Thursday, January 30, 2014

LESSON 149: What’s Hurting Bees? Chemicals Or Varroa Mites? 217-427-2678


Hello from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms. Hello long time friends and a warm welcome to those who have just found us on the web! We are all counting down the days until spring with only 49 days to go. Still hard to get excited with recent frigid temperatures.

As usual more and  more people are calling us and stopping in getting started in beekeeping for the very first time. 2014 will be the very first year of beekeeping for so many people. We are excited to be a catalyst and source of training for new beekeepers and experienced beekeepers. Stop in and see us or call us at: 217-427-2678

As a certified master beekeeper I review the latest findings, attend conferences, review journals and speak with friends doing research so that I can continue to teach and mentor beekeepers with facts not myths. Our beekeeping classes are filling up fast. Some of our spring classes only have several seats left. If you are considering taking one of our beginner, advance, queen rearing or bee institute classes, do so soon. Beekeeping Classes. 


NS15 As predicted last fall and early winter, package bees are being sold at an unusual rate. Never before in our history have we sold out of bees in January. But we have sold out for the year. There is a small chance that we might be able to shake more, but it is too early to tell. If we do, we will be able to tell more around March. Please keep an eye on these lessons and our website and we’ll post more information as soon as we know.  Please do not ask to be placed on a waiting list. Instead if we can obtain more we will give a week’s notice before we place them online so you can be ready to order as soon as they go live.


NYPhoto4 For those of you taking our classes or anticipating signing up for a class, we have reserved some packages for students. However, we may not have enough packages for all students. This is on a first come, first serve basis. You must sign up for a class first and then purchase a package. These will run out soon too! Here’s  a list of our classes:

Feb. 8 Basic Beekeeping - SOLD OUT
Feb. 15 Basic Beekeeping
March 8 Basic Beekeeping
April 12 Basic Beekeeping
May 23-24 Advance Beekeeping
June 9-13 Beekeeping Institute
June 27-28 Queen Rearing Course
October 3-4 Basic Beekeeping
October 25 Basic Beekeeping

LESSON 149: What’s Hurting Bees? Chemicals Or Varroa Mites?

A common question from new beekeepers often has to do with farm fields close to where they want to place their hives. Those of us in the Midwest are surrounded by farm fields. Data is flowing in from many different reliable sources as bees, pollen and wax are examine to see how much these farm chemicals could be effecting honey bees.

Most of us watch aerial sprayers in the summer and wonder if this will hurt our bees. However, if we removed all chemicals from our world our bees would still face their greatest foe, the varroa mite. I think we would all agree that far more hives are lost to varroa than all chemicals combined.  I attend many meetings and conferences and I hear from beekeepers who do nothing against mites are quick to blame chemicals. That, to me, is unfair. In no way am I defending chemicals that kill bees. But, the reality is we need to invest our concerns first into defeating mites because we have absolute proof that varroa kill bees and contribute to the greatest loss of honey bees.

Varroa mites came to our country shortly after I started keeping bees. I’ve written an article on the history, lifecycle and how to break the brood cycle of varroa mites in the hive.

There are very effective chemicals to use in the hive to reduce mites. Whether to use chemicals in the hive or not, is a personal opinion that you will have to consider. However, if you want to avoid chemicals we recommend a 4 part method to greatly reduce varroa mites in the hive. We teach in detail these 4 methods in our basic and advance classes because for you to be a successful beekeeper you must stay on top of varroa mites.

Four Steps: 1) Use screen bottom boards 2) Dusting with powdered sugar 3) Green drone comb and 4) Breaking the queen’s brood cycle.

I am always surprised at the number of experienced beekeepers who have never heard about Green Drone Comb Trapping of varroa mites.

drone foundation We strongly suggest using drone foundation to lure the mites. We explain this method in more detail in our classes how mites prefer drone cells because the foundress (adult female) mites have a full 24 days to develop their prodigy since the drone honey bee is the longest in the cell. So, you can lure the mites off of your workers by placing drone foundation on the outside edges of your brood hive bodies. We sell a one piece drone foundation plastic frame as seen here in the picture. The cell size is for drone cells so the queen knows to lay only unfertilized eggs which produces only drones. Then, mites run to these cells to reproduce. After they are capped, you pull the frames out, put them in a plastic trash bag, freeze them overnight and your mites are dead. Scratch open the cells and place it back in the hive for the bees to clean out, and they will! They get rid of all the mites and dead drones on the green drone comb and you can repeat this method over and over  These frames are a bright lime green so you can easily identify your drone frames in the hive. We sell these frames for $4.99 each, much cheaper than chemicals. These can be purchased from our website at: under tools, smoker category. By scratching the cells open after freezing, it allows you to keep the drawn comb intact, but encourages the bees to clean out the dead mites and drones from the cells. If you scrap the wax completely off, then it just takes more time for the bees to build the comb out again.

NS14 Do not let varroa mites discourage you. But work all season with our 4 suggested methods to greatly reduce the negative impact mites can have on your hive.  No matter where you purchase your bees from, your hive will quickly have varroa mites. Mites crawl from bee to bee even when bees are out foraging on flowers. Bees sometimes drift into other hives and drones are carriers of mites to other hives. You may never have chemicals hurt your hives, but you will always have mites hurting your hive. Be proactive.

Let me tell you about an awesome gathering of beekeepers in February. It’s called the Tri-County Beekeeper’s Association and meets in Wooster, Ohio. This thing is HUGE. It’s believed to be the largest gathering of beekeepers in the US. It’s over 35 years old and keeps getting bigger and better. This year, I’ve been asked to be the keynote speaker and would love to see you there. The dates are Feb. 28- March 1.  Click here for more information and registration information.

Then in March I’ll be speaking for the Missouri State Beekeeper’s Association Spring Meeting. This will be held at the Country Club Hotel & Spa Lake Ozark, Missouri March 21st-22nd. I hope you can join me there too. Click here to register for this conference.

David & Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms


Unknown said...

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Unknown said...

Great lessons. I just finished reading them from the beginning. Regarding this lesson, I am curious, has any research been done to copy or synthesize the drone pheromone to place as bait in a varroa mite trap? It seems to me that if the queen can continue to lay worker eggs, mites would be drawn more to a baited trap "thinking" they were entering a drone cell. I'm sure someone has tried but I haven't found any results. Thanks again. You are an inspiration.

Unknown said...

Beginner question. If you are luring the queen to lay all drones in one specific frame, arent you killing all the drones and won't that harm the balance of drone to worker ratio? Will there be enough drones to mate?

Unknown said...

Beginner question. If you are luring the queen to lay all drones in one specific frame, arent you killing all the drones and won't that harm the balance of drone to worker ratio? Will there be enough drones to mate?