Here's an interesting emaiil from the Ohio Dept. of Ag. It certainly supports what I've found, my hives that had plenty of resources in mid November are now getting light. Built a couple of spacers and will be giving them some mountain camp sugar, JIC. It's Jan 22 and the (new) norm is 50-60 degrees with bees flying everywhere trying to forage and consuming their stores.
Ohio Department of Agriculture: Serving Farmers and Protecting Consumers Since 1846
Honey Bees Need Winter Attention
With a warm weekend ahead and potentially warmer temperatures this coming week, beekeepers should take the time to check their bees. Steps can be taken now to reduce losses or at least avoid further losses.
Research has shown that with a warmer, prolonged fall and early winter months, honey bees continue to be active and hunt for food. Once the floral sources are gone, they scavenge weaker colonies. As they are robbing, varroa mites on the weaker colonies grab onto the robbers and are taken to the “strong” hive. Even small brood nests can be infested with several mites crawling into each larval cell and reproducing. With a smaller cluster of honey bees, the mites can cause a great deal of damage to the brood and adult bees.
It has been shown that bees in the fall have higher levels and more types of viruses that are vectored by the mites, so honey bees at this time of year can have very high levels of viruses. Sick bees will fly from the nest to die, thus gradually the number of bees in the hive drops to a small grapefruit sized cluster that can no longer keep the colony warm. Even if you treated for mites in October- early November, the mite population can be extremely high now.
This weekend, sample your hives for mites. Check the sticky board under the hive or test 30-50 bees. The only miticide available this time of year is oxalic acid which can be used as vapor or as a dribble. Follow label directions and protect yourself if you plan to treat.
Move frames of honey from the outside walls to the center of each box, and place boxes of honey on top of the cluster. Bees tend to move straight up and can die with honey one frame away from the cluster. Provide fondant or dry sugar if the bees have consumed all their honey. Do NOT feed honey from other sources to your bees as they can contract American foulbrood from other bees’ honey, even store bought honey.
These tips may prevent more managed hives from dying.
Since ODA does not have all the emails of beekeepers, please pass this message along to your beekeeper contacts. If you have any questions please see my contact information below.
I think apivar is on its way out but a strip carefully pushed down in the center of the winter cluster will drop an awful lot of the mites. This single strip treatment was pretty standard among friends in Calgary on wintering hives. It was placed in mid winter into broodless colonies. For some, it was the only mite treatment all year. I am not claiming that now! But I bet a sticky board would fill up on an infested hive so treated.