The Maples finally started blooming and the red bud, the Dead Nettle, Hen-bit and finally by mid-April the Tulip Poplar finally opened it's buds. Each flower feeds the Honey Bee at crucial times in the season, but the Tulip Poplar is the best nectar source in my area. It's the plant that, in a prefect year, can produce a LOT of honey. A Honey Bee can go into one flower and get enough nectar to turn around and go back to the hive to unload it. Normally a bee must go to many flowers to fill their special stomachs before returning to the hive. So you can see why it is the best source for our bees to make Honey from that nectar.
Varroa destructor !!!!!
There is a mite in town. It was brought here from Asia, probably on some fruit or vegetable or something. The bees in Asia tolerate this mite. Our Honey Bees in the US do not. This Varroa destructor (appropriate name, I think) is a reddish-brown mite that sucks the life blood out of the Honey Bee. It is the size of a large seed and can be seen many time attached to the Thorax of the Honey Bee. It is like you or I having a rabbit attached to our neck and sucking the blood out of us. Doesn't sound like fun...does it?
Not only were our bees over run with Varroa, but one of the hives had an entire hive body FULL OF HONEY. We deducted that the agresssive hive had been robbing the other hives because they were weak from the infestation and caused the Colony Callapse Disorder (CCD) that is happening to so many hives all over the US. There can be different components that come together to cause CCD. Too little food and mites or a soup of chemicals in the hive (comb) and mites, but the conditions in the hive become more than the bees can handle, so they leave or abscond. It is sad. I cried at my bee hives!
YOU MUST TREAT A HIVE WITH HIGH VARROA COUNT
So we treated our hives with one of the less toxic treatments that still reduces (never eliminates) the population of the Varroa mite. We used a Thymol treatment that is considered to be less stressful to the bees, but there is always some death that happens to bees when a treatment is applied. This Thymol gel is put into the hive and the bees track it all around the hive. The Thymol tracked through the hive is deadly to Varroa. It does not, however, kill the mites in the cells of the unborn bees, therefore, not totally ridding the hive of the mite. Just like an anti-biotic, the treatment must be changed every so often so that the mites do not become immune to the treatment.
After a Tough Summer....the Bees face Winter!
So Fall is here in North Carolina....not officially, but the temps have cooled and there is some color coming into the trees. The bees are healthy after the treatment and the Queens have been laying, but soon it will be time for the Drones to be kicked out of the hive and to hunker down for another winter. Until then, I will be keeping a close eye on my bees to make sure that conditions are as favorable as possible for them to make it through November, December, January & February.