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Jezza's Hive Blog


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Last night I got home about 7.30 and thought I would watch the last of the foragers return for the day.


As I went down to my hive platform I noticed a wasp inspecting the bodies laying about. It seemed particularly interested in the newer, less desiccated bodies. I tried to squash it, I should probably put my veil on to do this as sooner or later one will fly at me, I missed, and off it went. I see wasps around the entrance every time I watch the hive for more than 5 minutes, as yet I haven't seen one go in, even through my bees only seem to be guarding a small (5 - 10) cm area to the extreme right of the hive entrance.


I watched the entrance for about 5 minutes last night (I saw no less than 3 bumble bees circle the hive) before to my horror an undertaker bee came dropped off a badly deformed bee with DWV, I mean it was bad, about 2/3 of the size of a normal bee, the abdomen was whitish with an orange tint - nothing about the bee looked right. I don't believe there is any way that bee could have emerged on it's own. Shocked I went to check my catch board under the screened bottom board to see if the mite drop had increased, I could only see 1 dead mite on the board. What concerns me somewhat is the Bayvarol only came out a few weeks ago, meaning the mite that deformed this bee likely went into the cell while the strips were in.


After I checked the catch board I came around the front of the hive and lo and behold a wasp was picking up the deformed bee to carry it off, I squished them, sending the wasp to insect hell, but rendering the dead bee useless for further observation. It also left me wondering if other dead DWV bees have been carried off in a similar manner.


My questions are:

- Is it normal to see some badly deformed bees like this being ejected from the hive, even in a healthy, growing colony? I.e. Varroa will always be in the hive no matter what control is used, and some bees will be deformed by their presence, the goal is to keep the mite population low enough to limit the damage, and to avoid colony size decline?

- Is it normal to see the level of wasp activity described this early in the season? Is high activity now a predictor of the size of problem I will likely have in February - June?


My plan of attack:

- I have ordered an entrance reducer from Ecroyds and will place it on the hive this weekend, to give the guard bees a more manageable area to defend.

- In the next few weeks I will do an alcohol rinse to see exactly what my levels of varroa are.


I'm guessing these are the types of problem that experience says not to worry about, but I'd rather be safe, and check, than sorry.

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How big an entrance are you running, on a small hive two boxes i only run 75mm opening. easier to defend. Inspect the hive carefully for disease and varroa. Wasps have a sense of a weak hive and will pick at it till it submits. Hives should be roaring at the moment. Mine are, even this seasons nucs and the wasps and bumbles do not dare at the moment. Check them carefully.

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Hi Gavin, thank you for replying.


I've been running the full entrance, I will be fitting an entrance reducer tomorrow, lesson learned on that one.


You can see photos of my hive from last Saturday here:


NZBF: - Second Hive Inspection (with photos)


The colony was a swarm from this year which has grown steadily to fill a nuc box, then a FD last week, and seem to be drawing and filling about two frames a week.


I will make sure I look especially closely for DWV on the frames this weekend.

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Hi Charles, I appreciate you looking again at those photos.


I went to the original photos and looked through them zoomed in, the photos aren't the best quality but I could only see one bee on the combs that had the "wavy" shrivelled wings that I would call a positive ID.


I'll keep a very close look out during my inspection and tickle some bee bums. I'll take more (and hopefully better and a few less) photos this weekend and post them again.


I'm finding it hard to differentiate between what is a normal level of death and disease in a hive, what I should keep an eye on, and what I should be downright worried about.

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I'm finding it hard to differentiate between what is a normal level of death and disease in a hive, what I should keep an eye on, and what I should be downright worried about.


As a starting point I recommend you don't worry about anything. Shove some mite poison in there after you've harvested if that's the plan, and you'll be sweet, she'll be right etc. There's all sorts of advice floating around about this and that and resistance and blah. Just lay back & enjoy having them, and if perchance they don't survive the winter then is the time to review, take the lessons to be had & move on. (Now I'll step aside while the pedants & experts get stuck in)

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@Jezza one of my hives was treated for varroa during winter. Lot's of DWV in the hive. They got a full treatment of Apistan. It was another two months after the strips came out that I stopped seeing DWV bodies on the landing board each day. The mites are only a vector for deformed wing virus. It appears to me that even after the mites are gone it takes the colony some time to get over the infection.
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Did they supersede her quickly, or did you re-Queen?

I left her for interest. Wings on one side mildly deformed, other side was ok.

