Document 133844

Bimonthly newsletter for
Volume 46 Issue 4
Vice Presidents: Victor Bilokin, John Humphries
Secretary: Dave Wilson 94842596
Treasurer: Sheryl McIntosh
Newsletter Editor: John Humphries, 3 Kirrang Drive,
Medowie 2318
[email protected]
August/September 2009
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password printed on the envelope of this
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Varroa Destructor
We thank our members Shaun Garvey, Victor Bilokin for supplying this article
At the Macarthur Beekeepers Association Inc on Wednesday the 13th May (09) Victor
Bilokin and Shaun Garvey (along with 50 other beekeepers) attended a special meeting
organised by NSWAA Sydney Metropolitan Branch and the Macarthur branch of the
Special on the night was an open discussion by 10 visiting apiarists from New Zealand
who had come to Australia with the purpose of warning us about the varroa mite and also
as a fact finding mission about the small hive beetle and other pests facing apiarists in
As they told their story it unfolded that we in Australia are extremely fortunate that
varroa has not yet arrived here. This gives us the privilege of a lead time to prepare for
it’s arrival.
Prior to it’s arrival in 2000, New Zealand beekeepers were warned that once varroa
arrived “Beekeeping, would be changed forever.” On reflection they said that “Never
was a truer word spoken.” Members of the group shared that there was very little
preparation, and no contingency plan put in place by the N.Z. quarantine department.
Some of the beekeepers had one treatment ready to go but this (in hindsight) was too
little. They should have had an initial eradication treatment and 2 to 3 follow up
treatments ready to strike varroa minimising its spread.
From the 10 NZ beekeepers at the meeting 6 were professional apiarists. Of these, only 2 had not yet had varroa infect their colonies due
mainly to isolation with hives placed away from infected zones.
The story runs that once the mite arrived and had taken hold, there were contingency plans set in place with quarantine lines set across the
country and the movements of hives carefully monitored. What however was not monitored by the quarantine department was the movement
of houses and timber (milled and unmilled). As most beekeepers are aware, trees and houses are primary nesting sites for swarms. This was a
significant oversight by the government during the quarantine.
In the hive
Varroa’s presence in a hive has the appearance of spotty brood. The mite,
which travels on the bee, enters a brood cell just before closure. (See pictogram
at end of report) The first egg laid in a cell by a mature mite is male,
subsequent eggs are females. The mite has a preference for drone over worker
cells. After 10 days, the mite exits the cell with the young bee. Some immature
mites will remain in the cell and attach later to other bees as they
clean/maintain the brood cells.
Testing for Varroa
This is done by either looking closely at dead bees and finding the mite under
the abdominal scales or by what is called the sugar shake test.
This is done by placing approximately 300 bees in a jar with a teaspoon of
castor sugar. Cover the mouth with a lid and then shake the billyo out of the jar.
This dislodges some mites from the bees. You then take the lid off the jar and
cover the opening with mesh. Shake out the castor sugar over water or a white
surface. The mites will then fall onto the water or the observation surface where
they are conspicuous. (red in colour and about the size of a pin head)
Treatment/control of varroa.
Our guests said that this mite is able to be stopped. Australian Quarantine needs to be on the ball in
monitoring for its arrival and once varroa is here initial bee eradication will stop the mite. This will
require a controlled hive and swarm destruction within a determined region. The NZ apiarists,
determined this to be a small price to pay for the subsequent work and economic loss that would
ensue once the mite takes hold.
As the mite arrived in New Zealand in 2000, the Kiwi’s have taken on the task of managing it by
both natural and chemical means.
Physical or mechanical methods
Varroa mites can be partially controlled with non-chemical means. Most of these controls are
intended to reduce the mite population to a manageable level, not to eliminate the mites completely.
These include:
Isolating bee colonies from infected regions
Small cell foundation (4.9 mm across - about 0.5 mm smaller than standard) is believed
to limit the space in each cell that varroa mites have in which to inhabit and also to
enhance the difference in size between worker and drone brood with the intention of
making the drone comb traps more effective in trapping varroa mites. Small cell
foundation has staunch advocates though controlled studies have been generally
Comb Trapping is an advanced method that removes capped brood from the hive, where
the varroa mites breed. The queen is confined to Comb A using a comb cage. After nine
days the queen is confined to a new comb – Comb B – and the brood in Comb A is left to
be reared. Nine days later the brood in Comb A - now capped and infested with varroa
mites - is removed. The queen is then removed from Comb B and placed on to Comb C,
with the brood in Comb B left to be reared. Nine days later Comb B is removed and the queen is excluded from Comb B. Nine days later
Comb C is removed. This complex method can remove up to 80% of varroa mites in the hive.
