Research, Surveys, and Opinions

By | January 9, 2013

Today at the ABF Convention, I attended a presentation on the benefits of quality queens.  Not that this isn’t obvious, but experimental data was reviewed proving quantitative ways of measuring queen quality.  It wasn’t really very practical for in-the-field beekeepers, but it was interesting nonetheless.

Part of the presentation cited this study by van Engelsdorp, et al.
A Survey of Honey Bee Colony Losses in the U.S., Fall 2007 to Spring 2008.

This 2008 survey lists poor queens as the number one cause of winter colony loss followed by starvation followed by mites.  I personally have to wonder how many of these losses were due to high mite loads or even moderate mite loads but with high viral loads due to the mites.  I think a very high percentage.

I think many beekeepers have trouble coming to grips with the fact that a hive died because of mites.  Many beekeepers chose not to treat and when a hive is lost, it’s a jagged little pill realizing that treating may have prevented the loss.  I’m not saying a loss is always because of mites, clearly there’s never an “always”, but I think in many cases, even if it’s not an obvious thousands-of-mites-on-the-bottom-board-with-mite-feces-in-the-cells-and-deformed-wing-virus-everwhere mite crash, mites played a role.  Sort of like going into the hospital because of heart disease and dying of pneumonia.  The heart attack is recoverable, but weakens you to the point that the pneumonia can give you a coup de grâce.

Also in this convention session the presenter asked who had been keeping bees for more than 10 years.  He then asked how many people thought queens were a lower quality and had to be replaced more often now than 10 years ago.  Almost everyone raised his hand.  I then wondered how much of this was simply pining for days gone by, simply thinking that the old days were the good old days, and better, even though 10 years ago we still had mites and probably more CCD than we see now.

I’m wondering how scientists can accurately set the direction for research if the compass used is the personal opinion of beekeepers who may not always be able to objectively diagnose results.

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