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A New Approach to Pests and Diseases?


#1

I understand that the responsibility of keeping bees healthy and disease free is high, not just for our own hives but others nearby. My experiment in intervention-free control may sound irresponsible to some and time will tell.

I am a novice to bee-keeping but not new to the struggle of dealing with pests and disease. My long career in hospital microbiology and as a gardener at the Royal Botanic Gardens, taught me that as soon as you upset the natural flora and fauna you are on a rollercoaster and may never get off. The modern trend of ultra-clean and medication is a sure way to get sick. It appalls me that cruise ships have everybody disinfecting their hands when all this does is remove the good bacteria allowing the bad to invade.

So it is no surprise that Varroa destructor have been selected out, in the same way Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus has been selected out by misuse of antibiotics. Like bacteria the good mites will control the bad mites. Kill all mites and you will be just be left with a Varroa destuctor and no bees.

From studying research it seems that varroa mortality increases at low temperature/high ventilation and at high temperature/low ventilation whilst bee mortality is constant. Therefore I have increased ventilation at lower temperatures and will reduce as temperatures increase.

The physiology of bees will be dependent on hive temperature and gas exchanges with 32C-35C optimum. Therefore in summer when the inside hive temperature is high, CO2 levels high and O2 low, regular inspections will disrupt the bee physiology and immune systems. Therefore I will not be inspecting the hive when the outside temperature is above 20C, that is all summer here. In that way the optimum varroa mortality rate will be maintained.

I will post more as my inspections progress,

Has anyone else tried this approach? Thanks


#2

There are definitely many IPM management practices out there to go treatment free. @Michael_Bush has a lot of info on his webpage. http://bushfarms.com/bees.htm I am also watching some of the talks he has given that are on the Treatment free beekeeping page on Youtube. There is a lot to learn and its easy to say now that you are not going to disrupt the hive during the summer months but periodic inspections are also part of keeping a healthy hive. Coming from the background I think an easy correlation would be just because your not sick doesn’t mean you should have checkups from a doctor from time to time. Happy Beekeeping!


#3

Thanks John. I will take a look at those…though I never get check-ups!


#4

So you are happy to let them swarm then? :blush:


#5

Well at least the brood break will help keep varroa levels down


#6

You mean. “Have you considered the possibility of swarming?” Yes, I have. I prefer to preempt rather than react.


#7

So you think that an intervention before the temperatures hit 20C will prevent swarming for the whole of the rest of the season? :thinking: Hmmm. Teach me that one, please. :blush:


#8

Graham,

Absolutely no inspections above 68 dgs you wrote ?! That sure doesn’t work for me, myself n I or most commercial n most hobbyist.

Down here Swarm control is the law if you want bees kept in the city or burbs here Stateside. Plus losing 1/3 to 1/2 isn’t very productive.

I guess if you have one hive … experimenting is great … Hobbyist n very small operations might try the “out of the box approaches maybe … but guessing I’d not hold your breath on that one long.

I rock between 6 to 8 max personal colonies. The ones out back I could louvre open n more open but the inspections have to GO-ON !

I will watch for your honest results but as with any experiments … lm guess it’s going to take a bank of colonies n time to really get your theory to helpful procedure … but I’m will as most to check your results down the road …

Good luck :four_leaf_clover: n enjoy your new Bee’s. It’s a heck of a ride n awesome learning curve.

Cheers.
Gerald


#9

Thanks Gerald, excellent comment. I am increasing my hives slowy…i did not want to kill my bees all in one go. As with all things I’m finding the more you know you the more you realise you don’t know.


#10

Graham,

Good to hear from you. Love to find a viable option (non-chemical) to really control varroa mites … I’ve lost at least four colonies because of these critters/killers. That gets pricey for a hobbyist or commercial operation quickly.

I use several mechanical methods but that slow the mite population gain but not stops it. To not loss colonies I’m having to use proper doses of Chemical methods into autumn n early winter … l’d love to return to the good old days of the 1950 n 60’s before mites but that’s not going to happen.

Got to get our dinner on now,
Cheers,

Gerald


#11

Can’t wait to see what is for dinner, Jerry! Hope you are feeling OK these days. :heart_eyes: I think I might try to do Singapore Noodles tonight, perhaps with some honey in the sauce. :wink:


#12

If you don’t keep an eye on the hive they can build wild comb, have other pests issues, diseases that can affect all of the other beekeepers around you. I don’t think anyone has any issue with you wanting to use a treatment free policy for your hives but when it comes to managing the hive so it doesn’t affect others around you please take that to heart.


#13

I completely agree with your 2nd para about the modern misconceptions around the desirability for killing all bacteria. However I have difficulty relating this to varroa (3rd para). We are not selecting for varroa or against it. There is no competition or ‘good mites’ to displace varroa. Varroa has crossed the species barrier and needs time to settle down and adapt.
Here, we rarely get outdoor temperatures over 20C and varroa is surviving quite well. Perhaps not opening your hives might have an effect, but I doubt it would be sufficient to reduce the damage done by the mite in a meaningful way.
Nevertheless all experiments are good. Someday somebody will discover how to balance things a little more against Varroa, thus giving the bees a bettter possibility to manage on their own.


#14

I thought it was interesting the other day when I found out that miticides used against varroa, also had such a powerful effect on the Braula fly (which is prevalent where I live), to the degree that it is virtually extinct in some places. It was interesting to me how tough the mite is compared to the fly, and how easy it can be to eradicate some things, and yet so difficult to eradicate others. I think of how many things we eradicate without trying at all. Take for example the Swift and Orange- Bellied Parrot here Tasmania at the moment. Varroa seem to be like the Brown Rat or rabbit in this respect. We did however recently eradicate the rabbit from our Macquarie Island. It was a mammoth effort as I understand it, on such a small island.
http://www.parks.tas.gov.au/?base=12997

edit…it was the largest eradication program in the world for rabbits, mice and rats.


#15

Mammoths got eradicated too, but I am not sure how responsible we were for that! :blush:


#16

…well it seems the mammoths helped us.:wink:


#17

Deformed wing virus A is now being replaced by deformed wing virus B which is more virulent and has been shown to shorten the lifespan of the bees it infects by 60%. It is now the single most important cause of winter loss. There is a variant C in the wings.
In my mind there is no way the honey bee is going to cope with varroa in time. The speed of virus change is just too fast. So the only way I can help is to lower the varroa burden with OAV


#18

Hi Dee,

-I’m wondering if are there any parallels with other insects that you know of, and what eventually happened or is happening?


#19

I’m sorry I don’t.
DWV affects bumblebees too though it is not spread by varroa. So this supposedly bee specific virus is nastier than we imagined.


#20

Have you read One Straw Revolution? If not- have a read- I think you’ll like it.

I don’t know much about Varroa- we don’t have it hear yet thankfully- but from what I understand it devastated wild colonies in the US and elsewhere? If that’s true it would seem to argue against your theory?