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Posts posted by Otto

  1. here's the latest I'm reasonably happy so far should get though winter i think.

    Hi Tony,

    I'm also super impressed with the amount of monitoring you do in a commercial operation. A couple of questions:

    How long have you been monitoring and collecting data?

    Do you keep all the data for every hive?

    With regard to treatment - do you blanket treat everything a couple of times per year or only treat once mite numbers come up to a certain level?

    You may have already discussed these things previously in the forum so if that's the case please let me know where. Varroa has now arrived down here so I am thinking carefully about how to do things. I don't have that many hives so should be able to set up a good monitoring system with them. Next couple of seasons will be full on.

    • Like 1
  2. I mentioned on another thread somewhere here about how we viewed the consistantly layed out slabs of brood being an important part of our queen/ drone mother selection and wondered if the quest for VSH genetics would have an impact on that. In the past anything that was looking patchy would be requeened because it was taken to be a failing or poorly mated or inbred queen with VSH genetics in the hive I would imagine that brood pattern would look patchy making it hard to know the reason for that patchiness.


    Does that make any sense?

    Not completely sure if I've understood that right but I think you're suggesting a patchy brood pattern due to varroa parasitized pupae being removed by the workers? How many mites would you have to have in a hive to give you a patchy brood pattern for this reason? Many hundreds if not thousands. If mites are building up to that level it would seem unlikely to be a hive with the desired VSH traits.

  3. Is this enough drones ?

    Purely in numerical terms this will be plenty of drones. Of course it is not just about numbers. The key determinant for it being enough is the amount of genetic variation there is in the hives producing the drones.


    I think the simplest test of whether it is enough or not is to look at your brood viability. As long as you have brood viability of close to 100% then there is sufficient genetic variation in your breeding pool. If your brood patterns start to appear patchy on a regular basis then introducing some new genetic lines should be a priority. I have written a short explanation of how inbreeding of bees results in a patchy brood pattern below.


    One of the key determinants of brood viability is the amount of variation at the genetic locus for sex determination (a gene called csd for Complementary Sex Determiner). This is an extremely variable gene in honeybees and every different variation of this gene is called a CSD allele.


    Like people, female honeybees have two copies of all of their chromosomes (diploid) so therefore have two copies (alleles) of the CSD gene. Drones are produced from unfertilized eggs so only have a single set of chromosomes (haploid) and hence, a single copy of the CSD gene.


    The sex of an individual honeybee is female when there are 2 different CSD alleles on it's chromosomes. If there is only 1 copy or 2 copies the same then the bee will be a male. When bees suffer from inbreeding the queen mates with some drones that carry the same CSD allele as the queen already has. When this happens some of the eggs laid by the queen have two sets of chromosomes but both copies of the CSD gene are the same. Since there is only one version of the CSD allele the result is a male bee (called diploid males as they have two sets of chromosomes). When these eggs hatch workers quickly recognize that they are male and chew them up. If this happens a lot you end up with the classical patchy brood pattern associated with inbreeding.

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  4. I agree - queens are only half of the equation. In a closed (artificial insemination) population you can certainly select drones from hives that tick all the boxes with regard to what you might be breeding towards. With natural matings it is of course much more difficult. If you have hives that have very desirable traits you could give these more opportunity to produce drones to try and bias the drone pool in favour of those traits. Maybe those on the forum that do their own breeding can answer this.

  5. The point of quoting David Fisher was that it was one sided, and the origin was clearly stated. PANNA is no less one sided, their report, Pesticides and Honeybees: the State of the Science, is good but still selective in what science it chooses to consider. There is plenty of good science for us cynics, none of it really in the public domain. It takes a lot of work to stay informed.


    As much as I dislike large multi-national corporations such as Bayer and Monsanto I think it is important to keep a close eye on both sides of an argument and especially the quality (or lack thereof) of the science backing them up. Thank you Dave for trying to add some balance to the argument.

