Treat mites all the time?
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2020
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    Pittsburgh, PA, USA
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    New beekeeper here. I went to my beekeeping 101 class this weekend where I'm going to get my first nuc. The guy there said that he always treats for mites (every 2 months) and that he thinks all of his bees have mites including the ones that he'll be giving me (but he doesn't check because he just treats all the time). I'm new to this but I didn't realize that some people treated all the time for mites whether they have them or not (and that I should expect all bees to have mites). Is that normal now that all bees have mites and is it a good idea to treat constantly? If so, what do you like for all-the-time treatment?

    Thanks!
    Last edited by Soundchasr; 01-20-2020 at 07:55 AM. Reason: Clarified how often

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
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    Williamsport, PA
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    Welcome...

    I think you may be misinterpreting what he is saying. Yes, you can safely assume that your bees will always have mites but that is not to say you must always be treating them.

    If I wasn't on mobile I would link to the common graph of bee population vs mite population. For most of the year the bees outbreed the mites. In fall and overwinter is where the mites can quickly overwhelm your hive.

    I treat in spring to knock the miteload as low as possible before the season begins, early fall to stay ahead of them, and the most effective time, between Thanksgiving and Christmas while they are bloodless. That's 3x per year. I may do more if I see something (Not mites) that makes me think there is an urgent need.

    What works for me may or may not work for you. After you get some experience you will learn the ebb & flow of the colony.

    The next thing you will need to decide is what/how to treat.

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2014
    Location
    England, UK
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    1,680

    Default Re: Treat mites all the time?

    Yeah, "All the time" could mean every single day or - as I suspect - something like twice a year without fail. But - you could always ask him for clarification ...

    I'm fairly isolated, and have found that treating with VOA (Vapourised Oxalic Acid) once a year during mid-winter has - in general - been sufficient to keep the mites under control. On only one occasion did I have a outbreak of DWV (Deformed Wing Virus) in mid-season - which is an indicator of a high level of mites - and which required a series of treatments to bring that outbreak under control.

    So, on the presumption that I had probably been 'just getting away' with one dose a year, and as improvements in vapouriser design have recently appeared resulting in the treating of mites being far less of a hassle than previously, I've now begun adding a course of four treatments five days apart during mid to late August.

    Providing that there are no further outbreaks of DWV, or any other sign of mite infestation, this number of treatments will not be increased further.
    Best,
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  5. #4
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    "All the time" was probably a terrible description. 🙂. He treats every two months. It sounds like the mites are something I'll have to deal with pretty regularly.

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2001
    Location
    Enfield,Ct.
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    615

    Default Re: Treat mites all the time?

    I agree with what's been said above and would also add to learn how to monitor for mites.
    Personally I would be wary of buying a nuc from this person without getting some clarification.Some miticides accumulate in comb and old comb is no bargain.Some strains of bees are more resistant to mites and worth investigating.Ask what he does about foulbrood.
    Some states require nucs to be inspected by the state bee inspector before sale.Check the regs in your state.

  7. #6

    Default Re: Treat mites all the time?

    Regardless of where your bees come from….except Australia or Pitcairn Island….they will have mites. The only treatment that might eliminate all the mites from your hive would also likely kill all of the bees. And…if somehow you could eliminate all of the mites without killing the bees….unless you live somewhere totally devoid of bees… within a short period of time mites would find their way into the hive from elsewhere.
    Long and short mites will be an issue. Unless you are willing to buy replacement bees every year or two, you will need a plan to manage the mites or their consequences.
    PS If you go to your profile you can add a location. Later if you ask questions you may get more meaningful answers if people responding know approximately where you are. A common quote here is ‘all beekeeping is local’.
    Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted. - Emerson

  8. #7
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    Jan 2020
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    Pittsburgh, PA, USA
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    Default Re: Treat mites all the time?

    Thanks! Updated my profile.

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    White Hall, MD
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    7

    Default Re: Treat mites all the time?

    Quote Originally Posted by Soundchasr View Post
    New beekeeper here. I went to my beekeeping 101 class this weekend where I'm going to get my first nuc. The guy there said that he always treats for mites (every 2 months) and that he thinks all of his bees have mites including the ones that he'll be giving me (but he doesn't check because he just treats all the time). I'm new to this but I didn't realize that some people treated all the time for mites whether they have them or not (and that I should expect all bees to have mites). Is that normal now that all bees have mites and is it a good idea to treat constantly? If so, what do you like for all-the-time treatment?

