Phew…my first ever mite count is complete! It was far easier to do than I had been anticipating, too. And now…I have questions. First, my observations:
The Strong South Hive:
- Robust bee activity, in the brood boxes, in the Flow Hive, Lots and Lots of busy bees
- Still no capped honey in the flow frames, and while they continue to put nectar there, they haven’t filled as much as I would have expected since my last inspection 3 weeks ago. It’s been pretty dry here, so it shouldn’t be a humidity issue - plus the honey frames in the box below are all well capped.
While I didn’t spot the queen, the brood pattern still looks good, though clearly the bees are shrinking the brood nest a bit - frames that had once been packed with brood was now packed with pollen. Good stores!
The top box was HEAVY with capped honey. I mean HEAVY. These girls have been busy socking it away for winter!
Sugar roll for mites yielded 13 mites in a half cup sample…so roughly 4 mites per hundred bees - if I did everything correctly. (And yes, while I didn’t spot the queen during this inspection, I was extra careful to look for her on the frame I used for mite rolling. No guarantees that I didn’t get her, but I did my best!)
Weaker North Hive
A much, much quieter hive all around. Guestimate about half the population of the south hive. I supposed they could have swarmed, but I don’t see any emergency queen cells, and this colony population has always been low.
Top honey box was Heavy with honey. Admittedly, the comb in this box is a bit tough to inspect - not as straight as I would like, and pulling sometimes causes a honey spill. I didn’t inspect each frame because we have been having a horrid yellow jacket problem, and I didn’t want to attract them to the hives. But the box was very heavy…so likely pretty full!
Again, I didn’t spot the queen in this hive, but the brood pattern wasn’t nearly as robust as the strong hive. Still saw clusters of capped brood and larvae, but these frames were generally spottier, and not as filled with pollen and nectar as the week hive.
MITES - so many more mites! Sugar roll count was 34 in a half cup sample, or ~11 mites per hundred. What a difference!
Clearly mite treatment is in my future - I have a varrocleaner and oxalic acid on order from Brushy Mountain that should arrive later in the week
Mite count aside, I am seriously considering whether I should try to combine the two colonies…the North Hive just doesn’t seem to have the population or the stores to get it through a winter. If I decide to join the colonies, here are the questions I have:
- Should I Treat for mites before joining (seems an obvious yes, but…)?
- Do I just move the box of honey from the weak hive to the strong, along with their bees or should I move some brood frames too? (And yes…I will remember to put a layer of newspaper between boxes from the different colonies) Moving the brood frames seems to carry the most risk of inadvertently moving a queen…if there is still one in the weak hive.
- If I don’t move brood frame, then 1) what do I do with the bees that are left behind in the weaker hives? and 2) can I use those frames next year for a new colony?
So many questions…time to pull out my books and start googling, but the advice I have received here has always been thoughtful and quick, so I throw these questions out to you first!