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G Przybylski

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  1. JamesC, A couple of questions and some thoughts about your unexpected marked queen. Was the hive always occupied by a colony, or is it possible your colony absconded or died out between the time you last looked, and when you discovered that marked queen? If the hive was empty or nearly empty, it's possible a swarm just moved into it. The marked queen would be the mother queen of the colony that produced the swarm, obviously. i.e. a primary swarm. They're glad to move into digs that smell good. I had three colonies move into vacant equipment in our back yard just last year. One built up beautifully, and gifted us some honey. One of them eventually died out. (it's "winter" in the bay area right now) If the colony wasn't particularly strong, and that marked queen and a "swarm" of bees absconded from someone else's yard, perhaps the swarm engineered a Usirpation of your colony. The Africanized bees in southern California are reported pulling off this usurpation stunt with annoying frequency. It goes like this: A small swarm clumps on the side of the target hive; some of the workers move into the target hive, and kill off the queen inside of it; then the swarm on the side moves their interloper queen in under the protection of her loyal workers until the colony gets used to her. So which scenario do you think it could have been? A couple of summers ago I spotted a small swarm on the side of a hive, so I tried to move them into some empty equipment. I think they absconded again rather than getting established. I didn't have time to check for a queen in the hive where I first saw that swarm. If I see something like that again, I'll treat it like a split opportunity -- I'll create a nuc for the swarm, and give them some brood and food. We learn from our mistakes if we can figure out what our mistakes are.
  2. Indeed, check the mother hive for additional swarm cells. Sometimes a colony will control the emergence of queens and send out several swarms with virgin queens after the initial swarm with the mother queen. Last spring a swarm we collected, within two months had produced a number of swarms with the consequence that all that was left was some honey, and just a hand full of bees without a queen. They left behind three frames with two, three, and two queen cells chewed out at the end as evidence of emerging virgins. (When a queen emerges and destroys other queens, the cells are chewed open mid way up the side) I'm GLAD that colony swarmed away. I don't want swarmy bees in our yard. Not good for the beekeeper, but perhaps useful for local adaptation in the neighborhood. If when inspecting, a colony has swarm cells on multiple frames, that's a crisis and an opportunity dumping many choices in the lap of the beekeeper. If the queen cells are in a frame with wax foundation, or foundationless frame, then each queen cell can be cut out and relocated to a hive that needs it for requeening, or to replace a faulty queen, or to a queenless hive to reboot it. (or pairs or threes if they can't be separated) Queen cells on plastic foundation leave you with two options. o Move a frame with a couple of queen cells to a nuc and give it a frame with food, another frame with larva and pupa, and a drawn frame. Give them plenty of house bees to cover the larva and pupa and move it across the yard or to another yard. Make sure none of those frames has a queen or virgin queen on it. Field bees will return to the mother hive, so after an hour, make sure the nuc still has enough bees. Add more if necessary but NOT a queen!!! o Sometimes the bees float the egg out from the foundation. Those cells can't be cut from the foundation. Queen cells that are built on the foundation and sealed at the back can be cut from the foundation and relocated into hives that need them. † Make sure the mother colony has two or three queen cells so it won't end up queenless. A colony with a faulty queen can be requeened by pinching the mother queen and placing a queen cell in the wax or trapping it between frames. Faulty might be drone layer or non-layer, or prone to chalkbrood, or just too many years old. DON'T FLIP FRAMES UPSIDE-DOWN IF THEY HAVE CAPPED QUEEN CELLS ON THEM. Between Day 11 and Day 14 the queen larva is SUPER fragile. Thumping the frame or flipping it over will damage the queen. They're pretty safe on day 10 and after day 14. Finally, Set up some empty equipment in or near the bee yard as a Bait-Hive/Swarm-Trap to attract swarms out of your yard. This is strong advice for the urban beekeeper. It'll save the neighborhood from some panic. It might even attract some free bees. We can learn a lot from Tom Seeley's book Honeybee Democracy. A single deep box with a frame of brood comb, and a lot of empty space makes a good bait hive. A small entrance makes it more attractive. Place the bait hive in shade or mostly shade. On a hive stand is OK but 2 to 3 meters off the ground may be a tad better. That's my 2¢ Jerry - Oakland ca
  3. Sad to hear you feel that way, yesbut from Nelson. The bees in our yard since we started keeping bees in 2011 have all been swarms, or cut-outs, or swarms that settled in our empty equipment. Eventually it sunk in that colonies were maintaining roughly level Varroa percentages through spring and summer as long as the nectar continued to flow. It also sunk in that there were "events" Varroa populations would climb at rates much higher than Varroa reproduction could account for. The scenario that best fit the evidence was that the colony discovered a Varroa infested feral or unmanaged or poorly managed colony, and were robbing it out, and in the process bringing back a LOT of hitchhiker Varroa. Eric Mussen, the state apiculturist at the time, said that a bee could bring back as many as a dozen Varroa with it per trip from the target hive. Those spikes mostly resulted in colonies suffering parasitic-mite-syndrome and tanking about 6 weeks later (with the handfull of bees that remained just absconding). The trend over the last few years has been that Varroa spikes that aren't as high as they were when we started, and that hives have generally lower Varroa percentages measured by sugar-rolls. We were also surprised that occasional a colony with a Varroa spike would actually recovers from it. So I