First detected in the U. S. in 1987
was first detected in the United States on honey bee colonies in
1987. They were originally a parasite of APIS CERANA (Asian Honey Bee), but quickly adapted to APIS MELLIFERA (European
Honey Bee). Varroa found much better conditions for breeding in our honey bees because they can successfully reproduce
in both worker and drone brood. Depending on the weather conditions, brood rearing almost exists year round. For
the Asian Honey Bee, varroa reproduction is severly reduced because it can only occur in drone brood which exists for
a limited time during the year.
On Where We Are Today
In Fall of 2006, all heck broke loose. At least it
felt that way. We heard about a sudden "collapse" of honey bee populations. News was circulating and
conspiracy theories were floating around much to the amusement of most beekeepers. Although the "disappearance"
of colonies was definitely no laughing matter, most of us knew that there was more to the story and were willing to "wait
and see" before getting hysterical.
I have always been of the belief to always follow my "reasoning"
before following my "emotions". In the past, it seemed that every time I would do the latter, I somehow would
find myself wandering further from the truth.
2007, A Study Group Is Formed
In April of 2007, a study group of very smart
people, including Scientists, was formed to find out exactly why this disappearance occurred. By the way, if you
haven't heard already, that disappearance did get a "name". It was termed, Colony Collapse Disorder, or
So far, it has been shown and
proven that "events" all occurred at once which caused the decline of so many honey bee populations.
I realize that this may sound just too simple a reason. Perhaps some of you
may feel as though there must be more to it. There isn't.
The main causes for this has been proven to be poor weather
conditions, poor nutrition, and varroa mites. But, there are other factors that have been a part of this decline
of our honey bees. Following are a few highlights and findings during my research on "where we are today"
regarding our most precious commodity.
Viral Infections ~ Parasites
~ Poor Nutrition ~ Weather Conditons
A viral infection which, if left unchecked, weakens the colony and offers
the perfect environment for v. mites:
Basically, this viral infection weakens the hive which varroa mites find very irresistible. By treating Nosema
Ceranae, we can do something to help keep our colonies relatively strong. Fumagilin-B is indicated
for treating Nosema. It is used in conjunction with Syrup "feed" for the colony. Mix according to directions.
Feed colonies syrup with Fumagilin-B mixed in it and place feeder can atop hive body and place Bee-Pro Patties on
the brood in Fall and early Spring. It is important to note that most of my suggestions are based on the location
of our apiaries. Depending on where you are located, it may be different or varied when it comes to tending your colonies. Remember:
We do what works best to keep our honey bees alive and well.
Weather Always Plays A Huge Role
Which Also Affects Colony's "Feeding" and
Another factor that help play a role in colonies dying:
In the past 4
- 5 years, The weather in some areas of the country just happened to be "lousy" for keeping the nectar "flowing",
or flowers blooming, long enough for the bees to forage on and to bring back to their hive.
Weather has always played a huge role in agriculture and always will.
This is nothing new. Throughout the years, weather has always
"ebbed and flowed". Some years, we have bumper crops, some years we don't.
What makes this an important factor is the year and the
time it happened. With the varroa mite problem and possibly other factors, such as Nosema and IAPV,
and the bee's nutritional needs, all of these "negatives" just occurred all at the same time. It
just happened. We had absolutely no warning and had no way of controlling it as it unfolded.
It has been discovered that bee colonies have special nutritional
needs. "Special" meaning different than what was believed to be sufficient in the past
and what was used in the past.
leave enough honey on the colony, however, Scientists have found that leaving honey stores just isn't enough to keep the
colony from starving or becoming weak. This finding is somewhat new. We have, on occasion, fed our bee colonies
with "patties" in the past.
In the past
4 years, however, it seems as though we needed to give them more than just their honey back! As stated,
a weak colony is "fodder" for varroa and for other diseases and parasites.
These days, it is imperative that your colonies be fed Supplement Patties in Fall and early Spring with the treatment
of Nosema using Fumagilin-B in Syrup at the same time. We have had excellent results with Mann Lake's Bee-Pro
Patties with 4% Natural Pollen. (www.mannlakeltd.com )
patties are especially formulated for the exact nutritional needs of honey bee colonies. The formulation has
changed due to the findings of the Study Group formed in 2007. The many men and women who have studied the honey bee,
inside and out, literally, have found that the bees haven't been getting the correct kind of nutrition to keep
them going while "over wintering".
For Honey Bee By-Products
The World Population
Since the population of the world is ever-expanding, the
need for honey, bee pollen and other honey bee by-products, has made it necessary to raise the type of honey bee that
produces the most of these commodities.
Back in the 1960's, the need for these products most-likely
wasn't as much due to a smaller population in our world. The honey bee, Apis Cerana, or
Asian Honey Bee, probably was all that was needed for producing honey, etc.
Mites were not an issue because they couldn't reproduce as much as they do on our European Honey Bees.
There really wasn't any need for panic.
