Lately we have been receiving several questions about dead hives. If your hive did not make it, we are sad. It is always a bummer when bees die! We are working tirelessly to find ways to keep bees healthier, but the beekeeping industry is not on top of bee diseases. . . yet!
While we can’t diagnose all hives with a blog post, we can tell about the most common trends. When bees die, about 90% of the time it is because of varroa mites (even if you don’t see mites on the bottom board of the hive).
A sad fact about beekeeping is that 1/3 of hives die every year nationally. We recommend that beekeepers plan for this by keeping more than one hive and splitting hives in the spring of the second year. (See “Divide to Maintain” model in Lesson 7.)
Beekeepers need to check bees for mites spring and fall. If it is a new package, you can usually skip the spring check, but can do one to see if bees are clean. It seems like all hives have mites these days, so our own goal is to keep mites below an economic threshold so they don’t overwhelm the colony. We plan to test for mites and experiment with oxalic acid vapor this year. It’s a more “natural” treatment option, and is an acid found in honey. We’ll let you know how it goes.
Our favorite mite testing method is a powdered sugar roll, as it tests mites without killing bees. Here are some blog posts about mites and instructions and video on how to do a sugar roll test. All of the materials needed to do it are common household items except the hardware cloth screen for the mason jar. We sell those for $2 at our online shop.