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Previously Unseen Behaviour Outside Hive.


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Last evening sat outside the "small hive" watching the comings and goings, I noticed a worker emerge, walk down the base to ground level and strike out on foot straight away from the hive. She seemed to pause three or four times then about a metre out, fell over and became inert. A minute or so later another worker repeated the performance almost exactly. I went over and picked them up looking for signs of wing damage, chewing, stings given or received. Nothing. Over a half-hour around ten bees did this as dusk fell. I noticed that the pauses looked like swift cleaning episodes, hind legs wiping down the sides of the abdomen, and not all of them did it. Some appeared hunched, some didn't. I came inside.

This morning I fixed the roof of that hive, and sat and watched. There were no more bees on the ground out front than last night and in total there were about twenty of varying age among the litter. Then a solitary worker flew out and landed maybe twenty centimetres in front, and then walked the five metres into the bush stopping to groom a couple of times and not looking back. Bizarre.

Supporting evidence: Last weekend a frame of brood and a frame of stores were put into a second brood box topped up with drawn comb and the box added to the hive since it was coming back from a slow build-up in shade this season. The nurses shaken back into the donor hive. An oxalic Varroa strip which was probably contributing to patchy laying was removed at that time. To relocate out of the site shade, the hive had been on holiday for a fortnight to the other side of the Hutt Valley and had fresh brood and more bees on its return a fortnight ago. The new site has good sun, little wind, is in ancient gorse and native regrowth, and has Red Wasps observed wandering by on occasion. Could they be attacking the hive? The hive is otherwise happy and healthy, docile enough to be looked into without gear but with caution, and foraging well. In a week they have begun capping the top third of one side of two of the drawn three-quarter frames.

But we'd really like to know if you Wise Ones can explain the weird behavior and tell us what it means.

 

Thanks.

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Just so you understand the bee behaviour, individual bees have almost nil resistance to viruses once they have penetrated the bees exoskeleton. Instead of individual resistance, to purge itself of vir

If as I understand what you have written. 1 strip is nowhere near enough.   Also putting strips on top of the brood frames between boxes is ineffective (just does not work). You did not

Just to back what Trevor just said about the effectiveness of a strip across the top bars, here are a couple of pics of how I treated for mites a few years ago using paper towels soaked in OA and Glyc

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Just so you understand the bee behaviour, individual bees have almost nil resistance to viruses once they have penetrated the bees exoskeleton. Instead of individual resistance, to purge itself of viruses the hive acts as a "super organism", individual bees that are infected with the types of viruses transmitted by varroa mites committ suicide, by getting themselves as far away from the hive as they can and then dieing. The cleaning type movements you observed and the hunched appearance can be typical of various infections.

 

I wouldn't even mess with the icing sugar. This is the time of the season to treat hives for mites, just go ahead and treat all your hives.

 

Oxalic varroa strips are pretty effective against mites but it sounds like you just had one in the hive? If so, likely not enough, which could have allowed a mite buildup.

 

If an oxalic strip has caused spotty brood, might pay to rotate this time with something different, Bayvarol or Apivar (not api life var) are two very effective and easy to use treatments.

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Sugar shake Take #1 completed, on 250ml of bees, - "no, I don't want to go in that jar, and neither do the rest of us!" and 1 mite to show for it. Take #2 scheduled for when I'm forgiven.

We have 2 hives, one that was always in full sun and one in part shade. The big one, the full sun one has moved slightly to a "more sensible" shall she say, spot and the smaller, subject hive, condensed to one three-quarter box and moved into the light and is now rid of wax moth evidence and condensation and brooding well. Not excellently, just well with a second year queen.

Both hives have had homemade oxalic strips installed and the large hive still has one. These are hessian tree tie tape soaked 12 hours in 1:1:0.5 oxalic glycerine water and squeezed dry through old wringer rollers. One per hive, 300mm long, across the top of the brood. Too much, I'd venture, for one brood box but enough for two as the bigger hive has typically 1-2 mites per check over two brood boxes.

We agree that a substitute treatment is about due and have used Bayvarol in the past before the oxalic. Apivar then probably. 

