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Checking brood temperature with a radiant-reading thermometer

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Brown text indicates personal ramblings that have little to do with bees and beekeeping.

Tuesday July 20th 2010
July past: 2009,
2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

> Can anyone comment on the pros and cons of when to move queen cells to an incubator from a finisher hive?

I don't know of any work that shows this timing to be significant. Once cells are sealed, they are sealed. If in a free-flying hive, they can be at risk of destruction due to stray queens. If there is other brood, there could be hidden queen cells which could hatch unexpectedly and result in loss. Personally, I like cell protectors and they have saved my cells more than once.

We see the bees pay a great deal of attention to sealed cells and are always walking around on them, but do not know if there is anything happening of importance. The recent reports about "heater bees" makes one wonder, but we just do not know.

The fact that bees often build swarm cells on the lower periphery of the brood area is interesting in that if there is a cooler spot in the nest, or place where the temperature could be modulated below the normally even and stable brood nest temperatures, this would be it.

A main reason for moving cells as soon as they are sealed is to free the hive for the next batch of cells. If there is no next batch then that need does not exist.

A good hive is the best incubator that one could want and not dependant non electricity or as subject to human error.

The new kayak

Jean and family and Ellen went to Santa's village for the day.  I skipped the trip.  I've been there enough times and three adults to one kid is a pretty high supervision ratio.

So, with some undisturbed time, I installed the Smart Tabs SX onto Cloud 9 and took her out for a spin, and Cloud 9 isn't the same boat.  She rides level at all speeds. 

Top end might be down a knot or so -- hard to say since things vary from day to day -- but the difference in the boat's performance is amazing. 

Cloud 9 was no slouch before, but she had two speeds which worked well.  Slow and very fast.  Now performance is good throughout the range.

The tabs are not exactly beautiful, but they make a huge difference underway and are not too obvious.  They are one more thing to watch out for when swimming and when docking, though.

Installing the kit was a straightforward and took a half-hour or so once I had watched the video and found the various tools - screwdriver, Battery-operated drill, 3/16" bit.  Finding my drill took the most time.  With the new hoists, lifting the boat was a cinch.

I mentioned the new chain lifts here on June 19th.

Brian: > Can anyone comment on the pros and cons of when to move queen cells to an incubator from a finisher hive?

PLB: > A poultry incubator can easily be modified to hold queen cells on the bars. The chief advantage of incubating is that if any emerge, they don't emerge in the cell builder.

Secondly, it is very handy to have the cells ready early in the morning, to simply be removed from the bars and taken to the waiting nucs. If you're like me, I don't like opening hives early in the morning.

Finally, emerging the cells in cages is a neat trick. That way you can introduce viable one day old queens instead of cells. I would definitely recommend this if there are only a few (100 or less) to deal with.

Randy : > Brian, Dave Miksa told me that he spoke to a French researcher who found that there was apparently some beneficial effect of leaving the sealed cells in the hive for an extra day or so before moving to the incubator. I do not have any reference or data.

AD: > Introducing virgins has a reputation for being tricky. Any advice?

Brian: > have found emerged virgins must be caged and introduced like a mated queen or you risk having them killed by the nuc workers. I don't care for this route as we must return to let them out of the cage,.

Lennard: > On moving cells to incubators. With beekeepers here there are the popular beliefs, I do not know if it's true:

1) when moving just sealed cells the larvae are susceptible of dropping off their food so the cells are sensitive to shock movement. Not so much to temperature.

2) When moving cells at day 10/11 the wings etc are hardening/ripening and then the cells are sensitive to temperature (cold) but not so much to shock movement.

deknow: > we are currently doing this, and it's working well (better than 80% success on the first try).

we are using a zoomed reptibator incubator (designed for reptile eggs).

the person i know with the most experience in this is dee lusby, so i followed her advice (mostly)...which is as follows:

1. you don't want any scent from a hive, from other virgins, from a cage, etc. on the virgin queen....so the cell is placed on top of a 3dram glass vial in the incubator. when the queen emerges, she falls down to the bottom of the vial. you can put a small drop of honey on the tip of the cell before emergence so the queen can feed on something when she emerges (the little circle of wax usually falls to the bottom of the vial with the queen). don't put honey at the bottom of the vial, it will make the newly emerged (and soft) queen stick.

