I mentioned that thus far we have used a thymol based paste for our Winter varroa treatment and I must say, that we have been well pleased with the results. Until last year that is, and that was as much our fault as that of this product, but it does highlight one of it’s limitations and that is, it’s efficiency during extremes of cold. We always feed before treating, the thinking behind this being, if you don’t feed you will almost certainly lose your bees whereas, if you don’t treat for varroa, there is still a chance that you bees will emerge in the Spring when you will have a second chance to treat. Anyway, for whatever reason, last year we were late extracting which led to our feeding being later than I would have liked. Sods law dictated that Winter came early in our neck of the woods last year which meant that not only were the bees slow in taking their syrup down but that the varroa treatment was too solid to have any lasting effect. The consequence of all of this was that we must have come into the Spring still with a high level of varroa in our Mendip colonies, a fact that I failed to pick up on. My early inspections hadn’t indicated anything out of the ordinary and as we’d never had a varroa problem in the past, I just carried on as usual. I did spend a lot of time getting the new Station site up and running and maybe on reflection, I wasn’t as thorough with my inspections as I should have been. I did notice that the bees weren’t producing as much honey as I would have expected but I put this down to the move. It wasn’t until our season’s last apiary meeting, which was at my Station Apiary that the problem came to light. The meetings are always themed and we always have a guest “expert” to demonstrate. Half way through the first hive and those dreaded words, ” Geoff, you’ve got a brood problem here and I’m pretty sure that varroa’s the culprit, look.” Holding up his hand it was plain to see a varroa on his thumb-nail, and there was worse to come. The next three colonies were the same. At this point, and feeling sick in the pit of my stomach, we left the bees and adjourned for cream teas on the lawn. Had I invited all these people to my apiary to infect them with some horrible brood disease, at the first opportunity I cornered my guest. My first question, “is it foul brood”? He explained that while he didn’t believe it to be one of the foul broods, that there was obviously something amiss that needed to be kept an eye on. His advise was to get my varroa treatment on as soon as possible and check the hives again in a week or so. The following morning all of the hives, and the nuc’s. at both sites received a dose of Apivar. I haven’t used this treatment before but have heard glowing reports of it’s efficacy and so was eager to give it a try and glad to report, the results didn’t disappoint. In the space of a week, the drop went from high to practically nil. This, combined with the fact that all the colonies seemed none the worse for their experience and appeared to be performing well meant that I could once again start sleeping at nights. I had also taken the precaution of reporting the happenings of the previous week to our local bee inspector who suggested the problem was most likely sac brood with varroa as the likely cause and to keep a careful eye open and report any relevant changes. I have done as I was advised and thankfully, all seems to be looking good. The Apivar comes off next week when the hives will receive what will most likely be their, last full inspection for this season. The events of this last month have been a real wake-up call for me and I realise that I’ve probably become a bit complacent with my inspections so, my new year’s resolution, be thorough and don’t ignore anything which appears in any way out of the ordinary.