Brood Trapping Varroa Management

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I, like many, am very interested in finding a chemical free varroa treatment that actually works well, and this technique seems very promising to me.  I'm planning on trying it with some of my hives this late summer/fall, and I wanted to get some opinions about it from you guys and discuss the mechanics and equipment needed for such a technique.  I apologize that the video is so long; take your time and don't feel any sort of pressure to reply quickly.  Special thanks to Mr. Van from Arkansas who was kind enough to send me the video.

I still have our mail correspondence from may this year.
I decided to copy my first answer to your questions here, I hope it's ok with you, but before I post any of your following questions and my answers you have to give me green light.

I have wondered a long time about what to do with a hive which is not resistant and might become a mite bomb, bombing my bee yard.
I was not happy with the thymol treatment although it helped and the hive was resistant the next year, me suspecting they had been triggered by the threshold, because one year later it was still the same queen and no treatment necessary.
But I prefer the managements B?cheler speaks about and want to test this in future, in case of emergency.

My answer in the mail is my own thoughts to that. Others might not agree. Maybe good to start a discussion.
Here the copy:

A summary of Ralph B?chlers ideas and my opinions to this:

1.Brood collector
You take out all brood combs of every hive you have and leave only empty comb, food comb.  You brush off 2/3 of bees and put them in the brood empty hive with queen. The 1/3 stay with the brood combs. You put the brood combs with bees in one or two or three hives with the 1/3 bee numbers and place this in another bee yard at least 5 km from your original one, so no bees go back.
You treat this bees with chemicals or you play live or let die, letting them rise new queens. You can use them for a starter too. Brake out all queen cells and put in a starter frame with good genetics.

My thoughts: You have to be good finding the queen. Much work. Need of two locations.
Personally I would never collect frames of different colonies in one hive or transfer frames between colonies.
Why not? It spreads disease. The virus and bacteria are much more dangerous than the mites themselves.
But, if you place those brood collectors separately and treat them, it might not be a problem and you breed many bees for new splits and honey harvest, so you can use those to replace your deadouts after winter.

2. Cage the queen
You put the queen in a special small cage which is as thick as the drawn comb and has a hole in comb in the middle for the queen to hide and be fed from both sides. The hive will hatch and the combs are empty. Then you treat the colony with oxalic and most phoretic mites are dead. A very efficient way to treat and not as hard on the bees like formic acid. After up to 24 days you let the queen go free. The oxalic needs some days to work.

My thoughts: If you consider bee queens which are caged and send into the world by mail, you will know that one week will work fine, but after that the queen has problems with fertility. B?cheler says one month is no problem but I don?t believe this. This queen will be superseded or there is a high danger that she will not survive the next winter. With feeding, the queen is prepared for seasons by the bees. In summer she is a laying egg machine, in winter she will be prepared for laying fewer cells or not at all. The same happens when the bees decide to swarm. The queen is going hungry so she can fly. In a time when the queen is a laying machine, a forced stop to lay might not be a good idea. Some queens will just press out the eggs and you find them on the varroa board. Very unnatural. Stress for the hive. Bet you will find many superseding cells.

3.Taking out brood and melt it down
You can do that using one comb or morel combs. Depends on how much the hive is infested.

My thoughts: You can watch infestation by monitoring mite downfall, but more important is whether you see virus damaged bees. If you see wingless bees, act immediately. You can make this a regular management if you have vulnerable bees and not yet resistant ones. In may take out some of the capped drone brood combs. Virus infested drones will not mate. They are too weak. But always leave some drone comb for mating the queens if you have bred virgins and for drawing the mites into drone cells instead of worker cells. If you have 6-8 combs of brood and 3 combs capped, its no problem to take one now and then over the year until end of July.  Hopefully it?s the comb with the most mites, but you never know. A mite ridden capped comb often looks spotty, has small holes in the caps or VSH appearance ( opened cells pupa to be seen)  Before melting combs you can open some cells and pull the pupa. Take 20-30 and watch how mite infested the cells are. Put the frame back into the hive if you have not found mites on the pupa. If you want to do something prophylactic to have healthy winter bees and no virus effects to be seen until late summer, take out all capped combs end of July. The bees are able to breed a whole lot of nurse bees then to care for the following winter bee brood, but they need a whole lot of food, a good flow or feeding, because one generation of foragers will be taken away.
Plus: You need comb to substitute for the melted comb. Bees are not good drawing new comb in late summer.