2. after emergence, i squeeze the tip of the cell flat, put a small drop of honey on one of the flat tip of the cell (from where the cell is squeezed). i then press the cell back into the vial opening to keep the queen in (but not so far that no air can get in), lay the vial on its side (with the drop of honey on the top of the flat) still in the incubator, and introduce within 48 hours or so.

i had queenless nucs to introduce these into, and simply smoked them heavily and ran the virgin (directly from the glass vial) between the top bars.

i don't know if the glass vials make a difference (it sure is tempting to emerge the cells directly into cages), but so far it seems to be working just fine.

Mike Palmer and Kirk Webster are going to do a "making up double nucs for overwintering" workshop at the upcoming Northeast Treatment Free Beekeeping Conference, and we will have virgins to introduce into those. I spoke with Kirk this morning, and we both agreed that it is probably best to wait 24 hours between making up the nucs and introducing the virgins....but i expect we will try it both ways (and perhaps some with cells).

i don't know anyone else who does the glass vial thing, and i haven't tried it any other way, so i have no way to make any comparison. i do like this design for an inhive incubator bar, but i'd be concerned about scent issues without testing it side by side with what we are doing: http://www.myoldtools.com/Bees/incubator/

dee claims good success requeening with virgins emerged in vials without dequeening the hive first. she simply removes the top cover, smokes the entrance heavily until smoke comes out the top, and then lets the queen in on the top before closing the cover.

your mileage may vary.

AD: > Personally, I have just chased them in without smoke and no disturbance and had good success any time I did it, but they were freshly emerged and the time of year was right. Newly emerged queens are probably the same to bees as emerging queens. After a while though, the word is that they are less attractive or more noticeable.

The advantage of having them emerge is that you get to see the queen. The disadvantage is that you have to be there to see her and the emergence can be quite variable among a lot of cells grafted at the same time from similar larvae.

Juanse : > we only place virgin queens with ammonium nitrate. close to 100% success rate. we sleep the whole hive plus the virgin. when all sleep we free the virgin. you have some 5 to 10 minutes to do the operation. -

AD: > You have mentioned this before, and I think we are familiar with the concept, but most of us have never done it. Knowing about something and knowing how to do that same thing are very different. It helps to get the small details from a master. (That's you). Could you please explain in detail how you do it?

What is already in the smoker? How much ammonium nitrate to add? How to know when things are right to puff? How much to smoke the hive and when to stop? How to know when they are 'asleep'? How long they take to recover? Any adverse effects? What happens if you use too much? Do the bees lose their sense of location? Any mortality?

Juanse: > Thanks for the compliments, but I am just learning. On the Ammonium (nitrate) however I have more than 5 years of experience, and it works ... The only draw back is the smoker. The ammonium generates lots of heat that end up destroying the smoker. Our smokers last for a year and end up in awful conditions.

You have to have a well light smoker. We use pine needles or eucalyptus barks.

> How much ammonium nitrate to add?

A soup spoon full (20 gr?). In reality we put two times what ever ends up in equilibrium on the tip of the hive tool.

> How to know when things are right to puff?

You start hearing like bubbling inside the smoker and the smoke turns very dark.

One smoker will last for some 10 nucs (5 frames ones). Therefore we work in batches. We place 10 caged queens, then sleep the 10 nucs, then free the 10 queens, then light the smoker again for the following batch of 10.

> How much to smoke the hive and when to stop?

We place the virgin queen in a cage. The cage on top of the frames. Lid on top of all this.

We puff a couple of times in the entrance plus a couple of puff under the lid. You hear "silence" after some 30 seconds of application.

