Varroa Mites Aren’t Vampires, They’re Werewolves!

While I have been learning Beekeeping 101 over the past year I have been taught several things about the Varroa Destructor mite.   Basically, the following have been drummed into my head:

  • Varroa suck the blood! (Hymolymph)
  • Varroa mainly weakens the bees in the brood stage
  • Varroa ride the thorax of the honey bee, see Google – Images

I just attended the Massachusetts Beekeepers Association’s Fall meeting and heard many fascinating lectures.  The most immediately influential one was Dr. Samuel Ramsey’s “Varroa destructor Feed on Hemolymph and Two Other Alternative Facts.”  In Dr. Ramsey’s has studied the Varroa for years while earning his Ph.D.  His presentation has 3 critical revelations for beekeeping and I’m sure you will hear much more about this in the coming years.  

Watch this informative video that covers most of his points, se Varroa Does Not Feed on Hemolymph.  

Where Varroa are found on bees from “Varroa Does Not Feed on Hemolymph” by Dr. Ramsey

Dr. Ramsey’s work was totally convincing, he has done excellent work. I will be testing my bees minimally monthly and will plan on treating 3 or 4 times a year.  There were other lectures by Dr. Jamie Ellis from the University of Florida, that were also quite convincing.  So that I don’t need to treat so often I will have to get more hygienic genetics into my colonies.  For now, I plan to be more aggressive in treating and alternate between two effective treatments to help avoid breading resistance in the Varroa mite. 

Happy Beekeeping,

BernieBee

P.S.  Dr. Samual Ramsey’s is planning on studying Tropilaelaps Mites, and going to return to Thailand for a year.  This research he has proposed had often gotten the response in the USA is “Tropilaelaps mites aren’t here yet.”  (YET being the optimal word)  Since effective treatment takes about 10 years to develop Dr. Ramsey’s want to get a jump on this new threat.  His other talk was “Tropilaelaps Mites: A Fate Worse Than Varroa.” the showed a nightmare creature that is spreading in Asia and towards Europe like wildfire.  The funding for a year of research is not complete, so he has a Go Fund Me page “Fight The Mite” campaign, I urge you to donate to this effort and support this young brilliant scientist; I have donated and as several other people I know are.

Varroa mite on an emergent honey bee (src: wikimedia.org)

What’s the Price of Cheap Honey?

This is an excellent introduction to the fraud that is being perpetrated on the American consumer. The documentaries she mentions are all excellent. It is sad that dedicated local and national beekeepers are having their market crushed by shoddy and unscrupulous imports.

Germany is the highest consumers of honey per capita in the world and culturally they are serious about honey. This is why they are at the forefront of testing for adulterations and shenanigans of honey. Why can’t we protect our food supply, especially where honey is concerned? Beekeepers are just to nice, perhaps we should learn from our bees who are now in winter mode and bee-nasty!

Married with Bees

People love to ask questions when they find out that we started keeping bees.  One of the most common questions is, “When will you start selling honey?”  That question is usually followed by the comment, “Local honey is really expensive.  You can make a lot of money.”  In our part of the Midwest, local honey sells for anywhere between $8 and $12 for a 1 pound bottle, and those prices are typically set by hobby beekeepers who sell mostly at places like farmers markets.  If you read my previous blog post, you will know that hobby beekeepers aren’t getting rich on their honey.  The question that people should be asking is, “Why is the grocery store honey so cheap?”  The answer to that question will probably shock you.  

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R.I.P. Sue Hubbell

R.I.P.

Sue Hubbel

1935 – 13 October 2018

Author & Beekeeper

Sue-Hubbell

 

Sue Hubbel,  wrote the two books that inspired me to get into beekeeping.   “A Country Year” re-lit my childhood interested in bees, and the “A Book of Bees” gave me bee-fever.  Her book  “A Country Year” is up there with “A Year in Provence” by Peter Mayle and “We Took to the Woods” by Louise Dickinson Rich for exploring a new beginning in an alien culture and marks her journey from heartbreak back to a self-sufficient person.

