We all know that if you don’t see any mites, then you don’t have any right? WRONG! If you don’t see any varroa mites, it either means you need to visit your eye doctor or you do not know how to really find them.
Hello, and welcome to another beekeeping lesson from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms. We are David and Sheri Burns and we are here to help beekeepers become more successful. And we are also passionate about helping more people become new beekeepers. We need our honey bees to pollinate our fruits and vegetables and we need skilled and educated beekeepers to help make that happen. So thanks for joining us.
Our weekend was extremely busy and great. Saturday we taught on “Getting Bees Through The Winter” and then we had the same class with different students on Sunday. We had students from Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, Indiana, Michigan, Iowa and Ohio. This class will be held again on Oct. 5th, but it has filled up too, so now we are opening up another class on Monday Oct. 6th from 9am-3pm. For those of you who work weekends, now you can join us for a class on Monday. Or just take the day off from work and come learn some awesome ideas about getting bees through the winter. Click here for more information on the Oct. 6th class or go to: www.honeybeesonline.com/servlet/Detail?no=322
One of the featured field events of our weekend beekeeping classes was to sample hives for varroa mites. It is paramount that all beekeepers take mite samples now while there is still time to do something. Most beekeepers have heard about sticky boards, and checking how many mites are on drone pupae. I’d like to share a simple way to assess your mite load. As I demonstrated to the class in the bee yard, I was pleasantly surprised how many of them commented on how easy it was and how they were looking forward to going home and testing their hives. I do realize that reading the description here is not as good as watching it demonstrated in class, but I’ll describe it in detail so you can start looking and evaluating your mite loads.
Why bother counting your mite load? If you have a lots of mites it is unlikely that your hive will NOT survive the winter of 2014-2015. Mites parasitize bees and spread viruses which can cut the individual bee’s life in half. So, a bee born in October can make it through the winter into March if it is healthy. But, if it has been bitten by mites and contracted a virus, it may only live into January.
You might think that since you cannot see mites on your bees you do not have mites. I have people tell me they’ve never seen their queen either. If you can’t find your queen, you will not find mites either, but they are there! Mites are small but you can see them if you know where to look. They hide on the backs of bees in the first abdominal segment of the honey bee. It can be hard to see what is hiding. DO NOT ASSUME YOU DO NOT HAVE MITES SIMPLY BECAUSE YOU HAVE NOT SEEN ANY.
If you have a hive, you have varroa mites! I strongly believe it is the viruses which are weakening the colony’s health and causing overwintering deaths. The only way to limit viruses is to kill mites that are vectoring these viruses. It is unfair for any beekeeper to blame chemicals and chemical companies without first monitoring their mite loads.
Now that we are at the end of summer and entering fall mites are rapidly increasing. To survive a long cold winter beekeepers need lots and lots of brood now. But if this brood is parasitized by mites, the bees will not make it to spring. Do not trust a visual inspection of bees on comb to assess your mite loads. Here’s what I recommend to determine the percentage of mites in a hive. My personal level is not to exceed 3%, or 3 mites per 100 bees tested.
1. A quart jar for canning, with the ring and separate lid which the ring holds securely. Disregard the lid but keep the ring. Now in place of the ring you’ll need to cut a piece of 1/8” hardware screen. It is small enough to keep bees in, but large enough to let mites pass through.
2. Two tablespoons of powdered sugar
3. A piece of cardboard or metal shaped like an L
4. A measuring cup
5. A plain white paper plate
Steps To Test For Mites
1. Place two tablespoons of powdered sugar into your canning jar and keep the lid off.
2. Open your hive and pull out a frame of bees.
3. Shake the bees on your cardboard or bent metal so the bees land in the inside of the L shape piece. This will help them slide into your measuring cup.
4. Pour bees into the measuring cup up to 1/2 cup which is approximately 400 bees. You may have to pour a little above the 1/2 cup mark as some may fly out while pouring them into the canning jar with the screen lid.
5. Pour bees from the measuring cup into the canning jar and place the screen lid on securely.
6. Dump excess bees from your L shape board back into the hive.You have to keep mite levels down. I hope you will embrace a 3-5% maximum tolerance for mites.
For the rest of the 14 steps to test for mites, visit my website: www.honeybeesonline.com and go down to #24 on the front main home page.
Join me Monday Oct. 6th “Getting Bees Through The Winter” class and we’ll demonstrate mite counts and much, much more. Click now to register.
TIP OF THE MONTH: The next few weeks are the most critical time to increase food stores for the bees to make it through the winter. I am finding wonderful success in our new Burns Bees Feeding System. It allows the beekeeper to feed syrup from the top of the hive, preventing robbing and allowing the bees to still eat during cold fall nights. Plus it provides special screened areas to feed our pollen/sugar patties without smashing bees between deep bodies. Watch our new video on this feeding system.
See you next time!
David and Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms
M-Thu 10am – 4pm central time
Fri 10am – Noon