have the feeling that our local bees actually are adapting to Varroa. (also note that we started keeping bees 24 years after Varroa arrived in the US) The evidence I read in our own bee history is that as long as there are not too many Varroa the colony keeps a lid on the population. Compare that to "naive" bee population where Varroa population (Varroa percentage) always grows, even through the spring and especially at the end of the season when bee populations decline. Randy Oliver's website has a lot to say about the conventional wisdom with respect to Varroa. Randy's recent epiphany recently resulted from discovering colonies in his yards that consistently keep Varroa populations low. He moved all the best hives to a single yard with the intention of tracking them more closely and getting them to interbreed. (the queen genetics are important and so are the drone's) Rather than being sad about it, look for the colonies that exhibit the best capacity to control Varroa on their own, and breed them with each other. If you're a small-timer or side-liner surrounded by similar size operations, where nobody has the resources or infrastructure to do anything alone, then band together. It's in your collective best interest to all put your very best colonies in a geographically isolated yard far away from the rat-butt bees. Try to saturate the DCAs with good drones, and Raise queens in that yard from those best queens. Share the queens around to everyone in your group. Share all the excess with neighbors, and backyard beekeepers who aren't participating in your coop. Inclusiveness will pay off in the long run. Three or four of you can get together and hatch a plan for your area. Then convince some of your friends to invest a little time and effort, or a lot. Success breeds success. When your evidence (did I forget to say "keep notes") shows that you are more successful than others, then others will join in. What's best? An altruistic perspective, or a self-serving perspective (that's inclusive). As for how the bees cope with Varroa, the most widely publicized trait is probably the "Hygienic trait" studied by students of Marla Spivack of u of Minnesota. In addition, there's the Grooming trait. There's the Ankle-biting trait where the bees bite the legs off of Varroa. There's the uncapping/recapping trait studied by the USDA lab in Baton Rouge Louisiana. There may be other traits that haven't been observed and named. When colonies express several of those traits they keep the Varroa population down to 3% or 2% or 1%, or lower. The pragmatic approach is, go with whatever works. Work with the bees to help them sort it out. I've done sugar rolls during the dearth and found zero Varroa in some colonies. I see less DWV these days too. IMO The mistake made in the US in the 90's was assuming the bees wouldn't be able to adapt to Varroa and that chemical treatments would work fine infinitely into the future.. Many millions of dollars were spent on Varroa control products. Instead, much earlier, a strategy for selecting and propagating the survivors should have been started. If organizing now is too much for you, then wait 20 years spending lots of time and effort on treatments, until you see that the feral hive density starts recovering to pre-Varroa levels, and then start integrating the ferals into your yards. There are models around the world, some passive, some proactive, for how to get to resistant/tolerant bee. mmm.... maybe it's easier to buy acaracides... Please excuse my ranting. It's presumptuous for someone from across the pond to tell beekeepers how to keep bees. +Everyone knows herding beekeepers is like herding cats. Please tell me how I'm full of it. (s*#!, I mean) Please tell me why this is too hard to do, and what obstacles are insurmountable, and where I'm misunderstanding my observations. Occam's razor says the simplest explanation that fits the observations is probably the right one answer (i paraphrase). For instance... a better explanation than robbing that fits the Varroa spikes during the dearth would be welcome. Thanks for your patience if you actually got to the end of this. Please count to ten. Pour a pint and ponder. Curse me if you must. Best regards and sincere wishes for your success.
  4. I'm retired from a technology job, so we're in a place where bees don't have to help pay our bills. I've only been at this game since 2011. All but a hand full of (most) club members are back-yard beekeepers. (vs. The delta club which has all commercial beekeepers) So my spouse an I can afford to try to make a small positive contribution to bee local selection and genetic diversity. (or tilt at windmills?) The Welsh beekeepers succeeded in selecting and propagating survivors to the point where they don't treat for Varroa any more. It took them 5 years. Randy Oliver published an article advocating that commercial beekeepers select for Varroa resistant/tolerant bees. It's in the American Bee Journal, and on his website scientificbeekeeping.org. He pointed out that queen breeders who don't start selecting for survivors, will loose all their business to their competitor who starts selling bees that don't need to be treated for Varroa. I forgot to mention earlier that someone in another bay-area club (San Mateo county) did a survey of survival of packages after one year. The numbers were worse than the national average. (maybe 60 or 80% failure) That sounds like a reason for us to make our own queens and splits. As to why so many packages are sold in the US... I assume it's because beekeepers find it difficult to keep their bees going through winter when winter means months of snow on the ground, temperatures below 10ºC. Some beekeepers take all the honey and let the bees die out in winter. :-(not my cup of tea) In our neighborhood half the nectar flow season is gone before packages are available, so it makes very little sense in the bay area to get packages. Some large scale beekeepers probably don't want to make a big investment in time and manpower and bee resources to do their own queen breeding. i.e. it doesn't pencil out. So even if local bees in our climate can win in the long run, there will still be a place in the US for packages and commercial queens. The books also tell new beekeepers that they should buy packages. I suppose many won't get past the first book, and on to splitting and queen rearing.
