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Russ,

First of all, may you and yours have a most blessed Thanksgiving as well. This goes to everyone. :) We are most fortunate and I once heard it's hard to feel gratitude and feel anything else.

I think a worthwhile goal might be to set a minimum of 5 in one place, from the best stock and let them deal with mites and other things in their own way. I'll consider this. I'm also thinking more data, more better. So some mite counts wouldn't hurt.

On the subject of more data, I recently read on one of the forums where someone had purchased some inexpensive bluetooth temp and humidity sensors. I asked for the source and after a while they sent the link. They are made by Govee and sold on Amazon. I paid 13.99 each for 2 of them. They are now around $12ea. I put them in yesterday, one in my Italian 6-frame poly nuc, and one in a Russian 10-frame wooden double deep with 18 frames.

Right now it's 36 (F) outside and 56 inside both hives (center top). They have a phone app and I can check from my kitchen window. It sends a signal every 2-3 minutes. So far both hives are within 1 degree of each other, and roughly 20 above the outside temp. I'm thinking of using a lot more of them. May be common, but I didn't know you could do it affordably.

Thoughts?

Thanks Russ,
Joe
 

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Discussion Starter #1,682 (Edited)
Thoughts?
By day I am an engineer, so I firmly believe there is no such thing as too much data- provided of course it does not lead to the dreaded 'analysis paralysis'.

On October 9th of this year, I installed temperature and humidity sensors along with a scale on a single hive in the yard (#2011). My thoughts were to hopefully use one 10-frame Langstroth in the apiary as a 'reference' colony to get a sense of timing relative to brood rearing, flows, etc. At the price you are talking about, I would see little harm and a lot of upside to being able to take a peek inside a particular hive without lifting the lid- particularly at this time of year.

For what it is worth, here are two charts of the last seven days worth of data from #2011- looks like this colony is tracking fairly well with your colonies. Is the cluster in the double deep currently in the bottom box?
 

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provided of course it does not lead to the dreaded 'analysis paralysis'.
That's good. I've never heard this one but I know exactly what you are talking about. :) I looked at the WiFi unit made by the same folks for $32. Then I thought I would end up looking at it at work, the gas station, etc. Better stick with BlueTooth limited to when I'm home.

Looks like your bees are indeed similar. As far as mine being in the bottom box, I hope so because they started lagging by about 6-7 degrees over the last 2 days. Relatively sure they are down below. Outside temp was 37 when this snapshot was taken. js
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Discussion Starter #1,685 (Edited)
Here is another detailed survey of the contemporary research into the mechanisms of resistance courtesy of Mr. Les Crowder.

Natural selection, selective breeding, and the evolution of resistance of honeybees (Apis mellifera) against Varroa

Two interesting tidbits stood out to me:

1. Regarding Resistance- 'We call a bee colony resistant when it is able to limit the population size of Varroa, to a density that does not cause mortality.'

While I suppose it would be easy to poke holes in this definition, it does underscore the point that resistance (at least at present) is not precisely defined in terms of MPG or some other similar metric but represents checking mite population growth 'enough' for a population to survive in a self-sustaining fashion.

2. Regarding Cell Size- 'A possible explanation for the variable outcome of studies on small cell size is an interaction between cell size and VSH behaviour. Smaller cells may enhance brood signalling, i.e. in smaller cells suppression of Varroa reproduction by the worker larva, or recognition of cells with reproducing Varroa could be easier. Hence, the variable outcome of studies on small cell size could be caused by variation in VSH behaviour of the bees used in the different studies.'

Thus suggesting that relative success or failure with changes in cell size may reflect the multi-factorial nature of SMR.

Resistance Relationships.jpg Traits to Explain Resistance.png
 

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I have enjoyed this thread a lot. I am not Treatment Free, but I am treatment light. I have never used apivar. or thymol or a host of other things. I have been using OAV since about 2014 a couple of times a year. And I've had hives robbed out, plenty, there was a wild colony in my neighbor's house between floors, when I removed it there were about 6 feet of hive horizontally on one wall and 4 ft length by about 18 inches width, by about 9 inches tall, on the other wall at that corner. so it was big and it killed many of my cutout hives, but not all. I removed it in 2019, and life has been much better since, both for hive robbery (although I still have a stacked nuc box suffering from a couple of attempts during our August dearth), and from mites.