4. Trapping comb
You construct a cage for a whole empty comb out of queen excluder material, wherein you close in the queen so she can only lay on this comb.
The rest of brood hatches and most mites will go into the following open brood in this cage. After it is capped you take it and melt it down, putting the bees and queen on the empty comb.

My thoughts: Best method which I will use too in future to save colonies. My action will be in July before winter bees are bred so to have healthy winter bee nurses. You save all comb except one. Not a problem for the queen. While monitoring mite downfall over the year you can use this method two times, one time in late spring and one in late summer. In spring it might start swarm urge though. I?m quite sure that despite this method honey stores will be there. Probably good not to give the bees too much space so they don?t rise queen cells next to the cage frame. Best to do it  in a compact box with only one super or none at all so her pheromone smell is still there.
Easy to do.

I`m not as optimistic about swarming for preventing mite infestation peak like B?cheler says. I had the same infestation shortly after my bees swarmed. I?m sure there are more mites on the bees in a swarm than B?cherei claims. That is because in my hives there was not much capped brood left, and many queen cells. So the mites are on the bees and jump back into cells the first moment they can.
A swarm can be a real mite spreader as someone wrote on Beesource Forum. He took a picture and there were more than one mites on almost all bees. If you think about evolution this spreading would be the mites? success.
The old queen starts to breed right away on the first patch of comb the bees build in a new box or tree. Not much of a brood brake there.
The queen cells hatch right away too. The new queens start to lay after 3 weeks sometimes and this will not be sufficient time to kill mites.
Ihm a sceptic there. Mostly the mite infestation in my hives was influenced by genetics, although I must say that you don?t need expensive purchased queens. Just breed from the best colonies or multiply only the best with the lowest mite numbers. The others you can use for honey harvest.
What B?cheler says about mite fertility having to grow is a typical result of some research in laboratory. In a hive there are totally other conditions and I?m sure that some parameters like compact warm broodnest, no sugar feeding, a natural setting and stock coming from your own location adapted to your environment is much more important in fight against mite expansion than any sophisticated association research under artificial conditions.
After 6 years my own stock is resistant 50%. A very good result under my conditions and me practicing hard bond ( live and let die selection).
I only treated one hive with thymol in 6 years.


--- Quote from: SiWolKe on August 23, 2020, 12:02:18 pm ---I still have our mail correspondence from may this year.
I decided to copy my first answer to your questions here, I hope it's ok with you, but before I post any of your following questions and my answers you have to give me green light.

--- End quote ---
Absolutely, go ahead and post it all.  I think it would be a great resource for others who may be interesting in the technique.  :happy:

The dialogue:

3. Taking out brood.

This sounds to me like what we call drone trapping in the US, which I already do once my virgin queens are mated.  I feel if I'm going to go to the more extreme step of taking out all the brood, than the trapping comb idea is the better option, since it will hopefully catch most of the mites that are on the bees as well.

Consider again about that. If you take out all drone brood the mites are drawn into worker brood which means that they adapt to smaller cell size and might prefer worker brood in future. And diseased worker brood is much more a problem than diseased drones, which will go out and die, the circle of mite multiplying staying mostly in the drone areas until late summer, when the drones are expelled.

A solution might be to have one drone frames in the hive, of which you take out one in spring after mating, freeze, shake out the pupa ( remember, only take out capped brood!) and reuse, taking it out again before drones are expelled by the bees. After shaking out the pupa you can count the mites, which gives you a very good overview on the situation, if you want to do a little research. While this frame management is going on, try to have a little drone brood on every comb, like Dee Luby says. 10% she uses, a corner cut out of the foundation. In that case mites will avoid the worker brood more and you still can keep mite numbers lower by pulling the drone frames besides. A good compromise then, and be aware that the drones are a good help in warming the brood also.
In my case, I have no special drone comb, I have drones on every comb. If I wanted I could just cut away some corners with capped drone cells.
But I never did.

