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It’s not about mites any more

“If one more speaker starts yapping about Varroa mites, I’m gettin’ up and walkin’ out!” The grumbler sitting next to me in the audience didn’t know me and didn’t know I was the next speaker. And yap I did. My topic? Deformed wing virus.

Honestly, I can’t blame the guy for feeling that way. I too am tired of mites. But in spite of endless boring discussions, I think we are still missing the point when it comes to managing Varroa. Mites are nothing more than bad guys with hypodermic needles. The true demon, deformed wing virus (DWV), rarely gets a mention.

I should clarify by saying DWV rarely gets a mention outside of academic circles. Among scientists and researchers, DWV is demanding more attention and taking its rightful position as villain-in-chief. What I’ve learned has caused me to re-think the way I handle mites. By looking at Varroa-mediated collapse not as a mite problem but as a virus problem, I’ve been able to better manage my bees.

The dream team

Many researchers agree that the ultimate destroyer of honey bee colonies is DWV, not Varroa mites. Apparently, when the virus is not present, honey bee colonies can withstand fairly heavy mite loads over long periods of time. Of course, having mites is not an ideal situation because mites feed on bees, weakening them in the process. Still, quick and total loss of a colony is not the usual result from Varroa mites alone.

Likewise, a colony of honey bees without Varroa mites can harbor DWV without succumbing to the disease. It appears that healthy honey bees have a natural resistance to the virus when it spreads via normal channels. What is normal? Normal channels include vertical transmission from queen to egg, and horizontal transmission via trophallaxis from worker to worker or from worker to larva1.

However, when both Varroa mites and DWV are present at the same time, the virus is transmitted through the bite of the mite into the tissue of the bee. Compare this to other diseases. You can catch the flu by breathing air or eating food that is tainted with the germs, or you may be able to fight it off. However, if you are actually injected with the pathogen, you have a much greater chance of becoming sick.

Casual contact or injected dose

In a similar way, honey bees can get DWV from casual contact within the hive, or they can be injected with it, courtesy of the Varroa mite. You will sometimes see the term “vectored infection” when the writer is referring to pathogens transmitted by the mites. In biology, a vector is an organism that spreads a disease without contracting the disease itself. Just as an anopheles mosquito is a vector for malaria and a deer tick is a vector for lyme disease, a Varroa mite is a vector for deformed wing virus.

Another term you sometimes see is “covert infection.” Basically, covert means hidden. So, depending on the author, it may refer to an infection that travels from bee to bee without a vector (the infectious pathway is hidden) or it may refer to a type of infection that does not produce obvious symptoms (signs of the disease are hidden).

Timing can make a difference

As I understand it, when the virus is transmitted naturally within the hive—from bee to bee—it is less likely to produce deformed wings and shortened abdomens than when transmitted by a mite.

At least part of the reason may be timing. If a bee contracts the disease as an adult, she will not get deformed wings and a shortened abdomen because those parts are already fully formed. Other aspects of the disease will still result, including a weakened immune system and a shortened lifespan.

In practical terms, bees can be infected with DWV without showing obvious signs of the disease, even if the disease was transmitted by mites. I’ve heard beekeepers say they saw no sign of deformed wings in their colony, therefore it wasn’t DWV that killed them. We need to remember that when and how the bee contracted the disease affects the visible symptoms, so a bee may die of the disease without having obvious physical deformities.

Is the DWV getting worse?

Many beekeepers are finding that to keep their colonies alive, mites have to be treated more often than they used to be. Some who used to treat once a year are now treating two and three times a year. This increase appears to be related not to stronger mites, but to increased virulence of the DWV. In other words, the virus seems to have increased in potency such that a colony cannot withstand as many mites as it used to. Since a colony can succumb to DWV with a just a small number of mites, it becomes necessary to keep the number of mites per hive at a very low level, much lower than in the past.