When I removed the wild hive I brought it here, half a block away, stuck it in a stacked nuc and requeened with a Beeweaver queen. That was May of 2019, and my mite count has dropped dramatically since, on all hives. I've treated with Oxalic Acid Vapor a couple of times, once in late winter 2020, fall 2019, and this September I think. I run screened bottom boards with a solid cover board underneath, nice gap for paper or sticky board, and I use some aquatic filter floss to slow the winter wind but allow some air exchange in winter.

I highly recommend hygenic queens, although my largest hive came in as a large swarm in 2018, and they also are doing quite well. I've been keeping bees here since 2011, and I suspect my drones dominate the air space a bit because there are few other beekeepers within 5 miles, possibly none.
 

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That was May of 2019, and my mite count has dropped dramatically since, on all hives.
I highly recommend hygenic queens, although my largest hive came in as a large swarm in 2018, and they also are doing quite well. I've been keeping bees here since 2011, and I suspect my drones dominate the air space a bit because there are few other beekeepers within 5 miles, possibly none.
Gypsi:

First off, thank you for your kind words- and Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

I enjoyed and appreciated reading about your beekeeping efforts to-date, and it sounds like you have figured out a system that is working in your situation.

Your write-up reminded me that our efforts at selection for resistance are dictated in large part upon the bee population around us, and the more control we can exert over it (be it hiving feral swarms or dominating the DCA's) the closer we come to being successful at maintaining a modicum of resistance traits.

Have you been evaluating mite population growth in any of your colonies over the years to see if any are making progress at keeping mite counts under catastrophic thresholds?

It would be interesting indeed to see how your apiary might respond to the approach outlined in the A shift in message? thread that MSL started. The crux being:

... be TF when you can, and only use pesticides when pest monitoring hits a threshold that indicates it is needed to head off loss.
Now that you have a good handle on controlling robbing, you could monitor mite levels in each colony and only treat (and possibly re-queen) the individual colonies that cannot pass muster. Just something to think about if you haven't already.

Again, thank you for your encouraging feedback- best of success to you in your overwintering efforts.

Russ
 

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Gypsi:

First off, thank you for your kind words- and Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

I enjoyed and appreciated reading about your beekeeping efforts to-date, and it sounds like you have figured out a system that is working in your situation.

Your write-up reminded me that our efforts at selection for resistance are dictated in large part upon the bee population around us, and the more control we can exert over it (be it hiving feral swarms or dominating the DCA's) the closer we come to being successful at maintaining a modicum of resistance traits.

Have you been evaluating mite population growth in any of your colonies over the years to see if any are making progress at keeping mite counts under catastrophic thresholds?

It would be interesting indeed to see how your apiary might respond to the approach outlined in the A shift in message? thread that MSL started. The crux being:



Now that you have a good handle on controlling robbing, you could monitor mite levels in each colony and only treat (and possibly re-queen) the individual colonies that cannot pass muster. Just something to think about if you haven't already.

Again, thank you for your encouraging feedback- best of success to you in your overwintering efforts.

Russ

Russ,

I think I have won the mite war for this year. I did treat in late winter/ early spring with Oxalic Acid Vapor. Once. And once in September. And I checked the sticky boards (really just heavy water color paper), and I had chewed wax, and a very little wax moth poop, but I didn't have any mites. I am very pleased. I haven't lost a hive in winter since about 2014 either. or in fall. I haven't lost one except to robbing, and I do mean vicious robbing, in several years. I am fortunate. There are no other beekeepers nearby, not enough forage to make it profitable. And with grassy prairies instead of wildflowers, few wild bees except around my gardens. My ordered queens are from mite resistant hygenic stock and that one survivor hive that came in is nice and gluey, lots of propolis, they do have larger clusters than my Beeweaver girls, but seem to be resistant or hygenic. I'm not changing anything for now, except monitoring for mites via my sticky board. I had a lot of brood in the survivor hive when I changed the bottom board last week, when that brood hatches will be when I will again look for mites below the hive, on that water color paper...

Alice
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I'm not changing anything for now, except monitoring for mites via my sticky board.
Alice:

Nice post- your results are enviable. As a friend of mine often reminds me, "If it ain't fixed, don't broke it."