> How to know when they are 'asleep"?

silence is our sign, but if you open the lid you will see them all dead (sleep).

> How long they take to recover?

They recover in between 5 to 10 minutes. It is important not to take frames out or do any manipulations because you risk of crushing the bees.

> Any adverse effects?

I haven't notice any.

As the gas that is liberated is nitrous oxide better not to inhale it or you will end up laughing.

> What happens if you use too much?

The first time I tried it I sleep 12 times the same hive during a day. After the 12th time I start noticing some of the older bees dead. I think is quite secure. You will only use it once in the bees life.

> Do the bees lose their sense of location?

I think so.

> Any mortality? >

Not if you use it once.

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Wednesday July 21st 2010
July past: 2009,
2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

The four hives on my scale weighed a total that showed as 46-1/2 on the sliding scale after I set them on and before I left on the 11th.  (I think the counterweights and other slider add up to an additional 400 lbs ).

As of the 18th, when Ellen last checked, the slider read 31-1/2 pounds, for a loss of 15 lbs. The original weight was taken on the 11th, so that is about a four-pound loss per hive on the week.  Over a month, that is almost three frames of honey.  I wonder if they will start to gain?  They should, since this week follows a major disturbance -- splitting and emergence of new queens.  At any rate, they have lots of feed.  The 10 boxes, empty probably weigh around 180 lbs, leaving quite a bit of weight for pallet, bees, honey and pollen.

Pete: > Before I worked at the Dyce Lab I thought that introducing virgins was problematical and to be avoided. However, I learned that this is not correct. What we did was to raise queens in the usual way, with a standard cell builder. We did use wood cell holders, but this is not crucial by any means.

Professor Calderone likes to move the cells into an incubator as soon as they’re sealed. Myself, I prefer to incubate on the last two days only. The cells are allowed to emerge in a little bottle or cage. They have to be watched carefully because the queens sometimes crawl back into the cells and get trapped.

As soon as they were all emerged, we took them out one at a time and marked them. This is a very good idea, but of course, not essential. Why is it good? Because when you go to check to see if the queen is mated and laying, you will know that it is yours and not some rogue queen the bees cooked up on their own.

The virgins should be introduced in a good introducing cage. We had plastic tubes that could be loaded with a big wad of queen cage candy. You want the queen confined for a couple of days. A strong hive will eat through the candy pretty fast, but it would be a mistake to introduce a valuable queen into a strong hive anyway.

Introduce her to a 2 to 4 frame nuc. This many bees is a lot easier to manage than a larger number. Once the queen is mated and laying properly, you can combine the nuc onto a poor colony, or allow it to build up on its own.

I took a trip around Tobin's Island in the afternoon, sailing solo, taking about three hours.  The winds were extremely gusty as they often are on Rosseau and there were whitecaps, even though the swells never get very large on such a small lake where one is never more than a mile from shore.

I was making hull speed, 6.5 knots, with only the genoa much of the time.  I tried running on the reefed main alone, but was making far too much leeway and not much forward speed, maybe 4 knots.  I've always preferred the genny in strong winds when two sails are too many, but had never tested the genny against the main before.  The difference is significant.  One would think that the foresail would cause more leeway, but I have always preferred the genny over the main, even when beating to windward.

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Thursday July 22nd 2010
July past: 2009,
2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

More perfect honey weather for Central Alberta by the looks of things.

Jack and Barb came for the day to visit.  In the morning, we took a short tubing run, then in the afternoon, Jack and I sailed up Lake Rosseau in light winds, retuning for supper at five.

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Friday July 23rd 2010
July past: 2009,
2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

We're up at five-thirty this morning.  Jean and family are leaving for the West, and Mom is driving home to Sudbury as well.  It's dark out, and pouring rain.

Well, everyone is gone and it is just Ellen and myself.  That is quite a change from the circus of the past ten days.  It is damp and cool, a good day to go back to bed.

It's hard to believe that eleven days ago, I was working with my bees.  By now, any colonies which missed requeening by the cells I added should have queens ready to emerge.  Time to add another row on the table.

