But if the interiors were good, meaning no one sprayed my hive boxes nor inside the hives, then the foragers must be the ones that were affected by the wicked event.
Strategy means everything at this point. My first reaction is to bring in new queens for each hive. Being treatment-free, going into winter with more strong hives is better than with fewer weaker ones. Decisions, decisions.
Would a better response be to split the hives into 4 nucs and raise 2 additional queens (and eventually replace the current queens after the new queens come online)? These hives are doing o-kay, but are not great. Longtime commercial and natural beekeeper Michael Palmer suggests taking weak hives and making splits from them, and apportioning their resources to other hives instead of the reverse -- taking a strong hive and putting some of its resources into the weaker ones thereby, weakening your strong hive in the process -- is a smarter was to go. Stop chasing after weak hives, in other words. Use what you have to start anew. I have indeed decided to make splits from these two hives, especially since they've bounced back and some drones are still flying. The clock is ticking.
Speaking of strategies, late last year (when it was too late to count for that season's bees) I covered the surface underneath my hives with plastic tarp and old roofing shingles to make an impenetrable surface. This prevents small hive beetles from pupating underneath the hives and breaks their vicious and fast reproductive cycle. It also keeps my hives dry, no matter how wet the conditions outside are. We had an extremely wet spring this year, and the hard surface kept my package bees dry and beetle-free. I've wanted to dress up my apiary with cedar or cypress chips atop the shingles because the shingles are quite the touch of redneck and just aren't pretty. But damnit, they work: if it weren't for the unnatural, hard surface I wouldn't have realized this June day that I had a problem on my hands that needed to be monitored. For now, the old, ugly roofing shingles work just fine and show me instantly if I see natural attrition of bees dying outside the hives, or a problem that needs immediate attention.
I never would've known I had a problem were it not for the hard surface underneath my hives. I highly recommend cheap, efficient (and if you're like me, free) shingles as a material to put down underneath your hives. The hard surface is a GREAT beetle defense, and an immediate visual aid in letting you know if all is well or if "something wicked this way comes" (yes, I'm a Ray Bradbury fan and you should read that amazing, scary-assed masterpiece).
Tom Davidson is the owner and beekeeper at T's Bees.
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