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Discussion Starter #1
We had a cold snap here in NY about a week ago and I lost a lot of bees (couple of hundred). Hive still seems to be surviving since only a few days later on a day in the 50's, there were plenty of bees flying about. I haven't opened the hives this winter and have pretty much left them alone.

On the dead bees I noticied mites. I did treat in Sept/October with Apivar but am now contemplating a spring treatment...but with what and when? I am open to buying any treatment people think is useful: Oxalic Vaporizer, MAQS, ApiLife etc

What would people recommend?
I know ApilLife has a strong thymol scent so would that ruin the taste of my honey this year if I used it early?

Need some fireside beekeeping experience on this
Pooh Bear
 

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Don't fret about the "lost bees". What you are seeing is perfectly normal even in a hive with no significant mite issue. I have nine large hives on a single platform and in the last week or so you would think they were all on death's door if you saw the number of corpses littering the ground.

What you are seeing is a combination of delayed (because of cold temps earlier) corpse disposal by the morgue bees close by the hives on dormant grass or snow where the dead ones really stand out; bees flying out to poop in marginal weather and becoming too-chilled, and perhaps older foragers at the tail end of their lifespans. And this is why there is so much emphasis on protecting the health of the "winter bees", because if you don't have enough robust bees to carry on and begin the brood cycle anew a colony will be lost.

However, you are also reporting seeing mites on the dead bees. And that is a worrying sign, beyond what is to be expected in mid-winter. Are you quite sure that's what you are seeing? Most mites on adults are on the under surface of the abdomen and often concealed. Mites seen on the thorax (like you see in pictures) mean you have may have a really high load.

If that is so, I would consider getting some OAV equipment (vaporizer and personal protective gear) and treating as soon as possible. You may have already started brood (I expect that soon even up here north of Albany) which will lower the effectiveness, but it might still be useful and it's one of the only treatments that can be done in relatively cold weather. (Min. temp is 37F, but I find it's better at least 42F, preferably above 45F.) OA dribble could also be done but involves opening the hive completely. But it can't be repeated in a series like OAV can if you get a substantial drop indicating a big infestation.

You can wait a bit and hang Apivar strips in March, but they have to come off well before you super-up. Formic (MAQS) requires still-warmer temps; it carries a bit more risk to queens - a big concern during seasons when you can't get a new one mated - but it can be used with supers on. Both Apiguard and Apilife-var need to have the supers off.

Have you done some sticky boards recently? I do them every week all winter to monitor for mite drop patterns (there are no published thresholds for winter counts) and to watch for signs of fresh wax scales which means brood has restarted. Even if you don't have screened bottom boards, you can buy devices that slide in on the floor to do sticky counts with; I think they're not as good as regular SBB, but better than nothing. I use SBB year-round, but always over a solid board so I haven't any issues in cold weather monitoring.

Enj.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
If I cracked open the hive then I would probably be able to give a better dear option of the hive health but some background: this is a package hive and queen from CA and this is her first and my first wintering with bees. I left a honey super on to give them tons of food so they should have had ample supplies going into winter.

In the pile of dead bees, I saw mites dead on bees backs but also saw one or two SHBs as well. If I were to speculate, I would say that the bees were not clumping together and got separate and a portion of the hive literally froze to dead. Since there are still bees, I think they are just hanging on but will need to check soon.

Any recommendations for a good oxalic vaporizer?

Lastly, I have an Italian Nuc started in July that is doing well. No mass die offs in that hive were noticed. I believe she was a locally bees queen so that might explain some of their apparent hardiness. Also since the started late, they probably didn't have time to build up a significant population of mites
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Lastly, assuming the Italian Nuc survives, I plan on moving them into a hive with a screen bottom board, sticky board to help monitor the mites
 

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As others said winder bee die offs are normal. Every winter (this year being the exception) On the first nice mid winter day I field dozens of calls, "The snow in front of my hive is covered with dead Bees." Some of those bees may have been dead for quite a while. This is just the first time the house cleaners have been able to remove them. Wait until you open a really strong hive in the spring and see 2 inches of dead bees on the bottom board.

If you are seeing mites on dead bees outside the hive then I would be concerned. As this is something that indicates a high mite population within the hive. I am about 3 hours south of you and am Just beginning to see the hives brooding up. So I would think you are going to be close behind.
Were it me I would Do an Oxalic acid Vapor treatment very soon.

I like the vorrax Is a very good Vaporizer> If you look to the right you will see an add / That says Vaporize IT. and has a no mite symbol Click on it you will find several options from a trusted provider. IMHO
 

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I, too, use the Varrox vaporizer that Larry ( aka SNL here on Beesource - the same guy Tenbears is recommending, his customer service is excellent) sells. I started with a slightly cheaper one but that broke down after a year or so. It would have been cheaper in the long run to have bought the pricier one in the first place.

But don't splurge on the vaporizor at the expense of not getting the correct personal protection gear: an ACID-GAS respirator and goggles. You will also need a battery (I use a lawn mower one). You'll need timers, measuring spoons, etc. I use three timers, so I can cycle through more than one hive at a time, but if you have only two, a single timer will do. I find a small rimless cookie sheet (or two if you're planning to move right along in a lot of hives) is useful as well.

The good thing is that the actual chemical, OA, is dirt cheap when purchased at a hardware store in the form of wood bleach (Savogran is the brand I use). Ten bucks of it will treat dozens and dozens of times. Keep it tightly sealed in between treatment days.

I use screened bottom boards for monitoring purposes only. I would not be comfortable leaving my bees open like that all winter. That's why the SBB are set on top of solid boards all the time, which is the best of all worlds, IMO.

If you got a vaporizor, I would treat now in a series of (at least) three, on seven day intervals, monitoring each time to see what drop you're getting. Even if they have some early brood now, it will be less than they have later on in the spring.

Visible mites on the bodies of dead bees is an ominous sign.

Enj.
 

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Ok, I guess its time participate after reading and lurking for years on this site.
As stated already by others... if you are seeing mites on dead bees outside the hive, especially at this time of year here in NY it is a very bad sign of things to come. You need to evaluate your mite load and treat them NOW. OAV is by far the best choice with the temps we are having, and having a well made, commercially produced wand will be an investment you will not regret long term. BUT, the investment for a wand/ shipping ect. and a resporator to protect you may be too much for someone with only one hive. There are two other options... first, do you have a mentor and/or a bee club you are in? If so I would call them today, and see if they have a OAV wand and ask them to borrow it or have them come over and help you. Second, if you are on your own I would suggest pulling up a search on youtube for making your own OAV wand using an imersion 12V heading element. You could drive to town right now and stop off at walmart or michaels or such place and the hardware store, and come home with everything you need to build one for under $20, and 20 minutes. Certainly not a long term fix but it works and will get you buy for now. a respirator is very important, but if you are smart with the wind, and a longer cord you could get by for a few treatments. 1 gram (1/4 tsp) per deep. check for mite drop, repeat 3 times at 7 day intervals.
I wish you were closer I would come over with my wand. Good luck.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thanks folks. Rest assured I'll be ordering the correct PPE when I order the vaporizer. One question though do people treat exclusively with oxalic acid and not any other brands?

I used Apivar strips in the fall and question their efficacy based on my observations (would not be the first time a manufacturers claims turned out to be optimistic) and those things are expensive. MAQS are also pricy so I don't mind forking over a little bit more for a good vaporizer if I know that I won't have to use other treatments. Is this the case?
 

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Discussion Starter #10
And yes there was a mass of bees in the bottom of the box - probably a couple of hundred. It was quite shocking and sad to find. Oddly enough I love my bees.
 
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