  5. John, Several things prompted a small group of us in the club to write the founding document for the LBI. There was the example of the "split-squad" that Cynthia Perry formed in Marin County for the non-treatment beekeepers. There was the list of Darwinian beekeeping practices that Tom Seeley formulated. Lastly it was about genetics. About a year and half ago Walter Sheppard (of Washington State Univ Pullman) showed a genetics graph at a symposium at UC Davis. Two regions of the graph stood out. One spot, he said, was the east-coast queens, and the other was the west-coast queens, all produced by large scale commercial queen breeders. He also said fewer than 350 mother queens are grafted to produce the millions of queens the industry sells in the US each year. The genetics of the feral bees were scattered randomly over the graph. Supply houses and clubs distribute 3 pound packages with caged queens from the big suppliers. The breeders send queens in the mail, and sell in bulk to the big operators. Those commercial genetics, which are mostly optimized for large scale beekeepers who need to push bees in winter to be ready for the early spring almond pollination, are not a particularly good fit for urban beekeepers. (imo) Until recent pushing by Randy Oliver, those breeders weren't particularly interested in Varroa tolerant/resistant lines. (BTW, the Almond Pollination requires about two million colonies, and only 400K are available from California beekeepers) Tom Seeley reports that the feral colony density in his reference forest south-west of Ithica recovered to what it was prior to 1987 when Varroa were introduced into the US, and all those colonies have Varroa. Feral colonies, bee trees, colonies in attics, building walls are quite common in the bay area; they produce swarms our club members collect. The feral colonies survive on their own over years without being treated for Varroa or other pathogens. Furthermore, they're coping with seasonal variations in forage in our Mediterranean climate. Our club's swarm hotline handled over 700 calls in the last 10 months. Over 200 of the calls were swarms. Over 150 were cut-outs and bee trees. Our club members bring those colonies to their yards. Historically a few of our members propagated colonies. The LBI provides an opportunity for our club members to advance their beekeeping skills by learning to graft queens, and get queens mated. I'm amazed at the energy, enthusiasm, and delight of our most active members this year. (The LBI is agnostic about treating for Varroa. Some of us believe that eventually the Varroa tolerant/resistant stock we select and propagate will squeeze out the bees that require treatment. (We haven't treated in our yard since 2011, and our survival rate is consistent with the national average, so I think local bees are just about there)) Yup. There is more variability in swarms. Not all of them make it. Some even swarm themselves into oblivion. A colony that doesn't swarm at all can't survive on its own. I don't think that trait can be good for bees in the long run. It's a big tent. Opinions vary on beekeeping practices, goals, attitudes, etc. We all have our own style. Regards
  6. Alastair, At a local bee club meeting, the state apiculturiist Eric Mussen said that an italian queen mating with 3/8 (e.g. 6 in 16) africanized drones produced a colony that is bad tempered but workable. More than 3/8 and the colony expressed full-on africanized traits. When an africanized queen is mated with 100% non-africanized drones the daughter colony still expressed 100% africanized traits. The same was true for her daughter. The colony of the granddaughter queen (mated with 100% non-africanized drone) was bad tempered but workable. So the africanized genes are strongly expressed. I've heard the africanized drones are better competers in the DCAs. (I couldn't give you a scholarly ref for that) Those are reasons why we don't want any africanized drones in our neighborhood. So it seems reasonable to drone cull on the mere suspicion of a problem. Of course, we can't drone cull from feral colonies. Transportation is a wonderful thing these days. But then, Truck trailers and train cars are a good way to transport africanized swarms from warmer more favorable climates into our neighborhood. Our swarm list had a call a couple of years ago to extract a colony from a freight yard in Oakland. The beek that did it said that colony was just the absolute worst swarm he'd ever had to deal with. Africanized perhaps The africanized bees tend to be vagabonds. They move on when forage runs out. When they do that in Northern California during the dearth, they probably don't have enough time to accumulate stores for the winter, so they tend to die out. In non urban areas the dearth is really severe in the fall. I've read reports that the africanized bees took over Puerto Rico, and subsequently lost their aggressiveness. There must be an interesting story in that. 😊🐝
