It is the time of year when beekeepers start thinking about winter, and whether the hives are strong enough to make it into spring. One key factor is the number of pesky mites in the hive, something I have been tracking since the end of July. This post chronicles my ongoing efforts to keep the little beasties under control.
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
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.
Last year I put together a small masterpiece called The mites before Christmas. This year I once again bring forth my poetic efforts in hopes of peace on earth for humans and bees, to the tune of I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.
I heard the bees on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar buzzy play,
And wild and sweet
The buzz repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will for bees! Continue reading
My two original Langstroth hives, Mars and Jupiter, have had their ups and downs this year. Mars did well, but then had queen issues. Jupiter survived a split, a swarm that I caught, and likely another swarm that I missed. Both hives are going into winter and I have been checking mite drops on the bottom board of both hives lately.
This is their story.
As my second beekeeping summer comes to a close, it is the time of year when beekeepers count the many pounds of honey collected from their hives, and answer the age-old question of how to handle the dreaded varroa mite.
This year I gathered my first honey, a grand total of nearly 6 cups worth. As another local beekeeper put it, the price per pound of that honey is pretty steep. Beekeeping equipment is not cheap, bees are not cheap, and our time is somewhat precious. All for a few jars of honey. Perhaps it is more about the love of bees and the joy of a hobby, at least for me. Continue reading