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British Beekeepers Association Official Forum 

  • Article - The destructor mites the greatest threat to US honeybees, and why things could get worse.

  • Honeybee pests and diseases.
Honeybee pests and diseases.
 #5545  by Chrisbarlow
 22 Jan 2020, 17:14
When asked to cite the three biggest risks to honeybees, Susan Cobey, a renowned expert on bee breeding at Washington State University, says, “Varroa, Varroa, Varroa.”
 #5550  by Patrick
 23 Jan 2020, 16:08
Of course I get the varroa issue, but I do wonder when I see US videos of some commercial operations whether the bees are already stressed being apparently fed pollen supplement and syrup for prolonged periods to enable them be kept at high colony strength and in very high densities. This seems often to be in landscapes now apparently devoid of much natural and varied forage for extensive periods. Then presumably moved repeatedly the necessary long distances to fulfill pollination contracts of monofloral crops. I wonder if varroa in such circumstances are the tipping point. It is not about the quantity of nutrition but the variety and quality.

Before I sound like a smug Limey, from a UK perspective the post war trend in terms of landscape change is similar and becoming increasingly normalised in our expectation and appreciation of it. We now accept huge swathes of floristic desert all around us as an entirely normal countryside.
 #5551  by Chrisbarlow
 24 Jan 2020, 07:05
I agree about the lack of floral diversity around us. I have an apiary at one farm which is very rural and apart from oil seed rape, there is nothing else there to sustain 4 colonies or that's how it appears to me
 #5554  by AdamD
 24 Jan 2020, 09:30
There is a (current?) desire from government to plant millions of trees to soak up carbon so maybe farms will have more corners of trees and biodiversity in the next few years.

In the 'states, I believe that queens often last as little as 6 months. And Trump is rolling back environmental protection - see news today here.
 #5556  by Chrisbarlow
 24 Jan 2020, 13:47
Talking to one of my local farmers he thinks over the next few years he'll be planting much more fields of flowers to gain government subsidies.

As for queens only lasting 6months, I'd not heard that but if you think most queens are born equal in regards to the amount of fertilised eggs they produce in a life time, then queens that produce very large colonies won't last as long as queens that produce small colonies. Or are you referring to diseases and pollution shortening their life span.
 #5570  by AdamD
 26 Jan 2020, 12:09
My guess is that the colonies are so hammered by being in almost continual production, stress from transportation, barren 'bee yards' and suppliments, then onto another ponninator contract with fungicides and mono-floral feeding then trucked to another place etc etc they just need replacing.
 #5572  by AndrewLD
 26 Jan 2020, 16:27
I monitor the situation in France with regard to that other pest in the news, the Asian Hornet. Over there, winter colony mortality is at an average of 30% with some of the 96 departments hovering around 40%. Very disturbing for a country that has been down to 5% and more normally at 15%. A French Senate Committee sat in 2017 to examine the multi-factorial decline in honeybees calling on the major bee research institutes and UNAF the French national Union of beekeepers to give evidence. They identified the following as the major causes:
Pathogen load (including pathogens spread by varroa)
Pesticides and pesticide residues (they have banned all the Neonicotinoids)
Loss of forage (due to increasingly intensive agriculture)
Hive Pests with the number one pest still being varroa
Poor apicultural practices (they have had a big loss of beekeepers with the numbers coming back but with beekeepers needing training - big effort to correct that is in force); climate change and the Asian Hornet.
The National Agricultural Institute (INRA) was at pains to point out that all these factors were culumative.
In my area of interest the hornet is the straw that breaks the camel's back.
This has given me a renewed focus on varroa control and an added incentive to rethink my apiary hygeine practices. I am also looking with renewed interest at my bees' diet in our intensive agriculture area.
Bottom-line - no good dealing with one factor we have to look at the wider picture and deal with as many factors as we can :(
 #5573  by NigelP
 26 Jan 2020, 16:34
If you read between the lines the pollination hives are expendable. Hence the large losses. IIRC many of the bee farmers who exist on pollination contracts spend ,most of their year rearing nucs (back home) to form next seasons pollination colonies. There are mega bucks in pollination in the states.
Somewhere I have a time table of the crops and timing. If I find it I'll add post it.
It's a different ball game for those rearing bees solely for pollination contracts, honey yields are not expected. But read the American Bee Journal and you will find most American hobby beekeepers (like us) are all of similar minds.
 #5577  by Chrisbarlow
 27 Jan 2020, 16:18
NigelP wrote:
26 Jan 2020, 16:34
If you read between the lines the pollination hives are expendable.
An interesting comment Nigel. I've seen on some of the beekeeping groups on FB Beekeepers selling jobs lots of colonies after the almonds just because they don't want to bring em back to base.
 #5578  by Chrisbarlow
 27 Jan 2020, 16:38
AndrewLD wrote:
26 Jan 2020, 16:27
I am also looking with renewed interest at my bees' diet in our intensive agriculture area.
This last three years I've decreased my over wintering losses and improved the colony and nuc sizes coming out of winter, I'd already changed my varroa treatment Regine which had helped but feeding pollen substitute significantly reduced losses and increases colony sizes coming out of April