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Question of the Month

I treated my hive in the fall for Varroa Mites.
Do I need to do the same in the spring?

The Varroa Mite population directly ties to bee production. As the queen begins to lay heavily, trying to reach maximum population before the nectar flow, the Varroa mite population will also rise.

  • Female mite enters a cell of maturing bee before it is capped
  • She waits 60 hours before laying eggs (lays an additional egg every 30 hours)
  • First egg will be male and subsequent eggs will be female
  • Mites will feed on the pupating bee (this can infect bee with viruses)
  • Female mites will exit with adult bee
Every hive needs a thorough inspection to ensure that the mite population is not overwhelming, diseases are not found, and there is a strong population of bees in your colony. With continuous production of brood, the mite population will grow faster and be larger.
The Varroa Mite creates open wounds on the bee, leaving the bee more prone to infection, as well as vector (transferring) viruses, which compromise the health of the bees and the entire colony.
There are several ways to check for mites within your colony:

Sugar Shake. Place a few table spoons of powdered sugar in a mason jar (replace the lid with #8 hardware cloth) along with roughly ½ cup of bees (around 300 bees) and gently "slosh" them around, ensuring they are fully coated. The sugar will dislodge the mites, allowing them to fall through the hardware cloth onto a clean surface. Count the mites that are dislodged from the bees; if the mite count exceeds 3, treatment is recommended.

Corex Sheet. This is a sheet which slides under a screened bottom board. Spray the corex sheet with a cooking oil so when the mites fall from the hive they stick to the sheet and can then be counted. Insert the sheet for 3 days and then remove it to count the mites. Once you have a total, divide it by 3 to get the average mite drop in a 24 hour period ; if the mite count exceeds 10, treatment is recommended.

If this is your first year in beekeeping or you just purchased a NUC or a Package, and you received your bees from a reliable source, they would have already been treated for mites prior to your pickup, but may still have mites; however, these colonies should not need treatment until late summer/early fall.

Varroa Mite

Treatments

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) methods work with the behavior and biology of the target pest to aid in its control. Several methods that can control the mite population include:
  • A screened bottom board which allow the mites to fall out of the hive
  • Drone trapping/Varroa trapping using a Drone frame or Drone foundation
    Remove frame after cells have been capped and freeze for 48 hours. Reinstall frames after thawing.
IPM methods often are not a sufficient form of control and more traditional methods need to be used. We, and many in the scientific community, strongly encourage the use of “soft chemicals”. These are naturally occurring products and many naturally existing in honey. The two most common are:

Api Life VAR. Api Life VAR is made with thymol, which is used in mouthwash, and other essential oils. Evaporative wafers are placed on the hive and the thymol vapor kills the varroa.
MiteAway Quick Strips. MiteAway Quick Strips use food grade formic acid, which naturally occurs in honey.
Other treatments, such as Apistan and Check Mite Plus, are on the market but resistance has been documented; therefore, further monitoring is necessary. A newer treatment, Apivar, is labeled to kill 99% of mites with a single treatment.

Monitor your mite count and if infestation is high, treat as needed.