Why this is happening is unclear, but it may simply be a matter of numbers. As the virus spreads, more individuals exist and a new opportunity for mutation occurs with each replication. So, basically, with more individuals you have more chance for change. Some of these mutations could have increased the virulence of the disease to its host, the honey bee.

Another cause could be migratory colonies. If you have a chance mutation in, let’s say Florida, and another in California, instead of those being local problems, they are soon continental problems as we—human beings—assist the DWV in spreading the mutations to more and more bees.

Varroa and DWV working together

Of course, there are most likely other explanations as well, but the fact remains that the disease appears to be getting more deadly. Right now, the only way we have of slowing the disease is controlling the mites that carry it, so we are in something of a bind since controlling the mites hasn’t gotten any easier. Worse, some research has shown that the Varroa mites actually do better in the presence of high viral loads, because the disease keeps the bees weaker and less likely to defend against the mites2.

Management choices

In my own apiary, I stopped thinking about managing mites and began to think about managing virus. This has helped me, especially with the timing of control measures. It also reminds me that killing the mites doesn’t kill the virus.

The most obvious case is the classic fall management conundrum. Most of us don’t want to treat colonies in August. Depending on where we live, it may be too hot, honey supers may be in place, winter is far off, the colony is huge and healthy, you’re hoping to pick up the fall flow, or you’re going on vacation. All of these reasons, and more, interfere with treating mites at the right time.

Instead of thinking about mites, think of DWV. Remember that here in North America, your long-lived winter bees will begin emerging in September and October. If they have deformed wing virus, they will not be able to care for the winter colony and, even if some survive the winter, they will pass the virus on to the early spring brood. So reducing the amount of deformed-wing pathogen must be completed by the end of August. Killing mites late in the year after the bees have already contracted deformed-wing virus, doesn’t help. By that time, the bees will succumb to the virus whether mites are present or not.

High winter losses

The scuttlebutt I’m hearing from beekeepers across the country is that pockets of high colony loss, up to 80 or 90%, are occurring in some areas. These losses are affecting commercial beekeepers, hobbyists, conventional, and natural beekeepers across the board. In other areas, sometimes relatively close by, losses are apparently at normal levels. What is going on? My own guess is that the heavily hit areas are hosting more virulent strains of DWV. I have no proof of this, but it will be interesting to see what happens next. Will these hard-hit areas recede and disappear, or will they expand?

As with many aspects of beekeeping, it is difficult to discern cause and effect. So when other factors come into play—exogenous variables like bad weather and poor forage—it is easy to assign colony loss to them. But throughout history, honey bees have shown amazing resilience when it comes to harsh environmental conditions like cold, snow, rain, heat, drought, wind, lack of forage, predation, and even viruses. But injected viruses? I just don’t know.

But even the classic signs of collapse by Varroa make more sense when you think of them as signs of collapse by virus. When a large colony collapses quickly in the fall or winter with plenty of food, a small and spotty nest, and practically no dead bees, it sounds more like disease than parasite.

Let me emphasize that much of this post is pure speculation on my part based on journal articles I’ve read and loss reports I’ve studied. You may come to different conclusions. Still, I think looking at the entire mite problem as actually a virus problem may help some beekeepers modify their management strategy. It’s time we evaluate the disease, not just the vector. After all, it was never about the mites.

1 Deformed wing virus and honey bee queens

2 Varroa, Honey Bees and Deformed Wing Virus – A Parasite-Pathogen Partnership

Rusty
Honey Bee Suite

Honey bee with deformed wing virus by Xolani90 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26406168
Honey bee suffering from deformed wing virus. Photo by Xolani90 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26406168

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Comments

Herb Lester
Reply

Rusty…Thanks for valuable information. Herb

Brian Tamboline
Reply

Rusty, lots of discussion about winter losses and DWV on Bee-L and other forums. Peter Borst has provided lots of info on recent studies, scariest being ‘covert DWV’.
Thanks for hi-lighting the real issue with Varroa, vectoring virus.
Best to you,
Brian

Rusty
Reply

Brain,

Thanks. I think it’s a good sign that beekeepers/researchers are looking at the viruses as a distinct problem. I think it will speed up both our knowledge and our options.

