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I Might Have Mites

Updated: Apr 30


No, no, you DO have mites (unless you live in Australia). The trick is keeping track of how many mites you have and knowing how to deal with it when that number becomes too much.

This blog post is a little different. I grappled with how to tackle such a massive and important topic and I decided that I don't need to reinvent the wheel when other organizations have done an incredible job of building materials and guides already. This blog post is more of a curated and commentated collection of best practices based on the work done by the Honeybee Health Coalition.






Common Mistakes


There are a few very common mistakes that new beekeepers make with respect to mites.


  1. Going "treatment-free" by simply leaving bees to their own devices. In order to successfully be treatment free, you need to be using a combination of other strategies to reduce mite loads such as brood breaks and drone comb culls. And you need to be testing frequently to ensure those strategies are working.

  2. Believing a supplier who calls their queens VSH (varroa sensitive hygiene). There is some amazing work going into this, but Joe Beekeeper from down the road is not likely involved. Breeding from low mite load stock will help (which is what JB is probably doing), but you'll still want to be testing often to make sure that these queens are actually working as advertised.

  3. Believing that not seeing mites means there are no mites. The few mites that you see on the backs of bees are only a very small part of the overall mite load. Most are hidden in between the sclera on the belly side of bees, or hidden in capped brood reproducing. Even apps that use the camera to count mites are not seeing even half the mite load.

How to Test for Mites (2 Methods)


I've Got Mites. What Now?


Your mite result will be in the form of a percentage. That's the percent of bees in your hive that are affected by mites. The treatment thresholds will vary depending on time of year, but a good number to lock in your memory is that bees with more than 3% mite load are very unlikely to survive the winter.


A more comprehensive interpretation guide can be found below:


Choosing a Treatment


The Honeybee Health Coalition has an excellent tool for helping you decide which treatment method is right for you and your bees based on multiple factors. You can access the decision tool here: https://cantilever-instruction.com/varroatool/story_html5.html


I will also link the How-to Videos for the three treatments that we use on a regular basis:


Formic Acid

We like this treatment in the spring for hives that need a really punchy treatment. Bonus that it can be safely used with honey supers on.


Apivar

We have been using this treatment in late summer after removing our honey supers. We always follow up with oxalic acid in late fall.


Oxalic Acid

We use this treatment (oxalic acid vapour) aggressively through the fall broodless period and it leaves us with very low spring mite counts.


We do have a blog post about how we use Oxalic Acid vapour if you are looking for some more direct instruction: https://www.rushingriverapiaries.com/post/oxalic-acid-vaping


There are definitely more treatment options out there, and it's worth exploring the whole Honeybee Health Coalition website when you have time.


Looking for more?


Looking for more beekeeping education? You can find my virtual, on-demand beginner and intermediate courses at https://courses.rushingriverapiaries.com


Or if you'd prefer a more tailored experience, you can join my mentorship group at https://www.patreon.com/thehivementorship

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