This is a graph I saw on Jose Villa's
laboratory wall in Baton Rouge
My Comments: I'm
told that the sample on the right represents the resistant and
susceptible strains kept at the Baton Rouge lab. The scientists
need mites for some experiments and thus the lab keeps some bees that
always have mites (S), as well as bees that seldom have mites (R).
The other samples -- to the left of the lab sample -- are from seven
randomly chosen commercial queen producers in the USA. Obviously,
when it comes to tracheal mite resistance, some are consistently
excellent and some are pretty bad.
If you got queens from
producer number two or six, you'd stand a good chance of losing a lot of
hives to tracheal mites, but if you bought from number five, you'd
seldom have problems, if ever. Other suppliers range between the
extremes. The majority of suppliers are very good in some samples
and very poor in others. Thus we can see that buyers can't
count on consistently resistant bees from most of the suppliers sampled.
Here is a quote:
"The most striking result of this survey was the variability in
levels of tracheal mite resistance among colonies of U.S. commercial
breeding stock. This breeding population can be expected to yield
propagated queens that range widely in quality..."
Jose Villa Responds on
BEE-L: I read with great
interest the dialogue generated by Allen Dick's posting of a chart that
we had on the wall during the AHPA visit to the USDA, ARS Bee lab in
Baton Rouge. I want to present a few thoughts to the group that has
shown so much interest in the topic. Some of the researchers with
experience in tracheal mites (Bob Danka, Lilia de Guzman, Medhat Nasr
and myself) believe tracheal mites can be significant problems, they can
be easily resolved, but they are also easily forgotten.
First of all, the plot of breeder
susceptibility was published in an article in the American Bee Journal,
April 2000, by Bob Danka and myself. We really had no a priori idea of
what we would find. In order to get queen breeders to agree to
participate in the test, we agreed to keep their identities
confidential. I agree that to some it might sound counter to what a
government agency should do, but USDA-ARS is not in the business of
regulation or certification, but rather research and generation of
information. We feel that this information should be a warning to all
queen producers, and should prompt customers to start asking their
suppliers what they do or don't know about the tracheal mite
susceptibility of their stocks. The commercial testing service that we
have assisted in getting established (Backwoods Apiaries in Shelbyville,
TN) is one way that breeders could get that information, but
unfortunately few have shown interest. We do not endorse, certify or
guarantee the results of this small business, but we have a memorandum
of understanding to assist him with information, quality control, etc.
This is not an agreement of exclusivity, so any one that shows interest
in learning the process, establishing a similar commercial service, etc.
will receive equal treatment.
We can say the following about
resistant stocks without breaking the confidentiality agreement on the
test mentioned above. Recent imports from the Old World (British
Buckfast, 1990, Yugoslavian bees, 1989) and far-Eastern Russian (1997
and following years) are consistently very resistant to tracheal mites.
'New World' stocks from programs that have actively selected for
tracheal mite resistance in the field or using short tests also have
resistance (Ontario Bee Breeders-Mehat Nasr's program, Steve Park). We
have no direct experience in the field with queens from Ohio Queen
Breeders, or from
Sue Cobey's New World
Carniolan, or from
Marla Spivak's Minnesota Hygienics, but given that they actually
look for tracheal mites (and cull colonies) they report low winter
levels in their stocks (see their web-pages).
It is also important to remember that
tracheal mite resistance is a trait that is not exclusively possessed by
any stock, race, bee color, etc. We have seen very dark bees show high
susceptibility, and very yellow bees be highly resistant and viceversa.