 Day 4
 Friday 25
  Graft date 
 Day 5
Saturday 26
I arrived home
     Day 6
Sunday 27
       Day 7
 Monday 28
Day  8
Tuesday 29
   queen cells 
  Day 9
Wednesday 30
 Day 10
Thursday 1
Day 11
Friday 2
  Make up nucs
Day 12
Saturday 3
  Make up nucs
Day 13
 Sunday 4
  Make up nucs
Day 14
Monday 5
  Install queen cells
Day 15
Tuesday 6
queens begin
  to emerge
Day 16
Wednesday 7
Day 17
Thursday 8
Day 18
Friday 9
Day 19
Saturday 10
Day 20
Sunday 11
 Mating Flights
Day 21
Monday 12
 Mating Flights
I flew East
Day 22
Tuesday 13
 Mating Flights
Day 23
 Mating Flights
Day 24
Thursday 15
 Laying begins
Day 25
Friday 16
Day 26
Saturday 17
Day 27
Sunday 18
Day 28
Monday 19
Day 30
Tuesday 20
Day 31
Wednesday 21
Day 32
Thursday 22
Day 33
Friday 23
Day 34
Saturday 24
Day 35
Sunday 25
Day 36
Monday 26
Day 37
Tuesday 27
Day 38
Wednesday 28
Day 39
Thursday 29

Here is the same population projection.  The chart assumes that the new queens lay 1,500 eggs a day, with 80% hatch, and they begin egg laying on the 15th of July, and also that a bee's life expectancy is six weeks (click to enlarge).   See also the June 30th diary entries.  Here is the spreadsheet I used.

According to the chart, populations should be approaching 13,000 bees in the three-frame splits.  I should make projections for the original queens with one frame and the three-frame splits with failed cells.

With a little time on my hands and the perspective that comes with time, I've looked over these calculations and my reports to date and can see some oversights and errors in my calculations. 

For one thing, I notice that I took the date of the queens beginning laying as a start date rather than the date of the split for calculating the emergence of remaining (original) brood in my model.  I think I need to review the spreadsheet completely.

I find that I make quite a few mistakes. Usually they are small enough that they don't make the results look ridiculous enough to be obvious.  Knowing that, I try to recheck my work after a few days when I have the time and can take a fresh look.  For magazines and publication, I usually catch mistakes and oversights, but in this diary, I post real-time, partially so that the foibles of the thinking process are obvious to myself, and to readers.

Here at right are the new calculations in chart form.  Compare to the chart just above, to the left.  There are big differences, even if the end results are not immensely different.

The end results are not hugely different, but there is, as expected, a period when the old brood is all emerged, but death attrition continues, and the new brood is still not mature. This did not show on the original model due to an error. 

These calculations are crude, but interesting.  According to the model, I should expect to hit 30,000 bees by the end of August in the splits.  That should be enough for the basis of good wintering.  Of course, the hives will vary considerably, and the ones with failed cells will be far behind, due to the "notch" in the chart being longer and deeper.  I've continued the chart out to the end of September, where the model reaches 40,000 bees, but over that period of time, the underlying assumptions become increasingly questionable.

Curious minds will wonder how the original queens left behind with one frame with a good patch of brood will make out.  At left is the same model set up for the original queens and their colonies.  They should develop to the same end point as the splits over the first month.  That was my intention in making splits the way I did.  I chose these sizes by guestimate, but the models bear them out.  I see I may have a problem, though if the season is long like last year.  If is long, I may wind up making honey.

I've foreseen that possibility and bought foundation to put on to use up some of the excess.  If I do get supers of foundation drawn and filled, I'll reverse the hives and put the new comb below wher they will soon leave it and move up, since I don't want to attempt wintering on new comb.  Wintering on all new comb tends to be unsuccessful in our climate

And what about the hives in which the ripe cells I added turn out to be duds or in which the queen fails to mate?  They'll be behind by at least an extra 12 extra days, and they will be a few thousand bees behind, (left) but should almost catch up by fall.

