With the honey harvested at the beginning of this month - 47lbs all jarred and labelled - the job in hand immediately after was to manage the level of varroa mites in the colony. Over the past few months leading up this moment, I've questioned whether I'm doing the right thing using MAQ strips, which is a seven day treatment, compared to other products on the market. For me, getting it over and done with in a week is better than applying treatment throughout the year. If I forgot one, would I be back to square one in managing the level of varroa in the colony?
Different beekeepers will all give you different reasons as to why the way they deal with varroa is the best option. There's absolutely nothing wrong with their opinions as I've come to realise that every beekeeping scenario is different to another beekeeper's way of doing things. Why is that? It's simple - no two situations are identical. The bees themselves act as one organism and behave very differently to, say, another colony within the same apiary.
Weather conditions also play a part if using MAQ strips so I eagerly followed the weather forecast, especially for the seven days after once I started the treatment.
The day arrived (9th August) so suited and booted I went over to my beehive in the garden to do the deed. It's critical that the girls have plenty of air and space inside the hive when using the strips so I removed the bee gym near the entrance and took away the restricted entrance block too so that there was a 2.5cm height the full length of their entrance.
I dithered when it came to removing the queen excluder because I knew full well that queen bee Lizzie would go up into the supers. However, the strips needed to sit on top of the brood chamber frames. With quite a large colony of honey bees, I left two supers on that hadn't all been capped plus an extra 'wet' castellated super to give them something to do as well as that all important space for air to circulate.
With the strips in place, everything was put back together and the seven day wait kicked in. A worrying time was spent wondering if the girls were all OK. Reading forums, other beekeepers had reported losses of colonies and their queen bees. My belief was if I had followed the instructions properly, then Lizzie and her girls would be fine and they would come through and wouldn't be saddled with carrying varroa mites that can collapse whole colonies of honey bees if not controlled as part of an integrated pest management system.
Today I opened the hive to see how the girls have faired. It was an anxious time as I looked through the brood chamber looking for Lizzie. There she was - what a relief. I also found new larvae on some of the frames and the girls were all going about their busy work.
I'll be doing a varroa count as a follow-up to check what the drop is - hoping the MAQ strips have done their work leaving Lizzie and her girls in a healthy condition to see them through the winter.
The image used has been published under the terms of a Creative Commons License and is attributed to Honey Bee.