The Green Chapel Farms hive named "Alpha" was founded. Stock purchased from Terry Toler of Brunswick County NC, Buckfast Variety, in April of 2010. 9 frame configuration. 2 supers, 2 brood boxes. No screened bottom board. Add Slatted Rack.
ACTIONS: To date, this hive has not received any chemical treatment for Varroa Mite, Tracheal Mite, Nosema, Wax Moths or any other virus, bacteria or Infestation. Plantings in front of the hive include Lavender and Spearmint to deter invasive insect activity in the hive and on the bees. The Lavender is situated so that the bees must fly through it to reach the hive entrance. We believe the essential oils of Lavender deter Varroa and other insects as well, from entering the hive. We slowly and systematically replaced All brood frames with small cell wax during the 2010/2011 season, in order to restore the natural size of the honey bee, if possible. Many common beekeeping practices have come into question during our quest for self-sustaining hives. We have kept internal hive inspections to a minimum to reduce stress on the colony. We also believe that the absence of foreign chemicals, heat, stress, and excessive honey cropping have provided an opportunity for our hives to deal with the Varroa Mite invader and other bee problems through naturally developed resistance and selective queen building (supersession). The current good health of our hives supports this theory. Reusable beetle traps are installed containing mineral oil only. Traps are emptied twice a year.
Alpha Hive is located on the edge of a South facing meadow, with a pine forest slightly overhead and to the rear. The Hive is planted around with deciduous trees, that permit full sun in winter and almost full shade in summer.
Alpha hive contains a Slatted Rack installed between the bottom board and the lower brood box. Putting some distance between the entrance of the hive and the Brood frames may have many advantages. Housekeeping bees use this extended area to collect and remove debris from the hive. Bees have an extended buffer between the brood and the Hive entrance.
SLATTED RACKS Slatted racks provide dead air space below the brood chamber. This layer of air helps to keep the bees cooler in summer and warmer in winter. In the summer when populations are high, bees congregate in this area which reduces congestion in the hive, spreads out the heat load, and facilitates ventilation by fanning. This increase of space and lessening of heat seems to decrease swarming as well. In the winter, when the entrances are reduced, the air space within the slatted rack acts as an insulating layer between the brood chamber and the cold area below the hive. It also removes the brood nest further from the drafty entrance. Our bees seem to use this space as a resting and staging area.
Because a slatted rack moves the bottom of the brood chamber further from the entrance, the queen tends to lay eggs all the way to the bottom of the frames, thus extending the brood pattern.
Here are some caveats about using slatted racks: If you have the type of rack that runs crosswise, fewer mites are going to fall through so your Varroa screen will be less effective. Similarly, the number of slats should match the number of frames. If you use only nine brood frames in a ten-frame box, your slatted rack should have nine slats. Some manufacturers have designed racks that can be modified for this configuration. There are also slatted racks made specifically for 8-frame equipment.
At one end of the slats (running perpendicular to them) is a flat board about four inches wide. This goes at the front of the hive and is said to reduce air turbulence at the entrance.
But the most important thing to remember about slatted racks is this: they have two sides, a deep side and a shallow side. The shallow side goes up. Repeat. The shallow side goes up. If you put it in upside down, the bees will draw comb into the empty space. The next time you try to reverse brood boxes, you’ll first have to cut away the comb and brood hanging off the bottom.
To prevent the total annihilation of the North Americam Honey Bee population, The EPA did what it could to stem the tide of hive death by Varroa infestation: Chemical Treatment. But in 20 years, an alternative to chemical treatment has not been approved, and little research, on the governmental level is being conducted to change this. There is a growing body of evidence that pesticides can weaken the immune systems of animals and insects, making them more vulnerable and less able to protect themselves. It has been proven that Pesticides force predictor infestations like roaches, fleas and termites to evolve and develope immune colonies to survive. If alternative methods of treatment are not researched and developed, we may be sentencing the Honey Bee and the American Produce Industry, to a slow and painful death. Link to Published Research Findings 5/01/2013
Varroa destructor is an external parasitic mite that attacks honey bees Apis cerana and Apis mellifera. The disease caused by the mites is called varroatosis. Varroa destructor can only replicate in a honey bee colony. It attaches at the body of the bee and weakens the bee by sucking hemolymph. In this process RNA viruses such as the deformed wing virus (DWV) spreads to bees. A significant mite infestation will lead to the death of a honey bee colony, usually in the late autumn through early spring. The Varroa mite is the parasite with the most pronounced economic impact on the beekeeping industry. It may be a contributing factor to colony collapse disorder (CCD), as research shows it is the main factor for collapsed colonies in Ontario, Canada.
Reproduction, infection and hive mortality
Mites reproduce on a 10-day cycle. The female mite enters a honey bee brood cell. As soon as the cell is capped, the Varroa mite lays eggs on the larva which hatch into several females and typically one male. The young mites hatch in about the same time as the young bee develops and leave the cell with the host. When the young bee emerges from the cell after pupation the Varroa mites also leave and spread to other bees and larvae. The mite preferentially infests drone cells. The adults suck the "blood" of adult honey bees for sustenance, leaving open wounds. The compromised adult bees are more prone to infections. With the exception of some resistance in the Russian strains and Varroa sensitive hygiene (VSH) developed by the USDA, the European Apis mellifera bees are almost completely defenseless against these parasites (Russian honey bees are one third to one half less susceptible to mite reproduction). The model for the population dynamics is exponential growth when bee brood are available and exponential decline when no brood is available. In 12 weeks the number of mites in a Western honey bee hive can multiply by (roughly) 12. High mite populations in the autumn can cause a crisis when drone rearing ceases and the mites switch to worker larvae, causing a quick population crash and often hive death.
Current (legal USDA) Treatment for Varroa Infestations
Apistan (fluvalinate) is the only legal, EPA-registered chemical for treating honey bee colonies for varroa mites at this time. Apistan, with specific instructions for use, is available through all major bee suppliers. Generally, the Apistan label instructs that fluvalinate-impregnated strips should be hung with two frames of the edge at the bee cluster for at least 42-56 days. During treatment with any drug or pesticide, all honey supers for human consumption MUST be removed. Although the removal of honey supers is required, it is rarely practiced. Commercial Bee Keepers (apiries) claim to "not collect honey" while bees are being treated with chemical miticides.
Varroa cannot be wiped out. They are here to stay. It is our strong belief, through observation of numerous species, faced with similar annihilation by another invading species or parasite, that Honey Bees can develop a tolerance (or resistance) to this invader. Green Chapel Farms Student Research Team has just completed it's third year of study, using alternative bee keeping practices. We will be publishing these EXCITING results this week. Stay Tuned....!