High and Mighty (but not mite-y)

High and Mighty (but not mite-y)

The hives are standing tall and proud at The Land Conservancy Apiary!  This has been a great season for the bees, with our early spring and abundant blooms.  If this is a typical year in SE Pennsylvania, our spring "nectar flow" will continue for another month or so.  Then we can expect a summer "dearth" when very little forage is available for the bees.  When harvesting honey from a hive in July, a beekeeper would be wise to be not too greedy.  Colonies have been known to starve in the middle of summer.

Our bees definitely had a rough time in the early spring.  There was a surprisingly high load of parasitic Varroa mites in all three colonies as early as late March.  There are a number of treatments available (many of which I've tried), but the thing that did the trick for us was removing the queen from each colony.  "Huh?!?"  
Well, it turns out that Varroa mites reproduce on the developing bee larvae (brood) in their cells.  If you remove the queen from a colony, the bees have to make a new one and they go through a period with no laying queen in the hive.  This break in the bees' brood cycle also means a substantial break in the Varroa reproductive cycle.  The Varroa population crashes.  And it did.

As if this weren't elegant enough, the savvy beekeeper can time this to his/her further advantage.  When you create a period during the nectar flow when there are no baby bees in the hive to care for, more of the adult bees can spend their time foraging- thus yielding a potentially greater honey crop.  Win-win.

This technique was a great success in one hive, and another struggled to make a new queen for quite a while.  Hive "C" failed to make a queen with its own resources, so I resorted to adding in frames of brood swiped from the other hives.  If they didn't shape up by my last visit, I was about to write the colony off as a dud.  When I popped the top last week, to my great surprise (and relief) I found freshly laid eggs, and several frames of capped brood- a sure sign of a new robust queen.

We're back on track for another great bee year at TLC!

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