It appears as if the main mechanism of resistance is improved
self-grooming by young workers of migrating female mites. Susceptible
bees have the behavior, so with some selection it can easily be
improved. We have not narrowed it down perfectly, but the trait seems to
be governed by one or a few dominant genes. With a very simple genetic
model, assuming that homozygous resistant, homozygous susceptible or
heterozygote queens mate to varying combinations of haploid resistant or
susceptible drones, it is easy to explain how a breeder that has a
mixture of genes in his operation could produce colonies that span the
range from highly susceptible to highly resistant. What is beautifully
simple, or simply beautiful, about this system is that with a little bit
of information and selection the bad genes can be culled out fairly
Given the variability of climates and
tracheal mite resistance levels in stocks it is not surprising that
beekeeper experience in the field is a real patchwork. As Medhat says,
tracheal mites are not as serious in the South. First of all, the hot
summers make the levels of infestation drop in most susceptible colonies
during that period. Second, even if levels of mites in susceptible
colonies increase during southern winters, most colonies survive. What
could be really incidious in the South is that colonies could be
experiencing a chronic loss of performance year round. Consider Medhat's
dramatic findings that infested colonies cannot thermoregulate or use
oxygen at the required levels during really low winter temperatures. The
same level of oxygen consumption by clusters during cold spells, is also
required for individual forager flight, specially when loaded with
nectar or pollen. What happens to forager performance in colonies with
10, 20, 40, 80% worker infestation?
Sorry for the length of this post, but
it summarizes some of the thoughts a group of researchers have developed
through time. This is not an official document, just my personal
opinions on the matter to a group of people that have shown interest in
something that I think should not be ignored.
My Comments: Jose sent me this from his 2008
presentation at the ABRC meeting in Sacramento. Seven years later,
not much has changed, except that the range of variation seems to have
converged towards being more susceptible and the resistant samples have
disappeared! 2002 seems to have been the year that people paid
attention to breeding for tracheal mite resistance. Since then,
things have been on the slide.
Villa, J.D. – EVALUATIONS OF RESISTANCE
TO TRACHEAL MITES IN U. S. BEES – Honey bees in the United States have
been exposed to tracheal mites for more than two decades, but problems
still are found when certain factors coincide. To maximize our efficacy
in finding infested colonies for research, we sample unselected colonies
in the winter in Louisiana and neighboring states. It is common to find
between a quarter and a third of colonies from unselected sources with
infestations above the economic threshold of 20%, especially in colonies
moved from northern states for the winter.
During the last ten years we have evaluated the genetic resistance of
colonies from eleven sources using bioassays of newly emerged workers
exposed to tracheal mites in infested colonies (Gary & Page, 1987, Exp.
Appl. Acarol. 3: 291-305). In 1999, the resistance of colonies from
eight commercial sources (n = 6-19 colonies per source) was compared to
colonies known to be resistant or susceptible (Danka & Villa 2000, Am.
Bee J. 140: 405-407). Using these standard colonies, a resistance index
can be used to place each colony on a common scale from 0 to 1 (similar
to resistant or susceptible standards, respectively). Five out of eight
commercial sources showed mean susceptibilities above 0.4 and a high
amount of variability between colonies (Danka & Villa 2000, cited above,
results summarized in Figure). In subsequent years, colonies from three
of those sources (n = 9-63 per source per year), plus colonies from
three additional sources (n = 5-88 per source per year) were evaluated
with the same procedures. The levels of resistance in four of the six
sources appear to have deteriorated or not improved through time, with
their most recent mean resistance indices being higher than 0.5
(Figure). Beekeepers should be aware of the fact that uniformly high
resistance to tracheal mites is not found in all commercial sources.
Active selection for resistance by breeders and purchasing of resistant
breeding material by queen producers is recommended to solve these
persistent problems with tracheal mites.
Figure – Mean tracheal mite resistance indices of colonies from 11
sources evaluated through time. Infestations of young workers exposed in
highly infested colonies are scaled to infestations of similarly treated
workers from standard resistant (R) and susceptible (S) colonies.
Colonies from eight commercial sources were evaluated in 1999 and are
indicated with solid symbols. Colonies from three of those sources (●, ■
or ▲) plus three additional ones (○, □ or ∆) were tested in subsequent
years and mean indices obtained in different years are indicated.