Hopefully this helps with the diagnosis but the mite disease portfolio sounds like being on the money.

Thank you Trevor, Alastair, and CraBee for your input. Gold.

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If as I understand what you have written.

1 strip is nowhere near enough.  

Also putting strips on top of the brood frames between boxes is ineffective (just does not work).

You did not tell us how heavy the strips were before applying the mixture and what the weight was after applying the treatment.

I think your treatment has been totally inadequate.

Also sugar shake tests are notoriously ineffective. As @Alastair said.  Just put in a synthetic treatment now.

 

Sorry to sound harsh but I am trying to save your bees. 

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Just to back what Trevor just said about the effectiveness of a strip across the top bars, here are a couple of pics of how I treated for mites a few years ago using paper towels soaked in OA and Glycerine. The pic is the towel newly applied, and then again after 4 weeks. As can be seen the towel covered most of the box. It did not damage the bees, but nor was it 100% effective against mites, across several hundred hives, i eventually had to abandon the method. To be effective against mites, it does seem the OA mix must be applied hanging right between the brood combs, as popularised (in NZ) by Philbee.

 

 

OA1.jpg

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towel 4 weeks.jpg

Edited by Alastair
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3 hours ago, The Frasers said:

1:1:0.5 oxalic glycerine

Hi Frasers

Could you please clarify this OA/GL ratio.
Also Id like to see the hive treatment history and also the sugar shake method and hardware.
Back in the early days I tried strips of gib tape across the top bars and it resulted in very high loses.
In fact the Autumn loses were so severe that in desperation I jammed the tapes and clothes down between the frames in a last ditch attempt to save some hives.
Fortunately it worked.
 

 

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39 minutes ago, Alastair said:

I'd say it's 1 part OA, 1 part Gl, 1/2 a part water.

 

Perhaps more simply expressed as 2:2:1.

 

Randy was adding water for a bit, not sure if he still is.

Im sure he isnt.

That ratio is way out there IMO

2kg OA, 2kg GL, 1kg Water

20% water? 

Im not sure that Gib tape will even hold together in the hive with that much water in it.

However the reason I asked for treatment history etc is that maybe this Hive is 2 years old and doing nicely, in which case there probably arnt any Mites in there.
On the other hand the Hive may be a Spring Hive and about to crash.

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Randy wasn't adding 20% water. It's a few years ago and i don't even remember properly but i think that if water was added it reduces crystalisation of the OA. So i did it myself, i think at the time Randy was suggesting 6% but don't quote me on that.

 

However i noticed that the shop towels absorbed even more water in the hives, probably due to Auckland high humidity so later batches i didn't use any water.

 

However i doubt much or any of that has much relevance in this case. Whatever mix he was using i don't think it was correctly applied. There is clearly an issue with his bees based on his description, all he can do is put in some mite treatment. There are mites in there.

 

Just some more info, being in a high hobby beekeeper area I often get asked to take a look at someones bees when they are having problems. Several times i have been told by the beekeeper they have done a sugar shake and there were no mites / few mites. But when i take a look the hive is crawling with mites. There are sugar shakes, and sugar shakes.

 

 

Edited by Alastair
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It's difficult to be sure of the dose with home made remedies.

 

A small colony may be due to other factors than mites (failing queen?) although mites are something that has to be managed well. Last summer I had a couple of colonies that suffered from chronic bee paralysis virus with thousands dead outside those two hives - they were just walking/staggering out to fall on the pile of corpses underneath. Both colonies did survive though. CBPV is increasing in the UK, I understand, although it is not associated with varroa - although some paralasys issues are. And of course some bees just get old and die.

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We found and purchased Bayvarol on Saturday morning and as it calmed down to turn to the south in the afternoon, put four strips into the brood frames of each box in both hives. No dead bees outside the front of the small hive, or pedestrians. It's bare earth all around it and they are immediately visible.

