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Counting varroa?


#1

Hello, what is everyone doing to count varroa on the bottom board?
How often do you check the board and what do you look for?
How many mites would be a problem?
Any tips and tricks you can share?


#2

I monitor in the spring, once during the summer and again in autumn. I usually sugar shake as inspection board counts are notoriously unreliable.
You can’t do much better than Randy Oliver’s article here
http://scientificbeekeeping.com/sick-bees-part-11-mite-monitoring-methods/


#3

As @Dee says, this is very unreliable. It used to be recommended, but it really shouldn’t be used any more. The Minnesota sugar shake method gets more than 95% of the varroa off the bees, and the only method more accurate is an alcohol soak, which unfortunately kills the bees you tested. The sugar shake doesn’t kill them if you are reasonably careful. Here is a poster which details how to do the test, and how many mites are worrying:
http://www.ent.uga.edu/bees/disorders/documents/VarroaMites_155.pdf


#4

Of course I cannot hurt to check for deceases and pests, and keep an eye on the well-being of your bees. But consider this: shouldn’t a bee colony be able to fend off deceases and pests by themselves? If they cannot and you are going to provide a colony that would otherwise have died with antibiotics and chemicals to kill harmful bacteria and varroa and such, you might be instructional in weakening the gene-pool of honey bees in general.


#5

The trouble is that Apis mellifera cannot cope with a parasite it didn’t evolve with. Varroa is an introduced nasty. But yes if we all stopped treating for anything there would be huge losses and something would arise Phoenix-like from those ashes. It’s not going to happen though. I’m sure hobbyists don’t use antibiotics by the way. Commercial pollinators who use their bees as a disposable tool are to blame. But then if you want food that requires pollination you have to accept that.


#6

This is the debate. Is it better to let nature take its course and select for the strongest most resilient bees and possibly lose colonies that are not equipped to handle the diseases and pests, or is it our duty as beekeepers to tend to our bees needs including treatments.

I think it’s been proven over the last several decades that the necessarily much more aggressive treatment levels in the hive in conjunction with more modern pesticides have only proven to weaken and damage bee stock. I think we have a hard road to walk in the next few years and we allow the strongest to survive and the weak to fall out of the gene pool. It would be hard for me to watch one of my hives fail, but long term I don’t see another solution that makes sense.


#7

@adagna
Bees are already fighting back on their own. they are developing hygienic traits that we can select and more interestingly there is a type of DWV that is non pathogenic and supenrinfects bees protecting them against the pathogenic strain. So all is not lost and it’s no longer a question of standing back and letting your colonies perish in the faint hope that one might survive.