It’s MIte-A-Thon month, and it’s time to test and monitor for mites two to three times in spring and early summer.
In April, at Meet The Beekeeper, we showed you a few of our hives that we overwintered. One hive thrived, while the other died. At first glance it may look like dysentery or starvation, but it was definitely varroa mites. If your hive dies, we encourage you to really take a close look at your hive. Check your bottom board and bees to see if you can see any mites. Do a test and see if you find any mites. If you do, it’s likely the real reason your hive died.
FAST FORWARD TO MAY
It’s May now, and it’s very important you look at your hive and do a mite test. The Government of Alberta's Bee Health Assurance Program recommends you test two to three times during spring and early summer. If you even find one mite in a test of 100 bees, you need to do a treatment. If you can see mites on your bees (small red or brown spots often found on the thorax), you have a big problem. Last fall, there were very high levels of mites in Alberta, so, it’s important to stay on top of it. If varroa mites are left untreated, you are at serious risk of losing your colony. We can’t stress enough that you need to treat now, even if you just have one.
HOW TO TEST FOR MITES
To test you need a jar or container and soap or windshield washer fluid. Take a frame with capped brood and scoop bees into it. You need to collect approx. 100 bees or 1/3 of a cup (we know some of you feel bad killing some bees, but you need to in order to ensure your hive is mite free). Take a sample from the outside frame so that you use the older bees. Once you have your sample, place a lid on and shake. After the water settles, look for mites in the liquid (they will separate from the bees). If you see any mites, count them. See our latest Meet The Beekeeper for how to test for varroa mites.
If you do find mites, you will need to do at least one round of treatments. You will need to test after one treatment to monitor levels and ensure the treatment worked. You may have to treat more than once.
WHAT ARE TREATMENT OPTIONS?
Right now is a good time to use Formic Pro. It is effective this time of year and is natural and safe for honey. It’s warm enough outside now in Alberta, so it’s okay to use. Although you need need to use this form of treatment before it gets too warm out as it can harm the queen (it is too hot late June and July).
There are also other treatments you can use such as Apivar Strips and Oxalic Acid, but you need to understand how each treatment works before jumping in. Always read labels to make sure you can use a treatment before honey as some treatments need to be used at certain times of the year.
For more information on treatments and how to do them, see the Alberta Government recommended treatments.
Also, if your hives are getting full, you need to prepare for making a split! Stay tuned for our next Meet The Beekeeper on how to do this.
As always, contact us if you have questions, need help or supplies! Contact us!
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If you are a beginner beekeeper, knowing if there are enough honey stores can be hard to figure out on your very first overwintered hive check. The simplest way to check if there are enough stores is to gently lift your hive from the bottom board (without disturbing the hive too much). If it is very light and easy to lift, you DO NOT have enough stores.