  7. Here in our mild Mediterranean across the Bay from San Fransisco, aggressive bees are occasionally a problem. Skunks can make a hive angry in the daytime by bothering the entrance at night to eat the bees. Sometimes a forage source correlates with a period of greater aggressiveness. During our August through October dearth, colonies with wide-open entrances become excessively defensive due to robber pressure. (reducing entrances the width of a couple of fingers helps. robber screens help) There have been a few samplings of Africanized genes (not fully africanized colonies) north of Monterey, all the way into Napa County an hour north of here. Occasionally an Africanized colony gets taken to the Almond Pollination in the central valley in the northern half of the state. That's a real disaster when it happens because those drones can find their way into the DCAs of the many queen breeders with operations in the valley mostly north of Sacramento. Thank you, we really don't want those genes getting sold into our neighborhood. The bottom line: If the colony isn't being pushed into defensiveness by some local circumstance, then those genes should be replaced. Requeen AND DESTROY ALL THE DRONES FROM THAT COLONY TOO!! I concur with the advice for locating the queen. If the colony has great difficulty accepting a new queen, then get them to make one for themselves from a frame with eggs and young larva from a hive with good temperament. Cage the old queen in the hive for a week so there are none of her eggs left, and no young larva. Her presence will prevent the colony from trying to make a queen from any of her eggs and larva. Then pinch the bad queen and put in the frame with eggs AND larva from the good hive. (brood pheromone suppresses laying workers) Check for queen cells in 4 or 5 days. If there are no queen cells put in another frame with eggs and larva. (i learned this from Michael Bush's book) As for queen quality, I've heard that ovaries take many days of laying eggs to fully develop. Queen breeders cutting corners may be banking queens when they see the first eggs. Interrupted maturation may (probably does) prevent the ovaries from ever fully developing = crappy queen. Queens the bees make for themselves are generally better. So it seems to me we should work with nature when we can. Two years ago our club established a "Local Bee Initiative" to promote the propagation, buying, selling, trading of queens and colonies propagated from locally caught swarms and cutouts. The hope is to leverage off of local adaptation and help it by splitting or grafting from the best local queens. If you use non-screen bottom boards and need to reduce the entrance without obstructing air-flow, cut a 13" x 4" strip of #8 hardware cloth, and roll it into a long "U" that jams in between the bottom board and the box above. The bees can circulate air, and life is easier for the guard bees. That's my 2¢ jerry przybylski - east Oakland
  8. So... does anybody make up the oxalic-acid shop-towels according to a Randy Oliver recipe? Any success? Personally I'm a non-treatment beekeeper from Oakland, across the bay from San Fransisco. Our local club is organizing a Local Bee Initiative where members will split their hives this spring to supply bee-less members with local bees descended from locally collected swarms and cut-outs. Some of us see evidence that local bees control Varroa populations. We're trying to reduce the influx of inapt genetics from the high-volume queen producers outside our geographic area. If the Welsh beekeepers can do it, why not us?... Jerry Przybylski --- Oakland, Ca
  9. fwiw... University of California, Davis, in June, is having a 3-day pollinator conference. In recent years there has been a significant effort to educate growers, particularly Almond planters, on the negative affects of "tank-mixes" used to spray the trees, and on the practice of killing off all the weeds and native flowering plants in the orchard boundary, and between the trees. The variety of forage is a significant benefit to the bees. Care with the selection of tank-mixes can improve bee survival. Improved bee survival translates to lower pollination cost, we say... The growers worry about pests and fungus taking hold in the flowers. Tank mixes include insecticides, "adjuvants," surfactants, fungicides, growth-regulators, and god-knows-what. Some of the components enhance the affects of other components!! (some of the interactions are trade-secrets!!) It's very complicated. It's a challenge convincing growers to do the "right thing." A major factor is educating the "consultants" that specify the safer tank-mixes, and other ag. practices. So if you desire a get-away to sunny California during your winter, and can justify the $350us registration, plus lodging,... this might be an interesting adventure for you. In past years when it was a one-day "bee symposium" my spouse and I attended. (registration $75 or $85us) Changing the focus to pollination, and raising the high reg. fee kinda puts me off. (keeps out the riffraff?) The program last year was oriented toward small scale, backyard, and urban beekeepers. Darwinian beekeeping talk by Tom Seeley... Just for us... We keep a few hives in the city... Cheers Jerry Przybylski --Oakland, Ca
  10. Wax moth do eat through brood comb, particularly the darker stuff. They're consuming it for the protein. They're not very interested in the white wax from honeycomb because it doesn't have food value for them. Wax moth don't like moving air, and don't do well with exposure to light. Boxes of brood frames can be stored outside standing on end in a place where there is a lot of sun light, and where a draft blows through them. Then the challenge is keeping the mice and squirrels from going after that exposed food source. #2 or #4 wire-cloth screens over the box ends will keep the rodents out. Some beeks protect stacks of boxes of brood frames with clear plastic covers with solar powered vent fans installed in them. The kind of vent fan used for RVs and Boats... Again... screen the bottom of the stack to keep the rodents out... and keep the stack off the ground. If you produce nucs, you can sell off all your old frames. It's a way of cycling through the inventory. That's my 2¢ Jerry Przybylski -- Oakland, Ca
