- Animals: bees
- Animal Production: parasite control
- Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
- Pest Management: biological control, cultural control
- Production Systems: transitioning to organic, holistic management
- Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures
Traditionally, modern agriculture has turned toward chemicals in order to deal with pest issues. This project will test the ability to prevent Varroa mite populations from reaching damaging proportions in honey bee colonies solely through the beekeeper’s use of physical management techniques. These techniques include the use of screened bottom boards, a break in the brood cycle, the culling of older comb, and the removal and destruction of capped drone brood that contains reproducing mites. If such techniques, when combined, can be shown to sustain the lives of colonies without the use of chemical treatments, it will reduce pesticide use, while increasing bee health and profitability, and help reduce the costs and labor associated with yearly colony losses. Fortyfive nucleus colonies will be split into three groups of fifteen hives each. A test group that receives the above mentioned management techniques, a treatment group that will receive a commercial mite treatment, and a control group. The results on long-term colony health, honey production, and mite population levels will be monitored over the course of three years and shared with beekeepers across North America, through an article in a national beekeeping journal, the internet, and through presentations to beekeeping groups.
Project objectives from proposal:
Mite populations in all hives will be monitored twice a year, once in May and once in early September following the honey harvest and prior to the application of varroa treatments where applicable. In addition, hives that receive commercial mite treatments will be monitored for mites following completion of their respective treatments. Mite monitoring will be accomplished by obtaining ½ cup of bees ( ~ 300) from the brood nest and putting them into the mason jar. About 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar will be placed into the jar and a lid will be placed on the jar. The bees and sugar powder will be vigorously shaken to dislodge the mites. The jar of bees will be allowed to sit for a minute, and the shaking repeated. The lid will be replaced with a wire mesh cap and the sugar and mites will then be shaken out through the screened top onto a white plate. The powdered bees will be returned to the hive and then the powder on the plate will be sprayed with water using a spray bottle to dissolve the sugar in order to make any brown mites removed during the process clearly visible on the white plate. The number of mites visible will be divided by three in order to determine the percent infestation of the sample.
The following is an outline of the project timeline: