Interesting discovery

Helle and I wanted to post this because we were so pleased this evening. When Helle took the swarm I had put the box temporarily on a mesh floor for the Warre, which we left while they settled in. This evening we decided to remove it and put the proper floor down, plus another box because they’re doing so well. We took the mesh floor away and examined the board underneath. We thought we spotted one varroa mite but found that it was in fact a blob of red pollen. So there was not a single mite. Last night I was told by an inspector that swarms from feral colonies are likely to carry varroa – I would think that if a colony have been thriving for years without interference they probably build up immunity. This colony originates from my wall where they have been living for 17 years. We were so pleased with them, and toasted their success.

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5 Responses to Interesting discovery

  1. hunneybun says:

    I have been a bit quiet recently because of going on holiday, but the swarm I collected before going away don’t seem to have varroa – I have had a vaselined paper under them for a few days now and haven’t found any bugs. Helen


  2. simplebees says:

    Last night I was told by an inspector that swarms from feral colonies are likely to carry varroa

    By contrast, swarming is an excellent means of reducing the varroa load of a colony. In very simple terms, during the summer, 2/3rds of the total varroa in a colony is in the brood cells. That leaves around 1/3rd of the varroa on the adult bees. If a swarm leaves with 1/3rd of the adult bees, it will carry roughly 1/9th of the varroa (1/3rd x 1/3rd); a significant reduction in the varroa load. On top of this, there is a gap in time while the swarm builds comb and before there is any capped brood, meaning that the varroa that comes with the swarm is unable to reproduce until this time, giving a further check the varroa population.

    These mechanisms are thought to be responsible for the fact that swarms generally have low varroa loads and it is usually a year or two before the varroa load becomes critical.

    And that is before you take into account that your bees are from feral stock, that has survived for years without treatment or human interference.


  3. itsonlyausername says:

    It may be a very useful exercise to make notes of any changes that occur with this particular colony. If as has been suggested they do have a natural immunity then these would provide very desirable future colonies and would be worth propagating. Any idea what particular hybrid/feral colony cross they might be?


  4. lindarowan says:

    Yes I agree, we were discussing it last night. I have no idea where they come from, apart from the tree in the garden where I lived before I moved here – they left the tree when I left the house and moved here 2 streets away! (there are lots of reasons why they would have done that, they knew their days were probably numbered there). But we were also discussing whether the chemicals used to treat varroa are actually making immunity lower overall. I had a sniff of one the other night and certainly it was pretty horrible. They may kill some mites initially but may also compromise the bees’ natural ability to deal with them. I’m sure Gareth would know! His comments are so interesting – I do think that bees enjoy swarming, it feels so natural.


  5. Paul says:

    Yes, the miticides used to treat (kill) varroa are poisonous to bees too. Like most medecines, they are chosen to be more poisonous to the target species than the host – I think with anti varroa ones the factor is about 40:1 – partly because bees are larger than mites and thus a bit more tolerant. That’s why you need to be careful about dosages with oxalic acid, Apilife Var, or indeed medecines you use on your own human ailments. There are few magic bullets that affect ONLY the target: we all have similar biochemistries.

    The bee inspector sounds just, well, wrong. Partly for the reasons Gareth explains and partly because if he / she were correct, there would be no feral colonies because they couldn’t possibly survive without humans.


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