• March 2017 – Paul’s Newsletter

    Date: 2017.03.22 | Category: Newsletter | Tags:

    The recent confluence of events has been, is and will be deadly to our honeybees.  I almost murdered a beautiful hive yesterday.  Perhaps “murdered” is too strong a word, but perhaps not.  Sometimes knowing what needs to be done and actually doing it are two very different things.  Life has a way of getting in the way.

    Our recent weather events are the culprit.  Three weeks of warm, balmy days influence our flowering plants and trees to burst forth with pollen and nectar, trick our bees into believing spring is here.  As a result, the queen starts laying “pedal to the metal”.  She’s encouraged to do so by all the pollen coming into the hive.  Baby bees (mouths to feed) begin hatching and demanding resources from the hive.  The hives gets full to overflowing with mouths to feed.

    Cold and rainy then comes crashing down on us.  Three or four days of cold, followed by a couple of days of rainy, and what do you get?  Too many mouths and not enough resources.  To make matters worse, one night of 28 degrees knocked all but the most stubborn blooms off the plants and trees.  Suddenly, even the forage that precipitated this huge population explosion is gone.

    The end result was, is and will be your bees are going to starve to death if you don’t feed them.  It almost happened to me as referenced above.  Two weeks ago, it was probably the strongest, most populated hive in my apiary.  I was feeding and inspecting my hives, one at a time, as I could get to them.  This hive was near the end of my circuit of feed/inspect and I had not gotten to them yet.  As I cruised my hives yesterday, as I do a couple of times a day, near the end of my circuit, my beautiful, healthy hive had dead and dying bees all over the front landing board and the ground in front.  Immediately, I knew what was going on.  Upon close inspection, there were thousands (I am not exaggerating) of dead bees on the ground.  Thousands more struggled around the landing board.

    I drove back to my shop as fast as I could, poured some 1 – 1 sugar syrup into a spray bottle and went back to my troubled hive.  I sprayed all the visible bees with the syrup until it was dripping of them.  Then, even without the benefit of protective clothing, I opened the hive and began spraying the dead and dying bees on the frames and even the pile of them on the bottom board.  I began to see some of the struggling bees sucking up the droplets of spray and getting a little more active.  Fortunately, there were still a lot of bees in the hive that had not yet succumbed.  The more I sprayed, the more active they became.  Of course, as a way of thanking me, they started stinging me so I had to back away.

    Soon after, I got a feeder jar on top of the hive (once properly clothed) and immediately began putting feeder jars on top of the rest of those I had not yet gotten to.  I’ll worry about inspecting them when I can.  Whether or not I saved them is still in question.  Today it looks back to normal except for the thousands of dead bees everywhere.  They have cleaned off the bottom board and the landing board, which is  a really good sign, but I won’t know for sure until I have gone into the hive and found the queen or recent brood.

    Let my experience be a warning to you.  Inspect your hives now.  Feed if necessary.  Don’t delay. Do as I say, not as I did.

    Today is March 20th and I have seen no sign of swarming yet.  A few drones, yes, but no queen cells.  The scout bees are checking all my swarm traps.  Last year, I had my first swarm on March 8th and the year before on March 1st.  I don’t know what’s going on unless the weather has got all that screwed up too.  A few members have reported having swarms, so stay cautious, but I have none to report.  No sign at all.

    By now you should have done your “end of winter” varroa treatment.  If you haven’t, your only option now is to treat with formic acid (Mite-away Quick Strips).  That’s the only treatment safe to do with honey supers on the hive.  I just finished with the ox/gly shop towel treatment and will do the MAQS around June.  My enthusiasm for treating for varroa comes from knowing for a fact that if you do not treat your hives, they will die.

    Be good to your bees.  They are in your charge just as surely as your dog or your cat.  Treating for varroa is just as important as getting your dog/cat vaccinated for rabies or parvo or any other disease.  It is preventative, and necessary.