On Sunday I treated my bees with oxalic acid as part of my varroa mite management. The general idea is to pick a time close to Christmas or New Year when there is hopefully no brood in the hive and the colony is clustered for warmth over winter. Each hive is quickly popped open, 5ml of the oxalic acid/sugar syrup mixture dribbled over each “seam” of bees and the crown board and roof are then replaced before the bees really have time to react.
This year is different, however. Because it has been so mild my colonies have not clustered at all and are still flying regularly. Because that may increase their food requirements I’ve taken the preventative measure of putting a QX and eke on top of each hive with fondant resting on top of the QX (so it doesn’t drop down between the frames). Opening each hive is more disruptive as a result and takes a few seconds longer, by which time the active bees are flying out of the top of the hive, somewhat less than amused by the intrusion and pretty hacked off once they’re covered in the oxalic acid solution. I don’t blame them, but it was a fair from pleasant experience and I picked up a sting on my wrist (through my suit and gloves) where a couple of bees had become caught in the folds of the material.
Most of the colonies had started using the fondant, with one (a swarm I took last summer) getting well into theirs. Now through to March is really the danger time for starvation so I need to keep an eye on the situation there.
Unfortunately two colonies look to me as if they are unlikely to make it through to winter. They were being badly attacked by wasps during October and whilst I moved the hives to a different position in the apiary to make them harder for the wasps to find, they look like they’ve lost the will to live. I shan’t be counting on them in my plans for the coming season and if they do make it I’ll consider it a bonus.
The remainder of the colonies appear to be doing well, with some hives having as many as eight seams of bees present. I just hope that the strange weather conditions haven’t affected their ability to make it through to the Spring and that they don’t run into trouble if we have a sudden cold snap in the next couple of months.
Today I have to go and treat three colonies that I look after for a local farmer. The forecast for today was sunny, but it doesn’t seem to be living up to expectations. Hopefully the rain will at least hold off so treatment is possible.