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Blog – bees, beekeeping & other sticky subjects

Early signs of varroa – what happened next

Turlough, Vita Bee Health’s Guest Blogger, writes:

The CO2 varroa test

On 14 February 2019, I reported on the alarming discovery of a very early season heavy varroa drop-down rate (blogpost here).

Three colonies were immediately treated with Apistan and one was left for a short while to acquire a CO2 testing kit to gauge the level of infestation. That colony was then treated with Apistan.

So did the colonies recover?

They certainly did!

They produced a very good spring harvest and on 21 June they were again tested for varroa. The result — just one or two varroa per 200 nurse bees from each colony.

And to double-check, we gave two samples an alcohol wash as well (reluctantly because, unlike the CO2 test, the alcohol kills the bees). That revealed only one more varroa .

Clearly Apistan is still working well in this part of the world.

Research just published this week gives a clue as to why the colony was infested over winter after being remarkably clear of varroa in the autumn. Professor Tom Seeley and David Peck think that late surges in varroa result from healthy colonies robbing varroa-infested colonies and bringing the mites home as passengers.

 

 

Apiguard most successful treatment in Oregon

Overwintering losses of small-scale beekeepers in the state of Oregon, USA, were again very extensive, averaging 48%. Full report here.

In a survey of 416 backyard (hobbyist) beekeepers, Apiguard was recorded as the most effective treatment used (32% colony loss — Figure 22).

Amongst the non-chemical treatments used, only two measures (both designed to reduce drifting) performed better than the average — but only slightly better, 46% loss as opposed to 48% (Figure 21).

Reasons for losses are thought to be complex. The respondents thought varroa was the chief culprit, but queen failure, starvation, and weak colonies were also blamed (Figure 8).

 

 

Jerry Hayes video podcast

In a wide ranging video podcast, Jerry Hayes, Vita Bee Health’s North American VP, talks to Vance Crowe.


Approximate timings:

Starts with Jerry Hayes at 5 mins 40 sec.

5.40 How Jerry moved into beekeeping and a new career

11.40 The arrival of Africanized bees in the USA. Why they have been less fiercesome in the USA than expected

21.00 Honey bees as livestock.  Do we keep bees alive or do bees use us to keep alive?

29.00 Almond pollination in California and migratory beekeeping

34.30 Colony Collapse Disorder — discovery and recovery

39.30 Varroa

44.00 Why is the public so concerned with honey bees? And how can them help them?

51.00 The amazing characteristics of honey bees

1:06:00 The challenges of working for an agribusiness

1:20:20 Working for Vita Bee Health

1:22:00 Vance Crowe and Jerry reflect further on working for an agribusiness

1:25:40 Being disciplined and good habits at work

1:33:35 Pick just one bee book?

1:35:50 Writing the Q&A the American Bee Journal for 35 years

Asian hornet latest

A new book by UK scientist gives some of the latest findings about the Asian hornet (Vespa velutina) in Europe. The Asian Hornet Handbook by Sarah Bunker

In a three-section book, Bunker discusses the biology, the spread of the hornet and control measures.

Since the Asian hornet was little studied in its native south-east Asia, in the early days of its arrival in Europe assumptions of  its biology were based largely on extrapolations from other types of more-studied hornet.

So, the biology section highlighting what has been found in Europe is of great interest. Here are a few little gems:

  • the foundresses (mated queens) may hibernate in groups of two or three in burrows, holes and crevices
  • when they emerge they feed on nectar or tree sap
  • the fast spread of the hornet (c 80 km each year) seems to happen after emergence — but whether in groups or singly and whether by flight or human transport is not yet known
  • primary and secondary nests have distinctively different structures — and sizes
  • what look like side entrances in secondary nests are half-finished bubbles or pockets that may be used to extend the nest
  • in France, nest density can be as high as 12 per square kilometre
  • in France, certain nest hotspots have been found where Asian hornets nest year after year
  • in France, the invader prefers urban areas
  • honey bees are a perfect diet for the Asian hornet — they are big, meaty and humans keep them in boxes in open areas that are easy to attack.

There is plenty more such information in the handbook to fascinate and perhaps terrify the beekeeper. It’s a good read!

Priced at £16.00, the 164-page book is available here.

Via Bee Health has supported the publishing of the handbook.

AFB and EFB kit supplies

You may have temporary difficulties in finding supplies of Vita Bee Health AFB and EFB diagnostic kits. These two types of kit have a lateral-flow component that works like a pregnancy test kit to indicate if sampled larvae have American foulbrood or European foulbrood.

Unfortunately, an essential component of the lateral flow device has been in short supply and we have therefore had a delay in the manufacture of the kits.

The kits are sophisticated devices and their composition is very specific. Although alternative components were tested, Vita was not prepared to release the resulting product because the sensitivity of the kits was not up to standard. This has been very costly for Vita and we realise there is a shortage in the market. However, we prefer users to be able to rely on the accuracy and robustness of our products — customer satisfaction is very important to us.

We have recently managed to source a limited supply of the key component. Quality control testing looks good and manufacture will be resuming shortly.

Further development of the kits is also underway.

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