8:00 a.m. Buses Load for All Day Tour of the Bee Lab
A Perspective on the Importance of the Honey Bee to Agriculture: A Need
for Sustained Research ARS-Mid South Area- Dr Ed King, Area ARS-Mid South
An Update on the Status of the ARS Laboratories and Status of the Honey
Bee Genome Project- Dr. Kevin Hackett, National Program Staff Scientist
a.m. The Partnership of LSU and the USDA Honeybee Laboratory in Baton
Rouge- Dr. Bill Brown, Director and Vice Chancellor, Louisiana
Agricultural Experiment Station, LSU
a.m. Additional Russian Honey Bee Research- Dr. Tom Rinderer
a.m. Round Table Discussion- Producers and Users of Russian Honey Bees
a.m. LUNCH AT LAB- Prepared by the Capital Area Beekeepers, Baton Rouge
Divide into smaller groups. Participate in “hands on” demonstrations and
activities covering the following topics: Russian honeybees, Varroa
mites, tracheal mites, SMR bees, pollination issues, bee Genomics,
manipulations of honey bees in a building and Louisiana beekeeping
shortcuts and gadgets
At eight AM, a line of buses waited to take us to the Honey Bee Breeding, Genetics &
Physiology Laboratory for a tour. The lab is located on the southern
edge of Baton Rouge, but buses got lost on the way down to the lab. We
saw a lot of country along the way, but we eventually arrived, still in good
time. The morning was spent listening to talks, then we have a shrimp
lunch prepared by the staff of the facility. After lunch, beekeepers had
a chance to see the Russian bees and see the labs where the scientists work to
solve industry problems and develop new strains of bees.
varroa with visitors
at Russian bees
The Russian hives we
examined were quite tranquil and, in spite of repeated
handling by the beekeepers, no one was stung. Brood patterns were
excellent. Populations were small by northern standards and we were
told that these bees tend to maintain low populations until they are stimulated
by pollen coming in. Apparently they winter well, and consume very little
honey over winter.
We had a chance to hear about the Russian bees from the
breeders and co-operators who have had these bees for several years now.
All reports are that they are economical, productive and should reduce or
eliminate the need to treat for tracheal or varroa mites, depending on
geographical region and other factors.
Discussion on Crop Insurance – Mr. Jason Schickendanz, Agrilogic, Inc.,
College Station, TX
National Apitherapy Society- Mr. Jim Higgins.
a.m. Lazy Beekeeping- Mr. Don Smoot, Power, Montana
a.m. Pollination - Brett Adee, Bakersfield, California
a.m. The Future of Sioux Honey Association - Mr. Jerry Probst,
President/CEO, Sioux Honey association, Sioux City, Iowa
Speaker to be announced
Annual General Business Meeting
2003 Board of Directors Meeting
There wasn't much of interest to me on the program today and I decided to
see the area before we fly out. Joe agreed. We checked out and
caught the shuttle to the airport where we picked up a car.
Route 110 took us back south into Baton Rouge where we turned west towards
Port Allen to take a look at the Mississippi from the bridge. The river
had looked small from the air coming into Baton Rouge, but from closer up it
proved to be more what I had expected.
The west end of Interstate 10 is the Santa Monica freeway. From
there, I10 runs east through the southern US. Last year at this time,
Joe and I were driving along I10 through California and Arizona between Los
Angeles and Phoenix. This year, we found ourselves on I10 again, but
this time headed east to New Orleans.
In New Orleans, we found the French Quarter and spent the afternoon walking
around exploring. The weather was chilly, but we enjoyed the unique charm
of the area. I've always meant to see the Mardi Gras in New Orleans and
now if I return, I have a bit better idea what the place is like.
We drove back to Baton Rouge to be close to the airport for our morning
flight and checked into a Motel 6. It's nice to cut the expenses a bit.
The motel, the car and the gas add up to less per day than one night at the
Richmond Suites -- and the internet connection here is twice as fast, plus much
more reliable than the phone lines at the Best Western.
We got up, had breakfast at McDonalds, returned the car and caught our plane
to DFW. At DFW, we connected for Kansas City. After sitting on the
pad for two hours awaiting de-icing and a re-de-icing, we flew to Kansas City
in an MD-80 and arrived at 5:30.
The first de-icing had left a large area on the wing untouched, so I
mentioned it to the flight attendant and they did the job over. I don 't
know how much ice is okay, but I don't want to find out either. Anyhow,
we finally got our shuttle to downtown, 22 miles away, and found the the
Brandis were passengers in the same van.
