Checking for varroa mites on drone pupae...
Here's a larger view of the picture:
My honeybees came from a beekeeper (FatBeeMan Don) who doesn't treat with the usual pesticides or miticide treatments for mite control. They seem very healthy and I've had them about six weeks.
To check for my hives' mite load for the first time, I put a frame of specifically sized wax drone foundation in each of my two hives. Varroa mites particularly target the larger drone cells in which to breed, attaching themselves to the drone larvae and pupae, sucking on them while the pupae develops in the capped cell, and emerging already attached to the adult drone bee.
Yesterday I removed the two 'mite bait' frames of capped drone brood from my hives, put them in the freezer overnight to quickly kill the larvae and whatever mites might be there, then I thawed the frames today to examine them.
I was delighted to find almost no mites at all on the drone larvae and pupae. I pulled about 30 dead drone pupae from their cells, and among the 30 I found only one lone varroa mite.
In this picture you can see the capped drone brood still on the frame in the background, and on the paper towel a few grub-like drone be larvae, and some of the 30 immature developing drone bee pupae with darkening eyes that I pulled out. I removed the single little red mite I found on one pupae and placed it on the paper towel to the right in the photo so you could see it. It looks like a shiny little reddish-brown bead with tiny legs.
If the mite population remains modest the bees will have little trouble living with them.
My drone pupae examination was very encouraging! I needn't worry about combating mites at the moment. I put the thawed drone frames back in the hives where they had been. The worker bees will quickly clean out the dead pupae, repair the comb, and the queen will lay new drone eggs in it. I will now let the bees raise the next couple of batches of drones in peace. I'll probably check the mite levels again in about 6 or 8 weeks, in August.
If there had been a lot of mites, I would start more regularly pulling and freezing those drone frames when they are capped, since that is where the varroa mite concentrates its breeding activity. Some beekeepers use this mite 'bait frame' method to keep mite populations under control instead of using miticides or other chemical treatments to kill the mites. The bees always do raise additional drones on the edges of 'regular' brood frames anyway, so there will always be some drones in the hive to mate with nearby queens.
But for now, I can relax for a few weeks... my bees are doing well on their own.
The little bee returns with evening's gloom,
To join her comrades in the braided hive... -Tennyson