I re-read both books on my summer vacation in the Wilds of Maine, which was the perfect place to explore some of the questions she asks about nature and people.  I walked the roads and edge of the lake looking for the various flora an fauna that s native to where I was.  It was perfect and reminded me of where the growth of my wanting to keep bees came from.

Hubbel’s choices in running a business with true husbandry inspire me. Her choices to simplify and standardize her equipment, and thinking about the what she has time for and having to prep for her busy harvest times showed real grit. I so admire her always showing measured care of her bees, but not coddling a laying-worker hive (i.e., no time for dither, shake out, combine hive resources, and bye!).

I mourn the loss of Sue Hubbell’s voice and wish there were more books ob beekeeping.  I wonder who she read, her reading list would be fascinating to me.  She passed away in Bar Harbour, Maine, I wished I’d know that she was there.  I would have loved to have met her.  I will have to settle for listening to her voice through her books.  Her wry humor will be missed.

 

 

Earthworm

Streamlined to the ultimate for functional performance the earthworm blindly eats his way, riddling and honeycombing the ground to a depth of ten feet or more as he swallows.

~Anatomy Underfoot, J.-J. Condue

 

Faroe_stamp_208_anthropochora_-_earthworm_(Lumbricus_terrestris)

How to treat a bee sting correctly?

800px-Bee-sting-abeille-dard-1

I am not an expert, so this is more “In My Humble Opinion”, and is meant as advice from a layperson. As with all insect bites, it is essential to keep calm. Treat a bee sting as follows:

1. Remove stinger
In a bee sting, the stinger remains stuck in the skin. This must be removed as soon as possible. The longer the stinger is stuck in the skin, the more poison is pumped into the body from the attached venom sack. Remove the stinger with your fingernail or with the help of tweezers.

2. Do NOT suck the bee venom with your mouth!
The sting should never be sucked out with the mouth, as the poison then gets on the tongue and passes through the mucous membranes faster into the body.

3. Which body part is affected?
If the mouth, throat or neck (also externally) are affected, a doctor should be consulted immediately as the swelling may affect the air supply. Until the doctor arrives, it is important to keep calm and to cool the bee sting, for example, by sucking ice cubes.

4. If an allergy to bee stings is known or does an allergic reaction occur?
Some people are allergic to bee stings. In this case, symptoms such as nausea, headache, drop in blood pressure, large-scale skin reactions and respiratory distress to an allergic shock occur. This could be an anaphylactic reaction and could be life-threatening. In this case, Call-911 immediately! And seek emergency medical assistance ASAP, such as going to an Emergency Room (ER). Insect allergy sufferers should always carry an emergency kit with them that has been prescribed by a doctor.

5. Check the injection site
If no allergy is known or is occurring, there is less of a need to hurry. Examine the puncture site with a magnifying glass: Is there no sting? Then it is most likely not a bee, but a wasp sting. Wasp stings treatment is similar, although there is no stinger to remove. However, a wasp can sting multiple locations so the pain and effect may be more serious.

6. Symptoms, and cool the sting site
The puncture site of the bee sting should be disinfected, preferably with a disinfectant spray from the medicine chest. Then cool the bee sting with ice cubes or a cold-pack. This relieves the pain and helps against the swelling. Apply a gel with an antihistamine to cool and soothe the itching. For moderately severe symptoms, treat the inflamed bee sting with a low-dose hydrocortisone preparation that relieves pain and swelling and can be used in children 6 years of age or older.

7. When must a doctor be consulted?
If after 2-3 days no significant improvement has occurred, then you should consult a doctor.

Here are a number of other information sources for quick reference:

There are a number of antidotal treatments for bee stings using herbs, weeds, and poultices which I might cover in the future.  Plantain-weed can be used to cool a sting site and sooth the pain; I personally think this was more to distract children from the pain to look for the weed.  For me personally, the pain dissipates in a few minutes.

Happy Beekeeping, and avoid getting stung.