Today..Occasional snow developing this
morning. Wind increasing to southeast 20 km/h. High minus 15.
Tonight..Occasional snow. Total accumulation 2 to 5 cm. Wind light. Low minus
17. Normals for the period..Low minus 16. High minus 4.
The program got underway this morning. We were impressed to find how
well attended the AFB convention is this year. I reckon that the
attendance is about 150 to 200% of the AHPA number. This was in spite of the
fact that the hotel is very expensive, and in the heart of town. This
convention program repeats a lot of what we heard at Baton Rouge, so we have
the option of sitting in, or skipping sessions.
We met lots of old friends and many who had come here from Baton Rouge as
well. The exhibitors and the scientists form a large part of this latter
group, but quite a few beekeepers attend both meetings.
ABF Opening Ceremonies.
President's Address - Pat Heitkam
Legislative Report - - David Ellingson - Fran Boyd, Meyers & Associates,
Introduction of 2002 American Honey Queen Colleen Henson and the 2003
Honey Queen Contestants - Presented by Patty Sundberg, Chairman, American
Honey Queen Program, Sunshine Apiary, Columbus, Mont.
Research Report - Danny Weaver, chairman, ABF Research & Technical
Committee, Bee Weaver Apiaries, Navasota, Texas
'Crop Insurance for Beekeepers' - Jason Schickedanz, Policy Analyst,
AgriLogic, College Station, Texas
Another day of
programs. Again I was getting into repeats, so spent some time catching
up on correspondence. In the evening we went to the Arabia Steamboat Museum. The
tour was very good and supper okay, but we paid $54 for a short bus ride, a
supper on plastic plates worth $12 or so, and museum admission posted as $9.75.
I don't know what the rest was for. Maybe funding for the ABF?
Jack Hamilton snapped this picture of Joe Meijer and me at the supper on the
Arabia tour and emailed it to me. Joe and I were asked twice on this trip
if we are twins. We're 13 years apart in age.
I also made a post or two to BEE-L
I'm here in Kansas City. Curiously enough it turns out to be in
Missouri. Anyhow, I thought I'd pass on a few items of the many that I
picked up over the past week, here and in Baton Rouge.
* The Russian bees are the Real Thing. All the co-operators agree, and
are going over to 100% Russian as fast as they can. These bees require no
treatments for either mite and are as productive as the domestic controls.
They winter on less feed and in smaller clusters than most domestic US
bees. The only downside apparent is that for early pollination, more work
-- or more hives -- may be required.
The word is to be sure to get Russian stock only from suppliers that
have had Russians for more than one year and who have brought in new
Russian breeders for several years to ensure a high degree of Russian
genetics, and a mix of Russian blood. Of course controlled mating in
reasonable isolation goes without saying.
* The SHB found in Australia turns out to be a different variety than
the one in the US. This is significant in that Canadian authorities, after
an initial closure of package and queen imports from Aus in response to
the original SHB disclosure, reopened Canada to Australian stock after
assurances that any exports would be from locations 14 miles or more from
known SHB apiaries.
Does Canada know that this is a new pest, or did Canada make an
decision based on the assumption that the Aus beetle is no different from
the one in the US, and which was found briefly in Manitoba before control
measures were taken? Will added precautions be in order? Will the Canada
border be closed again to Australian imports? Should it be?
Panel of Survivors: 'Beekeeper Fires: Can They Be Profitable?'-
Moderator: Pat Heitkam - David Ellingson- David Hackenberg, Hackenberg
Apiaries, Lewisburg, Pa.
ABF Silent Auction Closes
Forum: 'National Honey Board: Where It Is; Where It's Going' - Moderator:
Clint Walker, ABF Past President, Walker Apiaries, Rogers, Texas
Recess General Session
Depart for Steamship Arabia Museum and Kansas City Barbecue Dinner
Today..Cloudy with flurries developing this
afternoon. Wind light. High minus 12. Tonight..Flurries this evening. Clearing
overnight. Wind light. Temperature rising to minus 5. Saturday..A mix of sun
and cloud. Low minus 9. High zero. Normals for the period..Low minus 16. High
ABF General Session Resumes Draw Door Prizes/Announcements.
