Bees know more than books

Happy 2019 from snow-covered Virginia! It’s been a warm winter thus far; this weekend is the first we’ve seen of the white stuff. When the weather is cold, I prefer to have snow.

My 2018 was a busy beekeeping year, much of it not in my apiary. Since I haven’t been so diligent about recording my adventures here, I wanted to summarize the year with my first post of 2019.

190113 apiary snow

My hives Saturn, Mimas, and Atlas this morning on January 13, 2019 after a night of snow. ©Erik Brown

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The more mites change, the more bees stay the same

In 1519, Spanish forces arrived in Mexico with weapons both seen and unseen. Between 1545 and 1550, up to 80 percent of the native Aztec population is believed to have been wiped out by disease, possibly a deadly form of salmonella.

In 1987, the varroa mite arrived in the United States with weapons both seen and unseen. In the most recent beekeeping season from 2015 to 2016, beekeepers lost an estimated 44 percent of their bees.

Coincidence? Maybe not. Some thoughts on the evolution of honey bees and varroa mites. Continue reading

Our Hives They Are a-Changin’

Aside from a single white morning this winter, we have had very little snow in Virginia. The weather is unusually warm and the bees seem to get a flying day once a week or so. I suspect the insect population will be robust this year, from small hive beetles to other assorted insects, due to our lack of cold weather. Soon the bees will start ramping up for spring, and I have been keeping an eye on the mite populations in Mars and Jupiter.

170202-graph

Average mite drop per day in Mars and Jupiter. The count spiked in early December after I applied an oxalic acid dribble.

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I mite bee crazy

My prior post You may bee right was never intended to have a sequel. Yet it elicited a somewhat critical response from a local beekeeper who was disappointed in my lack of mite checks. I know I’m supposed to check mites, but it takes time, and I didn’t know how, and its my first year I’m still trying to get comfortable with bees flying around my head. In any case, while the top bar hive was the one to suspect, everything I’ve read indicates that a new hive with new comb in a new spot is likely to survive the first winter. So it was that I set out to prove the criticism unfounded and myself correct. Hence, a sequel.

TBH Comb

A brood comb from Venus on Oct 12, 2015. The top part of this and other brood comb now has capped honey.

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