Since the need for honey bees' products became more
and more, it became necessary to raise more of the European bees (Apis Mellifera).
But, with this, came the perfect breeding ground for Varroa Mites.
the years have gone by, breeding honey bees to produce more honey than they can possibly use for their own food stores, has
been first and foremost.
Today, there are claims that breeding Queens who produce brood/worker bees for cleanliness is one of the keys to
keeping mite populations under control. The bees are "lean, mean, cleaning machines". But, many
beekeepers really think that the only way of really getting a handle on this mite problem is hoping some day soon, someone
will come up with a way to keep the female mites from reproducing. As of now, it is still a huge dilemma
which constantly demands a lot of time, effort, work, and money.
Another Factor Which We Will Never Forget
The over-use of chemicals in the early years of mite
detection, especially when Apistan was first introduced, has also been proven to be part of the problem controlling
varroa. As with the use of any insect control, the misuse can be detrimental to controlling the very thing beekeepers
were trying to control. Since this predator was very misunderstood at the time by many, Apistan and later,
Check-Mite, were believe to be the "magic bullet" and the products that would end this problem once and for
Every beekeeper really believed
this was the answer. Unfortunately, there were some who used more than recommended and probably at times when
it wasn't really necessary. There are always some who believe that "more is better, and less is useless".
I am thankful that Ed had the belief, and still does, that using any thing to control
any "thing" must be done sparingly and cautiously.
Regardless of how we have maintained our colonies, we absolutely
agree with other "seasoned" beekeepers that all of us have learned much from our mistakes. Most of which
were totally unintentional, of course!
Mite Away Quick Strips
I mistated the ingredient in a new control for varroa mites called, MAQS, Mite Away Quick
Strips. I accidentally wrote that this is "thymol" based. I apologize for this.
Getting a bit older does have it's problems sometimes! MAQS is formic acid. Formic acid
in one of the components found in honey. It is a fumigant and is in strip form. The strips are about 3" wide
and about 7" long. Mite Away Quick Strips was just approved for use here in California in late March of 2011. The
user must have an applicator's license issued by the Agricultural Dept. In our area of Santa Cruz county,
the AG Dept. is on Westridge Drive in Watsonville.
OUR EXPERIENCE WITH MAQS/and THE ANSWER FOR THAT EXPERIENCE
The following is our experience before meeting with David VanderDussen, Miteaway:
We applied MAQS on our colonies the last day in March of 2011. We were most likely one of the first apiaries
to receive our order in California. We used it as directed, according to the label instructions. Unfortunately,
we did have problems associated with its use. Proper ventilation is key, of course. However, what is not
told is that the beekeeper must slide the top box directly over the queen excluder on top of the brood box, back about an
inch to 1-1/2" to allow for more ventilation. This is not on the label and has just been discovered by those of
us who have used it for the first time here in our area. Some beekeepers have experienced the same problem we have,
however, I cannot be sure of the number who have experienced this problem with brood decline, quite a lot of brood death,
queen loss, and supercedure. We did not lose any colonies to complete death, however, we experienced many with a loss
of the queen.
queen cells will hopefully emerge to get mated properly. We only hope so. As far as the product being easy
to use: it most certainly is. And, we hoped to have less loss in time for honey and pollen production, especially
during the spring. Unfortunately, using MAQS did NOT save any time what-so-ever. And, since we lost some queens,
and cells abound in great numbers, we are losing precious time for harvest and for production of honey and bee pollen.
For any beekeeper
out there who has not yet used MAQS, please be sure that you provide that extra ventilation with the honey super just over
the queen excluder to be moved backward or forward to allow enough ventilation for at least three to four full days directly
after placing the strips. After the 3-4 days have past, you can slide the honey super back into it's normal
did work on the mite problem however! It killed almost every mite, including ones in drone cells. We
were thrilled to have a treatment which you only need to do once, only twice per year, once in the spring and once in fall.
We were so happy to find out that it has great potential to interrupt mite's from mating in the hive. We couldn't
wait to get our hands on this new miticide, but, unfortunately the manufacturer did not provide adequate information on it's
use when the label was printed. We hope that you have had the chance to find this out before using MAQS.
The Best Configuration for Colonies Treated with
MAQS in California: A Discovery
The directions note
that there should be five frames, at least, full of bees per colony before treatment. Our colonies were extremely strong
going into the Almond orchards and returning "home". What was discovered was those colonies that were the
strongest were the ones that were most affected. Too much "bearding" or bees clustered on the outside of their
hive near the entrance. Also, quite a lot of supercedure, queens quit laying eggs, and swarming. All of
this could have been avoided had we known to remove the top honey super over the brood box, and place an empty super in it's
place. The empty super, of course, should have frames which are empty. Since our colonies were very strong,
there were full honey supers on most of them. Despite having the correct entrance space opening, and despite reading
every word on the label instructions, this one "instruction" was left out. You might say that we provided
a sort of "trial" experience for beekeepers in this state. Those of us who were the first in line to get MAQS
in the state of CA and who had very strong colonies to treat were the ones who had this unfortunate experience. To
summarize, any beekeeper with very strong colonies with one full honey super just above the excluder should remove that super
and place an empty box w/frames in it's place. The full honey super can be placed on top creating a 3-story hive.
