I want to clarify, because the required options didn’t quite fit. My queen/hive was brought to me by a mentor, and I don’t actually know where it originated. Because it was brought (caught?) late in the season, about May, we decided not to bother the bees much. They filled one Warre box with comb before the cold weather set in, so I removed the second empty box. We also gave them a couple of sugar-water feedings due to the drought and early expiration of blooming flowers in the neighborhood. By spring we discovered no living bees in the hive. Lots of honey stores, almost no brood, and the few dead bees clustered together (to keep warm?). My mentor inspected, and we posted photos on the PUB page that were reviewed by several experienced beekeepers. The consensus was that the hive failed because of a combination of late-season transfer and varroa. As a result I currently have no active hive.
RESPONSE: A Warré hive is not meant for extensive manipulation. We expect heavier losses of Warré hives when we keep our American mutt (Italian) bees in them.. SO in the survey you could leave the origination blank (since you did not know where your mentor got it originally) but indicated 1 Warré hive lost over winter. Under the feeding questions you would click on sugar water. When we do the forensics on a dead hive, we might eliminate some possibilities but still have more than one probable winter loss option – the suggestions of late season transfer and varroa are good guesses. You would check varroa or under option, list the two possibilities on that line.
I treated only 1 hive with oxalic acid. They absconded 2 weeks later. The others had very high mite levels and lots of DWV. 2 queens from — heading splits died with their colonies during cold snap in Dec. with lots of food on the next bar (both TBH). Langstroth hive from a nuc from —– died between Jan and Feb. The only hive that survived well was headed by a swarm queen from another beekeeper. The other surviving hive is alive but puny.
RESPONSE: I am unsure that the Oxalic acid or the high mite numbers caused the bees to abscond in your hive. Oxalic acid ONLY kills mites on the adult bee bodies – if there was a lot of brood when you used the oxalic, all those mites would have survived since it does not penetrate cell cappings. Splits (see report from last year) have heavy losses – depends on the time of year the splits were taken and what was done to try to get them up to speed to survive winter. It is a good idea to try different stocks. You may have had a colony that was a “mite bomb,” a colony with lots of mites and they spread to your other colonies and thus you did not have good survival, despite the different stocks. I hope you small survivor colony is progressing well.
This year is my first year having bees on my own-I am so excited! I had a couple questions that I am sure are total newb ones:
Question 1 – Is it better to purchase a new colony or to bait a swarm?
Dewey’s response – When starting, it is better to know you will have a colony, and when it will arrive, so purchasing a package/nuc/established colony is the surest way to get started. You can still seek to bait a swarm – and if one comes to the trap you can always bolster your purchased colony with the captured swarm. You won’t need a complete extra hive but will need an extra box with frames to hold the swarm. Use a sheet of newspaper to unite the swarm with the purchase or if you feel really confident manage the new colony and the trapped swarm as two colonies. You can still plan to unite them later in the fall.
New colonies, whatever their origin, are initially smaller and a joy to inspect but they also have reduced chance of successfully overwintering. Uniting helps improve chances of overwintering.
Question 2 – What are your thoughts on buying used bee equipment?
Dewey’s response – The purchase of used bee equipment entails some risk but has some advantages for establishing a new colony (whether a package, a colony split or a swarm capture). If a nuc is purchased as the starter hive, you are in fact purchasing used be equipment – the frames they occupy at least and, if a wooden nuc box it too may have been previously used.
Our two major concerns with used equipment
- A) Is it standard with your existing equipment or frames and boxes you will be purchasing? Is it in good shape? How can you tell? – well there is the rub.
- B) The second major concern is if are you buying someone else’s problem? Bees with heavy mite population, if used equipment includes the bees, or disease. Of the diseases, most will be cured by good weather and good bees but one disease, American Foulbrood (AFB), will not cure itself and could potentially contaminate your equipment and the equipment of neighboring beekeepers. Even if you don’t think you have neighbors with bees, you do. You can google AFB and get lots of information but until you have seen AFB scale and can recognize you most likely will miss it.
There is used equipment, and then there is used equipment. Equipment with bees is the greatest risk, equipment containing frames that still have comb or ruminants of comb is next in riskiness and if your purchase is of clean boxes, covers, and frames without any comb the risk is very minimal. Brush away cobwebs, any residue and then use new foundation for the frames. No need to seek to sterilize as anything we can do will just be a lot of work for little gain.
If in doubt on whether the equipment is standard size or there could be AFB scale ask an expert to check it out or bring one or two frames with comb, not all of them, to your next local bee meeting and get opinions from others at the meeting. Be prepared to get more than one opinion that may not all agree.
Welcome to the beekeeping family. We wish you great luck in the season ahead!
Q-For future surveys ask when people are using oxalic acid are they vaporizing or dribbling. What were their results? Another semi-related question. Were their any ill effects on the beekeeper with either dribble or vaporizing?
A-Thanks for sending a survey. Yes as Oxalic Acid is now going to be registered with both drizzle and fumigation techniques we will want to check how individuals are using it and key that to success overwintering. I am not able to include the medical consequences question you suggested – I am not a MD so I don’t know what I would do with the information. Thanks for suggesting however.