Blue Diamond Almond Facts November-December 2021

containing developing honey bee brood. Therefore, when colonies stored indoors experience a broodless period, or “brood break,” Varroa are also no longer able to reproduce for the duration of time that the colonies remain broodless. Brood breaks do not affect the adult Varroa population that already exists within the colonies, but the lack of capped brood cells, where as many as 80% of a colony’s Varroa population regularly resides, creates conditions that make Varroa chemical control treatments much more effective than when applied while brood is present. And because the colonies are all in a single location, Varroa treatment application, and any other management actions taken can be accomplished quickly and efficiently. Although this approach may not be fitting for all operations, some beekeepers are now using indoor storage facilities to induce periodic brood breaks outside of wintertime

as part of a comprehensive Varroa management plan. While there are benefits to keeping colonies in cold storage, there are also a number of costs that may make it impractical for some beekeeping operations to use indoor facilities. This includes the initial cost to build a new structure or retrofit an existing building to make it appropriate for bee storage, as well as the cost of the land on which it is built, and the energy required to run it. Though it may not be possible for a beekeeper to build their own facility, some larger operations will rent excess storage space to other beekeepers, making it a realistic management option for smaller-scale beekeeping operations. Successfully storing colonies indoors for weeks to months at a time also requires a significant amount of planning throughout the rest of the year to ensure that they have been adequately prepared. Unlike colonies kept outdoors, bees that go

leave the colonies will not return and will not be replaced until the queen begins laying again the following spring. This leaves fewer bees inside the hive to help regulate internal colony conditions. Since bees will also consume greater resources when the weather warms, periodic temperature spikes can increase the risk of starvation for colonies wintered outdoors if colonies do not have sufficient reserves. Figure 2: Bee Informed Partnership Tech Transfer Team Field Specialist Matt Hoepfinger monitoring honey bee colonies in a California holding yard. Holding yards often have high colony densities, increasing the amount of bee drift and increasing disease transmission risk. Photo Credit: Jeri Parrent

Colonies kept in the cool, dark environment of indoor storage facilities will stop producing brood until returned to warmer,

brighter conditions. This creates the opportunity for beekeepers to perform any management actions that are best accomplished under broodless conditions just as colonies are brought out of storage. This includes treating for Varroa , the ectoparasitic mite that feeds on developing and adult bees and transmits several harmful honey bee viruses. Varroa can only reproduce inside the capped cells

Figure 3: Colonies being moved with a forklift in an indoor storage facility. Photo Credit: Kelly Kulhanek

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