Check, please!

 “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.

Thanks, Krista! You’ve ruined Easter!

A Hive’s Nemesis

Can you spot the parasitic freeloader?

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:


12 thoughts on “Check, please!

Leave a Reply to Gail Cancel reply

  1. Robert Crawford

    I am going to agree thay alcohol wash is the best test . for mites .

  2. Lan Sluder

    I prefer to treat with MiteAway Quick Strips, but often it’s too warm here, even in the mountains, for use in July and August.
    I’ve used Hopguard before but found it ineffective. My local beekeeping store doesn’t carry it any more for that reason.
    Is Hopguard II more effective? Anyone used it?

  3. Jeff Crowell

    I have used both the EasyCheck and a homemade shaker cup after Randy Oliver’s design, and find better results using the homemade cup–the mites are harder to shake out of the bee sample in the EasyCheck. May I also suggest using a 1/2 cup measure to scoop up your sample from the “pile o bees” in the catch tub–it’s quicker and more consistent.

  4. Ren Holmes

    VAROA! The reason that “HANDS OFF” beekeeping is no longer viable! Ya know what “they” say about opinions… So here’s another one.
    Let’s stipulate, for the sake of argument, that all your hives have, or will have, Varoa. Varoa are not that hard to spot either on bees or on brood. It is not common practice to vary the level of treatment based on a number from a test, that I’m aware of. If Varoa are present, we treat for them, to “MANAGE” the problem. I, personally, have stopped using any Varoa testing methods because I can either see them, or see the evidences of them, such as the shriveled wing disease, which you can see on young bees ejected from the hive, and it is easy to observe that the hive is not up to par on just thriving.
    My perspective is, that we should simply adopt effective Varoa management procedures in our normal practices to prevent or minimize the infestation. There are many methods, with varying degrees of effectiveness and strategies, that work fairly well. You can treat hives early in the spring with products that you hang in a box to help prevent, and then pull them when the nectar comes on, and then treat more aggressively just before winter, when they are brood-less, using OAV. Over in Europe where they’ve been dealing with Varoa longer, some are managing more actively, by at mid-season, shaking half of each colony into package cages, spray them with liquid Oxolic Acid, let them sit in cages overnight, then introducing each package into a new box with a new queen and clean comb, and placing in a new yard (now presumed clean). The old hives finish out the season in the old location, at which point they are shaken into cages, treated overnight, and then combined using traditional methods with the hives in the new location. The honey is then harvested and syrup given to the new hives, as needed, over winter and spring.
    Pick your poison, but just manage your hives, taking Varoa treatment into account as a matter of course, and you should find success. In my humble opinion. Ren

    1. julie woodward

      I gotta agree with you. I was a “Hands Off” beekeeper, and proud of it till I nearly lost my hive to a massive varroa infestation! The treatment (MiteAway) knocked down the mites….and my bees. Now it’s Fall, my hive is small & I’m working my tail off to help them survive winter here in the mountains in So. California. Pray for me!

  5. Jack Lemke

    This is my first year! So take what I said with that in mind. I fog once a week with mineral oil. My understanding is that you can’t hurt the bees. My bees seem to be doing fine.

  6. Julian Howard

    I work so diligently not to crush any bees during my inspections…so I just can’t bear the thought of killing them deliberately by soaking them in wiper fluid or rubbing alcohol. I do a visual inspection (as mentioned above), and the sugar shake test. Bees seem to recover pretty well from the mild shaking/rolling.

    1. Pam Morawski

      I’m with Julian Howard. I will be killing NO bees on purpose. I owe them that much and more.

  7. John Ruhl

    2nd year bee keep, currently using apivar strips to treat a low mite count. I have 14 days to go. Would it be wrong remove the apivar prior to the 42 days if the mite count was low and repeat testing shows no mites or even less.

    1. Krista

      Hi John,

      I got a chance to speak to one of our sales staff on your Apivar question. They said you should definitely keep the strips on as there may still be mites on brood that have yet to emerge. Hope this helps! Thank you!

  8. Bob Hawley

    I used the alcohol wash on one of our hives and saw one mite a month or so ago. I hate killing bees so just started monitoring sticky boards on a 24-hr basis. When the daily count got up to 6-10 mites, I decided it was time to treat. Using Apiguard and monitoring a 24-hour sticky board, I’ve been getting 62-119 dead mites. After a week, the numbers are declining slightly. I’ll continue treatment until we get into single digits.

    BTW, correct grammar is number of bees, not amount of bees. If it’s something you can count, use “number.” Amount of fat, number of calories.

  9. Gail

    Will my hop strips also control Beatles