SE Herts news by John Mumford

Just a few brave souls turned out in the cold weather to attend our November Winter Meeting to talk about Varroa. Varroa has been the biggest single cause of so many colony deaths in the last couple years. I trust that those who missed the meeting did so because they have everything under control, and that their bees are in safe hands!

There was some debate at the meeting about whether we should be leaving control colonies, (colonies not treated), so that our bees have a chance to develop a strategy for coexisting with Varroa. Unfortunately it’s not the Varroa per se that do the damage. It’s the Viruses, that the mites transmit from bee to bee, and bee to larvae, that cause most of the colony deaths. Some colonies seem to be able to cope with a much higher mite population than others. This is most probably because those colonies have less Virus problems.

I got called out on 29th of October to a couple of non-members colonies that had lots of crawling bees with deformed wings. I put on some Grease Pattie, and a strip of Apistan for good measure. When Apistan resistant mites were first found in SE Herts the number of resistant mites in different Apiaries was very variable, and so was the degree of resistance within colonies of the same Apiary.

Anyway, after we had had a cuppa, and a chat, we had a quick peep at the removable tray under one of the colonies. The tray was covered in dead mites. I’d forgotten just how effective Apistan could be, and I won’t claim that the knock down was all due to the Thymol! As I sit writing this report I have been told that the mite drop counts are less than a tenth of what they were just three weeks ago. I now have great hopes that the colonies will come through winter OK.

Although we will never again be able to rely on Apistan as a single treatment, because there will always be some resistant mites around. And if we don’t test for resistant mites, we won’t know just how many there are. But if 50% of the mites in a colony are resistant to Apistan, then 50% are not, and they will be killed by the Apistan very quickly. The resistant mites then remain, and if not killed by some other treatment, will breed mostly resistant mites the next year.

As a short term, one off fix, if you are in a hole, and need to reduce Varroa mite numbers quickly, Apistan could be a life saver, and well worth the expense, but only if it works.

I would prefer now, to keep Apistan up my sleeve and not see it abused. And only use it in emergencies, not routine. Just in case one day I find myself needing to do another quick clean out of Varroa mites late in the season, when other treatment may not be so effective.

The AGM is at 8.00pm on Thursday 14th. February 2008 at the Hoddesdon Baptist Church Hall where members attendance would be appreciated. We will need to talk about Subscriptions, and Newsletter Distribution, and of ships, and sails, and sealing wax, etc.

Have a Happy Christmas, and Best Wishes for 2008.

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