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Treating Varroa Mites

| 5/6/2014 9:42:00 AM

mitesAs we plan for the new season of beekeeping, there are two primary pests to be concerned about. The small hive beetle and the varroa mite. Both of these pests can weaken a colony if allowed to infiltrate. It is imperative to contain these early in the establishment of a new hive. Varroa mites seem to be the biggest problem.

Treating Varroa Mites

There are several chemical treatments on the market that have been deemed safe for use with honey bees. It is hard to think about using a chemical given the prevalence of Colony Collapse Disorder and the concerns about pesticides. Although something must be done to control the mites, we prefer to use natural methods whenever possible. Since we are a hobby level beekeeping operation, these methods are an easier option than if we were attempting to run a commercial apiary.

To this end three techniques will be used in combination: powdered sugar dusting, screen bottom boards and drone comb.

Powdered Sugar Dusting

Dust a half cup or so of regular powdered sugar over the bees. A simple fine mesh sieve is the only tool required. Yes, powdered sugar contains a small amount of cornstarch but it is not enough to harm the bees. This dusting addresses the mites in two ways. It encourages the bees to clean themselves, essentially grooming off the mites as they do. Think lice comb. Honeybees have a natural hygienic behavior and encouraging the grooming exploits this tendency. In addition the powdered sugar coats the mites and they are unable to hold on to the bees. This method obviously does not work for the mites that are in sealed brood but we'll get to that in the drone comb section.

Screen Bottom Board

Replace the solid bottom board of the hive with a screened version. When mites are dislodged from the bees, they fall through the floor of the hive. Varroa mites are not good climbers. They are unable to climb back up through the hive to find another host.

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