Although many farmers have taken advantage of the warm spring by planting crops earlier than usual, apiarists are concerned that the unusually warm weather will hurt bees by fall. Beekeepers in Maine are worried because this spring is shaping up to be very similar to the one in 2010 when varroa mite populations exploded, killing off many honeybee colonies.

“The bees are coming out, but so are the parasitic mites,” Tony Jadczak, state apiarist and bee inspector told the Morning Sentinel. “What I’ve seen in my inspections is elevated mite loads because of the good health of the honey bees. If it tracks like it did in 2010, we’ll have a huge die-off in the fall and winter.”

Jadczak explained that varroa mites are an external parasite that attacks European honeybees along with nosema, an intestinal parasite.

In 2010, colonies reached the threshold for treatment about mid- to late-July. Jadczak recommends bees should be checked regularly this year since the weather is setting up to repeat the conditions of 2010. To avoid a massive bee die-off, bees should be managed according to weather conditions and plant phenology, not the calendar date.

“Continue to monitor, but be ready to treat when the summer crop is done mid- to end of July, if we parallel 2010, which seems like what’s going on,” he said. “Weather is a big factor. Based on what I’m seeing, (bees are) running ahead of schedule.”