Friday, August 29, 2008

Lesson 39: Controlling Varroa Mites Without Medication

Hello friends, from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms. Sheri and I (David) welcome you to another basic beekeeping lesson.

Feel free to share these lessons with others. We recently heard where a beekeeping association prints off each lesson and places them in a binder for their members. We are thankful to have an opportunity to help others in the wonderful field of beekeeping.

Today, I want to show you how to control your varroa mites without medication. I have a video below that show me treating an entire hive in about 5 minutes.

I have previously (Lesson 28) written an entire lesson explaining the history, reproduction cycle and how to identify mites. You might want to review that lesson before proceeding through this lesson on how to safely treat for mites with powdered sugar. That lesson can be found by clicking here or going to:

Powdered sugar does not get rid of every single mite, but it greatly reduces mites in a colony if treated properly. Along with green plastic brood comb and screen bottom boards, powdered sugar treatments can significantly reduce your mite load. Maybe you should consider getting off the medication treadmill and approach mites with an IPM (Integrated Pest Management) method without chemicals. We sell a complete kit that includes a screen bottom board, two green drone combs and a powdered sugar sifting screen which you can see used in one of my videos below. This kit sells for $39.00. These one piece green drone combs allows the bees to raise only drones on these 2 frames. The mites prefer the drone cells since they stay capped longer. When sealed, simply freeze the frame, killing all mites in the sealed drone brood. Return the frame to the same hive and they will clean out the frame and repeat the process.
You will want to get rid of as many mites as possible now that we are into late summer. DO NOT carry a mite infestation into winter. Many mites carry viruses and can kill your hives during the cold winter months. But, if you can reduce your mites then the winter generation of bees will emerge without being bitten by a mite.
How do you conduct the powdered sugar drop?
IN A NUT SHELL: Pour one cup of powdered sugar onto the top of the frames in one deep hive body for a minimum of 3 consecutive weeks on the same day each week. A six week treatment is even more effective. The powdered sugar falls between the frames, coats the bees and causes the mites to lose their suction cup grip on the bees and then falls through the screen bottom board, or off of the bee on their next flight. I strongly recommend a six week application so you can be sure to break the mite's brood cycle.
If you treat only once, but the bulk of your mites are within the capped brood, then that treatment will only help with the mites that are out and on the bees or comb. But as soon as the other bees emerge, the mites spread again. That's why a six week application is so effective.
A MORE DETAILED EXPLANATION First, purchase some powdered sugar. There is a debate on whether the corn starch found in most store bought confectionery sugar may or may not be good for bees. Most of us aren't too worried about the small amount of corn starch compared to how effectively it helps reduce mites. However, if you have a good blender and some time, consider taking granulated sugar and grinding up your own corn starch free powdered sugar. A good blinder will do it very fast, but keep in mind that the sugar does become pretty warm when you grind it up into powder. The volume stays the same, so to make 2 cups of powdered sugar use 2 cups of granulated sugar.
Use 1 cup (8 oz) of powdered sugar per hive body and I do not treat my honey supers because I do not want powdered sugar in the honey. But, if you time things right, you can treat as soon as you take off your honey supers. This year my bees are still pulling in nectar like it is July, so I'm treating a few that still have supers as in the video below.
Next, head to the bee yard with your smoker, hive tool, sifting screen, powdered sugar and humble feeling of knowing that you are a beekeeper!
In this next video, you'll see me actually demonstrate the entire process. And, watch the timer because you'll see that it really doesn't take all that long to do a complete hive even with a stuck super on it!

Okay, let me answer a few questions that the video may prompt you to ask.
1) Why use a screen. Because it holds the bees beneath the treatment. Otherwise, they will fly up and out of the top as soon as the powdered sugar starts falling between the frames. YOU WOULD TOO!
2) What about the powdered sugar on top of the frames. Leave it, or brush it between the frames. Remember, bees love sugar!
3) Why didn't I have an inner cover on this hive. Because I have a special spacer attached under the top cover that does the same thing and makes it easier for me to lift open the top.
4) Why did you put your first deep on the ground? Because I use both common placement methods. In the video I placed my super on the inverted top cover, but placed my deep on the ground. I usually do not place my boxes on my top cover because they stick. I set them on the ground like I did my top deep, always putting the front down so I can place it back on the hive in the same orientation that I took it off. NEVER place a hive body on the ground with the frames down, like it sits on the hive. You'll smash all your bees on the bottom. Tilt it to its front, like you see me doing in the video. By the way, when you place the supers or deeps on an inverted top cover, you can also kill bees, and even the queen. But by placing it on the ground no bees are smashed. The queen does not fall off and the bees do not mind.
Finally, you must be stringent about your schedule. For six weeks, keep track of what day you did your powdered sugar drop. If it was Monday, then repeat the process every Monday for a total of six weeks. Do not fudge or skip or haphazardly complete the process.
Thanks for joining me today for another lesson. As our family business continues to grow, we'd like thank all of our customers who are so wonderful to us. Thank you for your support and business. We sacrifice many hours a day, answering email and answering questions on the phone and it is our pleasure. Many call in who have never ordered from us but simply found us on the Internet and have some questions. We don't mind, but we do need your business :)
We have completed our beekeeping Store/Education/Research Lab and it is really working well for us. And, this year our bees did very well, both in producing queens and honey! We still are producing queens, and September is the best month to replace your queen so that your new queen can lay a great winter generation and take off fast in the Spring. Do not put up with an old, worn out queen. MANY, many beekeepers go into fall and winter queenless. Please inspect the condition of your queens or else your hives will not survive the winter without a strong queen. If you need a queen, please call us at: 217-427-2678.
Our queens are grafted from our hives that have survived two Illinois winters and from hives that have never been treated with medication. We also select for gentleness, adherence to the comb, honey production and low mite counts. We professionally package our queens with 4-5 very young attendants and ship via USPS 2 day guaranteed.
Here's a video of our daughter Karee, preparing queens for shipment. She is choosing very young nurse bees and picking them off the frame and placing them into the cage with the queen. The queen is already in there.
Finally, do keep our upcoming class in mind, and remember now is a great time to purchase your Spring hive equipment!!
Until next time, BEE-have yourselves!!David & Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms
ORDER LINE: 217-427-2678
FAX: 217-427-2678