Ken
Reply

Wow! I wonder if the viruses that plague honey bees can be isolated and some sort of antibodies can be developed and given to the honey bees. Maybe in sugar water or a drench. Of course, the dosage would have to be followed for the prescribed mount of time so as to prevent resistant viruses… this could get complicated.
Not having studied this much, I do agree with your theory of the virus causing such harm. I look forward to the research done in the future on this. Like colony collapse disorder, the mite factor is more involved than just mites. There must be other contributing causes, like disease and viruses. Just my musing!
Thanks for such a thought provoking subject, Rusty.
Ken

Rusty
Reply

Thanks, Ken. It seems that these problems are always more complicated than we first imagine. Once we start looking, they get even more scary.

Jennifer
Reply

Rusty, thank you for a personally timely post. Installed purchased packages last April had low measured mite loads going into August, saw visible signs of DWV despite low mite loads, treated for varroa probably too late in the season and indicators are that I lost both hives this winter. Expensive lesson that I need to be proactive in my observations and treatments and that the old assumption that DWV goes hand in hand with high mite loads is just that…an old assumption.

Rusty
Reply

Jennifer,

That is exactly the type of report I keep hearing: low mites loads but lots of DWV. It seems like the “old” rules (two or three years ago?) don’t apply.

Donald Sexton / NorCal
Reply

Very inciteful and thought provoking article . . . you lit the light of curiosity . . . I will be rethinking how I manage and be a bit more observant.

Thank you for sharing
Donald

Rusty
Reply

Thanks, Donald. Sometimes just thinking in a different way can illuminate many possibilities.

Steve
Reply

Rusty,

I can only agree with you, however I believe that DWV is only one of a number of pathogens that are vectored by the same process.

I seldom see DWV in my apiary, but when I do see it, it always gets my immediate attention.

Congratulations on receiving your Univ. of Montana Master Beekeeper certificate.

Rusty
Reply

Steve,

That is absolutely correct. Last I checked there were something like 18 named bee viruses, and quite a few of those were vectored by mites. This particular one, though, is receiving a lot of attention at the moment.

And thanks. The UM course was well worth the effort.

JoAnne
Reply

Steve, you don’t have to see DWV for the bees to have it. It depends on when they were infected with it. If infected during development, they could show deformed wings. If infected as adult bees, their wings were already formed and therefore, they don’t show deformed wings.

Charles Carlson
Reply

Terrific information! I would note however, that contrary to the sentiments presented here. Pathogens do not, and let me emphasize–do not–, want, desire, or benefit from their hosts dying or going extinct. Both the varroa mites, and the virus are utterly dependent upon having a population of bees. In fact, healthy populations of bees are preferable to sick populations of bees in both cases. And by preferable, I mean benefit.

Bees have a generation time approaching one year. And insects generally seem to be terrific at evading all manner of pathogenic events from diseases to the most sophisticated of human poisons. Their numbers may dwindle to small, but let history reflect a robustness beyond common human understanding.

Yes, bee populations are endangered. Yes, we need to be concerned. But I think we should also note this isn’t their first rodeo, and as much as we might like to believe otherwise, bees will most likely survive without us.

Rusty
Reply

Charles,

One comment. You say, “bees will most likely survive without us.” I say that bees absolutely without a doubt would survive without us. “Us” is the problem. If we humans weren’t mucking up the planet, bees and other life forms could get on with it, just as they always did. We are dependent on them, not the other way around.

Whenever someone says, “Bees survived million of years without us,” I say, “Yes, but now they have us, and that is the problem.” We come with baggage: poisons, pollution, habitat destruction, climate change, acid rain, invasive species, plus we move everything into areas where it doesn’t belong. The list is endless.

Long story short: I agree with you.

Ted Norris
Reply

Thanks for an always informative posting. I like the globe location idea.

