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Author Topic: Help w/Varroa Mites  (Read 2314 times)
L Daxon
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« on: September 06, 2010, 12:22:41 PM »

HELP.  I put a sticky board under my 4-month-old hive yesterday (3  8-frame mediums  and 2 medium supers, lots of bees) and  pulled it this morning.  I counted about 120 mites on the board.  I was having trouble finding consistent data on what constituted an bad infestation, but by most accounts over 100 mites on the entire sticky board in 24 hrs. would be considered bad, right?

What is the first thing I should do?Huh  I would like to stay away from chemicals but the infestation may be bad enough that I need them.  I was planning on dusting w/powdered sugar later in the week when I take off my honey supers (waiting for some Bee Quick to arrive).  Would powdered sugar dusting and some grease patties be enough?  huh  I am just a hobbyist and want my girls to be healthy.
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linda d
tandemrx
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« Reply #1 on: September 06, 2010, 01:05:33 PM »

If it was a 24 hour count, then I think it is a moderate to bad (normal?) infestation for this time of year. (its about exactly what I had in my backyard hive and have had in many of my hives this time of year).

I think the data on sugar dusting is not that good.  It doesn't treat any mites on brood, which is where the majority of the mites are.

You might consider apiguard at a minimum, or formic acid treatment, but of course many will chime in that all chemicals are bad and you shouldn't treat.  You have to come to a comfort level in your own mind about that.

grease patties are mainly for tracheal mites as I understand it.
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caticind
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« Reply #2 on: September 07, 2010, 09:39:49 AM »

First of all, don't panic.   grin

There are lots of options for you to get the mites under control.  You have until the bees go into cluster this winter to deal with the issue - plenty of time.

You need more data on how many mites your girls are carrying.  120 in a 24-hour drop is a lot, but do you have that many and they are exploding?  Or are the bees keeping the level stable?  You won't know until you have more data points.  To start with, clear that sticky board and check/clean it every 24 hours for the rest of the week until you take off your honey supers.  This will let you get a handle on how bad the infestation is.

Once the supers are off, do a powdered sugar dusting.  The goal is to get every bee looking like a ghost.  Once you've dusted, put the sticky board back and count every 24 hours for 3 days.  The number dropping will spike up really high (you might see more than 200 that first day!) but then will drop off.  Keep it up - you can sugar dust once a week to help force the numbers down and to clear out mites as they emerge from cells with brood.  The corn starch in the sugar will also kill some of the open brood, which won't hurt your girls much but will temporarily reduce the mites' reproduction rate.  Write down your mite counts each day so you can compare them and see what the trend is.

Remember that you'll never get them all, but that's not the goal.  You just need to get them down low enough that the bees aren't overwhelmed first thing in the spring.

If sugar dusting is not enough and you are still seeing mite counts over 50 per day in 3 or 4 weeks, there will still be plenty of time to consider using brood trapping or pesticide treatments.  And this forum will be here for you if you need help!   Wink
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The bees would be no help; they would tumble over each other like golden babies and thrum wordlessly on the subjects of queens and sex and pollen-gluey feet. -Palimpsest
L Daxon
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« Reply #3 on: September 07, 2010, 10:49:05 AM »

If sugar dusting is not enough and you are still seeing mite counts over 50 per day in 3 or 4 weeks, there will still be plenty of time to consider using brood trapping or pesticide treatments.  And this forum will be here for you if you need help!   

caticind: 
Thanks for the very thoughtful, kind reply.  This is a great example of why I like this forum.  In addition to being knowledgeable, people like you are very understanding and supportive of newbees and hobbyist like me just trying to enjoy beekeeping and do right by "the girls."

Linda
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linda d
rgy
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« Reply #4 on: September 07, 2010, 02:19:32 PM »

Caticind, we did the sugar dust today and need your advice.  we did  a little over a cup of powdered sugar per hive.  One hive is two brood boxes and the other is two brood boxes and a super.  Is that enough sugar dust?  we plan on doing it two times a week for about three weeks.

Second ?.  Our good hive does not have an excluder on it and the queen is laying a ton of brood up in the super and a lot of it seems to be drone cells.  What's up with that?  Why would she be putting drones up there at  this time of the yr?  Should we put on an excluder to try and get this down to just two brood boxes for winter?

Third?.  Can you buy powdered sugar with out the cornstarch??  if so Where?

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rdy-b
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« Reply #5 on: September 07, 2010, 03:09:33 PM »

http://www.scientificbeekeeping.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=23&Itemid=40
pull the honey and treat-or you will lose the colony-RDY-B
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AllenF
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« Reply #6 on: September 07, 2010, 03:19:47 PM »

Third, you will have to make your own powdered sugar if you don't want corn starch in it.  Use a blender to shred it. 

