When I first got the bees I put a varroa floor into the base of the hive and counted a drop of one or two mites per day. This is in the 'tolerance level' but I gave them a dusting of icing sugar to encourage them to clean themselves and to make it more difficult for the mites to grip. The bees flew around like little white ghosts. I took the varroa board out as it should not be left in as it impedes ventilation in the hot weather.
I attended an apiary session on managing varroa. I obtained the FERA publication and diligently put together an 'integrated management plan' that includes: biotechnical methods, use of varroacides. First strategy was to have some shorter frames in the brood box. The bees tend to produce drones at the lower edge of each frame and once this had happened in the 'free-form' comb, I planned to cull the drones. It sounds awful but the varroa gravitate to these cells as they take longer to hatch than queen or workers and it is a good way of getting rid of varroa without the use of chemicals (see earlier blogs).
I was busy gardening last week in the sunshine feeling happy in my 'bee loud glade'. The bees were very active and I was thinking of adding another super for honey stores. From time to time I came across a bee on the lawn. Some were taking the nectar from clover but some were just wandering. I picked them up and examined them. At first I thought their wings were damaged through wear and tear and that the bees were coming to the end of their natural lives. I am sure that this was the case for some of them. I then began to wonder if some could be suffering from deformed wing virus .................. back in went the varroa board and to my horror over the first three days of monitoring the drop was in the severe risk category on the FERA calculator ie ave 14 mites per day.
I decided that the only way forward was to use chemicals and spoke to a couple of experienced beekeepers to check my plan. So there goes another £100 order to Thornes which included the MAQS strips of formic acid. I read and read, watched the video, checked the weather forecast (you must not use if too hot), gritted my teeth and in the cool of the evening put the strips in under the queen excluder and over the brood frames, then added an empty super for extra ventilation. Not sure about the bees but I nearly passed out from the fumes! The instructions warn that you may have some loss of colony including the queen - not what I wanted to read.
The weather forecast was wrong and it was hotter than predicted and I began to worry as the mercury rose ....... there were plenty of bees flying but to be honest I don't blame them wanting to get out of the hive. On day 3 I put the varroa board, smeared with vaseline to catch the mites, on the ground under the hive as I did not want to reduce ventilation. I am resisting the temptation to look at the board every few minutes. I have not opened the hive. All will be revealed on Saturday and hopefully the mites will have been killed in the cells, the bee larvae have not been and the queen is happily laying eggs AND I SEE HER!
So another week without pictures