Rusty
Reply

Ted,

Thanks. The globe was set up by a beekeeper/web designer friend. I find myself watching it go round and round.

Jerrry
Reply

Makes a whole lot of sense looking back on how some of the hives I’ve lost in the last few years looked. I’m going to take a hard look at my program maybe incorporating a hard brood break in July.

Thanks Rusty

Jerry

Diana A
Reply

I hope this isn’t a stupid question. How do you control the virus?

Rusty
Reply

Diana,

That is not a stupid question; it is the most important question.

Some researchers are beginning to look at controlling the virus rather than controlling the mite, and I think that is an important distinction. Be sure to read the comment by JoAnne (below) about the different types of DWV. I think something like that may eventually be brought to market. Imagine feeding the bees a supplement with the harmless type of virus in it. Perhaps it could prevent infection from the dangerous kind. That idea reminds me of the milkmaids in the past who were immune to smallpox after they had contracted the relatively mild cowpox. Cool idea.

Sharon Klemmu
Reply

Extremely helpful information. Good to remember that nature does not operate on a vacuum. Any thoughts about mite control for the fast coming spring season? I am going to try an oxalic acid dribble for the first time. I read that you should treat packaged bees before you install them. Thoughts? Also, can you reuse a huge hive that died this winter of mites and its disease. Mites may be gone, or are they?, but what about residual virus?

Rusty
Reply

Sharon,

I’ve read a lot of speculation on how long the virus can survive in used equipment. The mites certainly will be gone because they can’t survive without a honey bee host, so don’t worry about them.

Most of the information I’ve seen suggests that there is some length of time that DWV can survive without a bee or a mite, but it is probably short, on the order of a few hours. At this time, I don’t consider it a problem. I always reuse my dead-out equipment without any special treatment after a colony dies of mites and, so far at least, I’ve not seen a problem with that.

Leslie
Reply

Rusty,
In your next to last paragraph you refer to “large colony collapses in fall or winter with plenty of food, a small and spotty nest, and practically no dead bees”. Isn’t this the same as absconding? And haven’t bees been absconding for mysterious reasons since long before the introduction of mites?

Rusty
Reply

Leslie,

No, absconding is totally different. When a colony absconds the entire healthy colony, queen and all, leaves its home to begin a new one somewhere else. It resembles a swarm except that the entire colony leaves, not just part of it.

People often get confused when their colony collapses due to virus and they mistakenly believe it absconded. They have nothing to do with each other. DWV colonies are often empty, but that’s because the sick bees fly out of the hive to die.

See “Absconding or death by Varroa?.” Reasons for absconding are explained here “My bees left: how to prevent absconding and “Absconding: when your bees move on.”

Mary Daniels
Reply

Thank you, Rusty, for another thoughtful post.
Your list of reasons / excuses for not treating in August is spot on!

Rusty
Reply

Thanks, Mary. I’ve had all those August thoughts myself (which is why I know about them).

JoAnne
Reply

Your article is spot on and very important for beekeepers. Thanks again and again for using your observation skills, critical thinking skills, and great writing style to share important and timely information with beekeepers.

We just heard Declan Schroeder a honey bee virus expert in the UK speak to our bee club and his research is astonishing. There are different types of DWV and type B (the kind bees don’t die from) prevents the bees from getting (and dying from) type A.

Ron Hoskins has been breeding hygenic honey bees for nearly 20 years and his colonies survive with mites and he does not treat them at all. So Declan studied them and found that his bees had type B (the non-lethal DWV).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DUFDXl8VGvs

http://www.swindonhoneybeeconservation.org.uk/research/

Rusty
Reply

JoAnne,

I’ve read about the two types of DWV and I think it is the most exciting news we’ve heard in a while. If we could replace A with B, perhaps we could live with Varroa mites. Maybe we could breed mites with type B, and release them into the environment to spread it around?

Schroeder’s research basically proves that it’s the virus, not the mites, that’s the real problem.