The oxalic home treatment was an experiment that grew out of a try with paper towels soaked and dried as described by Randy Oliver, laid across the brood box frames. Oxalic seemed to be a substance that mites don't evolve to tolerate. Our towels appeared to our VERY limited keeper experience to be working, with mites in very low numbers in brood and bees. The mixture was Randy's later 1:1:0.5 or as Alastair put it 2:2:1 Our bees left some towels alone except for gluing them to the frames but chewed most to bits in a fortnight or so and clogged the base with fibres. Changing from towels to tree tie tape was a left field experiment with no precedent and seems to have had a bad reaction. Again, with no proof. The tape was propylised, the brood pattern became patchy over the three months the tapes were in the small hive but not the bigger one. Mites appeared to still be controlled. But as the Forum points out, there is far more to healthy bees than applications of homemade remedies and wishes. We're going to patent remedies again, rotating, and listening closely to advice. And thank you for your guidance.

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Sounds great, and give it some time and i believe you will see the health of your bees improve.

 

Things have moved along since Randy was recommending OA on shop towels, for your next springs treatment if you are keen on using oxalic acid, contact Philbee, he sells strips for hanging between brood frames, that is an effective way to kill the mites.

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@The Frasers, I’ve made a lot of mistakes and I’m sure you haven’t made all these but in case you have:

1) Sugar shake a cup of bees from good brood frames. Don’t shake ones from frames that aren’t all brood if you can avoid it. Do this more than once to confirm the results. The real result is from an alcohol wash but I’m too chicken/soft for that.

I recommend watching a few YouTube videos of sugar shaking, as it is pretty wild the first few times.

2) Look into some drone brood. It’s gross and it pretty horrible to cut it out and pull it apart, but what’s happening there is eye opening.

3) Check your strong hives too with sugar shakes, the ones that look great. In my (limited) experience, they are just as bad or worse than the ones that look iffy. I suspect this is from robbing but it’s truely startling how bad the varroa can be in a hive that has a nice brood pattern, good numbers and otherwise appears ok (to me at least).

4) Listen to the others here! I’m yet to have a poor suggestion from the people who’ve chimed in on this thread.

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@cBank, thank you for that. Totally agree on point 4, and a lot of the advice to others on the Forum has produced light-bulb moments for us facing similar situations. We here are a team. Me the "poke it and see if it squeaks", hands on part of the pair, and she the "They're your bees but I would..." part. And  with just so much to know and so little time, mistakes are made. Often. Killing a hive with too few bees and too much room for them to keep warm that first winter. Starving a hive to close to extinction with a top feeder beyond the reach of the cluster the second spring. Veering off the trodden path with home made Varroa strips... 

I'm with you on the alcohol wash. I respect their life and feel badly when any are killed especially in ignorance by lack of knowledge (see above) and by squashing between boxes for instance. Drowning them in a stinging toxic liquid deliberately needs to have no alternative so far as I'm concerned, and icing sugar is that alternative. 

Sugar shakes here are, well, an exercise. Getting 3-400 bees from a brood frame into a jar of sugar is an event of slapstick which is almost beyond me. She will suit up and help but this introduces an element that helps and hinders in equal measure: discussion. I'm just about comfortable with mashing drone cells for the greater good and the brace comb casualties are a bonus. That said, we seem to have a low incidence of mite and associated disease from what we see.

Acting on the advice given, we applied 4x Bayvarol strips per 3/4 brood box (two boxes per hive) and the bigger 3-box hive. top box too. Both have sticky boards and the mite fall has been in the order of about 10 from the small hive and 20 from the big hive since the strips went in. Both hives have increased in vigour and numbers noticeably since then though. So much to learn, etc etc.

Thank you again, Forum. Your advice is an invaluable and reassuring that bees can be kept and enjoyed with proper attention.

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Agreed, Yesbut. Yes, but, leaving them in a shaded area with a single brood box with a few frames of patchy stores in a super above, and with a feeder above that was a fatal flaw. Too much "room" to keep warm in. Chilled brood, damp boxes, cold winter.. So many things could have been done better, like the site, frame feeder, just the one box.  If there had been another hive back then they ought to have been merged with it. As it was we caught a swarm that spring and the few hundred remaining in the first hive were merged and died with friends in the warm. 

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