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Damaged wing syndrome

Arthur Hill, has prepared this piece following several experiences of members during a rather troubled year.

"This year, particularly in the spring, members of our and other Associations have been coming to me for anything to combat varroa. When I asked “When did you last treat?” invariably the reply was either, “last autumn or with oxalic acid during the winter. I need to treat now, because I have lots of bees with damaged or malformed wings.” Further enquiry established that they had not counted the mite drop and were basing their decision on the evidence of the damaged wings. We now see the true paranoia that the word varroa brings to some so called beekeepers.
As most of you will know I have an apiary on the west coast, where as yet we have not found a varroa mite, and yet we had the dreaded damaged wing syndrome. This is not uncommon and whilst varroa will create this syndrome there is one other factor that has the same effect, WEATHER.
This year we had a rapid build up of brood from February onwards on the west, the queen went into overtime, then suddenly we experienced a few days of a cold snap. Some colonies had as much as nine frames of brood at various stages of development, but when the cold snap came there were insufficient bees to keep all the brood warm. Therefore quite a number of the insects suffered being hatched out with malformed wings. All tests for varroa proved negative, so should I have treated for varroa? NO.  A slap on the wrist for me from all the varroaphiles.
Whilst on the subject of varroa an article in the S.B.A. magazine, August issue, the formic acid treatment was praised and rightly so. Although I use a different system which can be used anytime between honey flows, I just hope that an over zealous Health and Safety Officer doesn’t read it, as the writer omitted the most important piece of equipment, the respirator. Whilst formic acid is classed as a soft acid the fumes from it will wreck a humans lungs which happened to a couple of beekeepers in Wiltshire. Before retirement I was using an I.B.C. a week of formic acid at seventy percent strength, (not on my bees, I might add!) and my employer made sure I had a C.P.C. ensuring the safe handling of dangerous chemicals. SO BE WARNED.
Wishing you all full supers