We resistant bees breeders are happy about colonies which breed drones the whole year and I know of no one who uses drone trapping frames or takes out drones at all, so we have trap cells for the mites all year long.That the mites have more young bred in drone cells seem to be a minor problem, I believe that is because bees sacrifice drone pupa whenever a crisis appears, for example in a cold spell or in a drought when they have not enough flow.
Plus: if you have a small amount of drone brood on every comb the bees are concentrating much more on having good worker brood compared to when you take out a whole comb. Which means they fight the mites better by grooming and VSH. They feel no lack of drones then.
And they are more aware of brood disease preventing this by feeding fresh pollen.
Pulling a whole frame might trigger the hive to substitute this frame by breeding drones much more than you want to and neglecting cleaning of the hive.
The same is with harvesting honey. Much better to take out only one frame at a time, so the bees stay content and not at once take away bees from caring for the brood and cleaning the hive to force them to be foragers, feeling a lack of stores.

4. Trapping comb

Okay, so this is the one I'm particularly interested in.  My biggest question is this: why do you need to have the queen on an excluder frame?  If you take out all the brood combs but one, which has older uncapped larva on it, and use that as the trapping comb, and the queen is still loose in the hive and continues to lay, and then you take out the trapping comb once it's capped, won't that work just as well? 

Because the phoretic mites are mostly on the nurse bees and waiting for their next chance to jump into open cells.
When more open brood frames are inside the hive the nurse bees will not all visit the caged frame comb but they will care for all open brood.
Aim is, that all nurse bees visit the caged open brood and lure the mites into those cells, which the mites will do, having no alternative.
Compare this to a car wash, the trapping frame washes away the ?dirt? on the bees.
Plus, how will you know if the queen uses only the one comb? She might crossover before she has used the one frame completely and then you have not enough infested cells on this one frame.
Be careful to take the capped frame before it hatches, the infestation on this frame must be terrible. But you have some days.
I plan to construct a trapping frame by using plastic queen excluders, they are easy to form into a ?bag? which you can reuse later.

Another thought:
To find out about resistance you need a monitoring schedule. Mine will be counting mites on the board and watching for deformed bees.
If I see more than three defect bees and more than 30 mites a day on the varroa board I will take action which means trap comb.
This is my threshold, but you have to find your own, it changes from location to location.
A sugar powder shake of the whole hive will give you a picture of the situation, 1/3 of mites are shaken down. This can be of help if you don?t know exactly what to do or if you have no varroa board. I don?t like to kill bees with alcohol shake and I believe alcohol shake to be inaccurate because most beekeepers use bees from honey supers above the excluder, not to kill the queen. But the phoretic mites are mostly on the nurse bees which means you need to find the queen not to endanger her.
So to make an alcohol shake with bees who store honey might give you a total different result than to make it with nurse bees.

Important is that you develop a stock which is not treated by prophylactic managements like drone cutting but left alone completely.
This needs some years. But it works.

  So let me just run through the process to be sure I understand it.  I find a comb that has empty cells prepared to be laid in, and I put the queen onto that frame enclosed in queen excluder, and leave the setup until the trapping frame is full of capped brood.  I've hopefully trapped most of the mites in that frame of brood, and I then remove it and destroy the mites by freezing or melting down the comb.  Sounds easy enough.  Is there any benefit to immediately repeating the process, or is once generally good enough? 

Yes, that?s it exactly.
I would not do it twice in a row, maybe, if the colony is very much affected, do it once in late spring ( but it could start swarm urge) and once in middle of July ( which is the important one, after setting the queen free she breeds the nurse bees for the winter bees).
Always think of your season and that the winter bees must be healthy and good cared for.
And consider the time until new bees hatch, if you break the cycle twice in a row you weaken the colony to a high degree and get no honey. Only old bees left which will have a hard time to care for young brood.
Might be worse than the mites.
If you need to do more than that one action with the trap frame consider a sugar powder shake of whole hive to get rid of more phoretic mites.
This triggers grooming too and is quite gentle on the bees.


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