She was gone on next inspection a week later, so I merged with the QR neighbour

There was no sign of DWV in any other of the bees at that time

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Third Inspection on Saturday. Sadly no photos as my photography assistant called in sick. :)


A big thank to @John Russell for coming over to help, thanks for lending your time and experience.


As to the inspection:


Stores - All good, lots of stored pollen of different colours, heaps of nectar and capped honey. The hive is starting to rearrange the stores to the traditional, brood, beebread, nectar configuration.


Title - Didn't see the Queen, however lots of eggs in a good pattern. I need to practice IDing the Queen, and get a marking kit.


All - Yes, eggs on multiple frames, all stages of brood.


Trouble - No bees with DWV on the frames that I could see. We did a sugar shake of 300 bees @John Russell saw one mite, I couldn't see any. We were planning an OA vaporisation if we had more than a few, so no treatment.


Expansion - The bees had really packed out the bottom box. They had drawn and filled three frames with all nectar in the top box and were starting on drawing two more.


I add an entrance reducer in the evening after things had calmed down from the inspection, I did this to eliminate any issue with bumblebees, and limit wasp or robbing risk. I removed the catch board under my SBB increase ventilation, I might also prop up my hive mat in a couple of weeks.


My question is regarding the top box. The bees have not used any of the additional space for laying simply for storing nectar. Should I be looking to move a frame of brood up to the top box and putting an empty frame in the middle of the brood nest to expand it?


I also observed some interesting things when I fitted the entrance reducer, I created a new thread to discuss here:


NZBF: - Entrance Behaviour: Instinct or Communication

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  • 3 weeks later...

I did my fourth inspection on Boxing Day before I went on holiday, very happy:


Stores - Pollen, nectar for Africa.


Title - I saw the Queen for the first time during an inspection. Yay.


All - Yes, eggs on multiple frames and in both boxes, all stages of brood in the bottom box.


Trouble - No bees with DWV on the frames that I could see. Brood looked OK to my untrained eye. Most of the second brood box was filled with nectar, the Queen had only managed to lay up a bit of the bottom of each of the few middle frames, so I wasn't really sure how to free up space for her.


Expansion - The only real worry. The bees had drawn out 4 frames in a week, so there was only 3 empty frames in the second brood box, everything else was full and the bottom box was chocka. I was leaving that afternoon for the Coromandel so not much I could do about it.


I did my fifth inspection on Sunday:


Stores - All good, the flow is well and truly on.


Title - I saw the Queen again. Hopefully I'm getting better at spotting her.


All - Yes, eggs on multiple frames and in both boxes, all stages of brood. The pattern looks good to me, so far I think she's a pretty good Queen.


Trouble - No bees with DWV on the frames that I could see. Brood looked OK to my untrained eye. There was more of a regular brood pattern in the top box, still a lot of nectar (heavy box) I think the bees must have consumed a bit of the stores of nectar in the bad weather and the Queen has laid in the new space.


Expansion - The bad weather actually worked out well for me, as the bees had drawn out all but the outside side of the frames on the edge of the box. I added another FD box to the hive.


My question is this; I added the new additional box between the existing two brood boxes, my thinking was that (what is now the top box) is mainly full of nectar and I want to give the Queen more space to lay as the bees draw out the frames. Then I can add a Queen excluder to the top of the second box and the bees won't have much work to do before I have a full FD box of honey to harvest and put straight back on the Hive. At the moment the hive is like this from top to bottom:


Second brood box (added about 4 weeks ago, mainly full of nectar and some brood)

New box

Original brood box (most like a standard brood box)


Thoughts? I can rearrange the boxes this weekend if required.

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Yeh, I wouldn't do that either. You're affective asking them to draw out a box and potentially look after 3 boxes of brood, which is a tall order.


Better to leave brood boxes together and lift up some frames, if you must, and replace with foundation, checkerboarded. Only 2 per brood box though

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I combined the two brood boxes back together last night.


I pulled one frame of brood from what was the top box and it was capped, hopefully the pupae come through OK, I don't want to lose a few thousand bees from a cycle.


As I was closing the hive I noticed the bees had pretty much deserted the empty (now) top box.


It also seemed they had barely drawn any frames in empty box while it was in the middle, I'm starting to think that even during the flow it takes some time for the bees to fill the frames after they are drawn, so another box isn't required as soon as the previous box is drawn. I'm wondering how I will tell when to add boxes next season when I have some already drawn frames.


I also forgot to add a QE between the second and third box. I will have to do that this weekend.

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