There may a few, also, which fail to raise their own backup queen.  These will slowly decline (right) and when I find them, I'll use them to boost any hives which are behind the others.  Obviously, the sooner I find them, the more remaining value they have for boosting.

For anyone who wishes to check my work, and I appreciate any feedback, here is the spreadsheet I used.

It is interesting to note that the decisions I made more or less by the seat of my pants give the optimal result desired, if these models are to be believed.  Stay tuned...


Parent Hive
Original Queen

Splits with Successful
Ripe Cells

Ripe Cell Failure
Emergency Queen Success

Ripe Cell Failure
and Emergency Cell Failure
Click any chart to enlarge for easier viewing

Of course these models are oversimplifications.  Bees in queenless or broodless hives may live longer than bees working hard at foraging and brood rearing or may also drift to other hives.  Weather or sprays may affect some age groups more than others. 

I've corrected and re-corrected these calculations and charts several times today. 

I think they are correct now.

By the 15th of August, if the models are correct, the successful splits and the original (parent) hives should have two full boxes of bees and lots of brood.  The ones where the ripe cell failed will be on a decline and have a box of bees or less.  The ones which managed an emergency cell will start building from that date and have lots of brood, but the duds will have only bees and no brood.

If the season ends on August 20th, as it does some years, these hives will barely squeak through and be ready for winter by mid-September but will likely be a bit on the small side.  If the season continues into October, then they will be large.  One never knows.

Ellen & I went to Bracebridge in the late afternoon to get some supplies for the projects I want to complete in the next few days and some groceries.  While there, I saw a deal I could not refuse on another kayak and bought a new 10-footer for $279.  Now we have two.  Having two is much better for touring locally, since now two people can travel together.  Each kayak carries only one person.

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Saturday July 24th 2010
July past: 2009,
2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

Today we worked on finishing the bathroom walls.  I started the paneling last year and it was nearly finished, but I had to turn off the water to work on the wall behind the basin, so I was waiting until there were fewer people around.  I have a little left to do and the walls have to be painted, then the job is done.  The shower also needs silicone again.  It leaks and I don't know why.  I have installed three of these showers now, and they all leak a bit around the bottom no matter what I do.

I have been imagining that there must be a strong flow in Alberta, judging by the forecasts I have been watching from Environment Canada, but a call to friends informs me that the season is slow and that the supers are not yet full.  That surprises me, but the year has been an odd one.  It started early, then turned cool and rainy.  We have lots of moisture, but somehow the flow conditions have not materialized.

Tomorrow, we leave for The Finn Grand Fest which starts on Wednesday in the Soo, so we have to tidy up here and get finished so we can leave.  After we leave, Linda comes down with her family for a few weeks, so we have to leave things ready for them.

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Sunday July 25th 2010
July past: 2009,
2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

Five months until Christmas

> Are yours (pillows) resting directly on the top bars?

Yes, although I have tended to leave a little of the wax from burr comb on the top of the bars. Lately, though, I am scraping more since I discovered a need to manipulate frames more than I was doing in the past.

If I need to give the bees access to dust, I have some little sticks I use to hold the pillows up a bit or place it close to patties.

I am thinking that I may loft the pillows a bit more with sticks or something when wintering since I don't have the wax on top anymore and I'm thinking that a little more air circulation up there might be good. Not that this has been a problem, really. My wintering has been excellent with just the 1" auger holes in the front of the boxes.

> If they are directly on the top bars, is the plastic getting ruined as you remove them from time to time?

Not at all. I use 6-mil black plastic and it stands up well. People who have used garbage bags found the bees chew them over time and they are not as tough, generally.

If I were making them again, I think I would make them a bit larger -- maybe two or three inches each way -- so they overhang and are bent down by the telescoping lids.

I also have a rim around the inside edge of my lids so that only the rim presses down on the pillow and the centre is able to loft a bit.

