Problems in the hive
Weekly inspections of the hive had been going well, the population was expanding, more and more brood frames were being used and even the supers are being drawn out. There is significant amounts of honey being stored and lots of brood. However, on one week we noticed about 12 bees on the floor with withered wings being devoured by wasps. It appears the hive has an infection: most likely Deformed Wing Virus. While disease presence in a hive is not unusual nor disastrous, it does imply that the colony is infested with Varroa mites. This week, on inspection we saw a worker with a mite on its back, confirming our suspicions.
Varroa mites are parasites, and while Asian varieties of honey bee are able to glean themselves of the mites, the Western variety is unable to do so. Varroa both feeds on the bees and acts as a vector for various diseases and has been implied to be the cause of the drastic loss of feral colonies within the UK.
So treatments: the society would prefer not to use too much pharmaceuticals in the hive, partly because it means we can’t harvest the honey, and partly because why not?
The reason why varroa is such a problem in the Western honey bee is because it doesn’t clean itself in the same way as its Asian cousin and therefore the mite remains, one way of encouraging the bees to clean each other is to shake icing sugar onto the bees and then they come and remove the mites off each other. We’ll be trying this next week.