Second, Are you sure you have a queen?  Is she laying any good brood?  If you can't find any good brood she may be going bad.  If you can find her, trap her on some empty comb and see what she is laying.  Use a cage or make one with hardware cloth to keep her on the frame.

First, make sure you cover all the bees in all the frames to make the powdered sugar work. 
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caticind
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« Reply #7 on: September 07, 2010, 03:28:33 PM »

Rgy, in answer to your questions:
1)One cup is probably enough, but you can use more if you need to.  You just want to make sure as many bees as possible are coated.

Here's a video that outlines the process really well for your reference:
Country Rubes' Powdered Sugar Movie Project_Final 4 10 10.wmv


Although I think she gets the reason sugar works wrong (she says it interferes with the varroa's grip when it's more that dusting encourages heavy grooming from the bees), this is a great detailed walkthrough of dusting and prepping a sticky board.

2) I assume you are using foundation in the brood boxes?  How about in the supers?  Often what happens is that the queen has very little room to lay drones down in the brood boxes because the foundation is uniformly worker-sized.  If she wants to lay drones she will lay them in any area where she has room and the cells are larger, like honey supers or burr comb.  It's definitely not too late for queens to be laying drones, though mine have reduced the number they are laying.  No one knows exactly how a queen decides how many drones to lay and when, but my guess would be that means that the swarming season is not over yet in your neck of the woods.

The simplest thing to do about it is to leave your setup as it is.  As you get into the fall, she will stop laying drones, those cells will clear out and the bees will store honey there instead.  You just have to wait a while.  If you are in a hurry to clear brood out of the supers, I can make some other suggestions.

3) I have just used commercial powdered sugar so far.  Perhaps someone else can weigh in on where to buy powdered sugar without additives.  Maybe a baker could tell you about their supplier?  a cheaper alternative is to put granulated sugar in your blender and buzz it for a few seconds to make your own powdered sugar.
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The bees would be no help; they would tumble over each other like golden babies and thrum wordlessly on the subjects of queens and sex and pollen-gluey feet. -Palimpsest
caticind
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« Reply #8 on: September 07, 2010, 03:34:21 PM »



Fantastic source of info on mite growth curves!  And it makes a particularly good point on the last page - to manage bees with what the author calls "natural treatments" (he includes organic acids and powdered sugar), you need to check the mites' growth regularly throughout the season instead of waiting until an infestation gets to such a large size.  Hopefully you can bring the mites down to manageable levels with dusting, but you may need to use other methods if that doesn't work.  And next year, start tracking mite counts a bit earlier!
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The bees would be no help; they would tumble over each other like golden babies and thrum wordlessly on the subjects of queens and sex and pollen-gluey feet. -Palimpsest
Michael Bush
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« Reply #9 on: September 07, 2010, 04:35:47 PM »

http://bushfarms.com/beesvarroatreatments.htm
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Michael Bush
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L Daxon
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« Reply #10 on: September 10, 2010, 09:38:25 PM »

Well, I pulled my honey super yesterday and did a powdered sugar treatment.  The bees sure didn't like it.  I had maybe 100-200 dead bees out front by the end of the day. Used C&H pure cane powdered sugar, of course it had corn starch in it.  Tried not to put it directly on the brood chamber, which looked great, by the way. It was very windy out and seemed like a lot of the sugar blew away in the wind. I had a hard time getting it on the frames/bees.

I will do a new sticky board count tomorrow. Despite the previous high sticky board varroa counts (120+) the hive seems to be thriving.  I did go ahead and order some Apiguard and will use if it appears the powdered sugar treatment(s) aren't doing any good.

I know the mite counts will be high this time of year.  Do the mites overwinter well with the bees or will the cold weather bring the mite count down? Or does the slowdown/break in brood pull the counts down? At this point I am just trying to make sure the bees can make it through the winter.
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linda d
caticind
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« Reply #11 on: September 13, 2010, 10:38:54 AM »

Although you don't need to get sugar on the comb/brood itself, you do need to cover as many bees as you can, including those covering the brood nest.  Don't worry about just a few dead bees.  Remember that the girls only live about 4-5 weeks at this time of year, and in a middle-strength hive of 40,000 bees you will lose several hundred a day just by normal attrition.

I agree that with such high counts, you may have to use Apiguard.  But give powdered sugar a chance first if the hive still appears to be thriving.  And try it on a less windy day!

