Beekeeping notes by Amanda Millar
As I mentioned last month there is not much we can do with the bees this month either, apart from checking they have not been blown over and the entrances are clear, and making sure your equipment is all clean for next year. I am still seeing wasps which seem to fly in colder weather than bees. My bees are still flying when it is warm and dry but there is almost no forage for them to visit so it will mainly be to collect water to dilute their stores in order to consume them. If you left them with sufficient honey and/or syrup then they should not need any supplementary food until the New Year.
One thing we do need to monitor, however, is that perennial problem of varroa. I managed to treat all those of mine dropping more than 1 a day with Oxalic acid vapour 2 or 3 times at 5 day intervals before I went on holiday for a fortnight in November which interrupted the treatment. Although I do not regret starting it in October when I did, as I have been able to remove several thousand mites, it looks as though I shall have to do another full brood cycle of treatment again to be sure I have got most of them. I did start a couple of days ago; it took all morning but it transpired my battery was low on Volts and the OA did not vapourise properly and the drop afterwards was no different to the background drop so I have to start all over again on the next dry day, whenever that may be!
Last week (mid November) I had to cut out a colony in a roof of a building being renovated and disturbed by the builders. I was surprised to see that there was no brood at all. I have also heard from a couple of other people finding a colony without brood. I do not normally disturb my colonies at this time so don’t know if mine have brood but it seems a bit early to have stopped laying, unless there is a problem with the queen or disease. I have also heard several people lose colonies to Parasitic Mite Syndrome already. As they were relatively free of mites in the summer this is almost certainly due to a varroa ‘bomb’. It is surprising how quickly a colony can be killed by a huge influx of varroa. I hope you are monitoring yours and will treat soon if required or they may not make it over winter. One autumn a few years ago I monitored my varroa drop diligently and every colony which dropped over a certain number of mites after a single dusting in late October had died by early spring the following year, which is why I start early now. I believe the severity of the winter will affect the actual critical number of mites but the principle remains; high mites = high mortality.
Parasitic Mite Syndrome
One new beekeeper sent me a photo in November of a colony which had just died, for a diagnosis and it is an excellent photo (which he has given me permission to use) showing a classic case of Parasitic Mite Syndrome. There is very patchy brood with perforated cappings, dead bees partly emerging from cells with their proboscis protruding. Although there are eggs visible in some cells and a few very small larvae, most of the cells seem to have dead pupae of various stages. In the close-up you can see many of the empty cells have white varroa guanine crystals in (varroa droppings). Fortunately, I could not see signs of other diseases which may also be present in these circumstances eg chalkbrood, sacbrood or foulbrood, but there could be viruses and other diseases lurking in spots of dysentery. By the time the colony reaches this stage it is beyond recovery.
Parasitic Mite Syndrome
So on that unhappy note I shall wish you a merry monitoring and may all your bees be Happy this Christmas.