Yesterday there was a meeting of DARG, the Devon Apicultural Research Group, so I strayed over the border to Uplowman, nearTiverton, to attend. Unfortunately it clashed with Somerset’s annual Lecture Day so there were only 10 of us to attend to a presentation by The Bee Vet; Emily Simcock BSc(hons),BVSc(hons),MRCVS. She isn’t a beekeeper herself (yet!) and 90% of her vetinerary activity is with cows.
We did discuss the ways and means that EU approved substances can be used and obtained over here and they are considering entering that market place; however, beekeepers are notoriously tight-fisted so the market may be small.
The main part of Emily’s presentation was concerned with an experiment she is conducting with the help of the Buckfast Bee Lady, Clare Densley, who was present, to see whether the mite, Stratiolaelaps, that attacks the red mite that afflicts poultry, will also attack the Varroa mite. With the aid of powerpoint and and Excel bar chart she was able to show us the results so far.These are exactly the same mites that are used by The Chicken Vet.
Clare had used the treatment on 6 hives at Buckfast Abbey compared with 5 untreated controls. All the hives have ladies’ names rather than numbers; I’m not sure whether the name is of the colony or of the queen. I suspect the latter as if, for example, Ermyntrude is split, the daughter colony will become Ermyntrude 2, giving some clue as to the family tree on the female side.
Clare checked and recorded the mite drop on all the hives on a weekly basis. The treated colonies were given about 800 Stratiolaelaps mites on 11th April, 9th May, 26th June and 18th September. The controls were untreated until Bayvarol was used on 20th September when the graph showed that the Varroa numbers were soaring. Bayvarol has not been used there for 5 or 6 years and mite resistence has diminished so there was a drop of thousands!
Whereas the graph of the controls showed the expected steeply rising curve, that of the treated colonies showed an undulating wave along the bottom of the graph showing that the treatment works.
We discussed the pitfalls: first is the cost. Enough mites to treat 5 hives once would cost £14.50 and not many beekeepers would fork that out several times a year. The cost for a 10 hive treatment would be £25.70. Then comes the short ‘shelf life’ as the mites, being living creatures, can’t sit around in a tub for too long. Refridgeration prolongs their shelf life a little but not indefinitely. Then comes administration methods. The mites naturally live in the litter where fowls nest, so they will tend to head downwards, rather than staying in the brood area of the hive for example. If scattered on the top bars, a high proportion might just fall down and out. We suggested either the ‘newspaper’ method used for uniting colonies, which would enable a gentle entry into the hive as the bees chewed through the paper, or else the ‘teabag’ method, devised by the late Ron Brown for administering thymol and used by me last year.
It was a very interesting talk, breaking new ground for us. After Emily had done, the conversation ventured into other issues such as the sexual transmission of DWV and the incidence of foulbrood. Our leader, Richard Ball, who had once headed the Bee Inspectorate, told us that EFB is running at about 3% and AFB less than 1%. When the politicians learn of this, there may be cuts back in the number of Bee Inspectors!