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This beekeeping issue was sent out to all of you earlier for your review and response.
There is a lot of material out there that states, “If you have a near hive crashing situation from mite load in your hive, you can split the hive into two parts thus reducing the mite load in each hive”. The statement seems on the surface to offer a solution to the problem of a high mite level.
My question to all of you is this;
If a hive has a near hive crashing mite load, does that mean it has more mites in it for the size of the hive (Bees and brood not space) they live in? If you agree with that statement, then by making an even split out of that hive, the mite level now should still be too high for the size of each split. (Bees and brood not space) It seems to me that you now have two splits with a near hive crashing mite load and in jeopardy of failing. Even if you re-queen both parts with a hygienic queen and allow each split to have a quick brood break by the re-queening process, the mite level is still too high in each split for the new queen to make a come-back. Medicating the hive is not an option for beekeepers like us who are chemical free. Think about it and let me know if you agree and how you would fix the problem. I will probably post some of your responses in the next newsletter. Thanks,
Solving the high mite problem:
There may be other ways to solving this mite issue but, I have found that the following technique works well. I received several responses in regard to this issue and have posted some of them below. Thanks to all of you who have weighed in on this issue.
When you give the hive a brood break, you are not reducing the immediate mite load in the hive. If the mite load in the hive was too high before you offer a brood break, the mite level will still be too high after a brood break. Adult mites will live for three or four months. They will be waiting around for more brood to appear. You are only reducing the amount of brood that is available to the mite for further reproduction when you give a short brood break. It only helps the mite level from increasing even further. It will not reduce the current levels in the hive which are too high. You need to do more in order to save the hive.
Giving a brood break is only effective if there is some other measure being used in conjunction with it. For the chemical free beekeepers like ourselves, powdered sugar treatments should be used along with that brood break. Since the brood level has been reduced, most of the mites are forced to be outside of the cells. Now is the perfect time to perform a powdered sugar treatment to dislodge the mites from there host. You should re-queen the hive with a more hygienic queen during this period. Whether you split the hive into two parts or leave the hive as one, the fact is that the mite level is too high. The procedure for resolving the issue will be the same.
In my book, “Beekeeping: A Personal Journey”, I describe the proper way to perform a powdered sugar treatment. A quick review: One cup of powdered sugar per box. (Separate boxes for treatment.) Treat once a week for “Four” weeks. (Not three weeks like most books and experts tell you to do.) You need to cover the Drone brood (Which is where 80% of the mite infestation is found.) that hatches out in twenty-four days unlike worker brood that hatches out in twenty-one days or three weeks. Perform the full treatment again after the first full treatment if the mite level remains too high. By doing this, you are reducing the current level of “exposed” mite load and giving the new hygienic queen brood an opportunity to hatch out and take care of the mites by themselves.
In my opinion, by creating a split from a hive that has a high mite count you end up with two splits that have a high mite count. The act of splitting does not in itself lower the overall current mite count per hive. You need to take further steps in conjunction with it for the hive to overcome high mite counts. If the splits are left on their own without extra intervention, they will in all likely hood crash from high mite levels.
I think I would leave all the bees in THAT hive (A), remove the queen and put her in a nuc (B) that I created with bees from another hive (C) that was not infested and let that hive (A) build its own queen - thus break in brood. That is one option. However, since the queen has not well fended off the mites in A, I might be better off removing the queen from A as above, leaving all the bees in A, and re-queening it with a new hygienic queen, saving the other queen "just in case." The timing of adding the queen would have to be watched so that at least SOME break in brood can be accomplished. Perhaps even to the point of removing the brood (after scratch test?).