"Second Generation and Still Ticking" - David Ellingson, Ellingson's, Inc.,
Optional Event: Group Departs for Tour to Independence
Reporting from the Weslaco Bee Lab, USDA-ARS:
- Dr. Patti Elzen - 'Better
Science/Better Value - Cooperative Research Between Labs'
- Bob Cox - 'Sampling Bees
and Honey to Detect ABF'
- Frank Eischen - 'Does
Coumaphos Affect Bees?'
BREAK. In the Trade Show
Draw Door Prizes Announcements
'Using Inert Dust to Reduce Varroa Populations' - Dr. Marion Ellis, University
of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebr.
'Honey and the National Honey Board: Worth Every Penny' - Gene Brandi, NHB
Chair; Bruce Boynton, NHB CEO; Julia Pirnack, NHB Director of Industry
Services; and Bruce Wolk, NHB Director of Marketing
ABF General Session Resumes Door Prizes/Announcements
Reporting from the Baton Rouge Bee Lab - Dr. Tom Rinderer, Laboratory Director
'A Review of Activities at
'What's Up with the Russian
"The Honey Bee Genome Project" - - Danny Weaver, chairman, ABF Research &
Technical Committee, Bee Weaver Apiaries, Navasota, Texas - Dr. Kevin Hackett,
National Program Staff, USDA-ARS, Beltsville, Md.- Dr. Gene Robinson,
University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana
'Nothing Less than a Revolution - Radical Change or Just Full Circle?' - Dr.
Marla Spivak, University of Minnesota, St. Paul
General Session Recesses
BREAK.In the Trade Show
American Honey Show Auction at the Honey Show Display
YOU'RE INVITED - to an evening of Live Music, Food, Fellowship, Fun, and Fund
We had sessions all day, and a reception in the evening Sioux Honey had
donated some free honey beer and we enjoyed it to excess, I've cut back
in drinking, but I'm afraid events like this with free drinks test my resolve.
Today..Mainly cloudy with a few flurries this
morning. Clearing this afternoon. Wind light. High minus 4. Tonight..Clear.
Wind light. Low minus 10. Normals for the period..Low minus 16. High minus 4.
We had decided to check out, rent a car and look around today. The
hotel was very high-priced and the surroundings -- the whole complex was full
of high-priced shops full of things I'll never need and eateries with
overpriced and oddball food -- a bit uncomfortable for country guys like us.
When we got up and looked out the window, we saw three inches of snow, but
decided to go anyhow. When we went out, we discovered that the
temperatures were chilly and there was a nasty breeze to make things worse.
Up until now the weather had been mild and there had been no snow. At any
rate, we checked out and caught the shuttle to the airport, then rented a car.
Once behind the wheel, we drove SW towards Wichita, but then turned north at
Ottawa. Passing through the town, we came across an ophthalmologist's
office, and since I had been having trouble with a bloodshot, irritated eye, I
went in. He was away, so I went to the emergency at the hospital nearby
and got the eye examined. The doctor prescribed drops, which turned out
to cost $69 US!
We had a great Chinese buffet in town for $7, then drove north. We did
a huge loop to see the country and returned to the airport to check into a
Motel 6. The plan was to be near the car return and to have some time to
spend on the 'net getting caught up. It turned out, however, that Motel 6
was blocking the ArcZip access number and I was without 'net access. We
made do, watching the movie channel and reading.
1:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
Beginning Beekeeper Short Course - Leaders: - Dr. Marion Ellis,
University of Nebraska, Lincoln - Dr. Marla Spivak, University of
Minnesota, St. Paul. - Gary Reuter, University of Minnesota, St. Paul
ABF Business Meeting Century A
Social Hour and Auction
ABF Annual Banquet and Honey Queen Coronation
Today..Sunny. Wind light. High plus 3.
Tonight..Mainly clear. Wind northwest 20 km/h. Low minus 6. Normals for
the period..Low minus 16. High minus 4.
Joe and I left our hotel at noon and returned the car. We were almost
two hours early at the airport, but that was just as well, since things went
pretty slowly there, due to all the added security and the resulting line-ups.
