Are High Mite Levels Always Accompanied by DWV?

Discussion in 'General Beekeeping' started by Adam Foster Collins, Sep 28, 2011.

  1. Adam Foster Collins

    Adam Foster Collins New Member

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    I'm wondering about signs of mites - other than the mites themselves.

    Last year, I had high mite levels by this time in the season. I had a lot (like hundreds of bees) with Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) crawling around in front of the hives.

    This year, I have seen no bees with DWV. I have no dead bees in front of the hives. The bee populations are healthy inside the hives.

    Does DWV always accompany high mite levels?

    What are some of the other signs that mite levels are high?

    I'm wondering if you can reliably detect high mite levels without doing tests to count dead mites.


    Thanks,

    Adam
     
  2. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    DWV does not necessarily alway come along with the mites. Sometimes yes and sometimes no.

    Mites are difficult to see beyond the pupae state. So I pluck sealed drones as an informal test. Generally some kind of test or process is necessary to get some fill for a pest that you really can not see. At the very extreme end of thing (generally at this point there is nothing you can do anyway) you can notice the fecal remains of varroa on the bottom of cells.

    Science generally requires two qualities to make for a proper test... accuracy and reliability. as far as I can tell no single simple test for varroa does both of these.
     

  3. Omie

    Omie New Member

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    Adam, there are so many variables in all this, hard to make definitive statements or pinpoint reasons for stuff.
    Personally, I don't use mite treatments in terms of applying anything to the hive. But I did not see evidence of any mite issues this year, and I don't expect to see any this year- for the simple fact that I did a lot of splitting and let the splits raise their own new queens from eggs. Doing that created a break in the bee brood cycle during the late summer which also caused a break in the mite breeding cycle. This causes the mite population to crash, because for several weeks the mites simply have no open brood cells in which to lay their eggs.

    All of us have varroa mites. Keeping the levels low enough so that the bees can thrive despite having some varroa can be done in MANY different ways. Some use mite treatments, or split, or sugar dustings, or drone-culling, or combinations of such things. Some folks even leave that to the bees themselves by obtaining super-hygienic 'self-cleaning' bees strains.
    I myself cannot say whether any of these methods effective or not. For me, so far so good!
     
  4. Adam Foster Collins

    Adam Foster Collins New Member

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    I pulled drone brood several times this season, and only found two or three total, and that was from the first time. Subsequent checks came up empty. I also have all natural comb now, which I didn't have last year (I've got top bar hives). One of the hives was overwintered from last year, and the other was from a nuc this spring.

    As an added experiment, I also misted the bees with lemon/grapefruit juice three times over six weeks as a mite control method. I even sprayed over open brood, and there was never any dead brood expelled from the hive afterward. The bees don't seem to "like" being sprayed, but they don't get very upset about it either. They just get to cleaning it up off each other. I always sprayed just the nest area, and left the honey stores alone.

    I know that there is limited information out there on this method, but when I read about it, I just happened to have a supply of 100% pure organic lemon juice on hand, so I decided to give it a try.

    Adam
     
  5. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    Adam writes:
    As an added experiment, I also misted the bees with lemon/grapefruit juice three times over six weeks as a mite control method.

    tecumseh:
    there is a couple of interesting article in this month ABJ concerning 'natural' or 'organic' remedies by two different authors. cutting to the chase here none of these so called remedies have proven themselves as a mite control. logically there is likely no reason they should work anyway. having said this.... I would also suggest that spraying almost any substance into a hive invariable produces a certain amount of mutual grooming and auto grooming by the bees.
     
  6. Adam Foster Collins

    Adam Foster Collins New Member

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    Tecumseh,

    I'm not naive enough to think that anything sprayed by me all over the inside of a bee hive is "natural". However, the mite problem in this part of the world is recent enough that there hasn't been enough time to do conclusive studies on that many approaches to eliminating them, or reducing their numbers. I read a study on the use of lemon juice, and decided to try it. Not that the study was any more compelling than others on its own, but what was compelling was that I had that on hand, it's not toxic to me or anyone else, it's easy to apply, and it doesn't seem to cause any harm to the bees. But of course, that's just an observation.

    There is logically a reason why it could work. Citric acid, citral and limonene. All present in lemon juice, and all potentially damaging to mites, but not so harmful to the bees.

    At this point, I don't have any idea if the lemon juice made a bit of difference. But I do know that my bees are in much better shape at this point than they were at this time last year.

    All I can do now is take stock of what I did differently this year than last year, consider how the weather was different, take some notes, and get ready for winter.

    Adam
     
  7. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    'there is'.... now don't that sound like the hillbilly coming out in me?
     
  8. Skyhigh

    Skyhigh New Member

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    What I gathered from people using powdered sugar was that it brought on the grooming which helped in knocking the mites off, etc. But, at the same time, I'd read that if the sugar got into open brood cells, this could be detrimental, (just not dangerously so.) If the lemon/grapefruit spray does the same thing without any effect on the open brood, wouldn't this be better? (It would also be less attractive to ants, I would imagine.)
     
