Winterization, Part 2 of 6

Winterization, Part 2 of 6

Common Ailments to Honey Bees

Varroa Mites: The standard method of ‘bee-care’ is to treat for varroa mites and diseases in the fall to ensure that your hive will survive the winter season. It is important to understand that the mites do not kill the bees through their existence; they are instead a gateway parasite. This means that the punctures in the bees’ exoskeleton allow for other diseases to take over because of the bees weakened immune system. If you would like to see the lifecycle of the varroa mite, click here. The following are strategies to hold back moderate infestations of varroa:

  1. Your hive has swarmed and you allowed your colony to requeen naturally
  2. You split your hive and you requeened naturally
  3. You went queenless for a minimum of 3 weeks before inserting a mated queen
  4. You have not seen any signs of mites on your honeybees

As you see in the video, nymph varroa need young larva to feed on in order to successfully reproduce. By allowing your hive to go queenless for a period of 21 days or longer, you have allowed your bees to reach maturity and offer a lull of time where there is no larva for the varroa to reproduce on. You also allow for a period of time for the nurse bees to focus on cleaning the beehive of any health concerns, increasing the epigenetic behaviours for hygienic activity. This allows for the bees to naturally catch up with varroa populations when the bee populations are the greatest and the hive health is at its most vibrant.  In my opinion, this method of care will be like the concept of crop rotation after the destruction of soil health in the dirty 30’s. Allowing the bees a chance to stop producing bees, and catch up with the internal health of the hive, will in the end, help increase the total health and survival rate of the colony.

Chalk Brood: Chalk brood is a fungal infection that takes hold in a beehive under stress. This means that if you see chalk brood within your hive, it is an early indicator of beehive poor or depleting health. Chalk brood can be identified easily by looking at the brood nest and observing uncapped brood which looks white and chalky. The fungus attacks the brood and causes the larva to harden inside the cell. You can observe the effects of chalk brood at the hive entrance as well, as the workers carry out the mummified larva out the front.

Nosema: There are two different types of nosema: nosema apis and nosema ceranae. Both types of nosema is a single celled protozoan that effects the digestive system of the honeybee. Unlike apis, ceranae protozoan act similar to fungi in that it can survive for long periods in a dormant state in both dry cold, and warm wet environments, and is harder on the health of the honeybees if contracted. Both nosema types are spread through fecal matter discharged throughout the hive, digested by the bees in an effort to clean it up, then shared through the transfer of nectar between bees as the residual protozoan remain in the bee gut. The spread of the protozoan through cleaning behaviour decreases the chances  of drones and queen contraction. Nosema effects bees by decreasing worker bees ability to digest proteins and decreases their lifespan. Queens can become infected with nosema and the disease can cause the queen to atrophy. Signs of the causes of nosema are queen supersedure, winter kills, reduced honey yields, and dwindling populations.

 Other Ailments; scarier

Foul Brood: AFB, American Foul Brood, is a very unique and distinct bacterial infection that affects the bees in their brood stages. AFB is a spore forming bacteria which can remain in a beehive, active and inactive, for over 50 years. AFB was first found in the United States in the early ‘80s. Fear of the disease, and the tracheal mite, spreading the Canada was the main reason for the closure of the border of beekeeping equipment and bees in 1987. AFB is a very challenging disease to manage once the bacteria vegetates and releases its spores. Some colonies, during the honey flow, are able to clean up the bacteria and overcome the effects of the bacteria. Many are not, and the primary response to decrease chances of the beehives spores effecting the other hives in the area, due to the highly social behaviour of bees and the impacts of drift in bees during the honey flow, beekeepers will burn the whole hive, bleach/peroxide their equipment, and or treat with antibiotics.

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