JoAnne
Reply

Next step: Is there a test (accessible to beekeepers) for colonies/nucs/packages to see which DWV type is present? I would surely make my overwintering decisions, splitting decisions, nuc building decisions, and replacement purchases based on that knowledge. Our University researchers tell me the test costs thousands of dollars, but Declan is showing them how to do it. I encouraged them to try to develop a version that is affordable and/or encourage bee suppliers to invest in it to improve their stock.

Rusty
Reply

JoAnne,

A test could certainly take us in the right direction. I also wonder how we can encourage the B type over the A type; I wonder if some environmental or in-hive condition favors one over the other.

Liz Corbett
Reply

Fantastic article. Thank you. Hard realities that not enough beekeepers are acknowledging or paying attention to. We need more easy to understand educational information like your site!

Rusty
Reply

Liz,

Thanks for the encouragement.

Ron J
Reply

Thanks for this very valuable information but as a hobbyist who treats multiple times in a year with the both ApiVar and MQS what else do you suggest.

Rusty
Reply

Ron,

If you are treating multiple times a year, you are doing what you can. I wish I had a better answer.

Liz Bateman
Reply

Rusty,

I lost my nuc–plenty of honey and stored pollen. Dead bees in the bottom and two clusters of bees in two frames, one around the dead queen. Dead mites on the bottom of the nuc. My mentor didn’t check for mites until late September and treated them once in mid October. Am getting a package of bees in late March or early April. Any suggestions on when to check for/treat for mites and with what (formic/oxalic?) for better success this go around? Should I use the queen that comes with them (I hear the bees don’t know her except for the trip here) or re-queen with a local queen???

I live in Northern Virginia.

Rusty
Reply

Liz,

I think your mentor needs a mentor. In your area, October is way too late for the first mite treatment.

As for package bees, I would probably treat them with oxalic acid. See the EPA label for oxalic, second page, under “Spraying Package Bees” for instructions on how to do it. Of course, oxalic is not the only option, but since packages are broodless, it works well.

Spring build up of bees brings spring build up of mites, so you may as well start with a clean slate. More and more people are treating packages to slow down the process. I never used to do it, but if I bought packages now, I would do it as well.

As for the queen, I would see how she does before replacing her. You never know, you may get a good one. But if build-up seems slow, you can replace her later in the season and provide your colony a brood break at the same time.

Liz Bateman
Reply

Thank you so much for responding! SO much to learn and you are amazing! Donating to your site!

Rusty
Reply

Thank you, Liz. You are much appreciated!

Tom
Reply

It is so disheartening to see the ground peppered in front of my hives with deformed dead or crawling and trembling bees and you don’t know what you can do for them to cure the problem. I do treat for Varroa but it hasn’t stopped the disease. Symptoms diminish over time but reappear later.

Do supplemental amino acids, given in early spring and fall feeding, actually aid the honey bee’s immune system? I’ve seen products advertised but being frugal as I am I don’t want to waste money on something that does nothing.

Just throwing this out there. Is it possible for the pharmaceutical industry to produce a vaccine from the dead virus to give the bees either orally in syrup or by the drizzle method or spraying on brood comb? Maybe even treat the mites with the vaccine so they could inject the bees with it or at least keep them from transmitting DWV. If a vaccine and delivery system is possible then it could probably be improved on by adding a cocktail of other virus vaccines.

Rusty
Reply

Tom,

My opinion is that someone will come up with something—either a vaccine or a form of harmless virus like the DWV type B—that we will feed to the bees to provide some immunity. I think that’s our best shot, at least for now. But who knows how long something like that would take to develop.

One year I fed Amino-B-Booster to my spring colonies and I thought they did really well. But it wasn’t a controlled experiment, so I don’t know if it was the amino acids or the weather. If you have good and varied forage, it shouldn’t matter. But in years with little pollen forage, it might be worth a try. With so many variables, it is hard to evaluate.

