I've got a few ideas to run by you folks. A little background, I'm a newbee with two spring packages and a July caught swarm.I kinda figured mite control was something I would take care of in the fall, but after reading this list for awhile I've got some issues with throwing a couple strips of insecticide in a colony of expensive insects. Or as an old local beekeeper said, "Just taking my chances,because package hives aren't much more expensive than the medication." I'm thinking of retro-fitting old bottom boards into SBBs first of all just to see how bad mite problem really is. I've access to a bunch of old equipment and was thinking of sitting SBB on top of an old shallow bulk comb super (which I have oodles of). After of course putting sticky paper underneath to check mite fall. I was wondering how this set-up would work over winter? Your thoughts?
I'd probably try leaving them open all winter in Virginia, but I'm not so sure about here. Refitting is not too hard. It depends on the structure of the bottom board how to do it. If it's made of one piece of plywood, it's simple. If not, just cut it out and figure out how to connect all the pieces.
They will definitely do some good.
I left mine open last winter here in PA, and had no problem. Make sure you prevent any updraft though. I sealed the hive stands, so wind would stay out, but the bottom was open. Bees will stay warm, as long as there is food. Understanding how they cluster makes it easy to see how they stay warm.
When they cluster, they go into a football size group. The outside is packed tight, to form insulation. The inside stays warm, and the bees rotate. Thats how they winter in a hollow tree, and survive. Break the cluster, and the outer bees probably won't make it back. The inner ones will reform the insulation area, and the process continues. I never quite grasped the idea, until the bee inspector clued me in. So keeping the bottom open, is really irrelivant, unless you have really bad weather. In VA, you should be fine. Like I said, I did it last year, and will do the same this year.
The thought process your going with and the advice given so far sounds good.
As a newbee with concerns of chemicals and such, I would like to add the following.
IF....your new hives were installed with new foundation, has a new queen, you have little drone comb,....I will say your odds of having mite problems the first year are minimal.
This does not hold true if you used old comb with possible other deseases that could enhance stress deseases within the hive, or you used old comb that contained drone cells. This will have a multiplication factor that increases mite numbers.
SBB, small cell, essential oils, etc, all are good overall practices. Nothing beats the knowledge gained by proper hive management and PROPER TESTING for mite levels. As with alot of new beekeepers, the hype, although the dangers are real, is sometimes taken to the extent that everyone think that if they don't treat, that the "problem" will kill the hive. Don't let the hype make you "think" you have a mite problem, it may not actually exist. Learn how to test and then proceed.
I wish all new beekeepers would learn how to properly inspect a hive and identify deseases and mite level problems, BEFORE ever even thinking of what medication steps should be taken. Most of the other concerns and unnecessary treatments would be eliminated.
With all that said....I think SBB are the way to go. Hope if this took it to far for you, perhaps another will benefit.
Let me start by saying...For all the talk of what medication, when, how, timing, procedures, etc,...Of those asking these questions,... if each was asked one question..What were the results of your mite test? or even...Are you sure you have a problem? I'm guessing that most of the times there would be NO answer at all.
Time and time again you hear of medication without proper info as to whether there is even a problem.
SBB, small cell, FGMO, etc, to me are good practices on a preventative level.
As for chemicals, I believe they should be used after a problem has been found. And not on a preventative basis. It can be said that if you do nothing else, like oils, culling drone, small cell,etc, that strips used once in the fall might be needed. With all the other options and procedures to try, let the chemicals go for when needed as a last resort.
I do not have a single source for testing. Books, forums as this, other beekeepers, ABJ, and other mags etc, can be used as references for proper desease or mite testing. I guess what I'm saying is that I am guessing the average beekeeper either does not know or take the time to do a sugar roll, or an ether test, knows what mite counts are exceptable, can identafy FB, requeen as needed, etc. But boy do we know how to stick some strips in.
To answer coyote...No I don't have a favorite or one catch all reference. And I'm sorry I rehashed some of the same comments again. It is something I feel strongly about.
Thanks for the input, everyone. My bottom boards are my grandfathers,(who died well before I was born 29 years ago, wish I had known him now) so they are the old style toungue and groove. I will have to nail a strip around the hole I cut to hold them together. My hives are in a "hive house",(three sided roofed structure facing south with hives sitting on a raised, solid platform) which seemed to be a local custom. Not a bad idea it seems, because here in the mountains it gets pretty rough in the winter.My plan is to use a cut comb honey super under each SBB on top of my platform to create a dead air space over winter. Any ideas on what to put in a vat for mites to fall into? FGMO? I'm really lookink forward to using the cut comb supers, becuse they look confusing and I haven't seen foundation made to fit them.
FGMO works, but nothing works too. If the mites fall far enough they won't climb back up.
What do the frames in the "cut comb honey supers" look like? Are they small frames in multiple rows? Draper Bee in Auburn NE makes some like that and I think they sell foundation for them too, but you can cut regular surplus to fit.
Page 708 in Dadant's "The Hive and the Honey Bee" shows a picture of what they call a "Killion" super. This is what I have. I've even got a bunch of the unused boxes that haven't been assembled yet. My main concern is how do you attach the foundation into the box? Anyhow, I have to work by myself this weekend and I'll have access to power tools.
I've never used them. I think they use section boxes?
Search for Killion and you'll find a discussion of them.