Entrance space must be completely open and must be 1/2 inch wide. The empty super above will provide adequate ventilation
for strong colonies. Bearding is reduced if not completely stopped. "Absconding, etc., from the hive is non-existent.
MAQS is a great miticide. It works by fumigation. Some mites die INSIDE capped brood and all die inside the hive.
The important thing to remember is there is still no magic bullet which completely kills these pests. And, it
is definitely the worst pest ever in the history of our precious and kind honey bees. All any beekeeper can do is to
treat on time and be consistent in treating.
Some Things Happen For The Best
with honey bees dying and the terrible news of the possible demise of what I believe to be this world's most precious
commodity has created a great thing: This event caused a Special Study Group to be formed and funds, finally, for the
study of honey bees.
How to "keep" them better. How
to do a much better job of beekeeping. And, best of all, the attention that has been lacking for why the honey
bee is so important to all of us here on earth.
Hobbyists Have A Great Opportunity
And Have A Great Advantage
Over Commercial Beekeepers
... However ...
You Have To Be Consistent!
Very few hobbyists, with a tremendous amount of labor, time, money, and consistency, have been able to keep
their colonies almost free from varroa mites, but not 100% completely free.
It has been shown that responsible hobbyists can help keep mite populations down just by treating their colonies
"organically". The main thing is to break the reproduction cycle. In order to do this, one
must be consistent (I cannot stress this word enough!) in treating his/her colonies in a timely
manner. Also, you must understand, completely, the mite's life cycle and reproduction cycle!
The key to all of this is to be consistent with your
treating/controlling of varroa mites and other problems associated with keeping honey bees healthy.
For Those Who Want To Be Beekeepers, Whether Commercially
Or As A Hobby, Please
It is so important, therefore, for anybody who wants to keep honey bees, to learn and read as much as possible
the various diseases and pests that plague them. Today, this is the number one important factor in keeping
honey bees. It should be our job to keep this viable asset to agriculture from becoming almost obsolete.
It is a miracle that honey bees have withstood so much over the thousands of years they have been in existence. They
have "put up" with pesticides, poor nutrition, mis-handling... and so much more. It truly
is a miracle they are still around!
Beekeepers who have
been working bees for more than 10 years agree that in order to be a beekeeper today, one must be able to manage hives
of bees in a timely manner and in a responsible manner. It's as if you need to be some sort of "doctor"
who can diagnose and treat "the patient" accordingly.
The Study Group of scientists
and "seasoned" beekeepers which was formed in April of 2007 all came to the same conclusion when it came to
this subject. They agreed that keeping honey bees is no longer the same as it was back in the days of "just having
hives for fun". Sad but true.
Truth Is Hard To Take
What we should be able to do is to encourage
people to become beekeepers. We can't emphasize enough that if you can pledge to be hard-working
and responsible for maintaining even one colony of bees, then you can help make a difference.
you have no idea what you are doing and do not want to take the time or don't have the time, to read,
at least for one year, preferably the American Bee Journal, then you should never try to tend honey bees.
Your chance of success are nil and honey bees with diseases and pests are likely to drift to other colonies. This lack
of responsibility has been shown to be part of the problem today. This "I want it now" mentality
just doesn't and cannot apply when it comes to doing this important job of beekeeping today.
The Other Hand, Hobbyists Have
Great Opportunity To Help
That's right! I know of
a few new hobbyists ... going on their second year of "making me proud". They have been extremely successful
in their beekeeping efforts. Why? Because they took the time to, first, read, read, read, all they could about
tending bees. Especially important: learning the various diseases and pests. Learning what to do in certain
cases. And, most important, when.
Because of their responsible beekeeping methods,
especially in controlling varroa mites, they are helping to keep this bad predator "at bay". By knowing the
life cycle of varroa and using non-invasive methods, such as powdered sugar and screened bottom boards for detection
and sticky boards to keep those mites from crawling back up into the colony, they have done a great service for all beekeepers
and, more important, for our most precious commodity, our honey bees.
They are not lazy. They get out and do the job of
keeping their colonies healthy. In fact, I know that one had an appointment and had to call it off because her bees
had to be taken care of due to a very crucial moment. The bees couldn't wait and they usually
don't! Sometimes, "time is of the essence".
As I say a lot, "We are like 'Doctors On
Call'"... at any given moment, we have to drop every thing and get outside to tend our colonies.
Today, it is a fact: Beekeeping is definitely a whole lot harder than it used to be and it does take a lot more
time and much more knowledge than in the past.
I strongly recommend the AMERICAN BEE JOURNAL which can be ordered through Dadant and Sons, Inc. Beekeeping