I told myself I’d never go to another generic (local) bee club meeting again. But I was suffering from spring/bee fever so I decided to attend a meeting held by a new (to me) bee club. The topic was “Spring Preparation”. It started out harmless enough with people making motions and seconding them, saying “aye” and all that fun stuff. Then, a first year beekeeper told everyone about a colony that he checked on a recent warm day only to discover that it was dead. He explained that it was very strong up until Christmas. The president of the club asked if he treated for mites (because of course, if he didn’t, that explains it). Well, in fact he did treat it. Not because he had mites or any other problem. The reason? “Because I already bought the treatments, so I figured I had better use them up.” I wondered if the bees were actually dead in the first place. I poked my finger up hesitantly and when given the nod asked what he did with his “dead” colony. “I cleaned all the bees out and stored the hive in my garage.” I asked if anyone had seen the video going around of bees coming out of “torpor” while a very experienced beekeeper is cleaning out an apparently dead hive. Silence. I briefly explained that bees can seem dead and remain that way for a few days, even when it is warm, and this condition is known as torpor. Shoulder shrugs all around. One member finally chimed in, “Well, you have to put those frames away in an unheated garage to protect them from the wax moths. That’s what it says in the book.” The book? Wax moths? It’s February. And we’re in Pennsylvania. Were wax moths going to move in to an ice cold hive now? So with that settled, it was on to spring preparation. What was the first suggestion? “Get those (Mite-Away Quick) strips in there!” Just get them in there. Treat early and often. Don’t check to see if any of your colonies are dealing with mites and not dying. Don’t acquire queens from genetic stock with hygienic traits. Just treat your one or two hives as if you were a commercial honey producer who depends on every single colony to produce as much honey as possible at any cost. Yeah, I wasn’t having fun. They referred to colonies that made it through winter (treated, wrapped, and loaded with syrup and fondant) as “survivors”. Those are the ones you split because they are survivors. My first thought was “How would one go about splitting a colony that didn’t survive.” But more importantly, is a colony that you babied and treated and fed all season really a survivor? I don’t think so. Hey, if you’re so emotionally attached to every single colony that you can’t bear to see one die for the betterment of the gene pool, then treat away. But don’t call them “survivors”. Survivors deal with mites without treatments, build up at the right time, and don’t require constant feeding to store enough for winter. You know, the way they’ve done it for millions of years.
The rest of the meeting was spent talking about how many packages everyone was getting from the “old -timer” of the group, a commercial treater selling treatment-dependent bees that will eventually flood the area with weak, non-adapted genetics by way of drones. There was no discussion of swarm traps or catching (possible) feral swarms which is what I’m most excited about. Then the “newbies” were paired up with “qualified” mentors (who will most likely familiarize them with the treatment treadmill) and the meeting was adjourned. I didn’t get a chance to ask if anyone in the room didn’t treat their bees or didn’t plan to.. I doubt anyone would have raised their hand in this group. I’m going back next month just to ask and see what response I get. This should be fun.