Reading A Dead-out In A Top-bar Hive
While it’s wonderful to celebrate successes, it’s equally important to learn from failures 😢. This colony swarmed and re-queened itself near the end of July. I had assumed it would have a low mite count due to the brood break but I was wrong. When I finally did a mite count at the end of August, my treatment was too late to positively impact their winter preparations. Yep, a top-bar hive dead-out. Mother Nature is quite the teacher.
Natural Comb Doesn’t Prevent Varroa Mites
Bees in top-bar hives are every bit as prone to varroa mites as bees kept in Langstroth hives and it is therefore vital to monitor mite levels and take appropriate steps to correct the situation when infestation levels get out control. Clearly I failed this time but generally when my mite levels are at or exceed 4% I treat. Oxalic Acid vapor or dribble works great in a broodless period. When there is brood present I use formic acid if there is honey in the hive that I would like to harvest (FormicPro) or thymol (ApilifeVar or Apiguard) if I will not be harvesting honey.
Apilife Var and Apiguard are easy to apply when using the Safe-passage Comb Guide as you can slip the tablet (Apilife Var) or the gel (Apiguard) into the passage the comb guide creates. Formic Pro can fit into the passage as well but it is a bit more work to get situated in the hive. You should not cut the formic pro pad into smaller sections as this will change the rate at which it off-gasses so you have to slide the entire pad through the passage of 3 or 4 bars at a time. You can do it, take your time.
Keeping bees in the time of varroa is indeed a challenge. By remaining vigilant, monitoring mite levels, and taking appropriate actions when the situation gets out of control you can generally stay ahead of problems and avoid a dead-out. Of course you may have the occasional setback as I did in this situation. If that’s the case, preserve the good comb and try again in the spring. That comb is gold and a new colony of bees will appreciate the head start.