Were you surprised to find brood in the survivor colony this time of year in your locale? At least in my specific situation (Climate Zone 7a) it seemed like the girls shut-down earlier that I had noticed in the previous couple of years.
 

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I knew they would have brood Russ, she's a very strong queen and we have had flow, been thru ragweed, goldenrod and aster recently, they are still bringing something in. I actually swiped a couple of frames to build up my stacked nuc that this hive has pulled a robbery on once or twice. The nuc is the only hive I will have to feed this winter probably, going to put some 2:1 on and see if they will take it for the next day or 2 to get them a little better set. Our first freeze is probably Monday night, I'm in Texas
 

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Our first freeze is probably Monday night, I'm in Texas
Thank you for your feedback, Alice- very helpful.

We have had two nights thus far just below freezing and a very mild November in general but are expecting a low near 25 degrees F on Monday night.

Looks like cooler weather is finally settling-in for us in Western Kentucky.
 

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It begins for him by trying to maintain a long-range perspective regarding the overarching goals that one has for their stock. Terry encourages his reader to, ‘Look at the big picture during the evaluation / selection process; don’t focus entirely on any one characteristic / trait / behavior. You may find some interesting and thoughtful decisions have to be made.’
I wanted to make one final post relative to Mr. Terry Comb's feedback relative to his TF selection efforts. In following-up with him, I asked him to the effect, 'If you were starting-over today knowing what you know now, how would you go about it'?

His responses (paraphrased) indicated he would focus on five (5) main selection criteria, organized in order of importance:

1) Survivability
2) Local adaptability and population build-up and fall-off in concert with the seasons
3) Lack of diseases and pests within the colonies
4) Mite loads
5) Honey production

Thus the overarching framework would look something like this:

1. Begin by organizing/evaluating stock according to Items 1 - 3.

2. Assuming a collection of colonies reflect materially similar results to Items 1-3, then relative mite load becomes the next differentiator, with preference given to lower MPG over time- using a mite wash (rather than a mite drop).

3. Once a relatively stable local base of genetics has been built that can successfully address items 1-4, then selection for other beekeeper-desired traits (i.e. honey production) can begin to be selected for.
 

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An interesting article was recently posted on Bee-L (with kind assist by MSL) that conducts a literature review of the current state of global resistance breeding and offers several broad-brush recommendations for multi-factorial selection design based on the current body of knowledge surrounding survival.

Advances and perspectives in selecting resistance traits against the parasitic mite Varroa destructor in honey bees

A few of the interesting observations:
  • Selection programs have focused on resistance rather than tolerance-
Indeed, survival is often attributed to resistance traits, which, by definition, reduce the parasitic load of the host. Tolerance mechanisms, which allow the host to sustain high parasitic loads, are also likely to favor colony survival and to be naturally selected, but currently their impact remains largely hypothetical. To our knowledge, no selection program includes tolerance traits; thus, such mechanisms are not considered in this review.
  • Lack of sustained progress on a global nor national scale relative to resistance might be due at least in part to the lack of collective understanding regarding the underlying resistance mechanisms -
In Europe, numerous resistance selection programs aiming at increasing the frequency of resistance traits in populations started in the 1980s, but it has not yet been possible to improve survival of untreated colonies on a broad scale. In North America, lower colony losses of selected lineages (‘Russian’, Varroa sensitive hygiene) were recorded. However, high colony losses attributed to V. destructor are still reported in the United States, which suggests that the current selection strategies have not resulted in a large-scale, sustainable host–parasite equilibrium. Whereas in both regions, knowledge of resistance mechanisms may be increasing, a detailed overview of the achievements of past and current selection programs on which to base further progress towards increasing the ability of colonies to survive infestations by V. destructor is lacking.

As long as the impact of local environment on the ability of the selected traits to limit infestation remains unknown, progress towards surviving stock will likely be limited. Finally, practical limitations make selection processes tedious and limit their efficient implementation in the field. The available literature shows that proposals made 30 years ago still have to be achieved.

The lack of progress towards the selection of honey bee lineages surviving infestations by V. destructor is probably not due to the generation time of the honey bee, which is short compared to other livestock such as cattle, but is likely due to caveats in selection strategies and knowledge gaps in our understanding of resistance mechanisms.

