Spring mite treatment - what is good?
(I did a search and found only a few old threads on spring mite treatments.)
My situation: I bought 4 nucs last spring. These are the first hives I have had in 30 years. The hives are in my backyard here in Denver, and sit in full sun all day. My hives struggled all season, didn't build much comb, populations didn't grow much, didn't produce much honey, and went into winter with about 3-4 deep frames of bees each and minimal stores. I did not not harvest any honey from any of the hives.
I occasionally checked for mites during the season using a sticky board. I did see mites, but not at a level that would be considered to be an extreme threat to the hive. I treated with each hive with Apiguard according to the directions in the fall, and saw increased mite drops, but not what I would call huge numbers of dead mites. In other words, my hives do have mites, but not in debilitating out-of-control numbers.
I put each hive to bed for the winter wrapped in a Bee Cozy and with the Mountain Camp method of winter feeding/moisture absorption. At this point in the winter (the first day of February), I have lost one hive. There is good activity on the remaining three hives on warm days to make me think that they will probably make it to spring.
So far, we have had a dry winter with lower-than-average snowpack in the mountains. Since snowpack forms a large percentage of our water during spring/summer/fall, I believe we are unfortunately likely to endure another drought year, which means my already weak hives will probably struggle again this year to build comb, to build up population, and to collect much honey.
At this point under these circumstances, I am not expecting to harvest any honey this year, I just want my hives to build up to a healthy population and collect enough honey to get through the next winter without any feeding.
Considering how weak my hives are plus the expected drought conditions, I think it is especially critical that I get my hives off to the best start possible this spring. I already plan to start feeding pollen substitute and sugar syrup as soon as appropriate. To get the best possible start this season, I am wondering if a spring treatment for mites might be good to knock down whatever mite numbers I might have at the beginning of the bee (and mite) population spring build-up. My thinking is if I can reduce the mite population at the beginning of spring, the bees will benefit from fewer mites all season long. Sort'a like getting ahead of the curve on mite numbers.
Are spring mite treatments ever advised? Are there any spring mite treatment that have generally given good results? Any other suggestions on how to help my struggling hives.
Transferring frames from nucs into full size hive bodies:
(3rd year, 9 hives, Zone 5b, 5400 ft, 15.8" annual rainfall)