This post is for me to present the research topic that HarBee Beekeeping will be looking into in 2020’s growing season. It isn’t a how-to, but if you feel that you come add in any way to this project I will greatly appreciate it.
Can remote scale Technology Detect a Re-infestation of Varroa after it has a robbing lure episode?
To start I want to lay down want I mean by robbing lure and mite bomb as there is a difference and I believe it to be important. Both these definitions are taken for Peck and Seeley (2019)
Robbing lure: as a hive is collapsing its ability to defend itself is greatly compromised. The collapsing, in this case, is because of a high infestation of Varroa mites. Because for their lake of defense the strong health colonies nearby, or in the same apiary, are prone to rub the honey from that collapsing hive during a time of nectar dearth. The is illustrated in Figure 1 by healthy bees going to the blue unhealthy hive and bringing back Varroa along with any stolen honey.
Mite Bomb: When the bees for a collapsing colony leave and abandoned their hive and move into healthy colonies in the area or same apiary. This is illustrated in figure 1 but the red hive and all its bees leaving and going into the healthy orange hives.
During an episode of both mite bomb or rubbing lure it is thought that Varroa mites have the ability to re-infest health colonies. Peck and Seeley (2019) demonstrated that both lures and bombs happen when a hive is collapsing and that the episode of robbing happens before the bees start to abandoned their hive.
So, when a healthy colony of bees is robbing an unhealthy colony it can bee assumed that there will be some kind of change in weight of that health colony, and the unhealthy (but less important), because honey is coming into the hive. So can this change is weight predict the re-infestation of varroa?
The negative change in weight of the unhealthy colony is less important to me because the unhealthy colony doesn’t have to be in the managed apiary. It can be a swarm that go away in early spring or the beekeeper down the road that’s isn’t taking care of his or her bees.
What I plan to do
I am going to put about 10 hives in an apiary, all on scales and treat for Varroa, to get their level of infestation down to near zero (below detectable limits), but at the same time I am going let one or two colonies, in the same apiary, become highly infested with mites causing them to fail in late summer when there is a nectar dearth. During late summer, nectar dearth in Northern NJ, I will end mite treatments, and monitor every 10 days for Varroa in all my healthy colonies. The healthy colonies will have nothing to do but to rob the failing colonies. With constant monitoring of Varroa levels and scales I will than look to see if the changes in weight is a predictor of a re-infestation of mites through the process of a robbing lure.
Since there would be little weight change when a mite bomb happens, I don’t know how to study it, for now. This is okay of the time being as Peck and Seeley (2019) mentioned that robbing lures are the driving factors of late season re-infestation of Varroa.
Stay tuned for updates, and please feel free to comment
Peck DT, Seeley TD (2019) Mite bombs or robber lures? The roles of drifting and robbing in Varroa destructor transmission from collapsing honey bee colonies to their neighbors. PLOS ONE 14(6): e0218392. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0218392