We flew out to DFW at 2:30 and then changed planes there. I'm getting
tired of Dallas already. This hub and spoke system may work for the
airline, but what kind of sense does it make to fly from Kansas city south
towards Dallas for 1-1/2 hours, then fly right back north to Canada? I
keep forgetting to tell my travel agent that I only want direct flights.
Next time I'll study the plan a bit better. Out of 11 days, we spent 3 of
them flying, and walking around airports.
We got into Calgary at 9:10 -- twenty minutes late (does American ever lift
off on schedule? It did not on 7 out of the eight legs we flew on the
trip) -- and Ellen met us there.
I used to enjoy flying, but now everything is slow and tedious and there are
no meals on flights anymore, so it is necessary to plan ahead and guess what to
take along to eat.
We drove home and I turned on the computer to download the inevitable 180
messages awaiting. Of course, 160 were SPA and were deleted without even
being downloaded. I don't like Spamcop, Spam Assassin or similar services, since
they lose good messages along with the bad, but I think I'll resort to
something like that soon. I'm probably losing good email by not seeing it
in the huge list of emails to delete.
The eye drops seemed to work. My eye was okay all day and the redness
disappeared almost completely.
Friday..A mix of sun and cloud. Wind
northwest 20. High plus 2.
>>>I read with great interest the dialogue generated by Allen Dick's
posting of a chart that we had on the wall during the AHPA visit to
the USDA, ARS Bee lab in Baton Rouge. I want to present a few thoughts to
the group that has shown so much interest in the topic.<<<
I've heard it said that the future is already here, but it's not evenly
distributed. That very insightful observation applies very much to our
industry. Whether the future will be the happy one we see illustrated in
the current results of the years of work with the Russian Primorsky stock,
SMR and other selected stock, or the disaster that is currently unfolding
in Florida with Monster Mites, is up to beekeepers. Things can go either
I'd like to thank Jose and all the people at the Baton Rouge lab for
their hospitality on our recent visit, and for clarifying my impressions in
his post here on BEE-L. I think many of us are not completely aware of, or
too easily forget, the great work that a large network of talented people
are doing to assess and respond to the challenges that face the bee
industry in North America and throughout the world. Opportunities like the
one we had at Baton Rouge during the AHPA meeting help bring this home to
those of us who are trying to understand where the future lies.
Unfortunately many beekeepers are busy with their own problems, and are
simply unaware what is happening across the continent. As such, many are
part of the problem when they could easily become part of a solution. Many
have been and will be taken unaware because they are oblivious to the
dangers and just as unaware of available solutions.
Good information is out there, but beekeepers are often too busy to
investigate, and often many who try are confounded by contradictory claims
and by confusing reports. It is often hard to separate the wheat from the
chaff. To add to the confusion, proponents of bogus or half solutions are
often very strident and general in their claims, while those who have real
solutions are often quiet, cautious and quite specific about what they can
I'm particularly pleased that the people on the front lines of study,
those in the USDA labs and their counterparts in Canada, are so
approachable and willing to participate in one on one discussions with
beekeepers. They attend the conventions and even local meetings and talk
face to face with beekeepers, they visit beeyards when invited to see what
is happening on the ground, and they publish in the magazines that
beekeepers (should) read.
Our best hope to ensure a prosperous future in beekeeeping is to attend
these meetings, read the beekeeping magazines, and to get together in
forums like this to compare ideas and experience. We will certainly never
all agree, nor should we, but as long as we can maintain dialogue, we can
draw on a vast fund of experience from many regions and methods of
operation. We are very fortunate on BEE-L to have a finger on the pulse of
the industry and a diversity of thought.
>>> First of all, the plot of breeder susceptibility was published in
an article in the American Bee Journal, April 2000, by Bob Danka and
I've often thought that I just happened on a great new revelation, only
to see that it has been published a year or two back. Oh, well. Better
later than never. Sometimes things just don't stick the first time, and
(kick me) I think my subscription had lapsed at that particular time.