My system is described in detail on my website and some of that info is listed at Selected Topics.  Here is the listing:  More will turn up with a search

Our Winter Wraps and Pillows (1) (2)(3), (4),

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Monday July 26th 2010
July past: 2009,
2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

I took a look at the projections again, to see when the majority of the hives can be expected to have two boxes of bees.  I took 20,000 bees to be a good approximation.  I see that for the parent hives (left), that date is roughly August 10th and for the splits (right), August 15th.  I'm thinking I should try to be there around that time to deal with the duds, equalize, and add boxes as required.

Today the duds will be as large as they will get, since the last of the brood they received in splitting finishes hatching and attrition due to death and drifting out reduces populations.

In all the charts, the blue arrow is pointing to today's date and the red arrows indicate the 20,000 bee date for the successes.  The black arrow points to August 10th in the failure chart, since that seems like a good date to be there to salvage what is left by using them as thirds on some of the slower splits.

I finished the bathroom work and Ellen painted when I was done.  Somehow, jobs like this take far longer than one would imagine.  I spent the entire day finishing the paneling and the baseboard and trim, then sealing the shower again.  The silicone had not stuck well, so I had to pull it off and reapply it. The fact that nothing is square and that there is no consistent backing exacerbates the problems.

Cleanup also is time-consuming.  Anyhow, it is all done.

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Tuesday July 27th 2010
July past: 2009,
2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

We finished tidying up the cottage and were about to leave when Joan called.  They had been in Muskoka since Saturday, but just got around to calling.  We said we were just loading the van too they drove over for a quick visit.

We arrived in Sudbury about 5:30, had a quick supper with Mom and went to visit Linda until 8. 

The night was hot and muggy and I slept poorly.  Finally at 3:33, I gave up and decided to give up.  Five hours of sleep is often enough.

Wednesday July 28th 2010
July past: 2009,
2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

We're off to Sault Ste. Marie and the Finn Grand Fest this morning.

> > have long wondered about what happens after the broodless period in winter
> > when only small patches of brood are started

JB: ... I look inside the capped brood. I decapped both sides and took each  bee/larva out and none. I could see no varroa or signs of them This is very interesting. All healthy larva/bees and no varroa signs. Looks like varroa waits for a warmer time and do not rush in the cells for  the first rounds of brood.

AD: Thanks for doing this. I have suspected this to be the case, since hives routinely survive winter with loads of up to 5,000 mites and at some point the mites are all phoretic.

Shortly after, when brood rearing starts, there are only a few hundred cells eligible for mite invasion, at most, and if all the mites invaded at the earliest opportunity, then with normal distribution, there would be multiple mites in almost every cell. We know that multiple mites per cell is a recipe for collapse, yet such hives survive and often do quite well.

I wonder if you know the phoretic load for this hive? Is there any chance it had only a few mites?

Now someone needs to investigate this further and also to check the brood of a nuc in spring/summer with known phoretic levels and a new queen that has just begun laying after a broodless period to test the assertion that all the mites pile into the first brood, killing both the brood and themselves.

I find that assertion dubious, if for no other reason than the fact that varroa can survive a long time on dead larvae, or even in the absence of food.

RO: I've been looking this week, Allen, trying to catch a nuc at just the right time. I've never noticed that the first sealed brood in the center of the first frame laid up die, but haven't really looked. I'll let you know.

AD: Thanks Randy. I suppose that one can check any time after the brood patch is laid and sealed, right up until emergence.

Waiting a while after capping would make observations easier -- unless the bees are so hygienic that they uncap and recap and confound the count.

I'd think that it is just a matter of finding that first capped patch of brood, then uncapping from the middle outwards and observing. Signs of recapping would draw the count into question unless some heavy infestation is seen.

It is also important to have a number for the phoretic mites in each hive sampled, since if there are few or none, limited observations would not mean as much as if the phoretic levels were significant -- 5% or so.

IMO, anyhow.

AD: Thanks.

