I just got in from the beeyard, and am happy to report all is well.  We held our second Open Hive Day on Saturday the 20th and a good time was had by all.  Everyone got a chance to don a bee veil to get an up-close look at the hives, and I did a quick but thorough inspection of all three colonies.

Hive #3, which had been the straggler, seems to have caught up nicely.  I had been swapping a frame of brood from Hive #1 for an empty frame from #3 weekly, but those days are over.  So are the days of feeding (for the time being).  There is already a patch of Goldenrod blooming nearby, so I'm not so concerned about the summer dearth of nectar anymore.  I'll reassess the stores in the hives before winter, but they all seem to be in very good shape.

One thing to be concerned about during this season (and all year, really), are pests in the hive.  One such pest is the Small Hive Beetle (SHB).  It's a small beetle (duh) that moves into the hive, where the female will lay eggs.  The larvae feed on honey and pollen, leaving a slimy mess behind them, and then move into the soil below to pupate.  The best defenses against SHB are to have strong colonies to chase the beetles away, and to place the hives in full sun.  Check, and check.  I've seen SHB do some real damage in some hives, but thankfully I haven't spotted one yet at the TLC beeyard.  I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Another pest, and the most serious one facing honeybees today, is the varroa mite.  Varroa mites are small tick-like pest that feeds on the hemolymph of bees, and they are present to some degree in every hive.  They lay eggs in the cell of a developing bee larvae, where the developing mites latch on, breed, and emerge with the bee.  They can weaken bees significantly, and can lead to secondary infections.  There are several approaches to treating for them: chemical, organic, not treating at all, or anything in between. 

I'm going to follow some IPM (integrated pest management) strategies and only treat these hive when I deem necessary; and then only with what I consider a safe, non-chemical treatment.  The hives at TLC apiary are equipped with screened bottoms, which allow a small percentage of the mites to fall through, at which point they have a hard time making it back into the hive.  I can place a "sticky board" under that screen to capture the mites that fall in a given period to gauge the population within the hive, and make an informed decision about how I might proceed with managing them.  I decided my threshold for treating would be a count of 50 or more mites falling in a 24-hour period, and put the sticky boards in place last weekend.  Good News: when I went back to count the mites and come up with a 24-hour average, I got a count of 5, 9, and 0(!) on each hive!  I consider those very good numbers.  I'll do another count next month and see which way they are trending, but I'm pleased as punch for now.

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