Sunday, May 5, 2013

Survey of Mites in Capped Brood Cells

So I was out working the bees today and I was removing some deep frames from a medium hive.  The bees had built comb hanging from the bottom of the frames.  It was the only way I had to get a deep nuc into a medium hive last year.

I took the best of the brood comb and tied it into a foundationless frame:

However, a lot of the comb was drone and so out of curiousity I started pulling out the drone brood and counting and separating them by which ones had mites and which didn't.  Then out of more curiosity, I did the same with the last little bit of worker brood there was on a similar piece of comb. 

Here are the results:  Of the drone brood, I uncapped 56 drones, finding 15/56 (27%) infested with at least one varroa, and two with two mites for a total of 17 mites.  Of the worker brood, I uncapped 73 and found 5 infested with a mite (7%) and one having successfully reproduced, showing multiple mites in the cell, in the typical ages of a mite lifecycle in a honeybee cell (1.4%).  I did not find any reproducing mites in the drone cells, but as you can see in the picture above, the drones were all recently capped whereas many of the workers were near emergence.

What does this demonstrate?

First, I have mites.  No surprise there, I have been saying that for years.

Second, I have plenty of mites.  No tiny insignificant population here.  This is not a hive that has demonstrated hygienic traits, yet survives nonetheless. 

Third, the mites obviously prefer the drone brood, infesting at a rate of one in four while worker brood was only infested at a rate of one in fourteen.

Fourth, some hives are capable of handling a substantial mite load without crashing or even showing detrimental effects.  This hive is about the fourth strongest in this yard of nine.  I used it as my cell builder this year.

Five, if these numbers hold out, mites are not terribly successful at reproducing in worker brood in this hive, only about 1 in 71 worker cells result in mite reproduction.

And for some background data, I measured the cell size of this piece of nearly perfect free form comb and found the cell size to be a consistent 5.2mm.  The rest of the comb in the hive is 4.9mm wax or 4.95mm plastic.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Update: A Little Dissapointed

This spring has been pretty disappointing for my little beekeeping operation.

Did a bunch of hives die? Outbreak of AFB? Bear attack? Skunks? No, no, no, and I just found him dead on the road this morning. RIP, neighborhood skunk. Skunks are territorial by the way.

No, it's the weather. The weather sucks. Last year, I grafted queens near the end of March, meaning nucs were ready for sale in mid May. Also, then I was in college and had a pretty flexible schedule. This year, I have it worked out so I would graft on a Wednesday or Thursday afternoon, and make up mating nucs on the next Saturday.

A few problems:

Number one was the weather. Virtually every Thursday was nasty weather. Not a good time to go mucking around in hives, grafting into queen cups and getting cell builders going. By the time I did have a free Thursday, it was mid April.

Number two: Last year, I made a huge mistake and grafted from the wrong queen. She was nice enough, but her hive likes to keep some queen cups around (meaning swarmy) and her parentage was a little mean (meaning her progeny have a higher chance as well.) When the nucs came out, I realized my mistake and rather than selling any of these queens, I kept them. I sold the good ones. I had to fall on my sword or some goofy analogy like that. So this year comes around and none of the hives in my home yard are of the configuration, strength, and genetics to graft from and to serve as a cell builder as I like to do. One was correctly sorted to serve as a cell builder but it is mean and will be requeened. Long story short, I need a bunch of my own queens to requeen a bunch of my own hives from this line. I did save a number from the other line last year and several of those are good breeders, but they're at my outyards, an inconvenience.

Third, weather again. As you may have noticed reported, we are having a cold spell. Mating nucs are already made up, virgins are in, and these hives have no way to be fed. They could starve in a few short days. Today is one of those days. This is the latest it has ever snowed in recorded history in NW Arkansas. It is May, and it is snowing. It's not freezing necessarily, but it has been snowing. No bees are flying.

Hopefully, all or most of these mating nucs will survive this mess. And due to prior commitments I am not going to be able to start another batch of queens until next week. Fortunately for this area, someone has predicted a cool wet summer. However, I have a theory about predicting the future. Humans suck at it. And I don't mean "hypothesis," I mean theory, as in "explains the data."

I am doing what I can and will do what it takes to make good on my queen and nuc reservations. But this is one of those years where things don't work like you think they ought to.

That all being said, my established hives are doing well. Only lost one this winter, one absconded this spring. As usual, I will miss neither.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Snow in May!

Get a load of this!

I don't recommend having snow in May at all, especially after you've already grafted and have mating nucs out and all the rest.  This is no good.  Don't do it, you wouldn't like it.

Anyway, that's the news.  I have reservations to fill and hives to be requeened after that, so there is a bunch of necessity to get these grafts and mating nucs moving and the weather has been extremely uncooperative.  I can only hope for a long and moist season or there won't be any honey this year.  I will deliver on nucs if at all possible.