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Newbie seeking advice

Posted: Sat Mar 26, 2016 8:56 am
by drdroege

I started my first (single) hive last spring. During the late Fall I was vigorously feeding them so that going into Winter, I had two deeps with brood/pollen/nectar and two mediums mostly full of (I suspect) capped syrup. I also tasted some and was very clear and nearly flavorless.

The bees were flourishing all season, building and filling the new comb throughout this hive. Also, I was monitoring for mites and unfortunately also had a 'healthy' population in the Fall ~10/100 :( I applied one pair of MAQS - though probably too little/too late.
In any case, the hive died sometime between mid-December and mid-January. I estimated about 2000 dead bees on the bottom board, head-in-cell, and a couple partially uncapped. No obvious deformed wing virus.

My explanation was that this was likely due to a combination of mites causing too small of a cluster which got too cold and was unable to reach the stores nearby.

My questions:
1) I'm planning on managing for mites much more vigorously this year. Scientific Beekeeping, and others, recommend rotating through a set of treatments so that the mites are reduced and without giving them a chance to adapt to the treatments, and not affecting the honey in the supers. Can anyone recommend a treatment/management calendar that has worked well for you in this region of the state?

2) Last season's bees were from a package of Hygienic Italians. This season I've ordered Carniolans. Is there anything significant that I should prepare for with this package?

3) Are there any recommendations as the best way to mark the queen prior to installing her. I had a terrible time finding her last season. I'm not sure how best to grab her and hold her down for marking before I introduce her into the hive.

4) I have two full mediums of mostly capped syrup. What's the best way to use that up so that I can transition those mediums to pure (or at least mostly) honey?
If this Spring is anything like last season, they 'may' consume most of it before June, but perhaps not.

5) What hive configuration should I use when introducing the new package?
a) Full hive as it currently stands 2 deeps, 2 full mediums
b) 1 deep, no medium
c) other?

Thanks in advance for any advice,

Re: Newbie seeking advice

Posted: Wed Mar 30, 2016 11:26 pm
by kristinahoney
Hi David,
I think your analysis is correct; the varroa/virus complex did in your hive. You're also right that it was too late. By the time the varroa count gets that high, the bees are seriously compromised nutritionally and full of viruses. I recommend to my club members and mentorees that they monitor varroa levels a MINIMUM of THREE times during the active season. I do more on my own hives. I sample 300 bees in alcohol for speed and accuracy (powdered sugar if a client wants that). 7+ mites and I treat. 15+ mites and I treat NOW. You don't have to use a different treatment every time, but you shouldn't rely on a single treatment either. It's a good idea to monitor again about 3 weeks after a treatment to make sure it worked.
Sample in the spring early enough that you can do something about it if you need to before the honey flow. Sample in midsummer to keep tabs on things and give yourself a heads up for fall. If varroa levels have reached threshold, pull off your supers and treat. Sample in fall early enough that you can knock down a varroa problem in time to have healthy winter bees. The hive needs healthy bees to take care of the bees that go into winter. So, your treatment should be finished between the first and third week of September. Some years are worse than others. Better to be vigilant.
I recommend formic acid (MAQS) in the spring. It's also the only that gets under the brood cappings and won't contaminate the honey. Watch temperatures very carefully!
I recommend thymol (Apiguard or Apilife) in the fall. It's not the best choice in the spring because it may cause the queen to stop laying for most of the treatment period - not great when the hive is needing to build up for the main honey flow.
I'll be trying oxalic acid this year too. Results have been mixed, so it will be an experiment.
As for marking your queen, I sell kits (see classifieds) that will help. I also offer professional mentoring if you want (contact me off list).
Install your new package in a single deep and one of the syrup supers for food. Scratch the cappings off so they have an easier time of it. Once warmer weather comes you may have to set the supers off by themselves in another part of the yard (50 ft away) to be robbed out by (hopefully) your bees. You want to get get those supers cleared out and the syrup used or stored in the deeps. This year don't feed syrup when the supers are on. Get the bees to backfill it into the brood boxes.
So, you have drawn combs, some of which have feed, which will be a huge boost to your new package. Give them a couple of pounds of pollen sub patties and keep on top of the varroa. Have a great season!
Kristina Williams
Beehave LLC mentoring and classes
Boulder, CO

Re: Newbie seeking advice

Posted: Thu Mar 31, 2016 1:44 pm
by jgrant
Good morning all

David -here is a Michael Palmer youTube clip showing how to pickup, hold, and mark a Queen.

Re: Newbie seeking advice

Posted: Thu Mar 31, 2016 5:04 pm
by kristinahoney
And here's my YouTube:
or you can search Beehave Queen Marking Kit. The advantage of the tube is that you don't have to handle the queen directly.

Re: Newbie seeking advice

Posted: Wed Apr 06, 2016 6:36 pm
by drdroege
Thanks so much for your advice!