    In my opinion there is at this stage no decent evidence linking Neonicotinoids to CCD, as much as I or many others would like there to be. We also need to keep in mind that the neonicotinoids have largely replaced insecticides that were much more broad spectrum and considerably worse for ecosystems as a whole.

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  6. I'm pretty sure the main vector for the spread of varroa other than beekeepers is drones, drones freely enter any hive they feel like often a considerable distance from their own hive. I believe they find these new hives by scent and large apiarys put out a lot more than individual feral hives. A few isolated ferals have survived simply because they have not come in contact with varroa. Feral hive numbers are massively reduced in Hawke's Bay and while some swarms do establish from managed hives they all die within 12 months. Judging from the reinvasion we got I suspect that ferals outnumbered managed hives before varroa. I would guess that in some areas ferals might be a 20% of their pre-varroa numbers but in most areas I keep bees it would be closer to 0%.

    I do believe it will be possible to breed a varroa tolerant bee in New Zealand but if we all stopped treating tomorrow I firmly believe they would not be one hive managed or feral left alive in New Zealand within two years. African bees have many advantages over our hives not the least of which is there huge genetic diversity, our bees went through several genetic bottlenecks before man even began to play with them. Import hives from Africa and we will solve the feral problem but God help anyone who wants to keep bees for profit let alone for fun.


    Interesting that feral numbers might have been that high pre-Varroa. In terms of genetic diversity - this is possibly one of our biggest disadvantages in New Zealand. We do have a more limited gene pool in our bees than there is in many other countries for the simple reason that a limited number of beehives (and more recently bee semen) were introduced to New Zealand. Unfortunately the arrival of Varroa can only have had a negative effect on this. Feral populations had the potential to breed to a different set of constraints than those selected for by beekeepers (i.e. survival in the wild) and had been doing so for at least 150 years. Ferals therefore probably harbored some quite different genetic traits that have now been (almost) wiped out.


    I also believe that it will be possible to breed Varroa tolerant bees here. The process could be helped by importing genetic diversity but we'd want to make some pretty careful and informed decisions before going down that route.

  7. Just for the record - PSA = Pseudomonas syringae pv actinidiae. This is a bacterial disease and has nothing to do with a virus. One would never treat for a virus with antibiotics. The media getting fundamental basics like this wrong always annoys me.

    As for the antibiotic and how it might affect bees. The antibiotic of choice here is Streptomycin, which breaks down quite quickly in the environment. As long as it is applied outside of flowering time I doubt that it would be found in beehives used for pollination.

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  8. I was interested to see this post, as a wool carder bee appears to have taken up residence here. I am interested in which insects pollinate our small collection of avocado trees here on our Helensville lifestyle block.


    I was concerned that the wool carder might 'discourage' honey bees. But today I observed the wool carder working dentata lavender, alongside honey bees and bumblebees. It clearly works alongside honeybees in close proximity, albeit it 'bullies' honey bees off the flower it wants to work. The honey bees simply swap to a nearby flower.

    It is interesting that it successfully 'cohabits' with hives.

    I wonder if it is susceptible to Varroa?



    Both honeybees and wool carder bees are natives of Europe so they have co-evolved. They are very used to each others company.

    Varroa is a very specific parasite (only two strains of one of the Varroa species that parasitise Apis cerana have managed to overcome the species barrier and parasitise Apis mellifera). These bees are very different in terms of their life cycle so no - Varroa will not have any effect on them at all (Varroa is also no problem for our native bees).

  9. I would also be interested in what constitutes 'natural beekeeping'. In my eyes I've just had my last season as a 'natural beekeeper' as I will need to start treating for varroa next season. I'm all for non-chemical treatments to try to keep varroa in check and will start experimenting with them as soon as varroa has settled in here in Dunedin. I struggle to think of these treatments as 'natural' though. An organic treatment such as formic acid, oxalic acid or thymol for me does not constitute natural beekeeping as the levels of these compounds in a hive to treat varroa is anything but natural. I hope to be an organic (synthetic chemical-free) beekeeper again sometime in the future but I doubt I'll ever again be a natural beekeeper...