Do you uncap the 'spotty' brood cells to determine

1. if they are the same age as the nearby cells,
2. to count the mites, and
3. to determine if there is brood mortality?

JR: I wish that I had quantitative numbers to provide, unfortunately time constraints have so far prevented my doing this.

For me, seeing a hive go from having numerous easily visible phoretic mites, to having none visible, back to having mites visible when the first brood emerges is convincing evidence that a majority of mites invade the first cycle of brood in a spring or summer split.

I have uncapped a few cells of the spotty brood in the first cycle after a newly mated queen, and noted that the pupae inside cells still capped are several days behind in development of where they should be. This assumption is based on the uniformity of the brood pattern when it was first capped. However, the pupae do not always have a mite on them.

For cells that are emerging, I can easily observe bees that emerge with a mite on its back. The only thing close to brood mortality I see is bees that emerge with DWV, but they still usually carry a live mite.

I do not notice obvious mite mortality, and I agree with Allan that a serious brood uncapping experiment would be the only way to document this.

PLB: Thanks for posting this. It is exactly this level of close observation that will reveal what is needed about the dynamics of pest/host interactions. Such observations may enable us to develop new strategies to confuse, interfere and (we hope) outwit parasites while lessening or (again, we hope) avoiding knee-jerk reliance on chemical treatments. It's the Red Queen Race, for sure, and while we may never win it, we need to keep running.

AD: It is a start, but actually we need much more complete observation to reach any conclusions.

We started with Max Disselkoen's assertion that after a broodless period that most varroa pile into the first brood sealed and die as a result. I questioned that with an explanation of why.

Juanse took a look at a first patch of brood in wintered hive and reported no apparent mites there, but had no phoretic numbers to accompany the observation.

Randy says he is trying to make observations.

Me, I'm 2,000 miles away from my bees.

Jeremy says he sees unquantified effects suggesting that mites do enter the first brood in sufficient numbers to do observable damage, but has no numbers and no report of what is in the cells.

At this point, the original question remains unanswered, but we have received two apparently conflicting observations that suggest the phenomenon, if it exists is not consistent.

As I say, this is a start. I suspect that the trained observers who work with mites daily like the guys at Baton Rouge know the answers, or some answers. So far, though, we are still in the dark.

Ellen and I left early and  drove out 17 West, arriving in the Soo just in time for the opening at 1PM.  It is a long slow drive with lots of slow zones.  We also sopped at the North Channel Yacht Club to chat and look at boats and to have a quick bite in Blind River.

The Finn Grand Fest is ongoing for the next few days, and although I am not a Finn, my wife is a direct 100% first generation descendant, identifies with Finland, and speaks the language.  I'm not sure what we will find interesting, but being here with her relatives who are also longtime friends is pleasant enough even without the big event.

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Thursday July 29th 2010
July past: 2009,
2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

We all went down the Essar Centre for the morning performance and then on to the the art exhibit where both Emma and Ellen have work on display.  Bill and I decided to get some gas and then drive out to Batchewana Bay to do a little construction job on a friend's camp. 

My van's gas tank was empty so we drove across the bridge to Soo, Michigan.  Halfway across, we realized this was a mistake.  Crawling cars and trucks were lined up halfway across the bridge, waiting to enter Canada.  It took us twenty minutes to gas up, but over forty-five to drive the two miles or so back to Canada.  The gas was 2.819 in the US and $1.08 in Canada.  Did I save money?  Maybe $14 after the $6.40 in bridge tolls. 

I stopped (actually we were stopped more than we were going) and shot some pictures at the Canada/US border marker on the bridge and stitched them into a panorama. Click to enlarge (500K)


We then drove the 36 km out to Batchewana Bay and set up Cheryl's woodshed for her.  Bill had imagined we would need a block and tackle and other equipment, but when we got there I realized that we could do it by hand, and if pressed, I could have -- eventually -- manage the job single-handed.   Neighbours showed up, however and with four people, the job was done in fifteen minutes, with surprising coordination and little disagreement over strategy and execution

We sat and had a beer sitting in the gazebo looking out over the Bay, then drove back to the house for supper..

