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Keep ahead of the varroa

We do the things we can to keep our bees alive through the seasons. But there's only so much we can do. Sometimes colonies fail. It can make us feel like we have failed the bees somehow, but the fact is- like any other living thing on the planet, the mighty honey bee also has a life cycle. They live, they die. We can make every effort and still mother nature will have her way. This image taken January 16 is from a colony that had 5 doses of OAV (oxalic acid vaporization) in the fall. The last treatment was mid-November. We saw heavy mite drop from each subsequent dose and really believed we had given the bees a fighting chance. Alas the colony failed. They had plenty of honey, a candy board on top and a cozy warm space to call home. They simply could not get ahead of the varroa. We look at the bottom board and the story is right there. Just look at the mite drop. We spent several hours yesterday in discussions back and forth with keepers from around the region asking why. There seems one remaining hypothesis alone... Robbing. Strong colonies rob the weaker ones. Why do the weaker ones fail? More often than not, the root cause is varroa. It stands to reason that the stronger colonies carry home hitch hikers while they are running away with their ill-gotten gains. It's like the gift that keeps on giving--If you are a varroa mite that is. If you are a honey bee in the middle of this maelstrom, well your days are numbered indeed. You cannot prevent your bees from robbing other colonies. Even when there is plenty of food, the pantry in this hive was slap full of honey and pollen. No reason to go a-wandering at all in the first place. But this is the way of the wild. The strongest survive, the weakest become the prey. For now, we cling to hope the last colony in this apiary will make it through the winter. And we pray for spring to come sooner rather than later.

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