Ticks and bees?
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Thread: Ticks and bees?

  1. #1

    Smile Ticks and bees?

    Hello. My name is Phoebe and this is my second year at beekeeping. I live in Massachusetts and last year had a couple of hives, each filled with a bee package. They both seemed to do fine, although one of the hives had fewer filled frames. Well , over the winter, all the bees died. My guess is they died of starvation, although it could have been anything, too cold, too humid in the hive, etc. I didn't see any signs of mites or other diseased, but then I'm not at all experienced so who knows. So, I'm trying again this year, starting off (like last year) with sugar water, hoping to build up both hives so they can make it through the cold, windy months we have around here. Thanks for being here -- I've already posted a question about ticks (deer and dog), which seem to think the area around my hives and the exterior of the hives themselves is a great place to go for a walk. Who knew? Despite the dead bees and the ticks, I'm loving it -- bees are about the most fascinating thing I've encountered in a long time.

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    Scott county, Arkansas, Usa

    Default Re: Ticks and bees?

    Your bees should have a a head start if you saved the drawn comb.

    I think you will find mites to be the biggest enemy to your bees. If you see them with your naked eye on your bees you have a very high infestation.
    You will find on this site everything you need to know about them.

    Good luck this year.
    Ten years of Beekeeping before varroa. Started again spring of 2014.

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Aylett, Virginia

    Default Re: Ticks and bees?

    The deer ticks are really bad in the spring around my hives too. Pretty much everytime I go out in the apiary, I bring back one or two. Usually get them before they dig in but not always. Hate them worse than getting stung.

    FYI, There is another poster that goes by a similar name, Phoebee. He has not been on in a while.

    Best of luck to you and your bees.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    Covington County, Alabama, USA

    Default Re: Ticks and bees?

    Mites like to burrow under the tergites of the underbelly of bees. Beekeepers generally don’t get a good view of bee bellies. And if they do, 3/4 of the mite is covered by the tergite. This makes them very unlikely to detect. As AHudd said, if you actually see them crawling around on the backs of bees, they are probably trying to catch the next ride out because your hive is collapsing.

    Your best option is to do periodic alcohol washes to check mite populations in your hive. If you are not going to do that, I would suggest treating your bees with Apivar, in accordance with the label, immediately after you pull your honey supers off in late summer.

    Good luck to you and your bees. Understanding and managing your mite load is crucial to becoming a successful beekeeper. There are almost an infinte number of ways and theories about doing this. The one I stated above is not the best one, but is as straight and simple as I can put it and will hopefully get your bees to next spring. Spend the winter studying better methods for mite management.

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2018
    Boston, MA, USA


    Hi Phoebe,

    I am a fellow first time beekeeper in MA. We had 100% survival this winter. How do you know you dont have a mite problem? You can not see the mites without a alcoholic wash(preferred) or a sugar shake (alternate) or uncapping drone cells.

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Rensselaer County, NY, USA

    Default Re: Ticks and bees?

    Tuck your pants legs into your socks, which will keep both bees and ticks out. Keep the grass low a round the hives to discourage mice and chipmunks which are the prime reservoirs for Lyme disease in ticks.

    And let your revulsion about tick bites to you motivate you to be more vigilant about monitoring for the bee equivalent of ticks: varroa mites. Imagine a tick about the size of a salad plate hanging on your rib cage! And just like Lyme-disease carrying ticks, mites are annoying and debillitating for bees, but also carry deadly viruses which are the principal harm they vector.

    Learn to do proper sugar rolls, and do them every month on every hive and treat according to the results. A well-done sugar roll (not a sugar "shake") will give you results as good as an alcohol wash.

    Where are you in MA? East or West, or on the Cape? I lived for a long time in the Berkshires and went to university in Amherst.


  8. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    Santa Rosa County, Florida

    Default Re: Ticks and bees?

    OK Nancy,I have to ask; what is the difference between a sugar shake and a sugar roll. I use alcohol but do not like killing my bees just to count mites.
    edited to add---Phoebe you would do well to pay close attention to post by enjambres. She too is in the frozen north.
    54+ years 16 colonies Treat using OAV

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand

    Default Re: Ticks and bees?

    Re package bees. They are typically bred for honey production and some other characteristics, but not mite resistance, because commercial beekeepers take care of the mites for them.

    So if you get package bees and do not treat them in fall for mites, there is a very high chance they will be dead by spring.

    Common trap for new players is they look at the hive in fall, and at the surface level there seems to be a large healthy bee population and a good honey crop. This lulls the less experienced beekeeper into a false sense of security, he or she is sure they do not need treating for mites.

    But if they are package bees, the mite population has steadily increased over summer, then when the bees naturally lower the hive population for winter but mite numbers continue to increase, the mite / bee ratio reaches tipping point and the hive perishes.
    "Every viewpoint, is a view from a point." - Solomon Parker

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