RO: OK, checked a number of nucs today with new patches of brood after queens from cells started laying. Most nucs had phoretic mites in the 2-4% range. We opened the oldest capped cells, which would have been the first ones to be of age for varroa to enter after about a 10-day hiatus without brood of appropriate age to parasitize.

Most had very few mites in the first cells--maybe one out of 10 or more cells.

However, the last nuc we checked had a single mite in about every other cell.

We didn't find a single cell (out of maybe 100 total opened) that contained more than a single mite, so my observations do not support the hypothesis that the mites flood into the first cells to be sealed and kill the pupa. By extension, it did not appear in my limited observations that any mite control is gained due to mites dying in these first sealed cells.

JR: Randy says that he notices that the hives outbreed the mites for a little while after the new queen is laying. I would definitely agree with this observation. In my opinion the hive made from a queen cell split remains healthy enough to be reasonably productive for an extra one to two months (after the queen mates), compared to a split that already contains a laying queen.

AD: I'm thinking that the assumption here is that we can normally see a representative sampling of the total number of phoretic mites, just by looking.

If that were true, we would not go to the bother of doing ether rolls or alcohol washes when we need to count mites. We would just look at a frame of bees and count the visible mites on bees covering a given area, multiply by a constant, and be done.

It is obviously not that simple, though. Phoretic mites are very hard to spot and it is even harder to make a meaningful estimate from what we can see..

I am guessing that visible mites are most likely when a mite has just emerged with a new young bee or when mites have detected eligible cells for breeding and are searching for a cell. That is a transitional state. Normally, phoretic varroa are much less visible.

What we actually are able to see easily is typically just mite traffic -- the mites in transit between the phoretic state and cells. If there is no brood, then there is little traffic.

Most phoretic mites are hard to see because they are not riding on bees in positions where where they are exposed and obvious.

The mites we do see are those which have not yet found a spot where they can hide between the plates or are on their way to a cell and are typically riding totally exposed on top of the head, the thorax, or the abdomen of the bee. Such positions make a mite far too vulnerable to a fall or grooming and is just a necessary intermediate state between the two safer conditions.

When we immerse 300 bees in alcohol, taken from a frame where we see no obvious phoretic mites on visual inspection, we often find 40 or more mites in the alcohol after shaking.

So, once again, perhaps what we think we see is deceptive.

Friday July 30th 2010
July past: 2009,
2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

I had expected more comment after my observations on BEE-L yesterday, regarding phoretic varroa and quoted above, however there is deafening silence.  Shock?  Puzzlement?  I don't know.

Several days ago, I reserved my flight back to Alberta for the night of the tenth, arriving around 1 AM.  This should place me back home right at the best time to decide what next to do with the 105 hives I currently have.  I expect that I'll have to combine down at least ten and perhaps twenty, and to equalize others.  I also plan to do a careful examination for brood diseases and queen performance this year.

There are some comments now, but I am not sure that the writers understand what I am saying.

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Saturday July 31st 2010
July past: 2009,
2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

Civic Holiday Weekend

JML: Allen, One very simple and effective technique to check for phoretic mites is to individually inspect newly hatched or recently hatched bees. Take them by the wings and you can bring them up close to check for mites especially between the abdomen and thorax. It can give you and indication of whether or not you need to take it to the next level, before resorting to killing unpaid company employees. You gotta watch out, it can make the paid staff a bit nervous when they see you doing this.

AD: Thanks. That is good advice.

I've done this with emerging drones in particular in my own hives, but when inspecting, we use alcohol for speed and accurate metrics.

I personally hate to kill so many bees, but when we consider that the effects of not knowing the numbers can kill far more bees and also put the surviving ones into a state of poor health, we feel the sacrifice is justified.

Additionally, the distribution of varroa throughout the brood area is not uniform, so observing currently emerging bees may not give a good indication of the levels throughout the hive.

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