Sunday, April 26, 2015

Finally some answers to the dying bees dilemma

It's been several weeks since I last posted because the dying bees dilemma has been quite time consuming and mentally draining.  The Bees kept dying and the initial diagnosis by the state inspector was only partially correct.  After the inspector came by the second strong hive ended up with a massive pile of dead bees in front of it.  And still .. bees walking around in circles on the ground very disoriented.

I called the state inspector and told him the problem was getting worse despite taking his advice to place feeders on the weaker hives and constrict all hive openings to make it easier for the bees to defend their hives from robbers and to make it harder for wax moths and hive beetles to gain access.

Despite these steps, the dying was actually intensifying. So a little more than a week after the initial inspection he came back out with another inspector to give it another look.  This time the inspection found the culprit. And it was grim. The hives were infested with varroa mites very bad and it caused a virus which they deduced caused the walking in circles on the ground.   In one weeks time, the hives were starting to look critical.  One of my weaker hives that looked very healthy last week was completely dead.  As we opened up that hive, two frames were covered in hive beetle larvae (looks like long magots).  Last week this hive had a lot of brood and honey.  Now nothing but hive beetle larvae and quite depressing.

My other two strong hives were border line.  One may make it and the other probably won't.  And finally my last feral hive I caught (swarm) was quite healthy still. 

The way they explained it to me was once the varroa mites weakened the bees and gave them the virus, the hive beetles and wax moths were able to get the upper hand and take over.  The hives were weakened which means a perfect target for robbers.  So it was a chain reaction.

What to do?  The next day I treated all my hives with powdered sugar.  I used an old 1940's flour sifter and filled it with powdered sugar.  Open up the hives and sprinkle several cups onto all the bees !  The net result is thousands of white ghost looking bees (not very happy I may add) all over the place.  The sugar gets on the bees and dislodges the mites which fall through the screened bottom of the hive.  The bees groom each other and in no time they're all clean as well as had a little snack of sugar.

I placed monitoring boards under the screened bottom to inspect after the sugar treatment.  And sure enough, the boards were filled with little red spec's of varroa mites as well as a good many hive beetles.  Until I figure out a more permanent solution for the mites the sugar treatments will be applied on a weekly basis for the next month. And the weaker hives will get feeders.

And after the inspectors checked out the bee farm hives I returned home to find my house hive fighting off honey robbers !  What a day.  The house hive also got a feeder and an entrance reducer.

It's been a heck of month so far.  Just part of the learning process.  So much to learn still.  Looks like I'll need to get the magic swarm trap out again.

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