Yesterday, we inserted the Mite Away Quick Strips (MAQS).
Using them meant removing the entrance reducer, so we worried about the vile and predatory Yellow Jackets who have plagued us and our hive. Of course, we were also concerned about the possible side-effects of the MAQS (dead bees, rejected queen).
However, if we didn’t treat the hive, the Varroa would continue to proliferate, debilitating our bees so they probably wouldn’t last the winter. If they somehow managed to survive the cold, the viruses carried by the mites would weaken them enough that they wouldn’t thrive next year.
There were no good choices.
This morning, when we went to have a look at the hive, we found this.
The little white things — that I initially thought were bits of paper from the strips — are larvae.
As I slowly absorbed that fact, with all its implications, a Yellow Jacket flew past the bees milling on the front porch and straight into the hive.
As if she owned it. As if it had been her who had raised and cared for those larvae, fed the queen, foraged for pollen and nectar, and fanned that nectar until the water evaporated to 18%, and it became honey. As if it were she — and not our hard-working girls — who had given everything for the hive.
The view from beneath the hive was equally dire. Bees milled around scattered larvae and another Yellow Jacket sauntered around like our hive was a buffet for her and her sisters.
I felt sick.
There was no clear course of action, nothing we could do without consequence. If we put the reducer back on, it would limit the space the bees needed to defend, but also limit the air circulation they need for the MAQS treatment. If we left it off, the Yellow Jackets would decimate what was left of the hive.
The Engineer made the call, not that it really mattered. The fumes will get them or the Yellow Jackets will. The chance of our bees recovering from a catastrophe of such magnitude at this time of the year is so small as to be almost non-existent.
Still, when the required seven days of treatment are over, and we can once again feed them, we’ll do so. Assuming there are any bees left to feed.
Even if there are, it’s almost certainly too late for them to raise another brood to take the hive through the winter.
My thoughts jump ahead — to next year, and what we can do differently. We’ll buy a package so we can start earlier, put the drone boards in immediately, treat the hive in the spring for Varroa, move it to the sunnier location that opened up when some trees fell this year.
Next year, we will do better.
For now though, I am heartbroken.