The choice of traits currently used in selection for resistance derives from observations of naturally-resistant colonies. However, the traits or combination of traits that provide protection to infested colonies have not been empirically determined. Thus, the role of currently used traits towards improving survival remains hypothetical.

  • A review of the relative efficacy of single-factor phenotypes on survival-
Our approach consisted of considering whether trait attributes and selection design conformed to the theoretical framework known to lead to genetic progress towards a selection objective (Fig. 1). The factors known to affect selection progress that we considered are: (1) the choice of relevant selection traits, which should provide accurate colony phenotypes, should be heritable and should be linked to the selection objective (i.e., colony survival); (2) the environmental effect that can hinder the expression of heritable traits; and, (3) beyond the theoretical considerations, the practical limitations of selection strategies during field implementation.

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  • A consideration of the interdependent nature of colony and parasite dynamics on trait expression-
… fluctuations in brood production may explain, at least partly, why within-colony distribution of V. destructor is spatially heterogeneous, which affects the expression of VSH: a stronger VSH response is obtained if many infested cells are clustered in a small brood area. Also affected by brood dynamics is the proportion of damaged mites, which is used as a proxy for the grooming ability of a colony. More damage was recorded when the brood was emerging, possibly due to mites being more vulnerable to grooming when they are changing their host from emerging workers to nurses compared to when they are adhering to adult workers.

Such fluctuating interdependence might result in the selection of a trait not responsible or only partially responsible for increased resistance or survival.

The literature focusing on resistance traits indicates that several agents can affect their expression. These agents are the parasite itself, other pests and the host via its biological attributes or via the interaction between resistance traits. As a result, only part of the phenotype measured reflects the ability of a colony to defend itself against the parasite.

  • The relative importance of environmental factors and local adaptation-
The overall variability in the strength of the link between traits and survival recorded in the literature suggests that a major challenge for selection programs lies in defining the most relevant trait to select for in a given population. When this link appears weak, survival of selected populations may be attributable to environmental factors rather than to the increase in frequency of a heritable trait.

Although their designs do not allow conclusions to be drawn on the occurrence of genotype-by-environment, several other studies suggest their involvement and convincingly show high environmental effects on survival… The likely frequent occurrence of genotype-by-environment interactions indicates that adaptation to local conditions plays a major role in colony survival and restrains the possibility to export resistant colonies to regions with different environments. Because of the lack of initial local adaptation, importing resistant colonies from other regions or environments bears low chances of success, and selecting local stock is recommended.

  • The prospect of epigenetics and social learning-
It is worth noting that heritability might be confounded by epigenetic processes. A genetically inherited trait is indistinguishable from a trait acquired via social learning, when workers have the ability to transmit acquired knowledge across generations: thus, behaviours may be expressed by related workers without a genetic causality.

Such a phenomenon could lead to the loss of resistance if queens from selected lines are introduced into foreign colonies.
 

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After our first sustained foray into a stretch of cold weather the last two weeks, the last two days have been quite enjoyable- sunny, low wind speed and highs in the upper 60's F.

This has had all the colonies out conducting cleansing flights, general housekeeping and about half are coming back with modest amounts of bright yellow-orange pollen.

The only colony conspicuous by their inactivity is #2012. There are still clustered bees in the hive but I am putting them on the watch list for early failure.

Based strictly on the temperature data coming from #2011 it does not appear that any significant brood rearing has begun.

61485
61486
61487
 

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Another well-documented literature review of resistant European Honey Bee stocks on a global scale has been published in the December edition of the journal Insects:

Geographical Distribution and Selection of European Honey Bees Resistant to Varroa destructor

From the abstract:

‘We describe numerous resistant populations surviving without acaricide treatments, most of which developed under natural infestation pressure. Their common characteristics: reduced brood development; limited mite population growth; and low mite reproduction, may cause conflict with the interests of commercial beekeeping. Since environmental factors affect varroa mite resistance, particular honey bee strains must be evaluated under different local conditions and colony management.’

