Bee Blog Volume 4:
Safeguarding Our Hives from Pests and Diseases
Welcome back to the Bee Blog Chronicles, where we continue our fascinating journey through the world of beekeeping. In this fourth volume, we delve deep into a crucial aspect of beekeeping—protecting our cherished honeybee colonies from the threats posed by pests, diseases, and other challenges. We will explore the causes, impacts, and strategies to combat these issues, ensuring the health and vitality of our beloved hives.
Diseases Impacting Honeybees:
- Nosema Disease:
Cause: microsporidian parasites, specifically Nosema apis and Nosema ceranae, instigate Nosema disease. These spore-forming organisms infect the intestinal tracts of honeybees.
Impact: Nosema disease can debilitate bees, leading to diminished foraging abilities, shortened lifespans, and an overall decline in colony strength. It can also contribute to increased winter losses.
Treatment and Prevention: To manage Nosema disease, beekeepers can utilize medications such as Fumagillin. Maintaining strong, healthy colonies with proper nutrition and hygiene practices is vital to prevent its spread.
- American Foulbrood (AFB):
Cause: American Foulbrood is a bacterial disease caused by Paenibacillus larvae. The spores of this bacterium are highly contagious and can remain viable for extended periods.
Impact: AFB is one of the most devastating honeybee diseases, causing the death of bee larvae. Infected larvae turn into spore-filled scales, and the disease can quickly spread throughout the colony, leading to colony collapse.
Treatment and Prevention: The primary method of control for AFB is the destruction of infected colonies to prevent further spread. Beekeepers should practice good hygiene, inspect hives regularly, and use antibiotics like oxytetracycline to prevent the disease.
- European Foulbrood:
Cause: European Foulbrood is also caused by bacterial pathogens, primarily Melissococcus plutonius, affecting bee larvae.
Impact: European Foulbrood weakens the brood and can lead to spotty brood patterns, reduced colony populations, and diminished honey production.
Treatment and Prevention: Managing European Foulbrood involves requeening with a hygienic queen, improving colony health, and practicing proper hive hygiene to prevent bacterial buildup.
Cause: Chalkbrood is a fungal disease caused by Ascosphaera apis, affecting bee larvae and transforming them into chalk-like mummies.
Impact: Infected larvae become mummified, disrupting brood patterns and potentially reducing colony strength.
Treatment and Prevention: To control Chalkbrood, beekeepers should ensure proper hive ventilation and humidity levels. Removing infected brood frames can also help prevent the spread of the disease.
Pests Impacting Honeybees:
- Small Hive Beetles (SHB):
Cause: Small Hive Beetles infiltrate beehives, laying eggs in beehive debris.
Impact: SHBs can damage honeycombs, contaminate honey, and stress honeybee colonies. Their larvae tunnel through combs, causing significant damage if left unchecked.
Treatment and Prevention: Beekeepers can use beetle traps and reduce hive space to make it easier for bees to defend against SHBs. Maintaining strong colonies and good hive management practices are also essential.
- Wax Moths:
Cause: Wax moths, including the Greater Wax Moth (Galleria mellonella) and the Lesser Wax Moth (Achroia grisella), infest beehives, laying eggs in beeswax and comb.
Impact: Wax moths can destroy comb and honey stores. Their larvae tunnel through beeswax, leaving behind webbing and excrement.
Treatment and Prevention: Proper hive maintenance, regular inspections, and freezing or solarizing infested comb can help prevent wax moth infestations. Strong colonies are better equipped to defend against these pests.
- Varroa Destructor Mites:
Cause: Varroa destructor is a parasitic mite that feeds on honeybees and their brood. They can also transmit diseases like the Deformed Wing Virus (DWV).
Impact: Varroa mites weaken bees by feeding on them, transmitting diseases, and can lead to colony collapse if left uncontrolled.
Treatment and Prevention: Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies involving chemical treatments, such as miticides, and non-chemical methods, like drone brood removal and screened bottom boards, are used to manage Varroa mite infestations.
- Bee Robbing Behavior:
Bees robbing other hives is a concerning behavior where worker bees from one colony invade another to steal honey and resources. A shortage of nectar often triggers it in the environment. To prevent robbing, beekeepers should reduce hive entrances, avoid spilling honey or sugar syrup, and provide proper ventilation to prevent hive odors from attracting robbers.
Apiary Update: Trials and Triumphs
The journey has been a rollercoaster of challenges and successes in our apiary. Destiny, the queen of the Red Hive, faced a heartbreaking setback. In an attempt to provide nourishment through an internal feeder, we inadvertently attracted robbers from neighboring hives. Our once-thriving Red Hive fell victim to a savage robbery, and it was a heart-wrenching day to watch the descendants from my original hive get destroyed.
The Green Hive encountered an ordeal, being overrun by wax moths. The colony swarmed between inspections, leaving only half the population to protect two brood boxes. Seizing the opportunity, the wax moths infiltrated the hive. We immediately reduced the colony down to one brood box and added an entrance reducer to help the bees defend against invaders. The lesson learned here is the critical importance of timely inspections. Being out of pocket for about three weeks allowed the wax moths to overpower the Green Colony.
We have yet to have any disease hit our apiary; knock on wood. Throughout the active season, we use an integrated pest control system with mineral oil in our bottom boards to control pests like the small hive beetle. As winter approaches, it’s time to address the Varroa mite issue. We’ll implement a four- to five-week organic treatment known as APIGAURD to rid the colony of mites before the cold months.
Final Thoughts: A Bountiful Honey Harvest
On a brighter note, the Gold Colony, under the rule of Nefertiti, has flourished, tripling in size. We extracted several jars of golden honey with plenty left for the colony. The cool thing about our extraction process is that we utilize Flow Hives. With a long control key twist, the honey flows directly from the comb to our jars!
In this volume of the Bee Blog Chronicles, we’ve delved into the intricate challenges of protecting our hives from pests, diseases, and the threat of robbing. Our journey is marked by trials and triumphs, reminding us of the resilience and determination of our honeybees.
As we reflect on our experiences, we’re delighted to share the sweet success of a bountiful honey harvest with our friends and family. The fruits of our labor, carefully tended by our queens and their devoted workers, have yielded a rich reward. Join us in the next volume as we savor the fruits of our bees’ labor and embark on new adventures in the world of honey.