Bit of a Do 2013 workshop on varroa tolerance

page in preparation.

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Might our bees be doing something to remove varroa from the hive? How would we recognise this? What signs might exist in the debris that falls though the mesh floor?

Other beekeepers in the UK and on the continent have bees that are tolerant of varroa. Several traits or characteristics contribute to Varroa Tolerance: self or auto-grooming; nestmate or allo-grooming; hygienic behaviour (specific to varroa);

Grooming may be seen when you open a hive, perhaps on the top bar. Opening a hive without smike, gently, will facilitate seeing natural behaviour and therefore grooming on the frame sides. Hygienic removal of cappings, followed by removal of an accessible foundress may leave a damaged mite on the floor of the hive. Removal of pupae by chewing them to get at mites leaves pieces of white pupae on the collecting floor as well as immature mites, also damaged. Mite damage from after-grooming attention or as a result of nestmate grooming amy be severe.

We will therefore examine the debris for signs of pupal bits and damaged varroa.

For your own assessments, it is useful to examine the debris first and ascertain any patterns of damage under the frames so as to identify the location involved.

the workshop

Bring a sample of hive debris taken in late July - one week's debris from your varroa tray under the mesh. Thansfer it to a suitable bag, e.g. a lockable plastic bag. Do this very carefully so as not to damage any varroa, e.g. by tapping the floor so that the debris falls on to a funnel or plastic box such as a food container before final transfer to your bag. Then store your bag in a freezer until the day. We will have a close look at the contents using various magnifiers and microscopes and discuss what other observations would help identify colonies doing something interesting and worth following up.

NB Collection in mid to late July ensures maximum numbers of mites in the hive and potential for removal behaviours to be triggered as irritation is at a maximum.

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