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Varroa Hotspots Mystery

Hotspots of varroa resistant to many treatments have developed over years of use and mis-use. While the basic principles of resistance to treatments are understood, the details remain a mystery as bees and beekeepers face an adaptable pest.

In France, Gabrielle Almecija, a PhD student at the University of Tours, has recently begun a three-year research project about resistant varroa. Part-sponsored by Vita Bee Health and Apinov (Vita’s partner in France), Gabrielle is already studying varroa in Brittany where resistance to some treatments seems low, and varroa in the Alps where resistance seems high. Why there should be such a difference is far from clear, but it is typical that there is considerable variation between geographical areas.

As the first stage of her research, Gabriele will be lab-testing varroa mites to define levels of resistance: how much of a treatment is required to kill a certain proportion of mites? At the moment, she must travel to and from each area, but plans to establish a protocol, a reliable scientific method, by which the time-consuming travel will not be required.

Once resistance levels can be defined, possibilities for further research and practical action open up. Just four months into the research, Gabrielle’s work is showing great potential.

This honey bee-related project is not Gabrielle’s first encounter with bees. Previously she has studied and has given presentations on urban forage in her home area of Marseilles and has studied brood disease and queen breeding. It was in La Rochelle that she first met Benjamin Poirot of Apinov who is helping to supervise her PhD.

Here’s a gruesome glimpse at what she is finding:

How to use VitaFeed Nutri

Straight-forward instructions on how to use VitaFeed Nutri, the pollen supplement that boosts honey bee health, increases brood area and increases honey production.

Singing queen silenced

Removing the queen larva

The observation hive is back in action and the queen has been singing — quarking, if you prefer — but then she abruptly stopped.

A frame with a sealed queen cell had been installed in the observation hive and a queen quickly emerged. Running around the hive she was buffeted by the workers and returned the compliment clambering on some of them, feelers flying. (Workers are impatient with virgin queens and urge them to go and get mated!) Mostly the queen tried to stay outside the loose cluster to have some peace and quiet.

She was quarking frequently and then I saw the reason — another sealed queen cell. After about a day, the workers unceremoniously tore down that second queen cell and removed the developing white larva. Not following the text books, they didn’t tear it down at the side, but instead attacked it from the bottom dragging out the larva.

An unceremonious royal funeral

After one more triumphant quark (apologies for the anthropomorphism), the queen became silent and work in the office could continue uninterrupted.

The behaviour of the workers to the  queen has become much more deferential over the past day or two, so I expect that she has mated and may even be laying eggs, but they aren’t yet visible.

Turlough
Vita’s Guest Beekeeper Blogger

 

Indecisive bees sit on the fence

East-facing side

I watched a cast swarm emerge yesterday and debate on which side of a newly installed fence they should hang up.

First of all, they flew high above the garden looking as if they would depart high up in a birch tree where a previous swarm had landed.

So, I thought I would try hanging a Vita swarm lure on the clothes whirlygig in the garden. Immediately the garden air was suffused with the beautiful scent and soon afterwards the bees did indeed descend back into the garden, flying lower and lower until they finally settled on the garden fence.

But which side of the fence? The debate went on for about 30 minutes until they decided on the shady west side (it was 11am). At one point I even saw the queen marching along the top of the fence (but sadly the photo I rapidly took of her is grossly out of focus).

West-facing side

The bees are now safely re-homed and I’ll be trying the Vita swarm wipe  as a last-minute lure next time I see a swarm.

And I’ll be hoping that the fence will become the favoured place to hang out!

Turlough
Vita’s Guest Beekeeper Blogger

Do workers move eggs – evidence!

Can bees can move eggs around a colony? It’s often a subject of debate.

Until this weekend, I had never seen any convincing evidence of it, but then I saw this as I was extracting the spring harvest:

 

Even though a clearer board had persuaded nearly all the bees to leave for the super and brood box below, some persistent bees stayed on. On an adjacent frame I found a smattering of drone brood — and then the queen cell on this frame.

Was it just a play cup taken a bit too seriously or was there anything in it?

There she was! A developing queen pupa.

I can’t be certain which colony the super had come from, but I knew for certain the apiary and that only one colony was appeared to be in queen-cell making mode. The queen had been removed to another box, so I must assume that after her removal the bees decided to move an egg up into the super and make it into a queen. When the queen was in the hive, a queen excluder had been in place.

Turlough
Vita’s Guest Beekeeper Blogger

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