  11. FWIW... I live an hour's drive from the edge of the Almond Pollination in northern California. Hive thefts are a real problem... especially from staging yards. Beekeepers reduce risk by driving bees directly to their contracted orchards where they immediately get distributed into the orchard. They're a lot more trouble to steel when spread around a couple hundred acres. Some beekeepers install a lo-jack kind of product in some of their hives. If the hives move unexpectedly the Sheriff or state police, etc. can be called in to investigate. Yards have been discovered which are virtual chop-shops! Bee hives have their identifying burned-in "brands" or painted on ID info defaced or covered over. Boxes get reorganized and moved out to almond pollination customers who utilize the 'spot market' rather than nailing down contracts prior to the season. Some of these stolen hives become nucs sold to unsuspecting backyard beekeepers. (I was once contacted by someone, who in retrospect, seemed fishy.) RFID "tags" are pretty cheap these days. Battery powered RFID readers are in the marketplace too. The ID tags can be placed in hives in places where thieves will probably overlook them. Buy a large quantity of tags. Build a database of owners and tag-ranges distributed. Install tags in vulnerable hives. If suspicious hives are found, and have ID tags that weren't transferred from the original owner, you have some evidence of illegal activity. That's my 2¢ Jerry Przybylski -- Oakland, Ca
  12. FWIW... Some of the bee-removal-specialists in our community own a "passive infra-red camera." With it they see the heat image of the wall ceiling. The part of the wall with bees behind it is distinctly warmer than the rest of the building. (One brand is FLIR) There are IR cameras, and also camera "dongles" you can plug into your Amdroid or iPhone. They sure take the guess-work out of assessing the extent of "infestation." They also produce an interesting image of hives in the bee-yard. Best used early in the day before solar heat distorts the picture. Very interesting in Winter. Jerry -- Oakland, Ca
  13. The alcohol is the solvent that dissolves many of the components in the propolis, and makes it spreadable. As with paint and varnish, the solvent evaporates, leaving behind the bee-friendly surface. At our local building supply store, the denatured alcohol is labeled "Alcohol fuel." Frankly, I don't know if it's methanol CH3OH or ethanlol C2H5OH (same as CH3CH2OH). Methanol (AKA "Wood Alcohol") makes you blind and kills you. The ethanol just makes us drunk, which may sometimes kill us. If we let the boxes dry for a day after painting on the propolis solution, they're safe for the bees.
  14. After using some hand-me-down boxes and frames for a couple of years, I concluded they accounted for our bees doing poorly, so about 15 months ago I removed all the plastic foundations, scraped them and rendered the wax. We converted the frames to foundationless. Boxes were scraped, and painted inside with a propolis wash made by mixing alcohol with propolis scrapings plus a bit of gum turpentine. The bees have done much, much better for the past year. I agree with Alastair that if you don't buy the boxes someone else will, and the problem doesn't go away for beekeepers in your community. Buy and scrape the boxes clean. Singe/char the inside with a weed burning propane torch if you're really worried about AFB or anything else. Dip in hot wax & resin if available for a reasonable cost. That treatment stabilizes everything, and will increase the lifespan of the equipment... particularly the dipping. If you don't have the time to scrape all the frames and renew the foundation, just replace them with new ones. If you have the time to fiddle with the frames scrape the wax off and render it. That should purify it pretty well for sale or reuse. Apparently wax moth digest AFB spores. Box up the wax covered foundations in a way that allows wax moth to thrive. In a couple of months they will have cleaned the foundation including the residue in the waffle pattern of plastic foundation sheets. Then wax coat and reuse. (some sheets may require a bit of power washing). Restoring them the right way keeps a bit of CO2 out of the atmosphere, and save a couple of trees in exchange for labor. (labour) Work on the boxes and frames in clothes you're ready to throw away. Gloves too. That's my 2¢ Jerry -- Oakland
  15. Does anyone paint propolis on the inside of boxes? the under side of top covers, etc? One of Marla Spivack's students (u of Minnesota entomology) did some research that indicated that if the inside walls of hives are coated with propolis, the bees are healthier, and seem to produce more honey. That prompted me to make a crude varnish by dissolving propolis scrapings in denatured alcohol (from the paint store) plus a bit of gum turpentine (to help dissolve a little more of the sludge). Makes them smell good. Retards mildew growth. The student suggested roughing up the inside surfaces of boxes to prompt the bees to apply propolis themselves. By rough, he means looking like rough-sawn wood. Next time I assemble boxes I'll do some scratching.