Screened bottom board When mites occasionally fall off a bee, they must reconnect to a new host to stay alive. If the beehive has a
screened floor with mesh the right size, the mite will fall through the mesh and perish. The screened bottom board is also being credited
with increased circulation of air, which reduces condensation in a hive during the winter. However, (Studies at Cornell University
conducted over two years found that screened bottoms have no measurable effect. Northeast Beekeeper Vol 1 #1 Jan 2004)
Behavioral methods
Powdered sugar (Dowda Method), talc or other “safe” powders with a grain size between 5 and 15 micrometres can be sprinkled on the
bees. The powder does not harm the bees (and, in the case of sugar, can even become a small food source), but repeated grooming does
interfere with the mite’s ability to maintain its hold on the bee. This causes a certain percentage of mites to become dislodged. Powdered
sugar works best associated with a screened bottom board.
Freezing drone brood takes advantage of varroa mites’ preference for longer living drone brood. The beekeeper will put a frame in the
hive that is sized to encourage the queen to lay primarily drone brood. Once the brood is capped, the beekeeper removes the frame and
puts it in the freezer. This kills the varroa mites that are feeding off of those bees. It also kills the drone brood. As an excess of drones is
normal, it would not generally be considered a loss. After freezing, the frame can be returned to the hive and nurse bees will clean out
the dead brood and mites.
Drone brood excision is a variation applicable to top bar hives. Bees tend to place
comb suitable for drone brood along the bottom and outer margins of the comb.
Cutting this off at a late stage of development (“purple eye stage”) and discarding it
reduces the mite load on the colony. It also allows for inspection and counting of
varroa on the brood.
Hygienic Behaviour. Hygienic behaviour is biological behaviour with genetic traits
that can be bred into bees. This behaviour causes bees to smell infected brood and
remove them before the infestation spreads further.
Swarming or queen-arrest method. By interrupting the honey bee brood cycle, mites
reproduction is also blocked.
Multiple queens. another method of helping a hive survive varroa is to build bee
numbers in a hive artificially by developing double or triple hives (2/3 queens per
hive ensuring high population numbers) This is especially important as going into
winter the hives need to be very strong with a high number of young bees to overcome the attrition that will occur.
Sticky boards are boards that have an adhesive that does not interrupt bee movement but cause the mite to not be able to reattach to a
bee once it has fallen to the floor of the hive.
Natural chemical treatments
A number of natural oils and treatments can be used but as some of these are water soluble, they have the potential to become part of the
honey and thus affect flavour.
Essential oil especially lemon, mint, and thyme oil
sugar esters (Sucrocide) in spray application
oxalic acid trickling method or applied as vapour (Dany’s BienenWohl or VARROX-Vaporiser)
formic acid as vapour or pads
Food grade mineral oil as vapour and in direct application on paper or cords
Synthetic chemical treatments
For chemical treatments, timing is critical and the chemicals need to be in place 8 – 10 weeks prior to the honey flow.
They come in the form of plastic strips impregnated with fluvalinate which are inserted between frames and have been found to be 99%
effective. Treatments are given in spring and autumn and cost between $12 – 14 per hive. (that may be in NZ dollars)
Proper Treatment with commercially-available miticides also slows the development of resistance of the mites.
pyrethroid insecticide (Apistan) 2 strips per hive
organophosphate strips (Coumaphos (Check-mite))
Manley’s Thymol Crystal and surgical spirit recipe with sugar as food.
Treatment can follow a few variations but using both is seen to be effective. A treatment in spring with Coumaphos and then in Autumn a
following treatment with Apistan. The side effects of using the chemicals are that you may need to extract honey earlier than planned to fit in
with treatment times. There appears to develop an increased tendency of colonies to swarm in spring.
The synthetic chemicals are fat based and thus will build up in the wax but not the honey. At the meeting, we were assured that this was the
case and that there was not transfer of the chemicals from the wax to the honey. An offshoot is that it follows that there would occur a buildup of the chemical from one season to the next when the wax is recycled into foundation. It has not been determined if this then allows a hive
to become resistant to Varroa through the presence of the chemicals in the wax. (The UK and USA research needs to be investigated, as some
information is available to the contrary)
Species resistance
It seems the varroa only acts against the honey bee. If dropped off onto a flower it may hitch a ride on a bumble bee or other insect but then
drops off again without attaching to the insect. It will happily hitch a ride on another honey bee thus spreading throughout other hives. Two
strains of bees have been found to be resistant to varroa. One is a non honey producing bee in the northern regions of China close to Russia
and the Africanised bees (which we need to keep offshore).
Introduction of Varroa around the world
Early 1960s Japan, USSR
1987 USA
1960s-1970s Eastern Europe
1989 Canada
1971 Brazil
1992 England
Late 1970s South America
2000 New Zealand (North Island)
1982 France
2006 New Zealand (South Island)
1984 Switserland, Spain, Italy
2007 Hawian Islands
1987 Portugal
let’s hope Australia does not get added to this list.
