Submitted by J. Morgan
A group of SIBA members, advocating the importance of beekeepers knowing their mite infestations, gathered together to create our version of a mite wash kit. It's a fact that most colony deaths are the result of varroa mites. Mites secretly build when the beekeeper isn't looking causing not only colony mortality, but sickness in the bees. Sick bees don't grow like they are supposed to and the virii associated with mites leads to many different ailments in the hive. It's frustrating to new beekeepers to look into their colony and not see what the bees are supposed to be doing. It's just as frustrating to our seasoned beekeepers having to watch.
One of the most important things a bee club can do is to show all beekeepers, old and new, not only the importance of monitoring colony mite loads, but how to get an accurate count of the mite infestations in each colony in order to make an educated assessment whether or not further action is necessary.
You cannot judge the mite load of a colony by seeing, or not seeing mites on the bees. There is no such thing as a colony with zero mites. Bees have to co-exist with mites and in managed hives, the beekeeper must keep the infestations to a level that the bees can tolerate.
During the season, there are opportunities to do more "natural" manipulations to outbreed mites. These approaches range from splitting colonies, or doing On-The-Spot queen-rearing to create a natural brood break that can wipe out a generation of mites and take the colony back down to a tolerable level. As such, these techniques take a few weeks. As winter approaches, these techniques can no longer be used because drones start dying, and new queens cannot get mated in time before winter. A hive with a high mite count so late in the season is either doomed to die... or the beekeeper can choose to use costly, chemical treatments that more and more beekeepers are seeking to avoid.
Being proactive about dealing with mites early in the season sets the stage for healthy colony growth... less bee diseases, and little to no need for chemical-based treatments in the fall.
Join us at the April 21st SIBA meeting in Moores Hill to watch a live demonstration on how to conduct a mite wash, and understand the mite load in a beehive. Enter to win a mite washing kit... or, just learn how to make one yourself! Bring your veils... and of course, weather-permitting.
We wish all beekeepers huge success this year!