Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Checking for Bee Mites in Vancouver

Varroa Mite on adult bee
    It's mid September and feels like the middle of summer.  With the warm temperatures the bees are very active, collecting nectar and pollen.  I've noticed a few flowering food plants still receiving attention from the ladies like red flowered pole beans, garlic, leek, fennel and dill.  Many of the flowers are still in bloom.
     We have done 3 twenty four hour Varroa mite tests recently and our findings show a maximum of 12 Varroa mites.  The mites are not considered a significant problem until the count reaches 100.  Although there are a number of different mites that effect bees, the other major culprits, Nosema and Tracheal can only be detected by microscopic inspection of adult bees.  We use a home made screened bottom board which not only helps to ventilate the hive in both summer and winter but allows the mites to fall out of the hive when removed by the bees.  I left a slot in the back of the screened bottom board for mite testing.  The test board is a piece of plywood painted yellow for better visibility and covered with vaseline.

Replacing mite testing board at the back of the bee hive
     The Varroa is a parasitic mite associated with honey bees.  The genus Varroa was named for a Roman scholar and beekeeper, Marcus Terentius Varro.  I bet Marcus isn't happy about this.  The Varroa mite feeds off the fluids of adult, pupal and larvae honey bees.  They may carry viruses and have been implicated in colony collapse disorder.  Not wishing to use chemical treatment (Apistan, Checkmite, Formic Acid…) we will treat naturally with powdered sugar or food grade mineral oil.  Testing for mites should be done in the early spring or fall and treatment either before the honey supers have been added or after they have been removed.

Varroa mites on pupa

The life cycle of the honeybee and varroa mite


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