Saturday, September 13, 2008

Honey Bee Mites

Varrora Mite, It looks like a tick.

It happened again! Last year I was in the middle of thinking about what an abundant year it was for acorns and pepperwood nuts, and Ben Schille made the comment that it was a “Mast Year”. A year with great abundance of nuts. This time, I was noticing that there were a lot of honey bees about, and wondering if it was my imagination, or if there really were more bees this year. Ben made the comment on Kym’s Blog that he had noticed that there are more bees than usual. He said: “I have lots of bees on my sunflowers. It’s great to see them back after the mite plague.“

So, why are there more bees this year, have they gained an immunity? I looked it up and the bees had more than just bee mites. Somehow the mites made the bees susceptible to bacteria and viruses also.

“This bee mite probably arose in the Eastern or Chinese Honey Bee population and hopped over to the United States in 1987. They quickly infested western or European honey bees. One sign of infection is the presence of bees with deformed wings. Also, sometimes seemingly healthy colonies become ill and the complete hive collapses in about two weeks.
"The native Chinese bees do not have the same problems," says Dr. Xiaolong Yang, post doctoral researcher in entomology and plant pathology, who raised bees in China. "I do not recall seeing deformed wing bees in the Chinese bee. Chinese honey bees have grooming behavior which can remove the mites from the bees. They get rid of the mites."

Have our bees gained an immunity to the bacteria and viruses, thus making it easier to survive, or have they learned to groom? Have they crossed with the Chinese bees that know how to groom? Anyway, I agree with Ben, It’s nice to “be” seeing them making a comeback!

Upon further research, I found the hilarious Answer... It is Serenhippity! The bee mite is killed by certain essential oils. "When varroa mites contact essential oils such as wintergreen, patchouli, tea tree oil, et al., mixed into oil or grease, they are killed on contact--usually within a few minutes."



Ernie Branscomb said...

Anybody that has bees should read the link on essential oils

ben schill said...

Ernie... My sunflowers are thick with bees this fall (well it's almost fall) It was so disturbing to have years where there seemed to be none or very few. The bumblebees worked hard to take up the slack I have a water line below the highway down to a river well. For fifteen years I had to watch out for two old empty asphalt drums with big wild honeybee hives in them. Those guys (girls?) were aggressive and could make me regret getting into their space. Then suddenly, one year, they were gone never to return. I always liked the idea that when some guy (girl?) used those drums for target practice, they unknowingly created two 50 gallon beehives.
A bee's life is pretty tough. I had a big wild bee hive in a hollow in an old oak. After years, the tree actually grew together and the hive was no more. I don't miss having to run by that tree every time I went up the hill but I do wonder if the bees found a new home or were sealed inside the tree like Poe's "Cask of Amotillado".

Ernie Branscomb said...

Darn it Ben, all I wanted to talk about was Bees, and you caused me to have to look up "The Cask of Amontillado". I had forgotten the story, and had to go refresh my Poe. I also had to look up “death by immurement”. I’ll save the other poor folks the trouble, it means: “To be walled up alive”
“In pace requiescat” (may he rest in peace). That Poe was one creepy dude!

Kym said...

What a great post Ernie! I, too, have been noticing the bees like Ben was talking about. I'm glad they're here and I guess I better start wearing essential oils to help them out.

Ben, that idea of the bees being walled up is creepy. The Cask of Amontillado is one of the scariest stories I ever read that and the Tell Tale Heart.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your reply to my 12:17am post.
Now, to stay on-topic, Rodney Dangerfield used to tell a joke about the talk he had with his boy about the birds & the bees:
"I don't think I explained it too well. Yesterday, a bee stung him and now he thinks he's pregnant."

Robin Shelley said...

Given the previous discussion(s) here, I half-expected you to say Poe's "Eureka: A Prose Poem" was your favorite piece of his work, Ernie. Boring as all get out, if you ask me, but it is, ironically, dedicated to the explorer, Alexander von Humboldt... you probably know something about him, too!

We're being encouraged to attract Mason bees up here to make up for the loss of pollination by the low population of honey bees.

Ernie Branscomb said...

So Robin, have you been able to attract any Mason bees?

I knew about Mason Bees but I didn't know a bunch of things about them until I read this article.

It seems like I learn something new everyday!

Now, on the change the subject again. Has anybody noticed the great abundance of field mice this year? It’s my theory that the abundance of critters relate to the huge acorn crop that we had last year. ( A small laugh… When I went back and checked my spelling, I had field mouse spelled “filed Mouse”. I’ll bet you haven’t seen any of those!)

Ernie Branscomb said...

I knew about these guys, Carpenter Bees, or as I call them Wood Bees

Ernie Branscomb said...

Bumble Bees. There are over 250 known species primarily occurring in the Northern Hemisphere.

Robin Shelley said...

I haven't tried to attract any yet, Ernie, as we haven't lived in this house long enough to know if we need bees. Or, at least, that's my story & I'm stickin' to it! But, according to a local gardening expert we heard at a lecture we attended, the way to attract them is to drill 1/4" holes in a post or block of wood & set it out in the yard. Sounds simple enough. I'll read the article you linked. Thanks in advance. Maybe I don't want to attract them? Maybe we already have them.
As for those &^$%* carpenter bees... well, we had some damage done by them to the cedar siding on our house in Laytonville. Busy bees, I must say... definitely don't want to attract any of them!
Seems to me I heard somewhere that, according to physics, bumblebees shouldn't be able to fly... hee, hee. Is that true?

Ernie Branscomb said...

Yep. Bumble bees can fly you just have to ask the right engineer.

The shape of the bumble bees wings cause turbulance that makes the air around the wings more firm and gives the wing something to lift against. As is the following explanation:

"Resolved computation of two dimensional insect hovering shows for the first time that a two dimensional hovering motion can generate enough lift to support a typical insect weight. The computation reveals a two dimensional mechanism of creating a downward dipole jet of counterrotating vortices, which are formed from leading and trailing edge vortices. The vortex dynamics further elucidates the role of the phase relation between the wing translation and rotation in lift generation and explains why the instantaneous forces can reach a periodic state after only a few strokes. The model predicts the lower limits in Reynolds number and amplitude above which the averaged forces are sufficient."

Anonymous said...

Robin's right about quarter-inch holes. In SW Idaho, the farmers buy "bee boards", slabs of wood pre-drilled with small holes. They are nailed to walls inside pollination sheds, which house the bees and measure roughly 8-ft. wide by 3-ft. high by 2-ft. deep. Many farmers also bait the roof of the sheds with poisoned raisins in an attempt to kill off the magpies who feed on the bees. A vast field of vetch abuzz with bees is a curious sound in the mid-day heat.

Robin Shelley said...

Bumblebees fly & that's good enough for me... I'll leave the "vortex dynamics" to you!