Linda Beehler
Reply

Thank you so very much! Our first year as beekeepers is reaching full circle and we look forward to using your advise for an even better year this year!

Linda

Rusty
Reply

Linda,

Let me know how it goes. There is always so much to learn.

Terry McFall
Reply

Wow, a lot to ponder in this pea brain. The fact that a honeybee has a larger brain is beside the point……

Rusty
Reply

Terry,

When I think of a bee brain in comparison to my own, I find it embarrassing. Whenever I play mind games with a bee (like when I think I will trick it into doing/not doing something) I always lose.

Sara
Reply

Hi Rusty,

I really enjoy reading your posts! Thank you!

We are in Western NY and going into this fall we treated for mites. Despite a lot of dead bees around the entrance to the hive, our hives still had live bees a few weeks ago. We are supposed to get into the 50s this weekend so I am curious to see if any come out to stretch! 🙂

When we were treating and even in the months leading up to winter, I just kept thinking I wish I could do something for the bees immune systems. Is there anything we can do to help? Does honey bee health do anything to help build immunity as it relates to this topic? I also would love to know if essential oils (heavily diluted) could offer immune support.Do you know of any resources that might be beneficial to read up on?

Rusty
Reply

Sara,

Any organism, whether it’s a plant, animal, or microbe, will do better with adequate nutrition. There’s been a lot written about this, although I don’t have a particular reference in mind. I’ll try to find one to recommend. Essential oils generally have thousands of components, so many people think that the inclusion of essential oils in the honey bee diet is probably a good thing, as long as you don’t overdo it. I often sprinkle anise oil or tea tree oil over candy boards or sugar patties so the bees can find the feed and also to give some variation in their diet. I’m not scientific about it, just sprinkle sprinkle.

Some of the “bee vitamins” like Hive Alive and Amino-B-Booster seem to have a positive effect on my bees. I think the micronutrients probably help to balance their diet but, in any case, they seem to be good for their attitude! The best thing will always be a varied supply of fresh pollen, but during winter or during summer dearth, supplements may well have a positive effect.

Sara
Reply

Thanks! Interesting discussion that followed this!

Linda Beehler
Reply

Very interesting message to Sara. I have used essential oils as an attractant for winter prep and feed. We are going to be so excited to take a look at how they have handled winter. We are in Mid-Michigan.

Lisa
Reply

Hi Rusty and fellow beekeeepers,

Now I’m slightly confused. I came across info suggesting that hives are full of thousands of microbes and beneficial bacteria and these help keep a hive healthy. Then I read essential oils kill microbes making their use counter productive. But then I read of their benefits and so determined to use them like medicine, not daily vitamins. Like when you take antibiotics and kill the infection but also the good digestive bacteria in the intestines, now you have to eat yogurt to replace the good bacteria. I feed essential oils in spring for a week because winter confinement is hard on them, and also in fall to ward off gut diseases like nosema and dysentery. I also use them after a varroa treatment but then, after any of these uses I replace microbials with an application of Super DFM. Always using oils in syrup doesn’t seem right.

One other thing, someone said they treat 3 times a year, what more can they do? I was wondering if the more is a brood break before treatment? Everything I’ve read about treatments says it won’t work on capped varroa except the MAQS. But using them full strength is bad for queens so do we know they permeate the capped cells in reduced strength? I think treatments are half hearted if you don’t go the whole hog and cage the queen to make a brood break. Of course you dont have to do it when it occurs naturally in the late fall. Ok, tell me where I have it wrong… thanks.

Lisa

Rusty
Reply

Lisa,

First off, all living things harbor collections of microbes both good and bad. There is nothing unique about honey bees or humans in this regard. By eating a balanced diet of nutritious food, we can help the microbes stay in balance. Usually.

My opinion is that we can’t micromanage the microorganisms. We have to let our immune systems do their thing and we can help by watching our diet. I apply this principal to bees as well.

