Our bees in the urban landscape of London have it pretty good. They have good forage due to the variety of flora in the gardens of the human residents, plenty of wild areas along the railway tracks and canals and no blanket spraying of pesticides as effects our rural counterparts. But our urban bees, along side all the western honey bees, is still plagued by the varroa mite, a slow and silent killer. A parasite that has taken a stranglehold of our colonies in Europe.
This year, 2014, saw a great spring and a pretty decent summer. It was a very swarmy year, possibly the species making up for the losses seen in the past couple of years when the season’s weather was more inclement, and it was a good year for honey.
Unfortunately lots of strong colonies producing lots of brood (eggs and larvae) is a haven for the varroa mite. So it is no surprise to find that after I treated my bees with thymol, (a varroa killer) there was a huge number of dead mites on my varroa tray. The thymol did its job and killed varroa in the hundreds, if not thousands. I must admit I was surprised the colonies had that many varroa since they didn’t show many signs of being infested. Glad I did the treatment otherwise I would certainly have lost the colonies over the winter or spring next year.
New beekeepers often wait until the summer has ended before turning their attention to varroa, but I try and treat against the mite as early in August as possible – as soon as the honey is extracted at the beginning of the month. For the thymol to be effective the temperature needs to be above 15 degrees during the 4 weeks of the treatment. This year I got the thymol on in the 2nd week of August, so it has nearly finished the course.
If you have started yet, don’t delay. We have been promised an Indian summer, in which case the thymol should be effective if you get the first batch on the hives this week.
So get your treatment on and count the dead varroa.
It will save your bees.