Sunday, September 6, 2009

Treating Varroa Mites in the Old/Combined Hive

We decided to test our hives to see if our varroa mites were at levels that required intervention. We did this by placing our plastic board under the screened bottom board for 24 hours. It was a sticky board test. The board was sticky due to a coat of vaseline. One of the bottom boards is pictured above, covered in pollen, tiny pieces of newspaper from combining the hives, and varroa mites.

The varroa mites are the little brown football shaped critters. I have a video of a couple of them walking around at the end of this post. The mites lay eggs in brood cells before they are capped and then treat the pupae in the capped cells like giant milkshakes, which needless to say, is not good for the baby bees. I took both the picture and the video through a magnifying glass.
The new hive had a low mite count, so we left it alone. The old/combined hive had more than 200 mites on the sticky board, so we decided to treat. First, we took off the top two boxes...the honey super and the top deep, using the black topped fume board and Bee Quick spray. The honey super had two frames with some honey, which I froze to give back to them later. The top deep was basically empty. All the action is in the bottom two deeps.
We're treating with Apiguard, a thymol gel that comes in little aluminum trays. I think thymol is considered a "soft" chemical treatment. Probably more than the "natural" beekeepers would use, but not one of the nastier chemical treatments.
We opened the tray and added a spacer so the bees will have room to access the gel. They will distribute it throughout the hive.
Then we popped our feeder back on top. We're down to two deeps, a spacer and a feeder for the old/combined hive. The top deep looked full of bees and honey. The newspaper that had been between the old hive and the swarm hive was completely gone, except for tiny little crumbs of it that we found on our sticky board. Watch the video below to see varroa mites tooling around.

Meanwhile, we took the plastic feeder off the new hive and replaced it with a mason jar feeder, more conducive to cold weather feeding.

For more info and more video, look at the varroa mite page at

Happy September!