  16. Marty... fwiw... My spouse and I started keeping bees in 2011 after reading four beginner books cover-to-cover. (after 4 you recognize the keepers) You get the big picture and the vocabulary. Then at least you can ask good questions relating to what works locally, and what is it the books don't tell us. That being said... in our area (san fransisco bay area of California USA) the books are out of date with regard to Varroa treatments and the evolution of resistance/tolerance for Varroa. Additional resources are Randy Oliver's website http://scientificbeekeeping.com/ (which has some innovative info on Varroa control) http://bushfarms.com/bees with the perspective of a non-treatment commercial scale beekeeper with emphasis on the practical... http://beesource.com/ which has been around for a long time and has a very valuable archive of discussions like this one. (not all useful advice, but lots!) Go to symposiums. Go to your local club meeting, and hope they have good speakers. (I belong to three clubs within 30 miles. programs vary.) Even youtube has some good videos. This is a pretty easy game to get into. You buy your equipment; you get your bees... It's a hard game to be really good at. That takes study, observation, experimentation, coaching, work... Michael Bush recommends figuring out your style... Are you in it for the honey? for evolution of resistance? for pollination? academic interest? bee-haver? The management choices you make and advice you take has to fit in with your big-picture plan. e.g. we're non-treatment, and working toward finding and propagating pathogen resistant/tolerant bees, and figuring out best-practices for 'natural selection beekeeping.' That's my 2¢ Jerry
  17. Prior to moving our back yard in late 2014, the T-Rex lived in Pleasanton, Ca (~30 min away) with bees in it for I-don't-know-how-long. The colony hasn't died out yet. It might die out this year, since I'm not seeing much activity compared to the managed hives in the yard that are pretty busy. Maybe it's just early in the year for them. Maybe it's just all old comb now, and ready for recycling like in bee trees where the wax moth eat through deadouts. The point of it all is that the colony survived for at least four years without being treated for Varroa. They were managing their Varroa population 4 years ago.
  18. Dino-4748.MOV A swarm moving into equipment in our back yard in 2016. Another moved into equipment in our back yard in 2017. If they were out of the T-Rex, then the average was once-a-year. I didn't see it happen. I can't test their genetics so I don't know for sure whether they were from the T-Rex. The first year, by setting up a trap-out, I managed to get the queen to move into a hive box. The bees made another one inside to replace her. The long-term goal is to do an extraction. I'll put a rack and interior walls inside it for standard frames when I have a little extra time.
  19. Philbee, I am not a queen breeder or supplier of package bees or in the bee production business. No stock in bee breeders. No extended family members in the bee business at any level. Our main interest at the beginning was to provide some bee habitat. I became progressively more interested in keeping bees without treating. Our back yard has had 9 to 13 hives in it in the past year, all from swarms, including swarms produced by the bee colony living in the 5-foot tall plastic T-Rex in the back yard. I am a member of a bee coop called Split-Squad in Marin County but haven't contributed any splits to their community. (I'm a member of the Marin club because they have great speakers.) The Marin Split-squad goal is keeping Marin County bees in Marin county and keeping bees from other counties out of Marin county. I'm in their group to try to pick up best practices in "natural selection beekeeping." (there is a dearth of best practices for NSB... imo) Your and my outlook on feral bees seem to be slightly different. I'm acquainted of bee trees, including the bees in the plastic T-Rex, that persist for years without crashing with PMS (parasitic mite syndrome). Those colonies MUST be dealing with the Varroa because bees with Varroa will absolutely positively drift from managed to feral and feral to managed hives. Mites even drop off onto flowers, and pick up the next bee!! So...as I see it, the big question is, "what are the survivor feral bees doing in their bee-tree (or abandoned shack, or attic, or building wall) to persist for years without the Varroa overtaking them." There are clues to best practices in their survival. imo... I agree that the feral community is a filter which selects out for survival the occasional swarm from a managed yard that has just the right combination of genes to cope with the Varroa... however poorly or well... The filter kills off the rest of them. What the surviving feral bees lack, and I think you agree with this, are the regular treatments with acaricides. So... what exactly do you mean by "a survivor from a high density bee environment is more likely to be the genetic superior." The bees enter the T-Rex mouth at the back corner where you see the black spot. Last year most of the traffic was through the hole in the bottom of the right foot.
