by Tammy Taylor~
This is our first year of beekeeping and we’ve learned so much already! We realize there is still much to learn and we’ll learn more as time goes by. Two very important things we’ve already learned are:
- Each beekeeper will keep their hives differently in a way specific to their circumstances, and
- Varroa mites are an ever-present danger for bees
So monitoring your hive periodically for Varroa mites is important. Thankfully it’s also pretty easy to do. C’mon in, I’ll show you what we did for our Varroa mite inspection!
We watch for Varroa Mites each time we inspect the hive but DANG Varroa are so small! It’s difficult to look for Varroa mites when looking through a beekeepers veil at constantly-moving wave of bees on each frame. So RancherMan likes to monitor mite activity by putting out a sticky board trap for them in the spring, summer and fall. Now seems like a good time to take a closer look and do a more formal Varroa mite inspection.
So RancherMan set up the sticky boards for each hive. A sticky board is just a white plastic board with a grid printed on it. He used a paintbrush and cooking oil to coat the surface to make it sticky. Some beekeepers prefer to use shortening or petroleum jelly. As I mentioned before each beekeeper is going to work their hives in a way that works for their situation.
After RancherMan thoroughly coated the boards he slid them into the bottom of the hives just below the screened bottom board. It’s recommended to leave the board in place for about 3 days and then remove the board and check for mites. When we removed the boards they were covered with various hive trash, bee parts, wax comb parts, etc. It took a strong light and a magnifying glass to see a few Varroa. This is a close-up of one of the sticky boards when we removed it 3 days later. Whoa, that’s a lot to look through!
With the reflections of the oily board and in the light of our shop, my camera isn’t good enough to zoom in close enough to point out the Varroa and deliver a clear picture for you to see. But I’ve found when I accompany RancherMan to the hive I can be the photographer. I take lots of close-up pictures of the bees while he’s visually inspecting the hive. Then I download those pictures to the computer and zoom in for a closer look. It’s been tremendously helpful for us. Below is a shot of a bee we discovered during the hive inspection. She’s sporting an easy-to-see Varroa mite. In relation to the size of the bee, this is a huge parasite!
If possible it’s recommended to treat Varroa problems after the honey harvest since some of the chemicals typically used can affect the honey. In this area of NE Texas the honey is typically harvested around the first of July although in stronger hives a harvest can be made in late summer. RancherMan decided since the honey harvest is well over it’s a good time for us to treat the hive so the bees can go into the challenging cold winter months as healthy as possible.
There are many ways to treat your bee hives for Varroa. Some are more organic and some involve chemicals. RancherMan has been doing research on the best way for us to keep our hives healthy. Stay tuned – I’ll share how we decided to treat our hive for Varroa and why.
BEGINNING BEEKEEPING SERIES:
(You can see ALL our posts about beekeeping HERE)
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