I have done some varroa counts over the summer and find my numbers seem to be off the chart. I treated the hives twice with powdered sugar (once I remembered to put the trays in so I could count what came off the bees -- it was impressive), but this method only removes varroa mites that are ON the bees and not any inside the brood cells.
I will have to treat with something stronger. Stand by for further details.
In the meantime, I was at the hive yesterday and noticed a LOT of yellow jacket activity. A quick google showed that this, too, is a problem and the wasps will raid hives eating larva and honey. I have read accounts of people discovering an entire hive wiped out in short order.
I swear this beekeeping thing is more stressful than parenthood. So much can go wrong!
One immediate suggestion was to reduce the size of the hive entrance so it will be easier for the bees to police themselves. My hives (all purchased hives) come with a removeable entrance reducer. I had a bit of trouble as mine seem to have swollen or otherwise reshaped themselves, but I managed to install them and I think they are doing the job.
In the meantime, I have had a few discussions with several of the more experienced beekeepers I know about matters ranging from honey extraction to varroa treatment to preparation for winter. The adage remains consistent: Ask 10 beekeepers and you will get 11 opinions!
H and A are old school: they believe in managing the hives. M is more New Age: he manages his hives minimally, believing the bees know best. I wander all over the map, but more and more I tend to believe that, as in childbirth, Nature knows best. That many of our beekeeping problems have arisen because we get in there and try to control things. That many times beekeepers do something because that is the way it has always been done. That said, as in childbirth, I have only a few months experience. It feels uncomfortable to challenge a beekeeper with decades of experience.
My husband point out that the good news here is that H, A, and M all seem to have successful hives. If they are operating at opposite ends of the spectrum, perhaps there is no right or wrong way to do things. Time will tell, I suppose.
Tomorrow A is coming to look at my hives and give me some advice. Saturday is a practical session at M's hives. While I already know I am going to follow M's suggestions (I had a chat with him last week), I still want to hear what A has to say. I want to hear what all beekeepers have to say.
Sting Update: Got stung on my nose during my last powdered sugar treatment. I had my snout RIGHT in the frames, and a bee got me right on the side of my nose. My daughter reports that not only did I NOT drop the box of bees/frames I was holding, I didn't even swear. Further, I had no evidence of the sting by the time I got home. Oh, it HURT a LOT at the time. Made my eyes water. But very quickly I was fine.