Give Bees a Chance. That's what is on the back of the colorful shirts you can see here at the most recent outdoor meeting of the Worcester County Beekeepers Meeting. This one was in Sutton and it was a nice hot day with clear weather.
Ken Warchol, Bee Inspector and fabulous teacher is showing how to do an assessment for mites. This isn't for the faint of heart or the casual beekeeper, this is serious science. The idea is that you should test to determine if you you need to treat for mites by sampling about 150 bees from a hive. Ken demonstrated the sampling in a lovely and elegant fashion. Ken scoops just the right number of bees into alcohol and the rest remain undisturbed.
Me, well, lovely and elegant my sampling is not. I shake a frame of bees, nurse bees specifically, into a wash tub and scoop them with a measuring cup. One cup of bees is about 150. I knew you'd want to know.
After you have soaked the bees in the alcohol, you strain out the bees and pour the liquid through a coffee filter. Then you count. I love data!
Look closely at the filter. Really closely... there are three mites on the paper. You should treat if you have more than eight or nine mites. This sample is post treatment. If you treat early in the year, you should retest.
So how did my bees do? Our girls were fine. We had a good but not crazy high mite load in August so I treated. I did treat all three hives even though it might not have been necessary to treat the split hive (Cerulean's hive). They haven't really had enough time to get high mite levels. Nonetheless, I treated all the hives since they are in close proximity to the other hives.
Treating for mites can take many forms. We use formic acid and this is normally found in a hive but in low levels. We want to blast those nasty mites away from the bees. Blast we did and there are two potential consequence to this treatment in addition to fewer mites. First, and I quote here, the queen will have a renewed vigor in laying. That is exactly what happened in two hives. The queens are laying like crazy.
And second, you can lose a queen. That is exactly what is happening in one hive. The queen didn't die from the treatment but it messed with her something fierce. Her laying pattern is terrible and there aren't many larvae. It isn't a laying worker, it is a queen but a bad one. And the workers know it. They are ready to toss her to the curb. The new queen should be out in the next week and I already have a great name for her. Just wait!
In my next post, I will give you some of my favorite uses of honey. And it isn't just eating.