The mites overwinter just fine.  The population will drop off somewhat over the winter, not because of cold (it's not cold in the cluster!) but because the bees are not rearing much (if any) brood and so the mites can't reproduce.  The phoretic mites will do some damage to the winter bees they are parasitizing, but that's not the major issue.  If you let the bees go into winter with a high mite load, then when they begin to rear brood again in the spring the mite population will explode as the mites parasitize workers as well as drones.  Your spring bees will hatch out weakened, sick, with shorter lifespans.

Keep treating and don't worry about the adult bees you see now.  The ones you need for the winter are the bees two or three brood cycles from now.  And if you want them to be healthy and make it through the winter, you must bring the mite count down.
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The bees would be no help; they would tumble over each other like golden babies and thrum wordlessly on the subjects of queens and sex and pollen-gluey feet. -Palimpsest
L Daxon
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« Reply #12 on: September 13, 2010, 11:39:06 AM »

Thanks caticind.  I appreciate you help.  Read my "What to do? What to do?" post this morning for the latest on my hive.  I was 12hrs into a new mite count this a.m. when I noticed a swarm of what have to be my bees about 4 ft. from the hive in a yaupon holly tree.  I had to pull my mite count board to use it as an improvised bottom board for a temporary set up to house the swarm.

I have some Apiguard on order but will try not to use it.  I was able to buy some Imperial powdered sugar that didn't mention anything about corn starch in it, like everything else on the shelf.  I have a slatted bottom board on order that should be here Thursday with the Apiguard.  When I put the sbb on I will do a new p.s. treatment.  Hope I can get my mite counts under 100, even though that is high.  I just want to see the count start down.
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linda d
caticind
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« Reply #13 on: September 13, 2010, 01:00:14 PM »

Linda, I saw your post about the tiny swarm - glad you caught them!

Powdered sugar definitely annoys the bees - their irritated grooming is what knocks mites off! - but I doubt it triggered a swarm, since they have to do a lot of prep work raising queens in order to take off.
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The bees would be no help; they would tumble over each other like golden babies and thrum wordlessly on the subjects of queens and sex and pollen-gluey feet. -Palimpsest
L Daxon
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« Reply #14 on: September 13, 2010, 04:06:27 PM »

caticind,
You are probably right about the  small swarm not being related to the powdered sugar.  This was probably a small after swarm to one I think I lost a little earlier.  I knew the hive was bulging at the seams and when I took the honey super off Thursday it was just that much less space they had to hang out in. I saw some empty swarm cells Thursday but I always just leave any kind of queen cell alone, empty or not.  I read a Michael Bush post where he said that was best cause by destroying the queen cells you run the risk of them swarming any way with the old queen and then you are queenless, or if it is for supersedure, the old queen could fail and you just killed off her replacement, which could lead to a laying worker.  I am not planning on doing regular/annual queen replacement as some do.  I am going to try and let the hive decided when they need to requeen. At least that is my thinking at this stage in my career.

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linda d
mathew
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« Reply #15 on: September 14, 2010, 08:41:14 PM »

I save cost on getting powdered sugar by blending the granulated sugar myself. I find that the icing sugar is almost 2-3times more costly in weight than granulated sugar. By doing that you are also sure that there is no corn starch.

I am also a backyard beekeeper who do not use chemicals and I use a cup per brood chamber. I run a 2 brood chamber hive so I use 2 cups everytime i treat. I treat on the same day every week until it gets cold and I shouldn't open up the hive anymore.

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mathew
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« Reply #16 on: September 14, 2010, 08:44:13 PM »

Ooops I just realized that my advise to treat till its cold wouldn't apply to you as you are down south in Oklahoma and you don't have winters down there. DO you?
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L Daxon
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« Reply #17 on: September 14, 2010, 09:16:13 PM »

You're kidding, right? Don't have winters in Oklahoma?  We have everything in Oklahoma, including some below zero winters (though hasn't been below zero in OKC in a couple of years.)  Last winter we had 14 inches of snow on Christmas Eve and my son got stuck spending Christmas Eve sleeping in a chair int he mall as the roads were nearly impassible.

Thanks for the suggestion to make my own powdered sugar.  I will try that.  I have a Cuizinart food processor I hardly use any more and I am sure it would powder regular sugar pretty fast.

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linda d
Michael Bush
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« Reply #18 on: September 15, 2010, 12:06:14 PM »

Every winter I lived in Oklahoma they said it was the worst winter they had ever seen.  I never saw below zero.  I saw a lot of 10 above though and some ice storms that were the worst I ever saw.  Coming from Western Nebraska where I had see -40 F they seemed pretty mild...

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Michael Bush
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mathew
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« Reply #19 on: September 15, 2010, 03:16:00 PM »

Weather sounds crazy in Oklahoma but generally warm winters. So do you get flowers blooming in your winters? Sounds abit like winters in Australia where they can harvest winter honey. Is that true in Oklahoma?
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