Winter is coming, and preparations are underway! National overwintering rates hover around 40%, so it’s crucial that we do all we can to set the bees up for success.
- Invading a brood cell and feeding on the developing bee larva
- Hitching a ride and feeding on adult bees (this is called the phoretic stage)
Earlier in the year, there is more brood, and thus less mites in the phoretic stage. That’s when we treat the hives with Formic Pro, a slow-releasing fumigant that penetrates the mappings on the brood cells and kills the mites inside.
Starting in the fall, the bee colony’s population will start to decrease, as there is less developing brood. Consequently, the majority of mites will be in the phoretic stage.
To combat the phoretic mites, we engage our second line of defense: Oxalic Acid. Oxalic acid is a naturally occurring substance found in many plants, including leafy greens, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and even cacao! Luckily for us, it has proven to be highly effective at killing phoretic mites with no damage to the bees.
When temperatures get colder, we administer an oxalic acid dribble to the hives, using a syringe to squirt the oxalic acid mixture on bees between the frames. Effective varroa mite treatment is a cornerstone of responsible beekeeping; we continue our vigilance against the varroa mite.
Bees don’t hibernate through the winter; instead, they “cluster” together, and the movement of their bodies through vibrations and wing flapping creates warmth for the whole colony. To help keep them toasty, we place insulation under the top cover of the hives to keep the heat from escaping.
To keep the bees well-supplied during the winter, we install winter feeders. These provide the bees with a sugar water mixture that they use to supplement their honey stores and tide them over until nectar starts to flow again.
Now, it’s up to the bees!