I think we place to much stock in essential oils. Bees most likely get all the essential oils they need from pollen. Oils can be used sparingly as a feeding stimulant or vitamin supplement. I repeat, sparingly. Remember, as with all substances, the dose makes the poison. A little may help, but a lot may kill.

None of the mite treatments are good for bee health outside of killing mites. We make do. There is not a perfect mite treatment because they are all hard on the bees. Which one you choose, if any, is up to you and your particular circumstances.

My opinion based on your email is that you need to back off a little. Give your bees some breathing room. I like to do as little as possible but as much as necessary to help my bees. In other words, just enough, not too much. No one is advocating that you do every single thing that can be done, but that you do the ones that feel right for your particular bees. We have choices to pick from, but none of us knows what the right choice will always be. And what’s right will change from time to time and from hive to hive.

No one can give you a recipe. There is no set of instructions that will always work. You have to feel your way through it, learning as you go.

Relax. Read a book. Sip some tea. Eat chocolate. Listen to music. Watch your bees. Let them mesmerize you. But above all, let them alone whenever you can. The micromanagement has to go, or they will.

Other viewpoints encouraged…

Ken
Reply

Agreed! It can be hard to find a balance but there can be too much of a good thing. Just like with people, what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for another. How do you find out what works for you and your bees? Try it, In moderation, experiment, keep real good notes and review them often. Soon you will find what works and what doesn’t in your case. And always expect the unexpected and the exception to the “rules”. You are working with living things here, just do your best. This is far better than doing nothing. Who knows, maybe you will be the one to find the closest solution. At least in your specific circumstances.
Ken

Lisa
Reply

Thanks Guys,

I guess I would feel just as bad to have a colony fail because I did too much as I would if I did too little, although I might learn more from the something I did rather than the nothing…I think. Anyway I appreciate the perspective.

Lisa

Jeffrey
Reply

Rusty, or anyone that has relevant information,

Has anyone ever used sulfur to control Varroa mites? I know they have used sulfur to control other types of mite in animals but I don’t know what affect it would have on the bees. Just wondering. Also in a unrelated subject, we have been having freakishly warm temperatures in our area for February, I know it will more than likely become seasonably cold out again before spring. Should I do anything other than the normal February food inspection due to the week plus temps in the 50’s and mid 60’s. Thanks for any insight.
Jeffrey.

Rusty
Reply

Jeffrey,

1. I don’t know anything about sulfur and varroa or sulfur and bees.
2. Just check for food like you said, and maybe add some pollen supplement if they are raising brood.

Jeffrey
Reply

Rusty,

I seem to have found an answer to my question, but thoughts are still appreciated.

Quote from Cornell.edu, “Sulfur is considered non-toxic to bees. In studies on ecological effects involving honeybees, sulfur has been shown to be practically non-toxic to the species tested. Thus, although there is potential for non-target organisms to be exposed to sulfur, little hazard to these species is expected to result. Two beneficial insect studies demonstrated that sulfur (98% dust and 92% wettable powder) is low in toxicity to the honeybee through contact and ingestion.”

I may try a dry powder walk through for the bees this year and see how it effects the Verona mite count, or possibly a sulfur block inside the entrance for them to walk over. I’m just afraid I might hurt my bees if left it in too long, I need to look into it a bit more first. I’ll let you know what happens.

Jeffrey

Ross
Reply

Hi, I was considering uncapping some brood to check for mites; is this worth doing? and will the workers reseal these cells? thanks

Rusty
Reply

Ross,

Most people open only drone cells because that is where mites are most likely to be. You need to pull out the pupa and look at it, which will also destroy it.

Mokisha Ethiopia
Reply

Rusty, Great thanks for the wonderful explanation. As I am a new beekeeper I am not pretty sure when to plant friendly honeybee flowers to attract the bees into my garden. Your response in this regard will be highly appreciated.

Rusty
Reply

Mokisha,

Unfortunately, I know nothing about the bee plants of Ethiopia. Perhaps a local farmer or gardener would be a good person to ask, or another beekeeper.

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