It goes to show: BEE-L is a great source of ideas, but the ideas that
are presented sketchily here on BEE-L are usually more fully fleshed out in
Bee Culture, The American Bee Journal and other magazines, and often at
some time in the past. These publications do our industry a great service,
and I think we all should promote them to newcomers, and maybe we should
make a point of reading them more thoroughly ourselves. I know I will.
And it goes to show that our research people are really identifying and
solving the problems, and publishing. The difficulty is in getting the
solutions into the real world. As they say, that's where the rubber hits
the road, and that is the challenge for the next two years. Will we see the
solutions that have been developed for us get into common use, or will we
see this opportunity slip away and again hear of massive (and unnecessary)
The answer lies in whether we can work together and agree on how to
accomplish the task, and whether we can overcome the political divisions
and inertia. The knowledge, and methods are at hand.
Time will tell.
At the ABF meeting, Laurence Cutts and Tom Rinderer
mentioned 'Monster Mites'.
Apparently, the varroa in Florida are now tolerant to fluvalinate,
coumaphos and Amitraz.
Some in the US have been pinning their hopes on Amitraz. Larry says that
Amitraz might buy one more year, but mites that have experienced
fluvalinate and coumaphos quickly adapt to Amitraz.
It looks as if the race is run and chemicals have had their day.
Thankfully, the use of chemicals has bought enough time to develop bee
stock that seems to need very little assistance in surviving in the
presence of tracheal and varroa mites. It is time for beekeepers to adopt
that stock ASAP and to be sure to monitor levels.
I attended a talk in Jeff Harris's lab and the assumption was that most
beekeepers do not monitor mites. I was shocked, but Jeff was right, it
seems most people in the room did not know what a sticky board looked like
or how to use it. His demo of the sugar shake was so quick and elegant that
it is hard to imagine that anyone leaving the room would not adopt one or
or the other -- preferably both -- methods immediately.
The day of just adding strips and trusting fate are long over. The only
beekeepers left standing in a few years will either be in very isolated
areas, or using mite-tolerant stock and testing regularly for mite levels.
>>> Since the quarantine imposed in New South Wales was lifted in
November 2002, this would mean that other countries would be well within
their rights to assume that all of Australia was "infected". The fact
that it is impossible for all of New South Wales, let alone the entire
continent, to be infected at this time would be "irrelevant". <<<
That is true, but the question remains, exactly what areas *are*
infected, or may be infected? How can we know? Who can we trust? What
distance ensures reasonable safety from the pest? What is reasonable risk?
> I think that everyone needs to cut the Australians some slack on this.
That is true, and I think Canada is cutting Australia a lot of slack,
after all AFAIK, Canada has an open border to Australian queens and
packages at present. It is a matter of trust though, and if there is not or
has not been full disclosure, that trust may be misplaced.
Having said that, I understand that US and Canadian people are over in
Aus, assessing the situation and, besides, some time will pass before any
imports will take place, so there is time for change in policy. March is
the earliest I expect that packages and queens will be coming this way.
It is entirely possible that this entire matter is of no import, but
what concerns me is that the first we heard of this is from a chance
comment from someone who just happened to be in Australia, and just
happened to see a sample of the beetle, and just happened to see the
Without full disclosure and public knowledge of the facts, how can the
industry be expected to give intelligent input to a decision that may have
significant impact on beekeepers. Perhaps we can trust this to the Powers
That Be, but maybe not. IMO, the more people thinking about this, the
better. Our CFIA recently allowed SHB infested comb into Canada. AFAIK this
was without the knowledge of the bee industry as a whole, and the news took
our national and provincial bee organizations by surprise.
Although efforts were made subsequently to eliminate and contain the
pest outbreak, we will not know the extent of the damage from this error in
communication and judgment for some time. That episode does really make one
wonder about our watchdogs, though. CFIA defends our borders against easy
import of superior, mite and disease resistant bee stock from the USA at
great cost to many in our industry and economy, and at the same time has
casually allowed a serious pest into Canada to satisfy a small business
that makes only a minor contribution to our industry and economy. What to
think? Can they be trusted on this Australian situation?
As a Canadian, I do not want my country to take chances on bringing a
new pest to our continent that *might* be no real problem here, but could
migrate south to be a pest to our good neighbours in the USA.
