Monday, March 28, 2016

Do I need an IPM?

Unfortunately, I missed Debbie Delaney when she spoke on genetic diversity at my local bee club a couple of years ago. I've heard that she's an incredibly engaging and informative speaker who explains scientific ideas in an easily digestible manner for the layman.

However, I ran across some talks that she gave the National Honey Show, and I particularly wanted to share this one on the sustainability of honey bees. One of the things she shared in her talk is that she does not use chemicals in her hives. Honestly, it's thrilling and refreshing to find a scientist that advocates using other methods to control varroa. Instead, she advocates strongly for an integrated pest management (IPM) system that, while it may use chemicals in small doses, relies much more heavily on hygienic genetics, monitoring, and swarming/splitting. (BTW, the answer to the question in this post's title is "yes.")

Dr. Delaney's data on the survivability of hives that have been split vs. control hives that weren't is really interesting, and I'm looking forward to an update on data regarding the best timing of splits.

Anyway, if you haven't seen this already, it's well worth watching.

Here is a link to another talk she gave on genetics. It's a pared down version I think of similar talks she's given. If you do a search on YouTube, you can find them.


  1. A fellow (treatment-free) beekeeper here in Colorado split all his hives last Fall and for the first time has overwintered nearly all his colonies (as double nucs, Langstroth mediums or deeps). The ones with queens from spring swarms did not overwinter. I can't, for the life of me, figure out why he's so surprised. His success seems to support Dr. Delaney's theory. It's a lot of work, splitting, and then managing the increase. I joked with him yesterday that with 19 colonies, he's not going to have time for anything else.

    1. 19 colonies -- That's a lot of bees! You're definitely right about splits creating a lot of work. It's great that splits keep the bees healthy, but then what to do with all of the bees since my time and space are finite resources??? This year, I actually got to the point where I felt I'd welcome one or two deadouts. On the other hand, it's still better to have more bees than one needs than too few. :-)

    2. Between you and me, I think he'll be doing quite a bit of combining. His idea of treatment-free is too hands-off and that's where I think his losses consistently originate. I'm glad your colonies are doing so well, as Top Bar splits/nucs are quite a valuable thing in the Spring (or any time). I wish you great success. — H

  2. I finally watched this, or rather listened to it while driving back today from another office. Interesting talk, thanks for sharing. I notice that Dr. Delaney hasn't actually shown that splitting helps with survivability, only that it affects the number of mites while the bees build up (which should lead to survival, though you never know). She advocates the IPM method of measuring for mites and treating (via splitting and other non-chemical methods) when the measurement exceeds a threshold.

    I'm trying to split this year with this idea in mind, though I did use some formic acid when the mites were rather high. I'm trying to measure every month to see how the mites change over time. We'll see how it works.


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