It used to be that by November 5th or Bonfire Night as we called it, all the leaves were off the trees and as kids we would rake up the leaves to put on the bonfire before lighting it with an effigy of Guy Fawkes; the man that tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London, on the top. A month later than that in December 2019, there were still leaves on the trees indicating that the country has warmed up. Does this mean that bees stop brooding in the winter? I don’t usually check but it’s the time of year that colonies should be broodless or have little brood and a good time to treat with oxalic Acid as this treatment only works for the mites that are not in the cells – phoretic mites – as they are called. Once the shortest day is over and we are into January, the queen will start to lay so I took the opportunity to dribble oxalic acid onto my colonies this week to remove as many varroa mites as possible. All colonies were alive which is comforting; even the small nuc shown in the picture below. It’s got an old queen in it and rather than let them die out, I have fixed three mini-nucs together – rather inelegantly I have to admit!
There is an option to ‘vape’ oxalic acid however this is a lot more time consuming and I have trickled the stuff for quite a few years now and I have never seen any harmful effects as have been reported. So if the winter over the next couple of months is mild, there’s a fair chance that the colony will get through. I’ll be checking the weight of all hives by ‘hefting’ over the next few months to ensure they don’t starve and with luck spring will be with us soon!