NZBF: I'm confused.

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40
29
Wellsford
Experience
Beginner
Noticed unusual activity around the hive yesterday afternoon, so thinking it may have been robbers I closed the entrance and reopened it at dusk.
No bees around the entrance at dusk and thought the worse for my single hive. It's been robbed and or killed off. Inspected the next morning. Usual bee comings and goings. I run a single brood box hive. This was full of bees. The frames are stocked well with pollen but no sign of any capped honey. Pretty sure there was some last time I looked. The queen was in residence but virtually no brood. She is either a supersedure or emergency queen. (No queen at 23 Dec inspection - 30 Dec still no queen and not one cell of brood. - 12 Jan found new queen and larvae and brood evident. 23 Jan - Frames full with brood) 1. - Is this normal for such low levels of brood this time of the year? Knowing that the hive is heading into winter. Checked the super I have left with wet frames and some honey stock from the harvest for winter feed. Lots of bee activity in the super. No capped honey stocks remaining but about 40-50% cells with nectar. 2. - Is the super being robbed as I look at it or is this usual behavior? 3. - Is the hive being robbed at all? or am I just noticing normal autumn activity and let them get on with it.

Apivar treatment placed in 5th March - 24 varroa with 300 bee wash.
 
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Alastair

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Need to see the hive or a video of the activity to determine if it is being robbed, however signs you can look for are bees fighting, and bees trying to get into the hive through other entrance points than the entrance such as under the lid or similar. Also, if bees are coming home with pollen it normally means the hive is not being robbed. Also, robbers normally take the unsealed honey first, so not having capped honey is not an indication of robbing.

A way to tell is block the entrance at night when all bees are inside, then next day see if there are any bees trying to get in. But important, do not leave blocked too long as they may suffocate. Safest way would be get up early before they are flying, block it, then unblock as soon as you have determined there are no robbers.

Some other factors may be the extremely high mite count of 24/300, this will indicate a hive that is definitely suffering. However you have placed apivar so hopefully this will resolve. I would leave the apivar in for the full ten weeks. If all the hive has is some unsealed honey / nectar, at this time of year this is nowhere near enough going into winter, many strains of bees will recognize this and reduce or stop brood rearing so as not to waste resources. Such a hive needs to be fed, and fed a lot. But first, ensure it is not being robbed, and once you are sure of that, reduce the hive entrance to about 2 1/2 centimeters, with the gap being in the middle where the main bee cluster is, ie, the biggest bee numbers to guard the entrance. Then feed, and over a few feeds you will probably need to feed up to 25 kg's of white sugar.

Without seeing the hive but based on your description, my feeling is the hive has had some issues including queenlessness, and probably struggled with a high mite load for quite some time, causing it to be unable to prosper, or save enough honey. Feeding syrup to hives with a high mite load is a risk as they are very susceptible to being robbed. However you have had the apivar in for almost a month now, so as long as the strips are placed in the hive properly, it should be safe to start feeding. As you feed, they will start making more brood.
 
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40
29
Wellsford
Experience
Beginner
Thanks for the detailed reply Alistair, I was surprised by the varroa count being so high. A little history - I lost both my hives last season, it seems this was the case for many bee keepers. I collected a small swarm mid 12th October. After checking several times I was unable to locate the queen? Bolstered the hive with a new queen and five frames of brood and accompanying bees as well as 4 strips of Bayvarol on the 20th Oct. 23 Oct placed a sticky board in for 3 days and had 61 varroa. Placed another sticky board for another 3 days and had 51 varroa count. 2 Nov 3rd sticky board but this time a coreflute with cooking oil spray for 1 week. The board was very clean so not sure if the bees cleaned the spray off but there was only a 5 varroa count. Lots of eggs and brood. Had an AFB inspection and by late Dec queen went AWOL. There was no eggs or larvae but still plenty of brood yet to emerge. 30 Dec still no queen to be found (may have missed her or she was in the mating period) All brood hatched and still no sign of eggs or larvae. 12 Jan eggs, larvae and new queen found. Honey super almost full. After the supersedure/emergency queen everything was going gang busters and supers filling up.

So in all its been a mixed up hive to get where it is today. Did get 16 frames of honey harvested. Left four frames uncapped but as I stated this hasn't been capped. There was capped honey on the outer frames in the brood box but this has been eaten. Being a newby I am not completely up to speed on the variations of bee life at this time of the year.

Your process of determining robbers is great and I will try this out. There is a massive amount of wasps around this year. I have one of Kyles blue hive gates which has been in place for several weeks.

I have a full super of honey frames from last season which was collected while bayvarol was being used so I didn't extract this. Is this a suitable for feed now and switch to suger closer to spring to encourage queen laying?
 

Alastair

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Oh that's good info, and also a good harvest, the hive has been doing better than I initially thought (y).

Seems your mite management regimen has been good, so it could be with the hive not having much brood at this time, most mites are phoretic and hence the higher mite count, than had there been more brood for them to hide in.

And yes, that box of honey you have will be great feed for them. Even if it is granulated, bees will slowly move into it, warm it and melt it, and use it. Comb honey is also safer than sugar syrup if there are a lot of wasps, which syrup feeding seems to attract.

I do not know what a Kyles blue hive gate is?
 
40
29
Wellsford
Experience
Beginner
Missed my chance this morning. Bees were up early and at it. (another way of saying I wasn't on to it)
Here is a link to the hive gate. You can use one or two per hive. beeiqsolutions.com

 
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