  9. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    the lemon might encourage robbing. the bees are highly driven by their olfactory senses. lemon is highly attractive to them as a smell. I would really suspect minimum downside in this process... if the population was weak I would likely put on entrance reducers. sometimes I mix up a bit of homemade honey bee healthy which I add to syrup and deliver in a small pump up sprayer to occasionally mist the girls down lightly. for quick and dirty inspections or manipulation it is a good substitute for a smoker <for the newbees don't use this as an excuse not to practice lighting your smoker.

    as far as the logic of such remedies Randy Oliver in the most recent ABJ spelled out why it is not logical to think such remedies are actually effective. he skewered a couple of other 'organic' sacred cows in his article. the true meat of his article was evidently he has received hate mail in regards to some of his comments (some evidently pretty well misconstrued) by the True Believers. some of this venom evidently having some origin from various bee forum web sites. he don't name names, but you know exactly who he is talking about.

    grooming (or anything that encourages grooming) is likely marginally beneficial... but my economist hats says that ain't such a bad thing either.

    almost always in these kinds of friendly discussion I am reminded of BF Skinner 'superstitious chicken hypothesis'. new bee keeper and old bee keeper both need to keep their antennae tuned to both others and themselves being bitten by this infectious disease.

    at the end of the day I would like Mr Collins to try the process and tell us how it goes. if you want the process to be more science based than feel good then some mite count before and after would be essential.
     
  10. Omie

    Omie New Member

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    I gotta say though that I find it hard to believe that spraying lemon juice on open larvae would not harm them....!
     
  11. Adam Foster Collins

    Adam Foster Collins New Member

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    True enough. And I have not done the proper mite counts to substantiate my efforts as successful. I don't really plan on mite counts either. I didn't start this thread intending to prove that lemon juice is an effective mite control; only to ask about mite levels and DWV, and then reflect what I have done.

    In truth, I began using the lemon juice as a way of masking the smell of scratched drone larvae. I found that, when I scratched some out (to check for mites) there was a marked change in the mood of the bees as they smelled the chemical release of the injured larvae. So I had the spray to spritz an area before and after pulling brood out. It seemed to work well for that purpose, and that gave me a chance to see that it didn't appear to cause the bees any great pain or trouble.

    My hives are situated so that I can stand with my eyes level with the entrance of each from windows in my basement. I can stand there and watch them with a cup of tea in my hand and have the entrance less than two feet from my nose (on the other side of the window screen). I watch them very closely. I also have 36"x 6" observation windows in the side of each hive. I have not seen any dropping of dead larvae after sprays, even though I have sprayed open brood (and the queen too, for that matter). That doesn't mean there weren't any deaths - just not so many that they appeared outside on the ground or landing board. When I used oxalic vapor last fall, I did see dead larvae expelled afterward (perhaps 10 -15 in front of each hive).

    I have not seen any increased robbing activity around the use of lemon, and in fact, I felt that, during the spraying it actually helped keep robbing down by masking the smell of honey. This time of year, an open hive is usually quickly exploited by a lot of yellow jackets. They did not like that lemon juice. Neither do the ants.

    But this is not a thread to "prove" anything, only to reflect personal experience.

    I am not one to buy the idea of "natural beekeeping" to any great extent. To me, that is just another form of marketing language. I'm not one to say that one hive is "more natural" than another, and I'm not one to suggest that the collective wisdom of 100's of years of beekeeping is suddenly worthless because of the appearance of CCD. I have tbh's, and I have a bunch of lang boxes to fill next season. I've worked with bees in langs a lot with my father and grandfather too. So I don't look down my nose at anyone, and I figure we're all doing the best we can.

    But I do recognize a substantial difference between the blow torch, timer and gas mask that I had to use when applying oxalic acid (another "natural" acid), and the bare hands and finger-licking I could do with the lemon juice. It's cheap, and it's easy, and it's not dangerous to me, my children, or my neighbors. So if there's a chance it works (as suggested by what I've read), then it seems like it's worth the effort to try it.

    Like anyone, I'd rather not treat at all. But bees tend to cost about $150 per nuc here, and they were TEEMING with mites at this point last season. When I finally broke down and used the oxalic, the mites on the landing board the next day looked like a pile of brown sand. There were thousands of them. And only one hive made the winter, with a cluster the size of a grapefruit.

    Just trying to avoid that with as little poison as I can get away with, and still have bees in the spring.

    But as I said, I have no idea if the lemon juice is doing anything good or bad. I just know that I've sprayed the bees with it three times this year over the last 6 weeks or so.

    I reflect to you here, and you can take it all for what it's worth. One more set of experiences to add to your own, and to the other ones you know about - and then you make your own choices.

    Adam
     
  12. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    :goodpost:

    and thank you Adam for the excellent conversation.