Refrigerating honeybees may fight mites, colony collapse

 

Be under no illusion, varroa mites are likely responsible for the majority of dead colonies nowadays.

We are always looking for ways to combat varroa that works ‘with’ honeybees.
Chemicals are not the answer, they are temporary at best and make someone a fortune somewhere. But! they never provide an answer for the root cause, they are merely a sticky plaster.

We will certainly keep an eye on outcomes with the method used below.
In essence! Manipulate the colony via cold storage, to the point of zero capped brood, then treat, resulting in near 100% efficacy.

 

 

 

 

Midseason refrigeration breaks the cycle of bees hatching with varroa mite infestations

Saving honeybees is easier when varroa mite infestations are reduced.

Washington State University researchers are hoping that midseason hibernation can help in the fight against the mites.
Varroa mites are pests that weaken bees’ immune systems, transmit viruses and siphon off nutrients.
They’ve been called a large factor in colony collapse disorder around the country.
Saving honeybees is easier when varroa mite infestations are reduced.
Washington State University researchers are hoping that midseason hibernation can help in the fight against the mites.
Varroa mites are pests that weaken bees’ immune systems, transmit viruses and siphon off nutrients.
They’ve been called a large factor in colony collapse disorder around the country.
Credit: Zachary Huang

 

“Most treatments only kill varroa on adult bees and are generally only effective for three days,” said Brandon Hopkins, assistant professor of entomology and manager of the Washington State bee program. “A lot of mites live in the brood, which are under a wax cap that treatments can’t touch. Those bees hatch out and are already afflicted.”

Currently, battling mites requires three treatments over a 21-day period to make sure all new bees that come out infested with mites are treated, Washington State said.

These treatments are difficult and expensive because beekeepers must treat all of their colonies on a specific schedule, and it’s very labor intensive to treat thousands of colonies by hand three times at precise timing cycles, Hopkins said.

Bees don’t truly hibernate, but they do change their behavior in winter. Queens stop laying eggs, so no new brood is created at that time.

Last August, Washington State researchers put 200 honeybee colonies into refrigerated storage. This is a time when bees are still active but have finished making honey for the season, and no crops require pollination. It’s also when beekeepers normally do a round of mite treatments.

By placing colonies in refrigerators, the queen stops laying new eggs, which stops the production of the brood. When the bees come out of refrigeration, there is no “capped brood,” the university explained. At that point, Hopkins and his team applied a varroa treatment on the adult bees.

The initial results were overwhelmingly positive. Researchers found an average of five mites per 100 bees on the control colonies (not refrigerated) one month after the normal three-cycle mite treatment, the university reported, and the refrigerated colonies had an average of 0.2 mites per 100 bees one month after the single mite treatment.

“That’s a significant decrease,” Hopkins said. “Refrigeration is expensive, so we need to do more work to prove the cost is worth it for beekeepers, but we’re really excited so far.”

Additionally, the infestation levels varied tremendously from colony to colony in the control samples. That’s because of the difficulty in treating colonies consistently over three cycles. The refrigerated colonies, however, had consistent mite numbers, with little variation.

After hearing about this research, a few beekeepers approached the Washington State scientists about doing a similar round of refrigeration in the early spring. Most commercial beekeepers in the U.S. take their colonies to California for almond pollination in February and March, but there’s a time gap between the end of the almond crop’s pollination season and the start of pollination season in the Northwest.

“Beekeepers generally have two periods of time for mite treatments: before the bees make honey, and after,” Hopkins said.

Once bees have mites, the infestation increases during the pollination and honey production months.

“If they can start with low mite numbers, the bees are healthier during the honey production period,” Hopkins said. “A lot of varroa damage comes while the bees are making honey.”

This spring, Belliston Bros., a commercial beekeeper in Idaho, donated 100 honeybee colonies for a refrigeration study just like the one done in August last year.

 
Varroa mites are considered the biggest bee health problem worldwide. Here, a Varroa destructor mite has latched on to the upper-right side of a honeybee’s abdomen to feed. Credit: Purdue University/Tom Campbell

 

“It’s a big risk for them,” Hopkins said. “If it works, beekeepers would have significantly better varroa control while using fewer chemicals, and they’ll have better colony survival during the following pollinating season. It’s a win all around.”

Nobody really knows how bees will react to being put back into their winter mode in what is normally the middle of their active season, he said, but that’s what science is all about. If this works, it could be a major and environmentally sound victory in the great varroa mite battle that beekeepers have been waging for decades.

“We’re hopeful,” Hopkins said. “We won’t have results back for several months, but we’re excited we may have a way to help beekeepers keep their colonies strong and stable.”

Curated from: feedstuffs.com

 
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