I agree we have to be fair minded and even handed in these
deliberations, but we also have to be careful who we trust, and make sure
that all the cards are on the table. I hate surprises.
Jose Villa wrote:
>>> ...The commercial testing service that we have assisted in
getting established (Backwoods Apiaries in Shelbyville, TN) is one way
that breeders could get that information, but unfortunately few have
shown interest. We do not endorse, certify or guarantee the results
of this small business, but we have a memorandum of understanding
to assist him with information, quality control, etc. This is not
an agreement of exclusivity, so any one that shows interest in learning
the process, establishing a similar commercial service, etc. will receive
equal treatment. <<<
At risk of stating the obvious, and further risk of making this a hobby
horse, the work has been done and it is now up to us -- those who buy
queens from US producers (Hawaii is a US state) -- to ensure that our
suppliers use this service, or one that is comparable.
It is an economic fact that suppliers have no incentive to make any
improvements in stock beyond what their customers demand. Granted, many
suppliers are professionals and as such strive for high standards, but if
we consumers vaue the work that has been done to help ensure we receive the
best, then we need to press our suppliers to *prove* that they are making
the effort. Asking for reasonable assurances shouldn't annoy those who have
our best interests at heart.
Is it unreasonable to ask our suppliers to give us written assurances
that they are monitoring and managing tracheal tolerance in their stock? I
submit that it is not unreasonable at all. At the ABF convention, we were
told how the large chains buying honey now demand documentation from the
packers showing that aerobic bacteria levels are lower than a specific
minimum along with other technical information to protect them, and to
protect the end user. Smart packers comply quickly and enthusiastically,
and then use their compliance as a tool to secure their relationships with
suppliers and customers -- and to beat out competition.
Large buyers can insist on standards because of their vast purchasing
clout, but maybe we underestimate our power as consumers, and the influence
that industry chatter can have. I think it is time that we ask queen
producers to provide buyers with at least some sort of spec sheets,
guaranteeing that their stock meets reasonable established benchmarks.
This is not a new concept in many industries and I am sure that the best
producers are prepared, and would be glad to do so today if asked. I am
also sure that, in time, the rest will follow. Some may be unable to do so
or refuse, but they will lose customers, and that seems fair enough to me;
after all, unscrupulous or inattentive queen suppliers ruin their customers
slowly over time.
Maybe it is a little early to expect much, but in a year or two, if we
start now, with a gentle pressure coming from all sides, we may see some
producers realising that they can exploit these tests as a marketing tool
to differentiate their product from those of producers who have not gone to
the expense and trouble of getting with the program.
I thought I'd try the idea out, so when I saw my supplier, I asked him
straight out. He seemed pleased to be asked, and happily assured me that he
has been proactive and began to use this TM testing service some time back.
Of course he also indicated that there are some problems with getting
everything up and running right since it is fairly new and imperfect. He
also has been working on HYG testing, and that too has some quirks and
limitations. That verbal assurance is enough for me at this point, although
I expect to raise the bar a bit over time, and I also want to see this in
writing, maybe with some numbers.
Maybe those queen producers who make this effort for their customers can
then expect to ask a slightly higher price for their queens or expect to be
preferred suppliers. Maybe they can get a marketing advantage out of it.
I'm no longer moderating BEE-L. I retired from that job at Christmas
last year. Now I can write more freely, but as always, I have problems
getting my articles approved, so I tend to write here on this site where I know
they will be available to all.
I spent the day at my desk, catching up on things.
It's warmer here than it was in Kansas when we left. The temps are
around zero C (melting). Rain is possible this afternoon.
Ellen and I drove to Red Deer to do some shopping and to visit with Jean and
Chris. I picked up a video card for the XP machine since it came with
integrated video and I thought it would pick up the performance a bit..
We drove home in blowing snow.
Today..Becoming cloudy this morning with 30
percent chance of afternoon showers. Wind west 20 km/h. High 5. Tonight..Mainly
cloudy with 30 percent chance of evening showers. Wind northwest 20. Low minus
9. Normals for the period..Low minus 16. High minus 3.