“Look, that rabbit’s got a vicious streak a mile wide. It’s a killer.” – Tim, Monty Python and The Holy Grail
I was once told an interesting comparison by a fellow beekeeper. She mentioned that size-wise a varroa mite on a honey bee is comparable to someone having a full size rabbit attached to them. A full sized, disease infested and blood sucking rabbit. Not to mention that one bee may have multiple mites on them, so I’ll leave you to imagine that in comparison to a human.
A Hive’s Nemesis
Needless to say, varroa mites can be nasty creatures when it comes to a hive’s health. Before I started my adventure into beekeeping, I had it engrained in me through several beekeepers that it was important to monitor your bees’ mites and take action accordingly. It’s the responsible thing to do because varroa mites not only wreak havoc on your hives, but on neighboring bee yards as well. With that in mind, I ventured out to the hives with a Varroa EasyCheck in hand.
Check it out!
There are certainly several ways to check for varroa mites out there! Sticky boards, sugar rolls, drone frames, etc. In my mind I was looking for something that was going to give me the most accurate reading and an easy-to-use method since I’m a newbee. This is why I chose the Varroa EasyCheck. It’s a small tub with a strainer in which I put the desired amount of bees to test plus a solution of rubbing alcohol or windshield washer fluid.
I do want to point out that this method, unfortunately, kills the bees used in the test. I gathered no joy from killing them but knew the results I would get from their test would benefit the hive as a whole. I truly do feel bad about it, however I weighed it against the fact that this method would be more accurate than a sugar roll test and thought it best. For those curious about how I conducted the mite check, we made a small how-to video.
The results are in…
After conducting the test on both hives, I did not find any mites in the alcohol solution. I had to remind myself that these results do not mean that my hive is varroa free, it just means that the varroa levels are low. From this I can safely say I can hold off treating for mites a little while longer. In a few more weeks I’ll conduct another test and plan my course of action for treatment (scary to think that my Queen will be getting close to laying winter brood by then; I’m not ready for the thought of snowflakes and bitter north winds)!
Business as usual
Besides conducting my first mite check, I also completed full hive inspections on Queen Beatrice’s and Queen Maude’s hives. I’ve certainly had my share of dealing with the girls’ attempts at swarm cells. Also, on a positive note, I am pleased to announce Maude’s hive is now working on drawing out comb in their first super! Pics below: