Encouraging honeybee news

I went to the state fair today, and while looking at the exibits in the Horticulture Building, I asked a bee exhibitor how the bees were holding up against the varroa mites. He said the mites are becoming resistant to miticides, and they are mainly using "essential oils" now, along with new and improved miticides, so they probably have about 3 more years that they can treat the mites before all treatments become ineffective. Now here's the good part. They found some honeybees that have adapted.
The worker bees search for infected brood cells and destroy them. Using artificial insemination, they are breeding bees for this trait. It will take a couple of years to build up sufficient stock of the new mite-resistant bees, but that's probably about how long we have anyway with the existing treatments.
All this is based on a conversation I had with one exhibitor at the MN State Fair, and I don't know what his credentials are, so do your own research before taking this as gospel. But it's encouraging.
Best regards, Bob
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that IS encouraging Bob. Good to hear it! madgardener
zxcvbob wrote:

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-> I went to the state fair today, and while looking at the exibits in the -> Horticulture Building, I asked a bee exhibitor how the bees were holding -> up against the varroa mites. He said the mites are becoming resistant -> to miticides, and they are mainly using "essential oils" now, along with -> new and improved miticides, so they probably have about 3 more years -> that they can treat the mites before all treatments become ineffective. -> Now here's the good part. They found some honeybees that have adapted. -> -> The worker bees search for infected brood cells and destroy them. -> Using artificial insemination, they are breeding bees for this trait.
Wouldn't wanna have that job. -> It will take a couple of years to build up sufficient stock of the new -> mite-resistant bees, but that's probably about how long we have anyway -> with the existing treatments. -> -> All this is based on a conversation I had with one exhibitor at the MN -> State Fair, and I don't know what his credentials are, so do your own -> research before taking this as gospel. But it's encouraging.
Thanks for the news.
--
8^)~~~ Sue (remove the x to e-mail)
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wrote:

Look up "Harbo syringe" for some online awe and amazement, that's the tool used to dispense honeybee semen.
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Varroa resistant queens were obtained from Russia by the USDA in 1997. The Russian bees had been exposed to the mite for a century so had that long to learn to deal with the parasite. But they're by no means 100% resistant; varroa can still take down a hive. Strains that have been crossed with the Russians are improved for verroa resistance but never immune. The resistance is caused by these bees' "clean up" behavior rather than by any actual immunity; in addition to these bees recognizing & discarding infested larvae very quickly, they also have mutual grooming habits that remove the mites. Plus they have shortened time for brood development, getting ahead of the curve of infestation damage.
Here's an article about the Russian bees: http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/aug99/bees0899.htm
Here's the team that has been working with these resistant bees: http://msa.ars.usda.gov/la/btn/hbb/staff.htm They are now being bred at a half-dozen University experimental stations plus an increasing number of commercial beekeepers. For anyone new who wants to join the bandwagon, the going rates are $500 per breeding queen, $250 per queen tested for breeding & probably ready to have at it, or $75 per queen not tested for breeding capacity, available through this company: http://members.aol.com/queenb95/catalog.html
Use of miticides has always been part of the problem. Given time and an ABSENCE OF MITICIDES, American bees would have developed amunities similar to the Russian bees. But because of the use of miticides, the bees were never able to adapt, while it has instead been the mites that are adapting. As usual, chemicals are not the best answer. Wild bees in Arizona & Texas parklands have made small but measurable come-backs after the initial mass die-offs, because proving bees not treated with miticides are been able to adapt to new threats, but the wild honeybee population also had to adapt to the presence of aggressive Africanized bees by changing their behavior; for instance, they will estivate great lengths of time if during droughty conditions there aren't enough flowers for both kinds of bees, & other behaviors to help them avoid conflict with the aggressive bees & fit into a narrower environmental niche.
The resistant southwest feral strains were not generally the preferred bees for breeding programs because of the weight of behavior traits not conducive to captive requirements. Because they learned not to gather such reserves of honey that they would fall into conflict with Africanized bees, they'd be poor captive honey producers compared to the Russian bees. Plus there are hybridized southwest bees very resistant to the mites but insufficiently gentle for captive purposes. Though the older honeybees will never return to the Southwest in the numbers seen pre-varroa & pre-Africanized bees, it is the aggressive competitors rather than the mites that will keep their numbers less. But the amazing factor is how a combination of verroa & other parasites, drought, & aggressive competitors, could not keep the southwest honeybees from surviving, adapting in the same decade that northern bees exposed to miticides merely became increasingly reliant on miticides that become decreasingly effective as super-varroa mites adapt to the poisons.
Adaptation of Southwest bees also happened in untreated tame colonies, & varroa-resistant strains were being bred there even before the Russian bees arrived through the USDA. By 1998, with breeding programs only four years old, already zero damage was being reported for some hives never treated with miticides. As with the Russian strain, it is hygienic behavior that helps them servive the mites, & speeded up maturing process for larvae. Here's an article on the varroa-resistant bees identified in Arizona even before the arrival of Africanized bees: http://gears.tucson.ars.ag.gov/rf/abj/varroa.html
It's not yet wholly in the bag, but it does look like the days when it was possible to maintain hives for years without special treatment for parasites will eventually again be a reality.
-paghat the ratgirl
--
"Of what are you afraid, my child?" inquired the kindly teacher.
"Oh, sir! The flowers, they are wild," replied the timid creature.
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what I have seen (and other friends concur) is a resurgence in our native bee species. Ingrid

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