I thought I would try and be a bit more of a natural beekeeper and not use smoke (or water spray) this time I opened my hives. It’s harvest season and the bees definitely have something to defend, so I was not sure of the wisdom of trying this approach at this time of year, but what the heck. If it got tough, I’d go back with smoke.
Well, there was no noticeable effect of not using smoke. The bees were no more aggressive, perhaps less so, as I received no stings and was not even aware of any high pitched squeals, or vibrations on my gloves or clothes that would have meant a bee was trying to sting me.
This might be an exception and I might have friendly bees. It was definitely not because I am a bee whisperer. I will keep going with my non-smoke approach.
Update on my hives.
Hive A / Original Hive
One super was pretty full of nectar. About 30% capped. One super seemed to have some mildew? I called one of my beekeeping mentors and he advised leaving the super on until the start of September and hope that the bees cap the rest of the honey. The risk is that they will eat it though! Is this what other beekeepers would do?
Super with capped honey and nectar – hope they cap the rest?
A moldy super? Will the bees clean it up?
There was some nectar in one frame of the 2nd super. But I just removed the whole lot so the bees focused on capping the honey in the first super. Not sure if this was the right thing to do?
I had put the Varroa count board under the open mesh floor 24 hours before. I counted 15 Varroa mites on the board, some of them were obviously alive and walking around. From reading the FERA National Bee Unit guidance on Varroa we don’t want more than 1,000 Varroa in our hives otherwise there is the risk of colony collapse. You can roughly calculate the number of Varroa in your hive by taking the daily mite drop and multiplying as follows:
November to February: daily mite drop x 400
May to August: daily mite drop x 30
- March, April, September and October: daily mite drop x 100
There is also a handy Varroa calculator at Bee Base … It would have been best to do a count over a week, but I can do that in a few weeks time. Essentially, it seems like I have about 500 Varroa mites and this will grow rapidly over the next few weeks. Crikey.
A Varroa mite (middle, middle)
I have looked through the FERA guidance. It’s too late in the season to undertake further biological controls beyond my open mesh floor (essentially, drone brood culling and artificial swarms) and it seems I am in a pyrethroid resistant area. The oxalic acid treatment sounds a bit rough on the bees and one of my bee buddies killed all his bees when he tried it one year. Hence, I am going to try Apiguard which is described as a natural product and thymol-based. From reading the Apiguard instructions it seems one has to close the open mesh floor to keep in the fumes of the thymol. I hope it’s OK just to put my Varroa board in. Should I tape up the back of the hive as well? Feedback welcome from beekeepers. I plan to do this after I take the honey off at the start of September, and I plan to feed them 4 weeks later, after the 4 weeks of Apiguard treatment. Will the bees be OK if I don’t feed them until October having robbed their super of honey?
Hive B / Swarm I hived in June
No honey or nectar or anything at all in the super. They have drawn out 7 or the 11 frames in the brood box though. They swarmed 2 weeks ago and I could not see any eggs or uncapped larvae. Varroa destructor mite count 5 per day.
Healthy looking 14×12 brood frame – but no eggs or larvae yet
You can see bees hatching out in this photo
Plan: Check this hive again at the start of September and hope to find eggs. Add Apiguard at same time as Hive A. Feed in October after Apiguard treatment.
Again, welcome any thoughts on this plan.
If you just want to watch the bees, here is a video clip I took before opening the hives. You can see the yellow pollen they are bringing in on the backs of their leggs.
Varroa Management – A how-to guide