    Thanks!
    Well, for what it's worth.
    We currently have 4 hives, 5th year with bees in North Central Maryland.
    We do 1 or 2 OAVapes in very early spring (March), then one of the following about 3-4 weeks later Formic Acid, Hop guard. As soon as supers come off for extraction we install Apivar for the 42 day run & remove immediately. In fall we do 3 OAVapes 6-7 days apart and then a final OAVape in mid to late December.
    We do what we believe works best for us & the bees. I DO NOT state that anyone else follow this routine. You must learn for yourself by reading forums such as these, attending local bee club meetings & other events, reading & observing. Any treatment you decide to use MUST be understood. Therefore just because I or any one else, including highly respected experts says they do something does not mean you should OR that you just toss the treatment in until you fully understand all the nasty little details regarding the safety of yourself, others and the bees. There are issues as to the safe temperature range, whether or not you can apply a treatment when honey supers are on, etc.. The more yoou talk to others, the better you decisions will be. You may change your choices around.

    It is also important to NOT stick to just one type of treatment, IN MY PERSONAL OPINION. Some will tell you they only use one formula or another. It is OK to hear that but many formulas in the past are not used now as the mites developed a resistance to it.

    Synopisis, learn all you can, make up your own mind, observe results, learn more. The world of beekeeping is in flux as most of the world is. I'd rather be doing a lot of other things but my wife makes me work on the bees so I don't have to sleep in the garage I obey. Every beekeeper does a different array of management and even varies what they might do from one location or one hive to another. Any info I state here is what we do rather than a guide for what you should do.

  10. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2019
    Location
    Southeastern Pennsylvania
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    4

    Default Re: Treat mites all the time?

    Soundchasr,
    It sounds to me as if your nuc guy pursues a knock-down strategy - you can google that and find more info. I and many others on this thread prefer a 'clean slate' strategy: We try to start or spring season with close to zero mites (that means treating while bees are broodless >> mites are exposed = phoretic) and thus are able to go without treatments until August or so, ie until after our honey harvest.
    Here is a great site which I shamelessly stole from Trish, another frequent contributor on this site:
    http://chickabuzz.com/bees/index_firstyear.html

  11. #10
    Join Date
    May 2011
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    Algoma District Northern Ontario, Canada
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    5,042

    Default Re: Treat mites all the time?

    Mite growth is highly exponential so it is very important not to ever get behind in the fight. It is a good idea to learn to asses the mite levels. Sugar shakes, alcohol shakes, opening drone brood etc. Know what the action level is. Many people who used to do mite counts regularly have seen that they are quite predictably present and now just routinely treat. That does not automatically equate to over treating! With 6 or 8 colonies I will commonly have one or two with sticky boards on and if I get a showing I will treat them all. I also routinely open drone brood to spot mites and since that is the preferred host, is a good action indicator. I maintain very low mite counts but I am isolated so that is easy.

    I have heard very few stories about people having lost their bees through overtreating but many, many, about losing them for treating them too late or too little. The statistics that mites are the #1 cause of colony losses is seldom questioned. An important thing to be aware of is that mite vectored virus levels may take several months to drop back after the mites have been knocked down. Anything later than August is giving control of the situation to the enemy. Much nicer to have the feeling of being ahead of the game.

    That is just my philosophy.
    Frank

  12. #11
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
    Location
    woodland, wa usa
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    70

    Default Re: Treat mites all the time?

    Bottom line. When, how often, and with what treatment form is a philosophical issue that each beek must answer for themselves to fit their own philosophy and purpose.

    Me, late summer, after supers come off, since we have no fall flow, it is a prime time to treat. And yeah, I do find that treating my hives essentially one time annually with Apivar does suffice. And if attempting to interpolate this with OAV, it would be a once a year "series" of treatments if you did use OAV, but then with OAV ya actually may need more treatment through the year, maybe. OAV methodology seems to still be in serious question. Other forms of treatment I am unfamiliar with. But killing mites prior to winter fat bees, wintering the hive, then bee buildup for spring seems to outpace the mite buildup over the same time frame. So, I'm back to I need only treat once a year.

  13. #12
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    Jan 2020
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    Pittsburgh, PA, USA
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    Default Re: Treat mites all the time?

    This is all great information!

  14. #13
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    Jul 2010
    Location
    jackson county, alabama, usa
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    10,250

    Default Re: Treat mites all the time?

    welcome aboard soundchasr, and best of luck to you and your upcoming experience with bees!

    moving this thread to the beekeeping 101 subforum so that others searching for information on getting started will see it.

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