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Problems- possible deformed wing virus? What to do?


So, my hives this year have been having a bit of trouble. I have 2 hives, one in an 8-frame Langstroth, with 2 deep brood boxes and the Flow super, and one in a long langstroth hive I built myself. This spring, I did a sugar shake to check for mites and saw none, so I didn’t treat. Mistake! They ended up with mites in the summer.

I caught the mites in the long hive because I was doing better inspections on it- I’m pregnant this year and was avoiding heavy lifting, and the stacked hive got skipped too many times :frowning: My bad, I know. The long hive got Apivar strips put in in June, and out July 20. I noticed the stacked hive’s problems a little later, so it didn’t get addressed and Apivar put in until a couple of weeks after. I took the super off the stacked hive, had to re-queen, and borrow a few frames of brood from the long hive.

Now, in August, the stacked hive has been doing fine- plenty of good brood, seems to be recovering well, and they’re not putting away a lot of new food but they seem to be doing fine getting their numbers back up.

The long hive though… the queen was laying poorly for a while, and I was seeing dead brood here and there, and I saw a few workers with crumpled wings. She’s laying better now, but still patchier than I’d like, and it seems like the mid-age larvae are sparser/patchier than the eggs, which makes me think I’m losing brood as they go. I’m concerned that they got deformed wing virus problems after their stress with the mites, but I’m not sure what to do about it! The queen in that hive is older and no longer marked, so while I never saw them re-queen themselves, I can’t be 100% sure she’s still my original with the mark rubbed off vs. a new daughter.

Any suggestions? What else can I do for them? Should I re-queen, or should I just give them time to recover? They have plenty of food and they are still putting away a little new nectar, though they’re not really making harvestable amounts of honey right now (they have 3 full deep frames of honey stored between the brood nest and the Flow frames, so lots of honey, just not in the Flow area). I plan to treat with Apivar again in the fall, Sept-Oct. I’m in California, so the winter doesn’t get cold until at least November, and heat stress in the summer is a harder time for them than the winter. They also may have been stressed recently because we’re fairly close to some major wildfires and the smoke and air quality these past few weeks has been awful. Not sure how much that bothers bees. They do have good water sources and nectar sources though, as we’re right next to a creek and some residential areas with watered landscaping plants as well as star thistle and some other heat-tolerant wildflowers that keep going through the heat.

Thanks for any advice you can give! I feel like such a beginner still, even though this is my third year with bees.


Congratulations on your expected new arrival. I am full of admiration that you still have time for beekeeping! Careful lifting in pregnancy is fine, you just have to plan and be taught how to do it safely. I have diastasis recti (separation of the abdominal muscles in the middle, in my case not caused by pregnancy), so I have talked with a lot of PT experts about it. You might even request a referral to PT, as you could possibly prevent many different problems if you continue to lift hive parts during and shortly after pregnancy. They are really worth listening to. :wink:

First, well done for spotting the problem. Sorry it got to DWV stage though. Mine did too. It all seems to be very accelerated in California this year. I even lost one hive because I started treating a couple of weeks too late. Together with the drought and nectar dearth, despite feeding, it was just too much.

  1. First question, did you leave the Apivar in for at least 6 weeks?
  2. When my hives have been recovering from bad DWV etc, the brood pattern can be patchy for 6-8 weeks. I am not sure if the nurse bees are hyper alert for Varroa and pull a lot of the brood. I do have hygienic queens. I requeened all hives this year, and they were laying well before the DWV, so I do think it is a Varroa effect, not a poorly-mated or senescent queen. The patterns are gradually recovering now.
  3. I would not feed if they have plenty of stores. My hives are the same. Lots of food, not much brood a month ago, now gradually recovering.
  4. You just treated with Apivar, I would switch to something else. I know the investment is costly, but I really like Oxalic Acid Vapor, especially if you have a screened bottom board and can do an accelerated mite drop afterwards. Once you have the equipment, each treatment takes a few minutes, you don’t have to take the hive apart and it costs less than $1 for the Oxalic Acid.

