My hive may have Deformed Wing Virus. The initial evidence is that there are lots of bees (a hundred? more?) walking among the leaves and grass in front of the hive that are either dead, or soon will be, most of them with deformed wings.
I'd appreciate advice!
Some points and observations:
- They're Canadian Buckfasts, or so I've been told, which may indicate a resistance to tracheal mites.
- I'm in the Mid-Hudson Valley, so cold weather and shorter days are both key factors each day, with fewer minutes of daylight and likelihood of more cold each day.
- My current configuration is a deep with two mediums, just consolidated down from three. Above the inner cover, I have a box of incomplete frames that have some honey or (mostly) many uncapped nectar cells. Atop that I have a feeder with 2:1 syrup. (I don’t actually expect them, at this point, to take it, it was already there, and we have a sunny week coming up, and I thought it makes more sense to keep it in place rather than to dump it.)
- Earlier this afternoon I did a superficial inspection, and other than the sick bees that are on the ground, the hive looks robust, with bees spilling out of the deep, and with a very strong population throughout.
- Until perhaps ten days or so ago, there was no evidence of any problem — in warmer weather, there were just a handful of walkers in front of the hive at any given time that had no observable health issues, except for the fact that they weren't flying and seemed to have low morale. As of last week, however, I first noticed some bees with deformed wings, but only a few. Today, when I looked, I saw many — as I said above, at least dozens, and perhaps hundreds.
- In all the firsthand observations, and in all the photos I've taken, I've never seen a mite on a bee (for what it's worth).
- Some of the bees that are sick look brownish/blackish — not at all the vibrant yellow-and-brown stripes adorning that the rest of the bees in the hive — and they seem small by comparison, as well.
- I'm reluctant (!) to medicate artificially — if at all possible, I want to avoid that, but I'm not unwavering on that.
I've started a mite count this morning, and plan on pulling the board and doing the count on Wednesday. I'll follow that with a powdered sugar treatment.
I'm of two conflicting thoughts on the number of bees that are sick:
- The sick bees are a self-selecting population. That is, they've behaved in ways that make them noticeable, or have been kicked out of the hive, which might indicate a much deeper problem than may actually be.
- Sick bees that are noticeable may hint at a much larger problem among the other bees that are difficult to observe.
I'm eager for suggestions, and appreciate them.