Can't wait to hear some more ideas! Mites - OY! Cindi
Switch hives with a very strong mite resistive colony. In a few days or so, re-queen with a resistive or hygienic queen. There is a good chance that the new bees from the resistive hive have already killed the old queen from the mite infested switched hive. Hope this helps. Your friend in keeping chemical free bees. Dale. Also, I forgot to add, the powerful worker force from the resistive hive, should very quickly bring the mite problem under control. Dale
Splitting a mite infested hive is a rather interesting solution to the problem. I have never heard of this before. I can see the logic behind it, but it seems to me that unless you determine why the hive has a large mite count, you will simply end up with two hives with the same mite problem. I suppose that if you are a chemical beekeeper, this would work, but that defeats the whole purpose and is not the best thing for the bees. I would prefer to leave the hive as one and examine the practices that led to the problem. I think I would first of all make sure you have a screened bottom board. Then I would re-queen with a hygienic queen. After a powdered sugar treatment, I think an inspection to determine the progress of the hive would be in order. Depending on the results of the inspection you should adjust or continue your chemical free practices to improve the overall health of the hive. I feel if you divide the hive, you simply weaken the hive and allow for an opportunity for other pests such as small hive beetle and wax moths to invade and further weaken the hive. Each split will continue to decrease in number until the new queen takes over and her eggs hatch which could take a month or longer. During this time the colony becomes weaker and weaker until it’s easier for these other pests to take over. By that time it would be too late to fully recover. Jeff
I would cut the boxes and # of frames down as far as I could. If I had another weak hive in better shape I would then combine the 2. If the bees are regressed and have the supplies to make it through the winter you have done all that you can. If they die in the mite fight they were not strong enough to or regressed all the way down to 4.9mm so that they could withstand them and next time start with small cell bees and the hard part is over. Mike
Powdered sugar and a sticky board underneath. Patricia
Fortunately, I have not had to consider this option but It does not seem like a logical approach to me. A split like this does not change the ratio of bees, brood space and mites so I don't see the benefit. Brian
Here is my answer. I would probably email you first if it happens in one of my hives and ask what do you think? But without that here goes. If the hive has a crushing number of mites, the worst thing would be to half the hive. The mites would surely have a field day with fewer bees.(In both hives) It will also be twice as much work with probably not good results.
First decide (1) Do I try to save the hive or (2) Let the hive die and properly clean the equipment for another time. If no. (1) is chosen then decide (1) Do I have enough other hives that are strong enough to miss a frame of brood. If yes, then the way I would proceed is to do two things (1) use the powdered sugar (2) Take out the number of frames of brood eggs or larva and replace them with the good frames. Be sure to put the old frames in a plastic bag so they can be properly cleaned and not infect other good hives.
The sugar should get rid of some of the mites, the frames of brood should help strengthen the hive so that it becomes a strong enough hive to rid itself of the major mite load. If it is determined there are not enough strong hives, if a frame is taken out then you are just left with using the powdered sugar method. You can use it but, just be aware that it may still result in the loose of the hive with so many mites in it to start with. I would hope I had moved the hive to another spot a very long ways from the others as soon as this was found out.
Sounds to simple, but a lot of work. Very curious to know the best method to use. Paul Bartlett
Good question, I believe I would take a new fresh hive take the bees out of the old put in the new with new queen and render all the old wax and clean all the frames and box, bottom.
I have been attending bee classes with Dennis now for a while. I do not live local. I live a bit over 6 hours from his farm. My husband and I live on a farm with goats, chickens a huge organic garden where we attempt to grow the bulk of our food....we have a Great Pyrenees that runs the farm (so he thinks) :O). My husband travels for work at times as well which adds to the mix. We had been wanting to add bees to our farm obviously for the honey, but also for the pollination to our garden and fruit orchard etc.
My point to sharing all of the above is that it takes a lot of organization on my part to be gone for the amount of time I am for the classes. Knowing nothing about keeping bees I was starting classes as a total newbie. I went to my first class thinking I sure hope this is worth it. Well it so was! Being an organized person myself I truly appreciate Dennis's organized and well thought out approach to bee keeping. To get the benefit of all his years of beekeeping summed up in classes is invaluable.
You will not just learn how to keep bees; you will learn an efficient system of beekeeping from A to Z. Actually, you will learn two ways, his system and the "usual way". Make no mistake, you will quickly learn that there is an easy way and a hard way to keep bees. A chemical laden way and a chemical free way. Its down-right shocking at the amount of chemicals used by most bee keepers, chemicals you will not need if you follow what you learn in his Dennis’s classes!
You will learn about equipment, what each piece is called, what its purpose is. You will learn what equipment to use and almost more important what not to use and why. You will learn where to get equipment and what it cost. You will learn what kind of bees to raise, where you can get them and what cost you are looking at. You will learn how to care for your bees, including chemical free pest management. You will learn the terminology used in beekeeping, which makes it so much easier to read an article or book on beekeeping and understand what they are talking about. (By the way Dennis's book is so worth the read.) I will be referencing back to his book as I go without a doubt.
