Many of the visible signs of varroa mites are noticed much too late to save a colony. Here are some early indicators that you need to help your bees before it gets bad.
This past couple of Septembers I have had the great opportunity to take a few beekeeping classes offered by the county extension office. I have been a little apprehensive about starting my own hives, so these have been a great help, especially the hands on portion!
One of the great resources we were guided to after the classes is the Honey Bee Health Coalition. This is a fabulous website that will help you learn how to manage varroa mites in your hives.
If you are familiar with beekeeping at all, you will know that varroa mites are a huge threat to bees right now and have lead to entire colonies dying. They are a parasite that attach themselves to adult bees and are easily spread and reproduce quickly.
If your mite population gets too high, you may start to see issues in your colony, such as deformed wings and the death of the entire colony.
The varroa mite population increases and decreases in cyclical phases, so you will want to evaluate your hive periodically throughout the year. The Honey Bee Health Coalition has a tool that walks you through the best way to count the mite population in your hives and what treatments are best to use. Click here to check it out.
3 Warning Signs of Varroa Mites
The first and best way to determine how bad varroa mites are in your hive is to physically count the percentage of mites to bees. If you have more than 2-3 % in your hive, it’s time to treat. (This would be the equivalent of 2-3 mites per 100 bees). If you do this at least 4 times per year you should be able to catch any issues before they get too crazy.
Every time you go into your hive, you can do a quick check for dead mites on a sticky bottom board. Around 12 mites per day would be cause for concern. This can be much less reliable however, so you should still intentionally check with the powdered sugar or alcohol methods outlined by the Honey Bee Health Coalition.
And finally, if your bees are starting to chew down on their brood, this is a sign that something is wrong. They likely know that there are mites in there and are trying to keep things tidy.
It can be really tricky to notice subtle differences in the brood and comb, so it really helps to get in and look frequently. However, your bees will appreciate your attention in catching potential issues early and being able to help them keep their colony strong.
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