Don’t lose your beehives to Varroa mite

Beekeepery is unique in that it has a HUGE learning curve. Meaning, it takes years of trial and failure until you halfway know what you’re doing. And it’s no fault of our own, no no.

There’s just too many blasted pests and diseases knocking on the hive entrance and blowing their house down! By the time you think you kicked one problem in the butt then another one comes along and sentences your hive to the death chamber of doom. And no one likes the Death Chamber of Doom.

But what if I told you that there is something you could do to keep your bee hives alive long enough to feel like a bee-keeper?

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Here is a queen bee that is no longer laying eggs, if ya know what I mean. And those are 3 Varroa mites beside her. Photo by Jonathan Hargus

What I’m about to share with you is going to sound too simple to work. But all I can do is share with you my fun and failure of seventeen years. It’s going to be up to you to practice what I’m about to give you for free. I’m giving it to you because I have found that it works and I know that beekeeping can be a struggle. I hope you’re interested because here we go.

Here’s the breakdown– I’m going to go through the three most common pests and diseases one at a time and explain how to prevent and minimize them before they devastate your bees. This is a three-part blog for easier reading. We’ll cover Varroa mite first. As a result of your efforts, your beehives will be healthier and happier. When your bees aren’t dying then you have time to finally gain the confidence that every Keeper needs.

~When you have confidence, you finally start to have all the fun that beekeeping has to offer. The Key is Prevention~

Varroa mites When your hive has a plethora of parasites, it’s too late to prevent it. There’s a few ways to test for mites in your beehives. These tests are designed to monitor for the presence of mites and also to determine the mite count in your hive. Forget it. Don’t waste your time. Why?

Step 1Always assume your hives have mites. If there’s only one mite in your entire colony then there’s one too many. The best you can do is keep the mite population at a minimum.

Step 2– Use a treatment that works. The idea here is to control the mite count by keeping it low without harming your honey bees. A low mite population means healthier honey bees. They can deal with mites as long as they’re not abundant. They cannot deal with a mite population that is out of control. In the past I have used chemical mite strips. They work but I hate them because they do harm to my bees to some degree. I now use an Oxalic Acid Vaporizer with superior results. I have not observed any harmful affects to my bees using this method. Here’s what I use, OXALIC ACID 99.6% 2 Lb. Deck, Crystals.

Step 3– There are several models of vaporizers out there to fit most budgets. This is Varrox Oxalic Acid Vaporizer by OxaVap, my personal recommendation for cost and quality. This step is where the work comes in:

Treating beehives naturally using an oxalic acid vaporizer.
I have installed my oxalic acid vaporizer, then blocked the entrance using a block of wood and a bandana to keep the vapors in the hive. Photo by Jonathan Hargus

How to treat: You must vaporize each bee hive once every four days for a total of a 24 day period. This means, treat your hives for mites every four days until you have treated them a total of six times. This way, you kill the mites that are in the capped brood once they emerge every few days with a new adult honey bee. The treatment is NOT effective on the mites in the capped brood. The reason for treatment every four days is because the oxalic acid will only kill the mites on adult honey bees and in open brood cells. And remember to follow all safety precautions that come with your vaporizer. Instructions for how to treat are here.

When to treat in your climate area: Treat mid-spring when it’s warm enough that the bees aren’t clustering for warmth, the beginning of summer, late summer early in the day before it gets too hot to close up a bee hive, and mid-fall for a total of four annual treatments. When you stick to this regimen, two things will happen:

1) You will notice a drastic increase in your hive populations toward the end of the first full treatment (24 days later). And subsequently you will also see a much improved brood pattern.

2)You will realize that doing a mite count test is a pointless endeavor because there are always mites even when you’ve done your best as the beekeeper, to keep those mite populations down. Treatments are not the most fun part of beekeeping but it sure beats the alternative.

~It’s our job as beekeepers to PREVENT high mite counts in our beehives, not to treat them once we notice the first signs of trouble.~

A healthy bee hive with a large colony population thanks to regular mite treatments.
Now here is a NICE colony with a large, healthy population. Photo by Jonathan Hargus

When I moved to North Georgia, I joined the local Beekeeping Club. All these guys are hobby beekeepers, which was a very different experience from being around commercial beekeepers. I made a few buddies from going to the club and learned that NONE of them treat their beehives for mites the way I just described to you. They all have constant losses. Not all of their losses are from mites alone. A lot of them have mites in conjunction with NOT treating for Nosema, which I will teach you how to prevent in the next blog- Tired of losing Beehives? Put the ‘keep’ back into Beekeeping. Nosema.

If you have ANY questions about treating for Varroa mites then please comment below or contact me by clicking the Contact button at the top of the screen.

Join me in the next blog and I will teach you how to help your honey bees maintain their gut health. Learn how to prevent Nosema and improve your winter survival rates. Until then remember:

~Weeds are Wildflowers, let them Bee.~

Jonathan Hargus/Beekeeper Extraordinaire

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