Some of the highlights:

Apis mellifera in Japan- ‘Colonies of A. mellifera were introduced to Japan in 1876 and no doubt to other parts of the Far East in the same period, and kept alongside A. cerana. It seems curious, therefore, that reports of the devastating damage caused by the mite did not occur until many years later when the mite was found in Europe in the early 1970s. How could it have existed in A. mellifera colonies in the Far East for sixty years without reports of widespread damage when in Europe colony death commonly occurs less than three years after infestation?’

Grooming behavior key- ‘… several peer-reviewed studies have shown that the most important and the only statistically significant factor associated to low Varroa population growth and mite removal is grooming behavior …’

Primorski Bees- ‘Despite twenty years of work … the precise mechanisms for the varroa survival of the honey bee colonies remain somewhat unclear, as does the degree to which these bees will survive without varroa treatment. However, it is clear that a number of factors are involved, in particular a reduced number of viable female offspring, an increased hygienic response, the removal of infested brood preventing successful mite reproduction, and the removal of phoretic mites through grooming.’

US feral stock- ‘It has been demonstrated in the USA that feral colonies have lower varroa population growth compared to managed colonies.’

Blacquière Bees (i.e. ‘Darwinian Black Box’)- ‘The main traits of selection utilized in their approach were the ability of the colonies to grow rapidly (colony growth rate has been determined as a significant predictor of colony success), to survive winter despite the presence of varroa, and then to again develop well in spring. Thus, only those colonies were kept and allowed to produce the following generation that survived the winter, increased in size and produced drones in spring.’

Shifts in behavior to cope with novel parasites- ‘It is suggested that VSH, this cost-effective social immunity mechanism, could have evolved rapidly and independently in varroa-surviving or resistant A. mellifera populations without sacrificing nestmates, which would provide evidence that honey bees can overcome exotic parasites with simple qualitative and quantitative adaptive shifts in behavior.’
 

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In the January 2021 edition of the American Bee Journal there is an update regarding the Fall 2020 CLOSS eConference.

This included a summary of the 'Survivors Task Force' which summarized their current objectives, '... to find survivors and understand the reason for this.'

A key component of these twin objectives is inviting participation in their 'Honey Bee Watch' survey to help identify the location and nature of colonies surviving without treatments:


Thus if you are aware of surviving colonies and are inclined to participate, they welcome your input.

It is available for participation to anyone worldwide and takes 5 - 10 minutes to complete.
 

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Discussion Starter #1,697 (Edited)
The first dead-out of the season this week afforded me the opportunity to observe what a colony would do as regards to setting up their broodnest when left largely to their own devices.

The colony in question (#2017) was a May 15th swarm that issued from one of two colonies that were originally hived in 2018.

They were installed in two (2) 8-frame Langstroth Illinois depth boxes with nine (9) 1-1/4” width frames per box, with 4.9 mm foundation installed in frames 4 and 6. The remaining frames were only suppled with wooden starter strips.

Throughout the season the colony drew out all nine (9) frames in the top box as well as some comb in the upper rim.

I evaluated the frames for the following:

Cell Size- Measuring approximately in the middle of both the inside and outside of all frames the worker cells averaged 5.1 mm, with the smallest being 4.9 mm (drawn foundation) and the largest being 5.2 mm. This average value compares favorably with previous measurements of comb from a few top-bar Warre colonies in the yard. There was only one small (1-1/2” X 2”) patch of drone comb located on the outside of Frame #8. The drone cell size measured approximately 5.6 mm.

Housel Positioning- Of the seven (7) frames that the colony had complete choice, only three (3) adhered to the anticipated orientation of the ‘Y’s’. To be fair, I did not count the center frame one way or another as I am uncertain which way the cells on the center frame ‘should’ be imprinted with an odd number of frames.

Evidence of Disease- The queen was found by herself headfirst in a cell near the top of Frame #6. The reminder of the colony (softball-sized) was found clustered within the sugar installed above the top bar. Frame #3 was the only frame found with un-emerged brood and it exhibited evidence of perforated cappings- thus I would conclude that varroosis is the cause of demise.

Otherwise, the frames are drawn out beautifully and should serve well for installation in another colony.
 

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I hope all is well.
GWW:

Good to hear from you- we are well by God's grace, and I sincerely appreciate you asking.

Haven't seen you on in awhile- I do hope all is well with you, your family, your bees and your guitar picking?

I sincerely hope that you and your crew have a most joyous and blessed Christmas.

Russ
 
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