I opened up my hives today and was chagrined to see that Hive 1 had some bees with wing and abdomen abnormalities due to varroa mite infestation. My other two hives also have mites but seem to be chugging along for now. I finally saw the queen of Hive 1 as well, which was excellent, but it was obvious that something needed to be done.
I’ve done scads of research online on the efficacy of the powdered sugar treatment. Some people say it works, some people say it’s a waste of time. The theory is that the sugar is just the right size to get under the mites’ feet and unstick them from the bees as they groom it off each other. It won’t do anything for the mites inside the cells, but you can treat multiple times to get them once they emerge. For instance, once a week for three weeks. I decided I had nothing to lose, so I installed my new DIY screened bottom board and got out a cup of icing sugar.
At least this treatment is easy to apply! I dumped the cup of sugar on the top brood box and brushed it in between all the frames. I soon had a bunch of very white, very pissed off bees.
Then I closed it up and waited. But not for long… Less than an hour later I had to check and see the results, if any. I pulled out the tray and my jaw absolutely dropped.
It was totally loaded with mites! I counted probably around 600 mites and after I waited another couple of hours there were easily 1000 mites on the tray, struggling in the sugar. That is a LOT of phoretic varroa.
I am SO glad that I decided to do this treatment. I immediately got to work making two more screened bottom boards for my other hives and they will be getting treated as soon as possible. I plan to give them all a weekly treatment for at least three weeks or until the mite drop is significantly lowered. I’m so glad that I didn’t have to resort to any harsh chemicals and I’m incredibly impressed with how this simple trick has worked.
Bees need water! It’s not so much of an issue now in the spring, but in the heat of summer you don’t want them visiting your neighbors’ swimming pools and bird baths. Not everyone is fond of them!
It’s instinctual for us to want to provide clean, fresh water for our pets and livestock, but bees don’t like it that way. For whatever reason, they seem to prefer stagnant water full of debris that has been sitting around for as long as possible. Perhaps that makes it easier to smell?
We do know why they appreciate debris, it’s so they can get a drink without drowning. A perfect solution to your thirsty bee problem is a bowl full of pebbles, moss and leaves, woodchips, or a combination of the above. It’s a good idea to get it in place now so the bees can learn where it is by the time they really need it. If you leave it in a place where rainwater can replenish it, all the better.
The snow is finally all gone and each of my three hives are busy with housekeeping. When I looked in on them today I saw many dead bees being dragged out and amazingly, I saw bees loaded with pale yellow pollen coming in!
I haven’t seen any flowers blooming anywhere yet except for the snowdrops, so perhaps they are harvesting those. I haven’t noticed a single bee visiting the snowdrops on my property though, even though we have a fair amount. At any rate, it was a very cheerful sight!
There was lots of activity in all three hives and lots of fuzzy new bees. You can tell young bees by how fuzzy they are as the older they get the more bald they look. One new little bee took a break on my hand to warm up and groom herself a bit before returning to work. Did you know the first job a bee has is cleaning out the cell she has just emerged from?
It’s official, all three of my colonies are still alive!
We’ve had a very cold winter for our area, and I wasn’t sure what to expect since this is my first overwintering with bees. So far things have been pretty shut down buzzwise with no activity at all and a lot of dead bees outside the entrances. Today was the first warm sunny day we’ve had in weeks and to my great happiness I noticed bees flowing in and out of all three hives.
Some of my hive parts are a little worse for wear with all the moisture we’ve had and will likely have to be replaced in spring. All that really matters though is that there seems to be good numbers of girls busy cleaning out bee bodies, going on cleansing flights and generally looking very healthy indeed.
Winter isn’t actually over yet, but I’m optimistic all my hives will be around come springtime when they will hopefully swarm, and I will hopefully catch those swarms!
It’s a gorgeous, sunny day today and my hives are going like gangbusters. The nuc hive has received its second deep brood box and my established hive are working on drawing out their new honey super. Here are a few shots of my bees working in the lavender.