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My hives are located in Tucson, AZ and we have been experiencing consistently cold nights for the past few weeks (low 40s) and though the bees are able to fly everyday they are in their 'winter cluster' mode as far as Tucson goes. 3 of my hives I went into yesterday had no brood (one had a small patch of eggs) but all 3 hives had queens in them? My question is: Do bees take a break in brood rearing once winter settles in to the point that there is not any brood in the hive at certain times? I looked closely for evidence of a varroa infestation in all three hives but did not see anything. Thanks in advance for any advice!
 

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Yes,. It's the "winter brood pause." Many people use it very constructively by applying a dose of oxalic acid (vaporization or dribble) because during this short period all the mite in the hive are vulnerable to a single dose of it.

BTW, "looking" for signs of varroa will lost likely lead you to a false sense of confidence. You need to test for varroa to get a real handle on the problem. You won't easily see them until they are out of control. Or you could just make the (likely correct) assumption that they are there, and treat them with OA. This is the one time of year when you can make a really significant difference in the mite levels with a single dose. A difference that will carry over and pay dividends for months to come in terms or re-setting the levels back down to nearly zero.

Nancy
 

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My question is: Do bees take a break in brood rearing once winter settles in to the point that there is not any brood in the hive at certain times? I looked closely for evidence of a varroa infestation in all three hives but did not see anything. Thanks in advance for any advice!
The bees will stop raising brood when there is nothing coming in. It's common in the winter when temps drop and nothing is blooming, but it also happens in the summer dearths in areas where there is absolutely nothing for them to forage on during a period of dearth.

As for the varroa infestation potential, what exactly do you mean by 'I looked closely' ? If that means you looked at bees for actual mites, then, that is not how to check for varroa. When the infestation reaches the point you are seeing varroa on the backs of the bees, then it's likely to far gone for rescue.
 

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In the UK beekeepers often apply the winter OA treatment between Christmas and New Year (it's a good excuse to escape from the relatives!). For years I've reckoned this is too late and usually treat at the very end of November or first week in December. Timing is based on my estimate of broodlessness, which itself is weather dependent. This year we had a mild autumn and colonies are now probably/definitely broodless (for the first time some have brood temperature monitors which have dropped by 10oC over the last fortnight), so I'll be treating as soon as the weather warms slightly.

There will be no foraging until late February at the very earliest. Despite this brood rearing will probably start around the winter solstice ... which is why I reckon the 'end of year' treatment is a bit late.
 

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I just hit my colonies with oxalic last week at 44F. Amazing the difference in activity levels. I like the colonies that didn't even stir. They are marked as keepers--everything else being equal.
 
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