2 Comments

Lost

I delayed writing this post, as I had need of time to compose myself. Poor Apple hive is no more – I feel very sad about it.

The cause: Basically it had too much of a mite load during late summer, and there were too few nurses to look after the brood. Gradually the hive got weaker and weaker, and even though I had the miticide strips in, the new crop of undiseased bees had nobody to look after them and keep them warm. I should have quit the harvest sooner, and put the strips in weeks earlier. I suppose that the age of the queen was also important in this, as she was starting to lose her effectiveness, and the brood pattern was beginning to have gaps.

I discovered the problem when feeding the chickens – there was a strange ‘thrum’ in the air, and when I looked around to find the source, there was a constant stream of bees back and forth to the neighbours. The hive was being robbed out by the neighbours 7 hives – they had 8, but lost one to mites as well.

I have since inspected the remains of the hive, very thoroughly. Nobody wants AFB (American Foul Brood), so inspecting a failed hive is not just important – it is vital. My brood showed no signs of ropiness (when a stick is put in to dead brood, AFB deaths will kind of stick to the stick, and the sticky stick will have a rope of brood mush which stays stuck). My brood were just squishy, not sticky or ropey, and didn’t have two of the other signs – bad smell and a sticking up proboscis. There was PLENTY of evidence of mite damage, but it was sad seeing the frozen or starved bees of the next generation, healthy but dead – the mite treatment had worked, just a little too late. I have also now blocked up the hive, so it cannot be robbed further. I will cut out any frames with dead brood, put in new foundation, and get it ready for spring time swarms/splits.

My other hive is still doing well, and the mite strips have done their job. I did need to feed it – and have made a little box which goes on the top of the hive to put sugar feed into. This will be the first year I have had to feed them, but sugar is fairly inexpensive.

I feel bad – this was a potentially avoidable loss, but I am consoled by the knowledge I have gained, to be able to prevent it in the future.

On the other hand – my neighbours have 7 hives, 6 of them from swarms from just 1 hive this last spring – they have not requeened, and so have lots of hives, with lots of honey, with swarm prone genetics. In the spring I will definitely be leaving clean, empty, hive boxes around the place in the hope of collecting some free hives. If this approach is successful, however, I intend to requeen to provide better genetic traits.

2 comments on “Lost

  1. So sorry about Apple. Dastardly bugs, those mites. Stay warm! We’re ramping up here in the northern hemisphere.

  2. Oh that’s horrible but I’m glad your not giving up. If you do get a swarm its a great opportunity to wipe out those mites once and for all. Once the swarm is hived, leave it a day or two to make sure they are drawing comb and planning on staying, then treat with vaporised oxalic acid. All the mites are riding on the bees backs at that point so are highly susceptible to the treatment, which doesn’t bother the bees in the least.
    Good luck!

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