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Question of the Month

Summer is drawing to an end and fall will soon be coloring the trees. Beekeepers are taking off their last supers of honey and preparing their hives for winter. Every year we harp on the importance of treating for Varroa Mites but when is the correct time to treat?

It is best to know your mite count before you begin treating. Mites have been able to develop a resistance to some of the products on the market. If you know your mite count before and after you have treated, you can determine if you were successful. Here are two options to obtain a correct mite count:

  • Corex Sheet. This is a sheet which slides under a screened bottom board. Spray the corex sheet with cooking oil and as the mites fall from the hive, the mites will stick to the sheet and can be counted easily. Remove sheet after 3 days to get a total count of mites. Divide total by 3 to get the average mite drop in a 24 hour period.

  • Sugar Shake. Place a few tablespoons of powdered sugar in a mason jar, add ΒΌ cup of bees and gently "slosh" the bees around ensuring they are fully coated. Replace the lid with #8 hardware cloth and shake the bees down over a white sheet of paper. The sugar will dislodge the mites allowing them to fall through the screen. This will give you an average mite count for your hive.

Below is a very general guide to determine if the colony should be treated.

Sampling MethodSpringFall
Corex Sheet 5-10 mites 50-60 mites
Sugar Shake 3-4 mites 10-12 mites

This is the time of year to begin treating for varroa mites if your count falls above or near the general guide. Treatment in early fall is vital for a healthy winter colony. The virus that persists after the mites have been treated is what poses the real threat for winter loss. It takes a few generations of brood rearing for virus levels to reduce. If you wait until late fall to reduce the Varroa population, due to the viruses, you will still have unhealthy bees going into winter. The best time to deal with the mites is late August/early September depending on your location.

Top Treatments for Varroa Mite:

  • 1. Soft Chemicals: An effective treatment while leaving the least amount of residue. We offer Api Life Var and MiteAway Quick Strips. Both are 95% effective, however, both work through the evaporation of essential oils or organic acids, thus making them weather sensitive.

  • 2. Hard Chemicals: Will kill the Varroa Mites but label instructions must be followed and do not leave on longer than recommended. We supply Apistan Strips, Check Mite Plus and a newer treatment, Apivar. Keep in mind varroa have shown a resistence to Apistan and Check Mite upon continuous use.

  • 3. Non-Chemical: Beekeepers have been using powdered sugar to monitor mites but if heavily dusted with a Dustructor, it can control the mite population. The Varroa reproduction is directly tied to the bee reproduction cycle. Because drones are capped longer as brood, the Varroa are more attracted to drone brood where they can lay more eggs. Using Drone Foundation or a Drone Frame, you can wait until the brood is capped, remove and destroy the foundation. Non-chemical or IPM techniques can be effective to control mites; however, they require dedication and time to be successful.