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  10. As I have in the past borne some responsibility for 'bee school', (but I'm not a medic) here's the official line I was taught. Assess the risk, then... Antihistamines should be taken before you visit the bees if they are to work effectively, about a hour before. A systemic reaction (ie. one that affects your system rather than the part that has been stung) requires a paramedic with adrenaline (or a hospital). Do not use an Epipen (or similar) on anyone other than its 'owner'. Last, beware stings on the eyeball, mouth and throat. Very dangerous. Hospital.


    The study confirmed several risk factors. These were, in descending order of importance, symptoms of upper respiratory allergy while working on the hive, a history of other allergies, time spent as a beekeeper, and more severe nonallergic reactions to bee stings in springtime.


    Thanks for the information. Will be useful when we are looking to get kids involved in a school beehive in terms of sending home a permission slip with some questions for parents to answer.

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  11. Hukanui Primary school here in Hamilton has a Lang hive up and running, even selling their honey ! Michelle White, the teacher in charge came and did my 6 week beekeeping night class and is now the beekeeper in charge ! Also, another school teacher I know has built a topbar hive on a bench in his class workshop with a tube going outside for the bees to come and go, lockable lid and glass frontage - very cool ! Te Miro school has a hive also.

    I speak to schools, usually primary schools and love it ! The kids are so keen to learn.

    Great to hear. I'm looking forward to getting the kids much more hands on in Spring and seeing how it goes. If it all works well I will look into getting other schools going too (although it could get time consuming). Could look at getting more beekeepers involved...

  12. Below is the abstract from a 1990 paper in the Journal of Apicultural Research.

    Seems Melittiphis is a pollen mite.


    Article Title

    Investigation of the parasitic status of Melittiphis alvearius (Berlese) on honeybees, Apis mellifera l., by immunoassay



    B. L. Gibbins and R. F. Van Toor



    The potential parasitism of Apis mellifera L. (Honeybee) by the colony co-habitant Melittiphis alvearius (Berlese) was investigated by analysing homogenates of the mite for bee-derived antigens with a sensitive indirect immuno-dot procedure. This method revealed that the mite contained pollen and bee-derived antigens, but the latter were bee salivary antigens. These findings show that the mite is not parasitic on bees but rather is a scavenger of pollen within bee colonies.1

  13. Hi Otto. There's so much to learn! I hadn't heard of Mellitiphis before this post. Is it widespread in NZ? I imagine varroa treatments kill it if it is. Is it a pollen mite or does it scavenge hive waste?

    Melittiphis alvearius is a small mite often found associated with beehives. I don't think a lot is known about it. I'd always thought of it as a pollen mite but according to the 'control of varroa' book:


    "Melittiphis is not a parasite of honey bees. It is thought to be either a scavenger of pollen and hive debris or a predator of tiny pollen mites that also live in beehives."


    I see it in hives quite often and the number of them in a hive varies greatly. Varroa treatments do kill these mites too and when I did my Varroa checks a few weeks ago I had one hive with lots of Melittiphis. I'll see if I can find any other literature about it.

  14. My 3-year-old grandson is showing an interest in my bees and I want to keep him keen. What is a good bee suit for him? What's the best way to introduce him to the bees? What precautions should I take?

    My son who is three also loves them. Last year he came with my Dad and me to look at the bees. I put him in my top half bee suit which was of course a million sizes too big but still did the job. He had a great time poking around in the hive with a hive tool. Towards the end of the session he had had enough and we'd taken the suit off him. He was quite comfortable in amongst the bees (I prefer to do my beekeeping without protective gear if the weather is nice). He did collect his first bee sting right at the end. It was a forager loaded with pollen that must have landed on his hand while waiting for us to more from in front of her hive. Too much temptation for little hands. He was distraught for a short while then I put a sticky plaster on it and that took the trauma away completely.

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  15. Thats fantastic - the success of the future is through the education of our youth - its doesnt take very long before those kids are re-educating the older generation .. I have seen it 1st hand with kids fishing off the wharf re-educating their "take every thing that moves" dads - Dad squirms and looks a bit confussed and slightly sheepish as the penny drops after being told by a 9 year old enough is enough !!

