Yesterday completed three days of sticky board exposure, so it was time to take a Varroa mite count. For Twain, it seems 15 mites a day are dropping, high if no new bees are being reared, kinda middling if they are. Wilde is sorely afflicted: it dropped somewhere from 30-43 mites a day (I counted everything that looked like a mite, and could have overcounted a little).
It's not good if you post your mite count to a beekeeping bulletin board, and one of the experts answers, "Yikes!'
Both colonies need to be treated, but it is midwinter, and you are not supposed to mess with bees in midwinter. The following options are open:
- Try to sprinkle powdered sugar all over the bees. Pros: only non-toxic approach still open to me, no potential damage to the roof. Cons: unlikely to be able to completely coat the bees and eradicate mites, will kill at least some of the brood in open cells;
- Expose colonies to oxalic acid vapor. Pros: really quick, really effective. Cons: an extremely toxic substance (for people, not bees), not sure whether this use is legal, could damage roof (need to research latter);
- Place CheckMite strips. Pros: won't kill bees, won't disrupt brood rearing, effective if mites are not resistant, won't hurt roof. Cons: Another toxic organophosphate, will take a few days to get here, mites might be resistant.
I already ordered some CheckMite strips, but they will probably not arrive until Monday of next week. I am planning to take some powdered sugar and a flour sifter up to the roof tomorrow, when the temperature is supposed to be above fatal and the wind should be gone, and powder what bees I can (anything to hold the line).
Master beekeeper Brenda Kiessling told me, in June, two things:
- There's really nothing to be gained from babying a weak colony through the winter; and
- This is a lesson that every beekeeper seems to need to learn for herself.
Expert advice is not always comforting.