  20. Alastair: Thanks for clarifying the situation with the NZ importing history, compared to the US. Framed that way, the obstacles are daunting. Is there a theory that explains how Varroa finally arrived in NZ? Both islands now or just one? It took 20 to 25 years for the local bees (bay area bees) to evolve enough to cope with the Varroa on their own. It may take as long in NZ. It happened because occasionally a swarm from a commercial operator or managed back-yard would survive in the bee-tree it moved into. Drones from it mated with queens from the managed yards, and eventually with other "feral" colonies if they existed. So I assume you're not finding bees in bee-trees now, and not hearing about extractions either because the Varroa are killing off their host. . When you start finding bee-trees again, and extractions of bees from structures become common, then you will know the bees are coping with the local pathogens, including Varroa. Serge Labesque, a teacher of beekeeping at Santa Rosa Community College, has convinced a lot of local beekeepers that it's OK to loose most of your colonies as part of the process. Get rid of those weak genes. Killing Varroa selects for the survivor Varroa, and strengthens their genetic pool... making them a more formidable enemy. At the UC Davis (Davis, Ca) bee symposium last year Prof. Sheppard from U Washington showed a slide with a 2-axis scatter plot of bee genetics. (I need to do some research to understand that plot, and how it represents bee genetics.) There were two ovals on the plot which he said s represented the "east-coast queens" and the "west-coast queens". It turns out that the commercial many hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of commercially raised queens in the US are raised from fewer than 350 mother queens. The limiting of the number of mother queens narrows the genetics into those two clusters. Prof. Sheppard said the feral bees generally fall outside those clusters. It would be interesting to know if the ND bee genetics distribution is widely distributed on in that graph, or whether they're confined to a small region. Your recounting of the history suggests that genetic diversity might be narrow. I've read that the Manuka Honey business is very important to NZ. Does the industry constitute a large enough interest group to influence the agricultural authorities regarding importation of queens with Varroa resistant traits? A researcher from the USDA research station in Baton Rouge, Louisiana spoke to the Marin county club a couple of years ago. She was researching an pupa uncapping-recapping trait that disrupts the Varroa reproduction. It's a different trait than the Hygienic trait (developed at U Minnesota) and the ankle-biter trait described here http://www.beeculture.com/breeding-mite-biting-bees-to-control-varroa/ I wonder roughly where you are in Auckland. My spouse and I vacationed on the north island one year. We spent a week driving around the island staying at B&Bs which were booked for us by a kiwi travel agent doing business in Oakland. We enjoyed the hospitality we encountered everywhere. We vacationed on the south island a couple of times after my returning to Christchurch after deploying to the south pole for a science project.
  21. Alastair: First winter 2011-2012 one of two hives died in December. The other was dusted almost daily with powder sugar from the beginning of Dec to the last week of January. ~160 Varroa dropped out onto counting board under screen bottom board each 24 hours with wide standard deviation. In last week of January the number of Varroa decreased to fewer than 20. Within two weeks the number of varroa per 24 hours dropped to five or fewer. I thought it was really odd!!! Eventually I concluded the bees had been robbing in December and January. Every day they restored the Varroa population. When local forage was available they quit robbing started bringing in nectar. Second winter five of five single box hives survived through the winter. The national average colony loss rate ranged from 20% to 40%. Our colony loss rates have been in the 20 to 40% range. I actually expected that we would loose a lot more colonies while on the look-out for resistant colonies. fwiw... I participated in a national survey of Varroa rates last September. The worst of our hives was 6%, the next worst was 5% the remainder were 0 to 3% I haven't done sugar-roll Varroa assays since September because the numbers of Varroa dropped out of the hive per 24 hours are lower then back in September, and the colonies are now building up for our spring nectar flow.
  22. Yesbut from Nelson: The short answer is that we don't have Africanized bees in the San Fransisco Bay area. The bigger picture is more complex. The Africanized bee take-over extends from Mexico up to the city of San Luis Obispo on the central coast of California. (Taken over = feral colonies are Africanized. ) Things are a little complicated, though, because hundreds of thousands of bee colonies are shipped to Northern California from areas with Africanized bees for the Almond pollination. (The Almonds are grown in the Sacramento Valley, and San Joquin Valley) The pollinator operations are supposed to ONLY ship non--Africanized bees to the almonds. I don't know how many Africanized colonies slip through. I saw a report this week that Africanized genes were detected an hour north of here in Napa County. Last summer a very cranky swarm was collected by a club member at a shipper's loading dock in Oakland. It's possible an Africanized colony hid out in a load of cargo shipped up from Southern California. Africanized bees have the reputation of absconding in search of the next nectar source. The summer-fall dearth followed by cold weather of this climate contributes to those colonies failing during winter because they didn't build up a big enough honey store. We haven't heard that the AHB boundary has moved north of SLO since we started keeping bees in 2011 If you can't import Varroa resistant/tolerant queens into NZ, you'll just have to make lots of splits from the colonies that best control Varroa and advance evolution. Requeen colonies that have no control of Varroa population growth... but don't confuse robbing-driven Varroa build-up (hitchhiker mites) with natural Varroa reproduction. Drone cull the colonies that have no control of Varroa population growth. Let your most Varroa resistant colonies produce as many drone as they want. (move drone frames from those colonies to other colonies to maximize good drone production) Trade your Varroa resistant queens with other beekeepers who are also raising resistant queens. Queen and package producers may have different selection criteria then you. So avoid getting queens, packages, nucs