    Its my inderstanding that there are a few other schools also involved or thinking about how to get involved in bees.

    Another school who is is actively involved is Wellingtons "Onslow College".

    Good to see that there are schools that are encouraging the keeping of and learning about bees. It will be an interesting experiment to see how the Primary School kids go with it. Certainly from the learning perspective I think it will work very well. I will find out about the kids handle the physical side of beekeeping next season. Looking forward to it.

  16. Nelson College for Boys is running a beekeeping apprenticeship type thingy for boys interested in entering the beekeeping industry when they leave school

    Sounds great. Beekeeping is not straight forward - lots to learn. An apprenticeship system has the potential to work very well. I guess it comes down to local beekeepers being prepared to take on those that are serious about it as a career option.

  17. working without gloves are more likely to become allergic to propolis than bee stings. I've known three people with this allergy and it's quite nasty. I have to admit that most of my knowledge on excessive stings is anecdotal and seemed to apply to people who were working bees 40 years ago or more when the unimproved temperament of many stocks would make 50 to 100 stings a day more common than five . I've certainly heard of beekeepers who have suddenly become seriously allergic to stings and also others that have had severe joint problems with their fingers as they have aged but of course the later might be more to do with ageing rather than bee stings. I guess every person reacts differently but I can't see five stings a day doing much harm. I got between one and 200 one night many years ago and certainly felt a bit off the next day but had no lasting effects.

    It's my personal belief that old bees that have survived the winter are not only more aggressive but there stings are more potent than summer and autumn bees but it could be I'm just reacting more because I have not been stung for a while.

    I'd agree on the old bees having more potent stings - make sense too as the older bees do more of the work that might require them to use their sting (guarding, foraging). For our research we collect newly emerged workers quite often and occasionally one of these manages to sting. These stings don't seem to have any venom in them at all and I often don't realise I have even been stung. Our assumption from this was that the amount of venom in the poison sac builds up as the bee ages.

  18. Hi Otto,

    Love the flower. I imagine they're a challenge to grow there.

    Oturu school up here has beehives and as you can see from the links achieved a bit more than just keeping bees.




    Hi Wayne,

    Are you the beekeeper that is in charge of the hive? If so, please let me know as I have a few questions I'd like to ask.



  19. Have it on good authority that there were a couple of hives in the town belt (Dunedin) that had very high varroa counts so the wee ######s have been here for a year or two. Not surprising given how widespread they seem to be. In total I found at least some mites in 17 of my 26 hives so they're probably in most hives around Dunedin now.

  20. In terms of splitting small numbers of hives to produce large numbers if you were happy to miss out on a honey crop, had plenty of equipment and syrup ready and had a good source of queen cells I would think that you could pretty easily build from 100 to 600ish hives over pretty much any season if you wanted to. It would not be cheap though!


    Well those are my thoughts anyway :)

    I agree. I have made half a dozen splits into 5 frame nuc boxes from several hives each of the last two springs (Sept 2010, Oct 2011) as we tend to work with nuc colonies for our research. Each split gets 1-2 frames of brood and bees, 1 frame of honey and bees, one empty frame and a 1-frame feeder filled with sugar syrup. I am lucky to have access to some surplus mated queens from a local breeding programme as queens are the only potentially difficult bit this time of year. By the time the honey flow comes along in late Nov the hives I made the splits from are back to full strength. With a little TLC the splits do very well too. I will acknowledge that where I keep my bees might not be the best for big honey crops but there is always a plentiful supply of pollen and this is critically important for the splits to be able to build up.

    • Like 2
  21. Hi Otto,

    Love the flower. I imagine they're a challenge to grow there.

    Oturu school up here has beehives and as you can see from the links achieved a bit more than just keeping bees.




    PS. The flower is a Masdevallia hybrid (orchid). In a greenhouse they grow very well down here with only a minimal amount of heating in winter to keep frost out.

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