You know I like to share anytime I learn something new regarding the bees.
Well, I went up to visit my bees a few days ago as I had not been to see them since we had all that really cold weather and I was worried a bit because a few days earlier I had been to the Sacramento Beekeeping Supply store and they told me reports had come in about beeks losing hives during the cold snap.
So I went up a couple of days ago and found a few bees flying out of the hives. It was truly great to see life coming from the hives as this gave me lots of hope.
Well, I also decided to check on the tray inserts (I decided because it was so, so cold that I would insert the bottom trays under the SBB) Well I got quite a surprise when I pulled out the trays and saw hundreds of mites on both trays. (I have 2 hives)
This really scared me because when I did my mite count in October there was nothing at all in the hives. So I emailed two prominent beekeepers and I wanted to share what they told me.
1. This from Michael Bush
"This is the accumulation of many days of mites that can't get into cells because there is no brood, falling over a period of time. 40 or 50 a day is not considered unusual, so if you have a week's accumulation of 300 or so that would be pretty normal and within the economic threshold. So probably they don't need anything." (need anything was in response to my question about powder sugar dusting them)
"They may start to rear brood soon if your weather is reasonable as the solstice is now past. So if you want to treat (powder sugar) now might be the best time before they start to rear brood."
1.This from Serge Labesque a very good beekeeper who I respect as well.
"The observation that you describe is a quite normal occurence at this time of year. Here is why: As you know, varroa mites reproduce in sealed cells of bee brood. Normally, they spend only a small amount of time in a phoretic phase (i.e. clinging to adult bees). This is the only time when bees can physically get rid of mites, or the only time when mites can fall to the tray, because mites are exposed then, and not inside sealed cells. Consider that mite population increases exponentially through the season to reach a maximum in the fall. This means that right now is when the number of mites is near its maximum in the hives. So, everything else being equal, you should expect to see many more mites on the trays than at any other time of the year. Furthermore, add to this that it is very likely that there is no brood in your hives right now. This means that the mites have nowhere to hide and to reproduce. So, the mites are all exposed, in the phoretic phase of their life. Consequently, the bees groom the parasites off each other, and the mites fall in large numbers. This period of the year is cleaning time for the hives, at least in respect to the varroa mites. This is why you see so many mites on the tray. Tell yourself that this is a good sign that your bees are at work, getting rid of the mites. Simply hope that they will do a thorough job, and your colonies will do fine in the spring. Do not be surprised to see a few bees with deformed wings in January. This is because the few mites that will be left in the hives will concentrate in the little brood that will be available then. You really need to give a chance to your bees to do the job on their own. Trust them. This is what I do. Understanding the dynamics behind what you observe can help reduce your worries, although we always worry about our bees. Right?
Please consider not treating your colonies with powder sugar or drone brood trapping."
Anyway, it was wonderful to receive the help of these wonderful beekeepers and the best part is they both agreed except about the treating part. This made me feel so great that all is well with the bees and in fact, they are probably doing a very good job of cleaning themselves right now. Anyone else have an experience with their bees like this. Many mites found on bottom trays??