Parallel life cycles (Honey bee and varroa)
The New Zealand apiarists were also in Australia to find out about the small hive beetle. From discussions, one beekeeper had found an
interesting means of control. He had located his hives in the chook yard and found that he did not have one beetle in his hives. It seems the
chooks enjoy both the beetle and the grub but do not eat nor are they attacked by the bees.
With thanks.
In forming this report I must first thank the New Zealand apiarists for their generosity in not only coming to Australia to learn of our
challenges but also to warn us of the threat of varroa. The NSWAA Sydney Metropolitan Branch and the Macarthur branch of the ABA for
their willingness to proof read this report and provide feedback. Finally the internet which has provided further information that supplements
and expands on what was presented by the NZ apiarists.
Northern Rivers Branch
President/Secretary: Merv McDonald 66283687
Treasurer: Peter Dickson-Smith 66492009
Illawarra Branch
Bob Nicholas (President)
Geoff Henning (Secretary) 9528 4292
Ken Mooney (Treasurer) 9709 5484
Central Coast Branch
Meetings held on 3rd Wednesday of the month commencing 7.30pm at SOHIER COMMUNITY HALL, entry off Shirley Rd.,
Ourimbah, on the 3rd Wednesday of each month. Starting time 7.30pm.
All things relevant for amateur beekeepers.
New visitors are more than welcome to attend.
President: Martin Roberts (02) 43721381
Secretary: Toni Mitchell (02) 43321597
Macarthur Beekeepers Assoc Inc
Meetings at Jack Nash reserve at 7:30 pm
President: Bruce Wallis 9605 6688
Field days at Campbelltown apiary at 9:00am
Treasurer: Jean Haavasalu 46818540
Secretary: Barry Austen 48 851 705
Nepean Branch Inc.
Meet in the rear grounds of Nepean High School. A ten minute walk from Emu Plains railway station. Start approx 9.30 and
finish whenever. Please close the gates behind you. At all times bring your own veil and white coverall and some lunch to
munch on.
Sunday August 9. We will have a theory session about what should be done about our bees this time of year. We will also
have a film about Varoa Destructor and its world wide impact. And we will do some practical assembly and repairs as time
permits. BYOL Please return both our wiring boards as we need them on the day.
Sunday September 13. Theory and practice following on from August. Please make sure you leave any gates, as you find them.
Remember, we are but guests at the High School.
Further info: Ring Eddie on 4751 3941 or 0408 024 295 or e-mail: [email protected]
President: Eddie Sijnstra (02) 4751 3941
Secretary: Paul Richardson (02) 4739 0381
Hunter Valley Branch
Meetings held fourth Sunday in the month at Hunter Region Botanic Gardens.
10am Sunday, 23rd August
10am Sunday, 27th September
President: Ted Flower (02) 49681483
Secretary: Jim Wright (02) 4959 3138
Saturday, 24th October 2009 TOCAL BEEKEEPER’S FIELD DAY
Parramatta District Branch
2nd Wednesday of month. Field Day on following Sunday. Meetings held at James Ruse High School Ag Section, Carlingford
Meetings in Agriculture classroom – field days in club apiary – entrance via Baker St. Wednesday meetings 7:30 pm start
President: Peter Thorley
Secretary Dave Wilson 94842596
Treasurer: Norm Webb
Extractors Claudio Natoli 9629 9621
Ray Szymanski 9869 2400
The Amateur Beekeeper is the newsletter for The Amateur Beekeepers’ Association of New South Wales Incorporated.
Contributions to The Amateur Beekeeper are welcome. Material must be submitted, in writing, to the Editor before the 15th of month to be considered to
inclusion in The Amateur Beekeeper the following issue or subsequent issues at the Editor’s discretion. Articles published do no necessarily contain the views
of the Editor unless specifically expressed and whilst every care is exercised, the Editor and/or Council of ABA (individually or corporately) do not hold
themselves responsible for errors or omissions. Information contained in this publication is provided as general advice only. For application to specific
circumstances, professional advice should be sought. All inserted material must be booked with the Editor and may not necessarily contain the views of the
Editor and/or Council of ABA.
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For more information contact:
The Editor
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Saturday, 24th October 2009
9.30- 10.30 Hive Manipulation for Beginners
10.30-11.00 Morning Tea
11.00-12: Diseases currently of concern, Nosema,
Small Hive Beetle, Varroa
12.00-12.30: Bee Nutrition with special reference to
pollen qualities and recognition of flora of most value
to bees
12.30-1.30: Lunch (Still byo unfortunately)
1.30-2.30: Demonstration of extraction
2.30-3.30: Preparation for the various seasons