Tuesday, June 5, 2018

A Sick Beehive

It seems like I jinx my hives every year when I get in to them after the winter and get all excited because they're strong and rearing to go. I start thinking, 'Maybe we'll get to harvest some honey this year!' Aaaaaaaaaand then I always figure out something has gone wrong... and usually it's something I've done- or not done- due to my inexperience.

My first year I didn't harvest honey because my girls were all new and I wanted them to have the best chance to come through winter that they possibly could have.

Last year I didn't harvest honey because I (stupidly) didn't treat them for varroa and they were significantly weakened and not able to make a surplus of honey.

This year I thought we were in a good spot- I treated for varroa at the end of the winter, their populations were looking really good, and I was able to stop feeding them sugar water at the end of February. High fives all around. So I made my annual mistake and said out loud, "Maybe we'll get some honey this year!"

And then South Hive started to decline. Rapidly.

So I pulled the hive apart to try to find a clue as to what was going on, and this is what I saw:

The first thing that should jump out at you: a terrible brood pattern, ie a very low number of capped, almost-fully-developed baby bees. So uh-oh.

Then, looking a little closer:

Wait a second, there is a larvae or an egg at the bottom of every single cell, but they're not making it to the capping-age... so what's going on with that? Then you look a little closer...

The bigger larvae look mushy, squished, darkened... and dead. Something bad-wrong was (is) going on. Other things I noticed in this hive: a sharp decline in the adult population and a significant decrease in food stores.

So I pulled out my books, I started texting my photos to my bee friends, and I hit the Googles.

My terrifying (to me) conclusion: South Hive has European foulbrood (EFB). The photos I took during my revealing hive inspection were just as good as the example photos in the books and on the websites explaining this bacterial infection. Textbook, if you will.

What's sad to me is that EFB can actually be managed by a strong hive without intervention, but probably because I didn't treat for varroa like I should have the previous year, they are being destroyed by it instead.

My solution: requeen the hive (which is not easy in June, because queens are hard to come by y'all).

Step one: find the old queen and get her out of the hive with enough time before the new one arrives for all the daughters to realize she's not there any more.


Step two: order a new queen and choke on how expensive she is.

Step three: work from home on delivery day so the new royal can be installed ASAP.

So now I wait... I wait for UPS, I wait for my hive to release and accept their new queen, and I wait to see if her new genes will save my last original hive.

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