from producers who believe treatment is the only option. (Apologies for ranting about things you had already concluded) Our region went through about 4 years of drought followed by one year of 150% precipitation. That weather history was tough on the bees. It may have sped up Varroa tolerant/resistant evolution locally. Since my spouse and I began keeping bees (from locally collected swarms), we noticed that when nectar was abundant, the Varroa populations held steady instead of growing exponentially. From that i infer that the bees were expressing Varroa resistant traits sufficient to keep a lid on Varroa growth. The dearth-triggered robbing I spoke of above with Varroa hitchhiking between colonies disrupts the balance. The Varroa control capacity was exceeded. Varroa numbers spiked and colonies crashed. I believe that small colonies are much less likely to rob, so survive better because they don't import trouble. (take the time to read the paper on PLOSone referenced above) Your mileage may vary. I can't generalize beyond the county I live in. I can't generalize to temperate climates. I think the Sonoma County, and Napa County Split-Squad coops of natural-selection beekeepers are a good model. (contact Cynthia Perry cynthiasps (at) gmail.com) It's gotta be better for like-minded beeks to collectively work toward the common goal, to share best practices, and to mix/exchange the best genetics. Michael Bush recommends producing queens from the best half of your hives rather than from only the "best" hive to avoid unnecessarily narrowing the genetic pool. In a crisis you have to reexamine all the standard practices and assumptions about beekeeping. Try new ideas. (Apologies for ranting about things you had already concluded)
  23. I keep bees in California... specifically East Oakland, which is a Mediterranean climate so bees raise brood 12 months of the year. Varroa arrived in the US in 1987, and were spread all around the US and Canada vectored by the Almond pollination. The Varroa became immune to a succession of petrochemical acaracides in the follow 15 years. Since my spouse and I began keeping bees in 2011 we haven't treated for Varroa. Our colony survival rates have been consistent with the national average survival rate, and we don't treat for Varroa. The indicator that bees were handling Varroa is that feral colonies survive in bee-trees, and building walls, etc. You'll get there eventually. IMO you should try to speed the evolution as much as you can. ' NON TREATMENT If you don't treat, and have colonies that survive, DO propagate those survivor colonies to spread around the resistant genes. Nature has been doing that in the greater bay-area since 1987. In our yard, for the past two years we haven't had colonies collapse due to Varroa (Parasitic Mite Syndrome). (We lost colonies due to faulty queens this winter) Prior to 2016, In our yard we found that strong hives that produced a lot of honey during the nectar flow became robbers during the dearth from July to November. When they robbed they brought back hitchhiker Varroa from mite infested feral, unmanaged, poorly managed bee colonies. The influx exceeded the capacity of the colony to rid themselves of the mites. (Expressing the Hygienic trait, grooming trait, ankel-biter trait, uncapping-recapping trait, and other traits we're probably not aware of) Single box hives survive better through the winter than multi-story hives. This article coauthored by Tom Seeley is interesting... http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0150362 TREATMENT If you feel you must treat to stay in business, the Formic Acid strips are widely utilized. They aren't risk free... Some of our club members have reported that they lost queens after treating with Formic acid strips. Randy Oliver learned of an oxalic acid treatment originated in South America. Strips of egg-carton cardboard impregnated with an oxalic-acid, glycerine, water solution. He's been trying to perfect spin-off method using shop-towels (more friendly to the commercial scale beek), and get it officially listed in the USA. See http://scientificbeekeeping.com/varroa-management/treatments-for-varroa/ Randy is a commercial operator from a temperate climate north-east of Sacramento, Ca. He takes bees to the Almond Pollination, and also sells some nucs. Our club often invites him to do a workshop for our members. Good speaker and strong believer in what he's doing. Thymol is said to still work. Amitraz has been getting a lot of buzz lately too. The pesticide experts say ALTERNATE TREATMENT CHEMICALS to prevent or slow the adaptation of Varroa to any given chemical. Other research indicates that the soft organics (formic acid, oxalic acid) act in a way that the Varroa cannot adapt to. Maybe... Maybe it just takes a lot longer. IMO Better to evolve your bees to resist the Varroa. How about this... Import a lot of queens from regions around the world where the honeybees have already adapted to Varroa. Get a head-start on local evolution. Save the money you would spend on treatments and contraptions like vaporizers. Save the effort installing and removing treatments. Invest in strong genes. A group in Marin County (north of San Fransisco) banded together to back each other up, and keep out-of-area bees out of the county. They call themselves the split-squad. To be a member you have to promise you won't treat your bees, and will make splits of your survivor bees available to fellow members before the general beekeeping community. btw... Michael Bush, author, beekeeper, manages to keep a commercial operation going without treating for Varroa. He's from Nebraska. A beekeeper in the adjacent county has about 1000 hives, and he doesn't treat for Varroa either. Neither live in isolated regions. Jerry Przybylski
  24. Two things we encourage all our club members to do: Set up a water source before the rains stop, and keep it filled until the rains start up again. It keeps the bees out of the dog-water dishes, and hose bibs and kiddy pools of neighbors on the block. BTW research showed that bees preferred ditch water to pure water just out of the tap! They must need trace elements that tap water doesn't have. Secondly... We encourage club members to set up a bait hive in their yards to attract the swarms that come out of their own hives (assuming their swarm suppression schemes aren't 100% successful). They sometimes (often?) attract swarms from the community. It's free bees. Very little effort is involved. It saves chasing the critters. It's good for community relations. Our climate is dry from the end of spring through the beginning of fall. US west coast Mediterranean climate. Seasons greetings Jerry
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