Curbstone Valley has two fantastic posts about varroa monitoring and management. As always, they have two brilliant posts that goes in depth and is easily understood. So instead of rehashing all of their info, I’ll just go over our bee update and how we are dealing with varroa.
When doing our inspection we were pleasantly surprised to see our colony only had one frame not built up completely in both deep supers. They were very strong in numbers so we knew we had a good queen. There was some nice brood frames as well. You can see the larvae in the uncapped cells.
Not only were there lots of brood, but they were now producing full frames of honey in the lower box. This also meant that it was time to increase the size of the hive. With only one frame left not fully completed, we needed to give them more space so they wouldn’t feel the need to swarm. We were also getting ready for the summer bloom so they needed as much room as they could get.
But this inspection wasn’t just to check how the colony was thriving. We needed to do a varroa mite check. Our hive came with a screened bottom board and a sticky board that slides under the screen. Our board has lines and numbers on it, which makes it infinitely easier to make varroa counts. We cleaned off the board and then sprayed it with cooking oil. The oil traps the varroa that fall through so they can’t scamper away. We decided to use powdered sugar on our hive to facilitate the mite drop. We simply dusted the tops of the frames on each super and then using a bee brush, brushed it across the top so it fell through, dusting the bees. The powdered sugar does two things. It causes the mites to loose their grip on the bees and it also stimulates the bees into grooming themselves, which dislodges more mites. As an added bonus, it also feeds them.
After we dusted the hive, we put on a queen excluder on the top deep super and then added our honey super. This helps keep the queen from laying eggs in the honey super. I don’t know about you, but I’m not particularly excited about having larvae in my honey.
This is our hive right now. With the way things are going right now, I’m planning on picking up another honey super very soon to have on hand.
After 24 hours (you can do 48 and 72 hours and then divide by the number of days to get the 24 hour count) we pulled out our sticky board, brought it in the house and sat down to do the count. The mites were pretty easy to find. They are a dark red and have these tiny legs sticking out on one side. Our count was a respectable 13 mites in 24 hours. So we had varroa. Really, there’s no way to avoid it, but we needed to take action and use integrated pest management (IPM) to keep the numbers low.
Our first line of defense was, of course, the powdered sugar. We’ll regularly dust the bees to help keep the mites off of them. It’s said that dusting with powdered sugar can help reduce the mite load by 25%. While that doesn’t seem like much, it does add up over time. Our second line of defense is using drone frames to trap the mites. Mites prefer drone brood because they are larger and spend more time in the capped cells giving mites the chance to reproduce more. Our drone frames are bright green to make them easy to find.
We put the frames in 2 weeks ago and crossed our fingers. We checked the hive yesterday to find the comb on the frames built and eggs in the comb….I think. I think I saw eggs, but to be honest, it’s REALLY hard to see anything through the veil and white against fluorescent green isn’t a very good contrast. In two weeks we’ll check the hive again and probably pull the comb to see what the mite load is.