This is just a brief listing of what I have learned. It would take several pages to list it all. Whether you are already a beekeeper or wanting to be, you will not leave a class that you didn't learn a lot. I have a couple more classes to finish them all, which I look forward to going to. The effort it takes to get to them is well worth it. Whether you live local or have to travel or if you are a newbie or already have bees, things are not going so great with your bees or you would like to learn how to raise your bee’s chemical free. These classes will answer ALL your questions and help you succeed as a beekeeper.
Sandy Sparacino Wills Point, TX
I just harvested 20#'s of honey from 1 of 2 hives I started this spring. I could not have done that without going to your classes. Just wanted to say thanks for teaching me how to do it.
I'll be signing up for refresher classes next year. Chris Lasater
I think I’ll be coming to the class this weekend but I have to check with the wife for conflicting schedules. You mentioned fall flow and my good hive is maxed out at this point. Should I add a super with foundation? I had assumed that would be a spring thing but if they can draw out my frames I’ll go put that together.
Thanks, David Dodge
You should absolutely add a honey super if the two brood boxes are full. I am glad your bees are doing so well. See you in class.
went out to check on the activity going on around the hives. Looks like there was a war going on. Fighting like crazy. There also looked like drones being pushed out. So, back to your book and web site to see if I can find anything about this activity. Well, I found in your archive (oct. 2010) a pic of your Africanized swarm on your hive. This is what mine looked like but smaller. So now my question is.... Is this fighting the beginning of my hives being taken over? Or is this part of hives getting ready for winter?
You had asked if I had found my marked queen, well......
I called Gardner's Apiaries to find out if my queens were marked on the 2 packages I had ordered in late May. And of course I didn't. Really, I feel like if we make it through this 1st year will be by the grace of God. He's aware that I am trying to bring back what he created without all "bee steroids". Donna
This is not normal behavior for winter preparation. If your queen was not marked, the only way you can tell if you have an African swarm taking over is by their temperament. In a couple of weeks go in and work the hive. Make sure you are suited up real good before you work the hive. No use in taking any chances. Keep me posted.
I think I made a big boo boo yesterday. As I was inspecting my hives, I tried to remove a bunch of comb that the bees had built in the space where two frames were missing. It was two large slabs as big as two frames. In the process of removing the comb, it broke apart and honey went everywhere in the hive. Now let me explain my reasoning for doing this. Several weeks ago, I removed two frames of damaged plastic foundation from this hive. Well, I didn't replace it due to the fact that I didn't have anything to replace it immediately with. That was my first mistake. Then I forgot about needing to replace them. By the time I discovered this, the bees had build two frames of comb of their own from the top to bottom of that brood box. It was attached to the walls, top cover, and frames in the lower box. All their comb was filled with brood, so I decided to let them raise their brood, then remove the comb. Well guess what, they raised their brood, but now the comb was full of honey. I thought about just removing the top box and putting all the frames in a new box in order to clean out the existing box, but then I figured by removing the box, the comb that was attached to the frames in the lower box would break apart and make a mess. So, I decided to leave the box in place and remove the frame next to the wild comb. I gently cut the frame loose and began to cut the wild comb out. That is when the problem began. It was so heavy with honey, once I cut the supports from the walls, it collapsed and honey flowed everywhere. I was horrified to see my bees drowning in their own honey. I quickly removed all the rest of the comb since the damage was done and replaced the empty space with two frames of wax foundation. I did save the honey (It sure is good dark honey). I'm just sick to my stomach to think that if my queen was on a frame below the honey flood she may have been covered and drowned. I realize the bees will clean up my mess, but I don't want to have this happen again. What would you have done in this situation? Thanks, Jeff
I sounds like you have already learned from your mistakes. We always make a few mistakes in beekeeping from time to time. The point of it all is a good teaching tool sense none of us is perfect. How boring life would be if we knew how to do everything already.
I am sure that there will not be a next time but, if there is, cut the comb out and tie the brood comb in an empty frame. Then replace the empty slot with two frames of foundation. Then place a queen excluder on the top box. Then place the modified frames in the middle of a new brood box. Fill the empty spaces up with foundation. Place this new box on top of the queen excluder and put the top on. Come back in three weeks and remove the empty modified frames. If the bees have not started drawing out any of the foundation, remove the entire box. If they have started to draw out the foundation, lucky you. Fill the two empty spots with a frame of foundation and hope that the bees will be able to draw out the entire brood box for you. Take the wax out of the modified frame and keep it for future use.
