% overwinter loss, might reflect the effect of poorly adapted bees as much as the high mite count.
 

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Without a treated control group, the poor results of 84% overwinter loss, might reflect the effect of poorly adapted bees as much as the high mite count.
Good point, zabadoh. It certainly was a very small sample size to boot.

While I hesitate to speak for Dr. Seeley, the stated purpose for including the Olivarez stock in the evaluation was to see whether proven VSH stock was successfully able to control mite population growth relative to other stocks with purported resistance but unknown mechanism(s). He might have avoided the local adaptation concern by sourcing a Northern VSH line.

What does seem plain (at least to me) is that low mite counts in the Fall is one of the single greatest predictors of overwintering success, even in the TF management efforts which have been measured.

Thank you for your comment- please do feel welcome to provide your input anytime.
 

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MSL:

My apologies for the delay in reply. I was not sure that I was at liberty to share the video, so I contacted Dr. Seeley for clarification and he replied as follows:

'I do not know if there is a standard protocol for this assay, except that researchers like to sample ca. 100 capped cells from the frames of capped brood in a colony. This can be done by pressing a patch or two of duct tape down onto a frame of capped brood in a colony, then pulling it up and studying the undersides of the cells’ cappings. By sampling 100+ cell cappings, one can get a good estimate of the % of cells that have been capped and recapped.

A cell capping that has been capped and recapped is recognized as follows: "The recapping behaviour can be easily detected as a hole in the spun cocoon of the pupated larva ranging in size from one mm to the entire area of the cap. The hole is subsequently covered over with wax by the adult bees. This hole can be seen as a dark, matte spot on the underside of the cell cap distinct from the glossy coating of the cocoon.”

This is a quote from the paper that I have attached. Fig. 1 in this paper contains excellent photos that show more clearly than the above words about how to recognized cells of mite infested brood that have been uncapped and recapped.'

I have attached the paper he refers to along with a complementing paper which provides some additional context about the mechanism.
Thank you for the info Litsinger; I can’t seem to get any info from the Screening for Low VarrOA paper, there is no text in it. Deb
 

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Good point, zabadoh. It certainly was a very small sample size to boot.

While I hesitate to speak for Dr. Seeley, the stated purpose for including the Olivarez stock in the evaluation was to see whether proven VSH stock was successfully able to control mite population growth relative to other stocks with purported resistance but unknown mechanism(s). He might have avoided the local adaptation concern by sourcing a Northern VSH line.

What does seem plain (at least to me) is that low mite counts in the Fall is one of the single greatest predictors of overwintering success, even in the TF management efforts which have been measured.

Thank you for your comment- please do feel welcome to provide your input anytime.
Interesting study, comments:

nice to see the Russians live up to the "talk" makes the Hassel of them somewhat worth it.
Small sample size...
Zabadoh, what about the "ability to adapt" maybe taking a couple generations..
Also which group was in their own area, meaning, there may be local adaptions for the local Mite virus, and the ones brought in could take some generations to perform at their best. So for example if the Russians were "from there" and the others brought in there may be a first year local bias.

And 1 year is not much of a study, we all have had good years and bad years, so a multi year study, or take the Russians to the Olivarez place as well,, as bring them out, to see if there is a locality to it.

I do like his studies seems for a researcher he has a lot of loose ends, on purpose? or maybe poor funding or maybe another reason. Just seems to do it right/better would not be all that difficult. he either does not have bees or is sloppy.

GG
 

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In that paper, Seeley does say that the Olivarez does treat their bees, so that’s another distinction from the other two groups that overwintered well:

1. Wild caught, possibly untreated, caught in bait hives in woodlands in the “hills south of Ithaca”
2. Kirk Webster untreated Russians from Vermont

Also I noticed that the one Olivarez hive that did survive had replaced its original queen before October, so either a daughter of the original queen 1. had mite resistant genetics by pure luck, 2. had mated with the local drones who had resistant genetics, or 3. the entire hive was taken over by a local swarm with resistance, or 4. they just got lucky with a brood break or some other factor that knocked down the mite count. Some of those points are also acknowledged by Dr. Seeley at the end of the paper.

In any case, Litsinger is right that local VSH queens would have made a better control group, and that breeding for a low mite count and local adaptations as opposed to one particular anti mite behavior seems to yield better survival rates.
 

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Litsinger is right that local VSH queens would have made a better control group,
Unsure.
One can argue that some "main-stream commercial bee widely sold to the general populace" actually is the control bee you want. Whatever average commercial bee packages are dumped nation-wide year after year to the countless hobbyists - that what Olivarez represents well.

In case of Seeley his own feral bees ARE the local VSH bees.

Bringing some outside reportedly "resistant" bees is pointless in my view - since the other mega-factors will likely affect the outcomes before this even comes down to the mite-resistance.
Perfect example would be - why not just bring some AHBs from TX or CA - perfect VSH bees from the outside to be used as a control group.
What is the problem there?
Obviously - the mega-factors (poor wintering, to be clear) will wipe out the AHBs in New York State BEFORE we even get to count the spring mites. While Olivarez bees are a less radical example, they are still subject to the immediate mega-factors first and foremost.

Maybe I am an idiot with some kitchen-science experience and miss some obvious things...
... or maybe Seeley does (again) some sloppy "science" here. :)
 

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I do like his studies seems for a researcher he has a lot of loose ends, on purpose? or maybe poor funding or maybe another reason. Just seems to do it right/better would not be all that difficult. he either does not have bees or is sloppy.
GG:

Just to be fair, the write-up in question is described by Dr. Seeley as a 'garden experiment' conducted in his home apiary- so I don't think he designed the experiment with the scientific rigor of a full-blown research project. That said, your point is well-taken that we shouldn't derive more from the results than what was intended. In a way, his write-up might be compared to the anecdotes we are all trying to chronicle here on Beesource (albeit from someone with an illustrious research background and much wider audience).
 

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In case of Seeley his own feral bees ARE the local VSH bees.
GregV:

Good feedback. Not to get too far in the weeds here, but I think you are hitting-upon the very thing that Dr. Seeley is trying to wrap his arms around- namely the distinction between VSH and SMR.

In short, these terms are frequently conflated- likely because they were somewhat treated as synonymous in the early days of the USDA Russian program:


Since that time, VSH has been further defined as a specific mechanism that has a defined testing protocol:


In contrast, the idea of SMR has taken on a more general definition which does not assign a root mechanism:

"In the 1990s, Harbo and Harris identified high levels of non-reproduction as an inherited character of worker bees which they named “Suppression of mite reproduction - SMR”. Later on, specific experiments suggested that the low proportion of fertile mites, at least in the US stock, mostly was due to preferential removal of reproducing mites by worker bees, so the trait was renamed “Varroa sensitive hygiene - VSH”. However, SMR in a colony can potentially result from mechanisms other than VSH behavior (there is evidence that brood may be able to prevent mite reproduction). One of the potential mechanisms is uncapping and recapping of (infested) brood cells. At the right time of brood development, opening of infested cell for some time can have a negative impact on success of mite reproduction (Kirrane et al., 2011)."


Thus, I think Dr. Seeley was attempting to discern how mite population growth (MPG) and survival compared between colonies with high expressions of SMR (i.e. local feral stock and Webster stock) and colonies with high expressions of VSH (i.e. Olivarez stock) .

Based on his recent published literature and presentations, it appears that Dr. Seeley agrees with others who have concluded that high VSH (as defined by the testing protocol) in-and-of-itself is not a reliable predictor of low mite population growth. I contend that this was Dr. Seeley's test objective in the experiment in question.
 
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