If we are realistic, we should all feel like beginners all of the time with bees. We can never know everything, there is always more to learn. The important thing is that you are observing and learning. Well done. :blush:


Well said Dawn, I have rethought a lot of my past practice as a semi-commercial bee keeper in a climate of both extremes from 27F on winter nights to about 110F on Summer days.

Now I am in a sub-tropical climate of mild “Winters” and Summers to die for and having more time to spend on each of my hives, looking, analyzing and experimenting to make life better for my bees. There is always so much to observe and learn about.


The main reason I was reluctant to lift was because I separated my pelvis when my son was born, and since then with my daughter and now this pregnancy I have had a lot of sacral pain as long as the pregnancy hormones are in gear. I just spent all night regretting my activity levels yesterday because of that- it’s hard especially now that my belly is big enough that I can’t keep things close enough to my body to use good lifting technique.

To answer your question: Yes, both hives had the apivar in for about 6 weeks.

I don’t have screened bottom boards and I am reluctant to go after a big vapor setup right now… do you have any experience of whether an oxalic acid drizzle would be as effective? I read about that technique but ended up going with the Apivar because that’s what the local bee place I got my queens/nucs from recommended.


Owwwee!!! Protect yourself well then. You probably shouldn’t lift much more than 10lb (1 deep frame) at a time in that case. Believe me, I am intimately familiar with how much strain and pain in that area hurts, having had multiple surgeries, neuropathies and tendonitis problems. Best to prevent more injury than treat it after. :blush:

Your strips were in long enough, but I would still be looking at a different treatment for good management practice. Otherwise your mites can get resistant, and I think that may have been part of the problem with mine. You could consider Thymol (Apiguard, for example) or if it is cool enough, MAQS, but I don’t like MAQS because of the queen mortality (~10%) with them.

Oxalic acid dribble is problematic if your bees are not clustered - i.e. it doesn’t really work. :disappointed_relieved: That is why I use vapor, and I don’t just treat 3 times at 5 day intervals. I treat until the mite drop is low enough to reassure me. :wink:


I am a little confused here Dawn. Are you using OA vapor treatments in the summer? I was taught by my local club that this is only done in late fall when temps are around 50°F because warmer temps could harm the bees. Our summer temps here in July-Aug easily reach 90’s and higher. I would love to use vapor treatments in the summer—so easy, doesn’t disturb the hive as much and gets good results. Is this really possible ?


That is absolutely wrong. I think they are confusing oxalic acid vapor (OAV) with OA dribble. There is no point in doing OA dribble until the daytime temperatures are 50F or below, because the bees won’t cluster until then. For the dribble to work, you need the hive broodless and the bees clustered in one box.

Formic acid (as in Mite Away Quick Strips) can certainly harm bees if the temps get up into the 90s, but it is much more toxic to bees than OAV anyway.

Warm weather OAV does not harm the bees at all. We have done it on 85F days, repeatedly with no die-off. We haven’t tried it on 90+F days, because I can’t handle that kind of heat in a bee suit. However, as you can easily do it in the evening (don’t have to open the hive), we normally just wait until it cools down later in the day. That is a better technique anyway, as once the bees have stopped flying, more of the colony gets treated when the vapor hits a full hive. We have been treating here part of June, July and some of August, and have not seen any adverse effects.

So yes, it is possible. The only caveat is that the supers should be off the hive.


Oh THAT is so good to know. I may have misunderstood and confused the dribble with the vapor, and thought I had to vape in early December and used apiguard after the honey harvest in July. Never have been happy with the thymol–bees hate it, and I have had it kill two queens in the past 3 years. Yes, it was definitely the thymol as both hives were robust until they were treated then it spiraled downhill very fast until I realized they were queenless. Even after the treatment last month I wasn’t happy with the mite die off but was chicken to add another round of it. OA vaping has never seemed to bother them at all and
now I am happily going to treat them with it.

:wine_glass: Here’s to you Dawn! THANK YOU!!!