There are not enouh secongds in the day for me, so sometimes I lag on sending out updates.
- I just posted four articles on summer mite treatments, including my updates on extended-release oxalic acid (links further down).
- I’ve also recently revised my mite model to make it more user friendly: http://scientificbeekeeping.com/randys-varroa-model/
- And added a sugar syrup calculator: http://scientificbeekeeping.com/sugar-syrup-calculator/
- Soon there will also be a pollen sub formula calculator at the website (see further down).
- I’m also working on a simpler and less-expensive design for my battery-powered mite wash agitator, since having an agitator makes all the difference in the world as far as mite monitoring.
Beekeepers funding bee research they can use
Now that I’ve handed over our bee operation to my sons Eric and Ian, I’m officially retired, so am now free to engage in bee research full time! Many beekeepers (myself included) are frustrated by the fact that millions of dollars are granted to bee researchers each year, but that very little of it is for applied research that beekeepers can use for management decisions. So when I keep getting questions from beekeepers about something, and don’t see any researchers addressing them directly, I’ll often run experiments, tests, or field trials myself, funded by your donations. And the goal of my research is not for academic advancement, but solely for the benefit of you hard-working beekeepers. But most importantly, I’m as invested in learning how to be a better beekeeper as you are. So my research is by a beekeeper, for beekeepers.
I have a huge advantage over most bee researchers. I don’t need to earn a salary, I’ve got little lab overhead, and I’ve got 1500 hives at my disposal. So I can perform research at a fraction of the price (no multi-million dollar grants needed). Although I haven’t yet bothered with getting a 501c3, I run Scientific Beekeeping on a not-for-profit basis. So know that when you donate, you get a lot of bang for your buck!
Your generous donations allowed me to fill my plate with projects last summer, including four field trials:
Selective breeding for varroa resistance
We humans are in the midst of a virus pandemic, transmitted by aerosols. Our bees have been in the midst of a virus pandemic for some time, transmitted by the varroa mite.
We’ll stop worrying so much about the coronavirus in a while. Similarly, some day we’ll all be keeping bees resistant to the mite. To that end, my sons and I are diligently continuing our selective breeding program for mite resistant bees. Frustratingly, we’re finding that it is taking some time to lock in the heritability of the trait. Despite breeding only from colonies which completely control varroa on their own, five years into serious selection for mite resistance, we haven’t yet passed the 10% mark for colonies that don’t require treatment of some sort:
Yes, frustrating, but I gotta tell you, it’s possible to have strong, very gentle colonies that are great honey producers, that absolutely don’t require any mite management. So we’re not about to give up!
Field trial #1
Until we lock in resistance, we must continue to help our bees manage the mite. The most important time to manage varroa is in the period from early spring through midsummer. Doing so prevents the mites from ever reaching an infestation rate at which DWV starts to affect the colony. To that end, I performed a field trial of mite treatments that can be applied while honey is on the hive, and have just posted four articles to my website.
Part 1 gives the background on mite population dynamics, treatment options (including extended-release oxalic acid (OAE)), and experimental design: http://scientificbeekeeping.com/mite-control-while-honey-is-on-the-hive/
Part 2 shows the results of the formal trial: http://scientificbeekeeping.com/mite-control-while-honey-is-on-the-hive-part-2/
Part 3 discusses the effects of formic treatment upon queens, and additional results from OAE: http://scientificbeekeeping.com/mite-control-while-honey-is-on-the-hive-part-3/
Part 4 goes deeper into my findings on OAE, as well as Q&A about its progress towards registration: http://scientificbeekeeping.com/mite-control-while-honey-is-on-the-hive-part-4/
OAE (and perhaps extended-release thymol) is going to be a game changer for varroa management. I’m totally impressed by how efficacious, inexpensive, and easy it is to use.
Field trial #2
I’ve got two articles in press on my testing of thermal treatment for mite control, with a graph of “thermal death time” curves for bees and mites that may help developers of devices. Yes, it’s an option, but I doubt that thermal treatment will be cost effective for larger-scale beekeepers.
Field trial #3
I’ll also be writing about my testing of two commercial probiotics. Preview: the results of my field trial did not support claims that the monthly feeding of either probiotic resulted in either greater colony strength, or in larger honey crops. I currently have samples in for analysis by next-gen sequencing to see how the probiotics affected the gut microbiomes, the levels of pathogens, and with recovery from antibiotic treatment.
Field trial #4
Following my comparative test of the pollen subs in 2013, I ran a field trial this year to include new products on the market. This trial involved 144 hives, and I tested seven different pollen subs. The results are of great interest, since some of the subs consistently, and substantially, outperformed the others.
My write up of the trial will likely take a couple of articles, followed by at least a couple of others doing a deep dive into bee nutrition, especially with regard to essential amino acids.
The reason for that is because it appears that I could predict the performance of the subs simply from the lab analyses of the ratios of their essential amino acids:
The stunningly high correlation coefficient above, coupled with the fact that my analysis is based upon de Groot’s seminal research (published in 1953, and not followed up upon since), strongly suggests that I’m onto something, and that some of the subs have unbalanced amino acid ratios.
This then allowed me to create a user-friendly spreadsheet calculator that allows anyone (including the manufacturers) to create and/or adjust their own pollen sub recipe to attain maximum performance. I hope that this will be a breakthrough for our industry. I will soon be posting the calculator for free use by anyone.
A unpleasant surprise
Oh, and one last thing. I’ve recently been diagnosed for having a squamous-cell tumor (caused by human papilloma virus) in the base of my tongue. I start chemo and radiation therapy the first of March. Wish me luck,but please do not send me any good luck emails, since my inbox is already killing me! I thank you in advance for your thoughts and prayers, and with luck will be able to continue the research that I have planned for this year.
It’s a beautiful spring. I just spent a lovely day in the almonds, helping my sons to balance colony strengths before grading (in a U.C. experimental orchard that we’ve pollinated since before my sons rode in the truck in car seats). I look forward to a great spring.
Happy beekeeping to all,
Randy (again, please no replies, thanks)