Whidbey Island Washington Beekeeping & Honeybees - Lavender Honey - Green Road Farm - Tim Walsh

Week 9 & 10 ~ Cluelessness & Varroa

Cluelessness & Varroa – The Idea – Knowing the enemies of bees will help maintain a healthy hive.
Being clueless about the plight of honeybees sort of ends when you see five Varroa mites emerge from a drone cell moments after a drone has emerged. As it turns out Varroa Mites seem to prefer the larger cell size of drone cells and makes the case for creating a hive using a natural/small cell size for the foundations in your frames. It would appear to be true from what I have observed as the mites only came out of the drone cells.

I inspected every frame in all three hives this weekend and I have to say that after looking at everything I felt like I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Sometimes I think books and the internet can only go so far and then you need someone there in person to take a look and tell me what they think.

First, the new hive from the swarm I captured was building out the foundation and although not very populated seemed to focused on the activities of beginning a hive.

The other two hives were busy and seemed to be doing well. I didn’t see any capped brood. It all seemed to be uncapped honey and pollen? When I first saw the cells with pollen it looked like they were brood cells that were capped way inside the cell…like they were growing miniature workers but I think they are cells with pollen.
Swarm cells are usually found at the bottom of the frames


It seemed like there should be more capped brood and not all of these open cells. The cells that are capped look like drone cells to me which makes me wonder if the queen is gone.

I removed a piece of burr comb from one of the foundations because they were not building the comb out very well. I brought it back to my truck and started to pick open one of the cells when the drone inside started to chew it’s way out.

I started to video tape it (unfortunately on a low resolution) when I saw a little critter emerge from the same cell as the drone. It was a Varroa Mite!

Varroa mites are pretty easy to identify as there is nothing else that really looks like them. They look like a tick with all of the legs coming out of the front portion of the mite. A few crawled out of the cell and climbed aboard the drone.

As it turns out Varroa mites prefer the drone cells to reproduce and are most often found in drone cells. One way to fight Varroa Mites is to have bees build out natural (smaller – 4.6mm) cell sized comb.

I really like the idea of not treating my hives with chemicals. The critters eventually develop a resistance to the treatment it seems anyway. I am going to try treating the hives with natural means first. There are a few approaches I have read about to help control varroa mites.

The Natural Methods Are:
Let the bees build the hive using a natural sized cell. A lot of commercial foundation uses cell sizes that are larger than the natural size bees make. Seeing as varroa mites prefer the larger drone cells this seems to make sense. NOTE: I am using Pierco foundation with a call count of 5 per inch and a cell size of 5.25mm O/D. Burr comb taken from the hive which is “natural” comb size is 6mm. Seeing as bees seem to grow to the size of the cellI am not sure why my bees are building comb larger than what they are emerging from.
Dust each frame on both sides with powdered sugar as in this video. The mites have a harder time staying on the bees and fall off onto the bottom board.
3- Use a screened bottom board. The mites fall off and out of the hive. A two year research of this technique at Cornell University showed no decrease in mites using this method. Lots of bee supply sources sell the screened bottom boards so there must beekeepers using this method although I am not sure of the success rates.
4- The use of essential oils. Here is an excerpt from the link on how to treat:
“1). Syrup: 25 drops (1 cc) of wintergreen or spearmint is added to one pint of honey (or two cups of sugar (about one pound or 453.6 grams)) in a quart jar (0.95 liter); hot water is added to fill the jar. We found that more of the essential oil goes into solution in honey than in sugar syrup; there may be a natural emulsifier in honey that helps essential oils to stay in solution. When making sugar syrup, we found that we must add the oil to the granulated sugar then add the very warm water (not too hot or else the oils will evaporate). We feed the bees as much syrup as they will take; Bob uses 1/2 gallon jars on his entrance feeders. We have had good results with wintergreen, spearmint, rosemary and peppermint oils. We plan to conduct experiments this fall and winter combining the essential oils with fumadil in syrup to see if the treatments are compatible. See diagram below for making entrance cleats to eliminate robbing.”

The Unnatural Methods Are:

Treating with Apistan Strips (Tau-fluvalinate 10.3% w/w).
Apistan strips are suspended in the brood chamber (hive body) in such a way that the bees can walk on both sides of the strips. To suspend the strips between the frames, twist out the wings of each strip (see Illustration 2).
Dosage Instruction: Hives the size of National, Dadant, Langstroth etc., require two strips per brood chamber. For example, in the case of a Dadant 10 frame hive, one strip is suspended between frames 3 and 4, and the second strip between frames 7 and 8 within the brood chamber. Small hives and nuclei require only 1 strip suspended near the centre of the brood chamber. Do not place strips in the honey supers.
Treatment duration is 6-8 weeks after which time the strips are removed and disposed of. The strips should not be removed from the hive for at least 6 weeks. Do not leave the strips in the hive for more than 8 weeks. The treatment period should be kept as short as possible in order to reduce the likelihood of trace residues in the brood wax and to avoid the development of mite resistance. If signs of disease persist or appear consult your veterinary surgeon or veterinary practitioner.

or Checkmite+tm.

The problem arises when the bees develop a resistance to the chemicals involved.


Varroa does not just magically appear on bees. Where do Varroa mites originate?

They are said to suck blood, do they attach themselves to bees? Where?

What are Varroa mites feeding on before they find a bee?

What conditions do Varroa mites live in before finding a bee to exploit?

Why is bee blood the preferred food?

Do Varroa Mites have natural enemies?

GO TO WEEKS 11 – 13




November 2017
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