Need help in moving our bees to a new box; the one they have been in is over 20 yrs old; no one has worked with them in over 12 years ; so you see they are quite independent; my husband tried to take it apart last night ;pulled up the lid and it broke a bit; he can’t pry it apart because the honey and wax is so stuck together; would it be a good thing to put the new box on top of the old one and smoke them; and hit on the sides; or just leave the new one on top and see if they will go up inside it;????? What to do please answer soon. Thank you
Are the bees in a single brood box or are there more boxes above that? Dennis
Yes; they are in a brood box; and one super; we use to render the honey; about 18 years ago; last night my husband took a brood box and a super and sit it on top of the existing box' they started to go up inside; seemed not to mind at all; we have heard about drumming; the box; will the queen go up in the new box????? how long should we leave the new box on top of the old one; we are kind of worried the old box will break down ;the more weight that goes into the new box; any suggestions??????????
It is true that bees will move up during the winter months. I would have suggested placing two "drawn" brood boxes on top. I hope that the boxes you added had drawn comb in them because this is not the time of year to place foundation on a hive. The bees will be forced to move up in winter into an area that has no storage capacity and they will starve.
You can use honey supers instead of deeps (Brood box) if that is all you have or your operation is set-up that way to eliminate heavy lifting. Whatever you decide to use, remember not to use foundation. Make sure the comb is "drawn" comb. If you don't have drawn comb, it would be best to wait until next season when the bees will have an opportunity to make wax and draw-out the comb. Also, you should work bees during the daylight hours.
Drumming as they used to call it is nothing but a "Myth". If you bang on the hive you better have all your protective gear on or be able to out run your bees because the bees will definitely answer the door. I would suggest not learning by experience on this age-old myth. Take my word for it.
If you placed boxes with foundation on the hive, remove them and wait to do anything until spring.
The boxes we used has those plastic; slats in them; there is a brooder box and a super on top; as well; we are concerned ;about the bottom boxes falling apart; they are so old and disintegrating. There together like super glue; but maybe your right they have been there this long who’s to say; just don’t want to lose the hive. I will let my husband know what you said. Thank you so much for your help. Teresa
Any thoughts about collecting uncapped honey? I can’t just leave 2-3 supers on top of the hive all winter, can I? B. Weakley, Tennessee
Hello B. Weakley,
It is normal for beekeepers to think that they should not extract uncapped honey because that is what you read in most books. However, if you sit down and really think about how the bees handle nectar that is coming into the hive, the answer will become clear.
Let’s think past the general answer you read in the books and do what the bees do. When the field bee gathers the nectar from the flower, she stores it inside her honey pouch. While the nectar is there, enzymes from the bee will mix with the nectar. When the field bee gets home, she will pass this nectar off to a house bee. The house bee takes the nectar into her honey pouch and enzymes from her will mix with the nectar. These enzymes along with moisture evaporation are what change the nectar into honey.
The house bee stores the nectar in a cell. The nectar will stay in the cell until the moisture content evaporates down to about 18%. When the moisture level reaches this magic number, the bees will seal the cell. This seal will help prevent any further moisture outside the cell from reaching the honey.
So, now we can answer the question. If the honey super has been on the hive at least three or four weeks and the bees still haven’t capped the cells over, it is probably OK to go ahead and take it for extraction. By that time the excess moisture has evaporated. Sometimes the bees don’t seal the cells because the honey flow has ended and the house bees have quit producing fresh wax. Most wax production takes place when there is a large amount of nectar coming into the hive. That stimulates the house bees wax glands. Just to be safe, you should purchase a refract meter and check the moisture content of the extracted honey. If the moisture is too high, place the open buckets in a room and raise the room temperature up to about 90 degrees for a couple of days. Then check it again.
You can leave the honey supers on the hive through the winter but, remember, bees move up during the winter. The bees will move into the honey super and in January or February the queen will start laying eggs in that honey super. You will not be able to use that super for the spring flow because it will still have brood in it. You can’t use a queen excluder under the super because it will restrict the queen from joining the winter cluster in the upper box.
It would be best to go ahead and extract the honey and store the supers unless your bees are light in stores, then you can leave it on.
I hope that this has helped you. Good luck.
Days Gone By