Thursday, June 10, 2010

The dreaded varroa mite

It's been a while since I posted on the state of the bees, and much has been going on in that time. Being a new beekeeper I have nothing to compare it to, but all my experienced beekeeper friends agree - it's been a strange year for bees.

First, there was the epidemic of swarm activity back in the spring. Then it seemed that just about everybody whose hives swarmed ended up queenless. And now, to cap it off, there have been several cases of AFB, or American Foul Brood, in the area. AFB is the mother of all bee diseases - the ONE hive disease you don't want to end up with. It's so harsh and so contagious that, in the state of Florida at least, hives that are found to have it are required to be burned - bees and all.

The good news is that my hives don't appear to have it. The bad news is that beekeeper Bob, who lives only about 1 1/2 miles away (and from whom I bought my 2 queens a month ago) did have AFB in several of his hives. Bad news not only for Bob (who lost 4 of his hives) but potentially bad for me, since bees travel up to 3 miles from their hives to forage.

So . . . I called bee inspector Jeff to come and check out my hives earlier this week. They all looked clean for Foul Brood, but 2 of the 3 were carrying a heavy load of Varroa Mites, which can weaken and stress a hive and make them more susceptible to diseases. Such as Foul Brood.

Yesterday, I applied the first dose of Apiguard on both boxes, which is a natural thyme-based treatment that apparently doesn't kill the mites, but makes it so unpleasant for them that they pack up and head for greener pastures. After catching a whiff of the stuff, I can see why they wouldn't want to stay. I feel sorry for the bees, but am hoping that this will solve the mite problem and strengthen the hives. I'll apply the second dose in about a week, then will check for mites a few days later and see if the Apiguard has worked.

Keeping fingers crossed . . . .

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