June 14, 2015

Honeysuckle Hive Varroa Mite Count

Honeysuckle Hive
I've been monitoring comb building progress in the bottom hive box of my Warré beehive, because I want to be ready when it's time to add more hive boxes. With that time approaching, I thought it might be a good idea to do a Varroa mite count. As a novice beekeeper, I'm concerned about everything which might affect the health of my hive. If there was a problem and I needed to treat the hive, I could do it when we added boxes.

Varroa mites are honeybee parasites. Female mites lay their eggs in brood cells, the brood being the food source for the hatched mites. The mites don't kill the larvae directly, but can cause deformities and disease. Small numbers of these mites in a colony are considered "normal", but too many can devastate a colony. Some beekeepers keep track of varroa numbers and treat accordingly, some treat annually as a matter of routine, and some do nothing at all because they consider the treatment worse than the mites.

My hive has a screened bottom so the procedure was very easy, especially with a homemade sticky board. A sticky board is a thin piece of cardboard marked off in one inch squares and coated with a sticky substance such as petroleum jelly.

Homemade sticky board for a Varroa mite count

I simply marked off a piece of scrap paper into one inch squares and coated it with petroleum jelly. The petroleum jelly makes it "sticky" so that the mites cannot walk away.


The base of my hive kit has a slot in back for sliding in a sticky board. Once in place, I left it there for 24 hours.


My count was one mite. That may or may not be meaningful because much depends on the time of year and the number of bees in the hive. An autumn count would be more important because it would indicate the mite load my hive was carrying into winter. For the time being, no action is required on my part. For a novice beekeeper with her first hive, that's a comfort because it means all is well.

Next - Nardiring Honeysuckle

14 comments:

  1. I laugh at myself as I show off my beginner status when my mentor is here. I know SO little. I do like the learning, though!

    I hope you are going to have a sweet reward soon!

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    1. Barb, i think the important thing is to be honest about our level of knowledge, just like you're saying. If we're confident in our ability to learn and adapt, then there's no shame in our not knowing. Actually, I love learning!

      It would be great to get honey this first year! I don't think that's always the case with new colonies, but as long as I can keep them healthy and thriving, honey will come!

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  2. That is SUCH a nifty way to check for parasites! I wish I could figure out how to do something like that instead of fecal counts ;)

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    1. DIY fecals are next on my things to learn to do! I finally found a microscope that doesn't require a battery or being plugged in and will also order a McMaster slide kit too. Won't be as easy, but it's along the same principle. :)

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    2. I do my own goat fecals. You're right; it's not as easy! ;)

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  3. I really want bee hives some day. Just need to get a little more comfortable with everything we have now....which is overwhelming. :-)

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  4. My parents were in the camp of just treating them all once a year. For the life of me, I can't remember what time of the year but I want to say it was fall after all the honey had been removed so it didn't contaminate it.

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    1. Yes, it seems that fall is the time to treat, so I reckon I'll be doing another count then. It definitely makes sense to treat after harvest.

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  5. Great information! My hives came with a removable bottom board that was pre-printed with the grid, but I had no idea how to use it! Now if it will just stop raining long enough for me to go install it! Thanks!

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    1. Perry, that's pretty neat? Have you mentioned where you bought your hives from?

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    2. I bought the hives un-assembled on eBay (valleybeesupply, item #321583374124) and the frames from Walter Kelley. They were complete hives with two deeps and three mediums. I determined it was cheaper to buy the frames separately, plus it gave me the flexibility to have foundation in the supers and foundation-less in the mediums.

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    3. That's how I do my calculations, LOL. I got my kit from eBay too, but I can't think of the name of the company at the moment. They don't seem to be offering anything currently, but I certainly would like to get a couple more hives.

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    4. It is really addictive, isn't it. I am already looking towards next spring and hoping to be able to split my current hives. Will have to spend money on supplies, but the Bees are Free!

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