I guess we can only hope that those independent bee's break out into an
environment where those mite's have killed off the food supply.
Wishful thinking from someone who made the mistake to swat a honeybee on
the back of his neck years ago.
Zone 5 S Jersey USA Shade
There is atleast one word misspelled deliberately in the above post.
There is a hive of bees in my back yard that took up residence several
years ago. They are living in a ceramic sculpture that I made. They are
not managed at all. Your statement makes me wonder if I should be doing
something to assist them. I do greatly enjoy their being there. I am in
Bull. I know of a wild hive that alive and well and has been for
twenty years. While the varroa mite has made a big impact it has
not wiped all feral colonies off the continent.
It might not be quite "bull," but there is every indication that honeybees
are making a come-back, the survivors of the initial mite infestations of
the 1990s seemingly increasingly capable of fending off the parasites.
Feral honeybee populations reached a low point five years ago & have in a
few regions returned in force. It's still too soon to know if the
nationwide epidemic will ever be reversed, but regional comebacks have
For instance, a Texas A&M study showed rapid feral bee decline between
1995 & 1996, & it was at that time it became bandied about that they were
headed for extinction. But from 1996 to 1999, the feral bee population in
the study area nearly doubled. This has not yet made up for the alarming
losses that occurred in 1995/6, but it is nevertheless more than a
marginal improvement. And, of course, far less newsworthy than "Bee
extinction eminant!" so the return of the wild honeybees is not so much in
Some have speculated that the parasitic mite was being to some slight
degree scapegoated, & the bees could always have fended against the mites
if not already stressed by the widespread use & misuse of pesticides &
herbicides, loss of habitat, decline in the keeping of managed bees (many
of the ferals being escapees), a cultural shift that permits the
intentional destructiton of bees or even outlawing of beekeeping in
populated areas where anything of nature becomes hated.
In regions where even one of the other elements levels off, so too the
feral bee losses levels out or slightly reverses, so that some studies
will not state outright that the mites were ever the lone cause of bee
population collapse. When the decline leveled off & in some regions began
to reverse, it was speculated that the bees were becoming adapted to the
parasites, but improved or safer methods of pesticide use & additional
bans of certain chemicals may also be assisting the feral bees.
Africanized bees additionally are not very susceptible to the mites, plus
the famed dangerousness of the Africanized bees seems to be lessening the
further north they go, so that the return of the honeybees may have some
association to their africanization. There are more theories than
definitive answers for any of this.
An additional factor not perfectly understood is the capacity for
honeybees to drop in population as a natural survival-positive reaction to
new environmental stresses. Bees as a survival strategy drop in population
when resources are less available, when disease attacks, where Africanized
bees become too competitive; or in drought years or unexpectedly lengthy
winters. The survivors form the basis of an increased population when poor
conditions for the bees recitifies itself. This may have applied even to
the stresses caused by the parasites, which themselves began to die out as
their host population dropped rapidly as a natural survival mechanism.
Habitat issues too are just as complex. Just two examples. 1) In areas
where oaks were removed due to disease or fear of fires, feral bee
populations declined most rapidly. Turns out 80% of hives will be in
living oak mottes if they are available. All other trees combined amounted
to less than 20% of hive locations, & hives are smaller & less populous in
the alternative choices. So where oak populations decline, feral bees
decline, & where oaks are plentiful, bees too were more numerous. 2) Even
in areas where tree loss is not substantial & potential hive-locations
numerous, changes in the flower populations can cause rapid bee decline
due to meadows being developed into stripmalls or invasive species
displacing preferred pollin sources or even nature's own course changing
flowery meadows into shrubbier land, or shifting weather patterns or
unusual-weather years. The Texas A&M study indicated that changes in
pollination factors were at least as important as the mites in the
population implosion of the mid-1990s.
Between the speculations, a couple main issues arise as pretty certain:
eve in rural locatons, human activity in removing needed wildflowers, or
needed trees, or both, causes bee decline; & in urban & suburban
locations, the main thing has been pesticides. In all cases, if the mites
can be blamed as the key hazard to bee populations, there will be no
political pressure to stop developing all the land, clearing all the
woodlans, & herbiciding every meadow as fire hazards or "vermin" hiding
I'm seeing more honeybees this hot week than I've seen for a great long
while, but in our case, very likely there is a maintained hive within a
square mile. There's also a huge increase in colorful little beeflies.
-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.
What works in Texas might not be the same as what happens in New
England but what I have noticed is that the mites run in cycles where
one year they are very bad and as a result die with most of their host
colonies and the following 2 years they are relatively mild and the
cycle repeats. Like ticks it's not so much the bite as the additional
pathogens the mites pass around. Now that Apistan is no longer
controlling the mites I have halved the number of colonies I keep
because it just goes against my way of doing things to use the
Checkmite organophosphate acaricide.
I see no evidence of the bees developing a tolerance to the mites on
their own here.
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