Beekeeping in Vermont...

Fred Putnam Jr., a beekeeper from Brandon, VT spent March 10, 2017 at the Southern Adirondack Beekeepers Association meeting and shares some of what he learned.

FP: Some notable info. from today's 2018 Southern Adirondack Beekeeper's Association annual seminar in Malta, NY. "The Varroa problem is at epidemic proportions in this country."That said by Scott McArt, Assistant Professor of Pollinator Health at Cornell University. From Samuel Ramsey, Univ. of Maryland: "The number one most important thing that beekeepers can do to ensure the survival of their colonies is to manage the levels of Varroa mites." Mr. Ramsey is coming to our 2018 VBA summer meeting. He is a very engaging speaker with much new knowledge. Don't miss it.

Additional info. from Ramsey's research..... More than 99% of mites attach to the right and left undersides of the abdomen where they are not readily visible. Less than 1% of mites attach to the thorax where we can see them. If we try to use visual inspection to determine our mite load, that doesn't work; we'll miss almost all of the mites in a colony. Varroa feed on honeybees' fat bodies located under the abdomen. These fat bodies perform a dozen or so critical life functions for bees. As the Varroa feed, they deplete the fat bodies leaving the bee in a severely weakened state.

Further, Ramsey said that if we do start seeing a lot of mites on our bees, that means the colony is severely depleted and the mites are in the process of abandoning the hive. At that point' it's too late; the colony will die.

Ramsey's recommendations echo those from Mike Palmer, Jack Rath at Betterbee, Ron Bartemy, Scott Wilson, Dave Willard, Chas Mraz, Andrew Munkres and other long time, well-versed VT beekeepers: Monitor for mites often using a reliable method like alcohol wash (Randy Oliver recommends checking every colony.) Get the mite populations under control. Use the BIP guidelines to determine treatment thresholds. Follow-up with monitoring to ensure the treatment worked. Says Ramsey: "Mite populations peak in September and October. Waiting until September or later to treat is too late. We need to treat in July and August as well as later to prevent this peak from happening."

About mite-borne viral diseases (there are 12 of them according to Ramsey.) Jack Rath: "The viral diseases transmitted to honeybees by Varroa are nasty, deadly."

I'm guessing we under-appreciate how deadly they are. Too many of us blame our winter colony losses on a lot of things that are really just symptoms of underlying diseases transmitted by Varroa that decimate the colonies starting months earlier.

One last set of excerpts are from the post from Scott Wilson on the ACBA Facebook page about the State of Wisconsin high colony losses:
"Winter loss prevention is hard because some beekeepers are reluctant to treat for the pests."
"Some of them would like to be treatment-free. But what happens is they actually cause their hives to what we say 'crash' from too many Varroa mites in the hive. The hive crashes, the bees die and as that colony is crashing, the bees fly off and then they inhabit other colonies nearby transferring those Varroa mites."
"Beekeeping has become a lot more hands-on, and treatment-free is not really feasible anymore. But there are a lot of natural and organic options that are available to help the bees survive these mites."

So says, the Wisconsin State Apiarist.

And after chatting by email with Dr. Tom Seeley, the Darwinian approach as often practiced misses a key step that undoes any good being done to select for mite resistant bees but that's enough for today. I'm going to have a sip of my raspberry mead now.

You have my attention now, folks.

Houston, we have a problem.

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