A very common hive problem becomes apparent in September through October. Your colony has produced several gallons of honey and you are a happy beekeeper! Then, you come back to the hive 60 days later and the hive only has a few bees walking around the frames within the hive.
First, let’s look back at what was happening in late Spring and Summer. The colony foragers were collecting nectar by going to one bloom to another. During the foraging for nectar, the honey bee’s have made contact with really small Varroa mites. Varroa will attach themselves to the honey bee and take a ride back to the hive. Once the honey bee is back in the hive, the mite then migrates into cells that have larva.
The larva now becomes a breeding ground with mites now reproducing. In slow motion the mites begin to reproduce through the summer months. By August and September, the mite load is now at epidemic levels and this is when the honey bee colony begins to collapse. By late October, the colony will not be able to survive the harsh winter weather due to a low population of honey bees. With a low colony population, the colony cannot retain warmth within the hive. This when the remaining members of the colony freeze during the winter months.
There is a way of assisting your colony in keeping mite loads low within the hive. This is accomplished with treating for mites. I have always chosen to use organic methods in treating my bees since I started my journey in beekeeping. There are two great organic methods I use. The best I have found is using Mite Away Strips or Formic Pro and you normally only need to treat one time. The other treatment is Apiguard, which requires the treatment to be used twice.
One newer way of treating is using Oxalic Acid vapor. This is an expensive way of treating your colony. You will need a car battery, vaporizer, and Oxalic Acid crystals.
When I compare these methods I have found Mite Away/Formic Pro as the preferred method due to (1) ease of use, (2) no need for extra equipment, (3) vapors that come off the burner will choke you, if you breath in the vapor, (4) carrying a heavy car battery, (5) Formic Pro gave me a lower loss rate by almost 15%.