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Discussion Starter #1
I have two hives that are about 5 years old, and I have 3 hives that I just purchased in April and then a swarm from May. The 3 new hives and the swarm just had the 3rd boxes put on them. The 2 old hives seem like they are barely doing anything. The 2 old hives had 3 mediums on them for the winter and were still almost full when I checked them in March. Since then, I have only put one more box on and it seems like they are barely doing anything when compared to the 4 new hives. One of the old hives seems like the bee count is real low. Both old hives have brood in them. What should I bee checking for next time I open them up? I know both of them have really dark wax (dark brown, almost black). Not sure if that matters. Thanks for the help.
 

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Check your VARROA levels.
That's the first thing I would do a alcohol wash good luck.
 

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This sounds like classic mite infestation problem to me too. Pull a frame of capped brood with capped drones and take a capping scratcher or a bamboo skewer and start carefully uncapping and pulling drone larvae. I bet you find mites in nearly every cell. An alcohol wash of bees collected from open brood is probably the closest indicator. I think sugar rolls are close too. Then you have to decide how to treat the problem.

If your problem is varroa, it will not go away without some kind of treatment.
 

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The queen likes new comb. If you have comb without honey in the brood box, move them up into the supers and put new frames with foundation in the brood box. If you have brood and honey, move half up to the supers and replace with new foundation. I find brood comb needs replacing at least every two years. You should notice a invigorated queen.
 

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The queen likes new comb. If you have comb without honey in the brood box, move them up into the supers and put new frames with foundation in the brood box. If you have brood and honey, move half up to the supers and replace with new foundation. I find brood comb needs replacing at least every two years. You should notice a invigorated queen.
While I routinely replace comb, plenty of beeks take great pride in their old, black comb and have very, very good results using it. They also keep the varroa population under good control. THAT will be far more helpful to your bees than new comb.

JMO

Rusty
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I have never check for mites before. How do you go about doing the alcohol method? One more time, thanks again for the advice.
 

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Collect a half cup of nurse bees off open brood comb and put them in a jar with room temperature alcohol/ windshield washer fluid and shake thoroughly to dislodge the mites from the bees. Pour the fluid off the bees thru a #8 hardware cloth screen to catch the bees and let the mites go thru.

The half cup is roughly 300 bees. If you find 10 mites in your receiver, you have 3 1/3 mites per hundred. Anything much more than causes me to closely monitor that colony.

Personally I have two wide mouth quart jars with #8 hardware cloth in the lids. I put the half cup of bees in the jar and pour in a heaping tablespoon of powdered sugar and shake and agitate the bees and sugar until the bees are thoroughly coated. I then set the jar in the shade and proceed on to the next colony and repeat the collection and dusting. Then I set that jar in the shade and retrieve the first. I re agitate the jar and bees then pour the powdered sugar into a zip lock bag and try to get as much of it as I can. I mark the bag to indicate the tested hive and move on down the line.

When I am done with the series of tests, I take the zip lock bag and add enough water to the powdered sugar to turn it clear. The brown mites are clearly visable and countable in the zip lock bags. I hate killing that many bees and the powdered sugar test is probably not as accurate but it is good enough for me.
 

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Powder sugar method is what I learned. You will take some powder sugar in a mason jar and scoop (one cup) bees into it. The cover should be pierced with nails, so the bees would not suffocate. Then roll the bees in the powder sugar.

Open the cover and let the bees leave. Now if you dissolve the powder sugar, then you should see the varroa.
 

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an alcohol wash is done by taking 1 cup of bees and placing them in a jar then covering them with alcohol, it kills the bees and the mites fall off. Remove the bees and count the mites in the jar.

A sugar roll is done by placing 1 cup of bees in a jar. Add a good scoop of confectioners cap it off and roll the jar, empty the jar onto a tray and brush the bees off. count the mites.

Both are effective, although some may argue the alcohol method to be better, the sugar roll does not kill all the bees.
 

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My queens seem to prefer old dark comb. I'll pull the old queen a couple or three times a year and let the bees build a new one. Maybe I have mite biter bees or the brood breaks or a combination of both but I have no mite problems.

I've found hives have three modes. Maintenance mode, swarm mode and buildup mode. Older hives are in maintenance mode while young hives are in buildup mode.

This would be my first suspicion.

Woody Roberts
 

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What's your brood pattern look like got pictures? Spotty brood pattern?

Mites are not usually a problem this time of the year.
With a flow on the bee should be filling comb.
 

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While I routinely replace comb, plenty of beeks take great pride in their old, black comb and have very, very good results using it. They also keep the varroa population under good control. THAT will be far more helpful to your bees than new comb. JMO Rusty
Fortunately I have no experience of verroa and want to keep it that way. Just quoting from my experience.
 
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