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Hi all,

I shot a decent video of my bees yesterday afternoon grooming vigorously around their abdomens and back legs. I was curious on other's opinions of what prompted this behavior. I have not caught my bees doing this with as much vigor as they were yesterday. The can you see in the background contains a 1:1 sugar syrup I have been feeding them and they seem to really enjoy.

For some more background, 13 days ago I started a Thymol treatment for this hive, as I noticed a few verroa mites on my bees during inspection. This hive started from a package near the end of April and has been doing really well growing in numbers, building comb, etc. and since they are no where near having excess honey stores I thought doing a thymol treatment now would be ok. This hive also has some small hive beetles, for which I have made a trap (cd case style) with vegetable oil that the bees can't get into and hopefully the hive beetles will drown in.

It may just be that I happened to catch some grooming/cleaning behavior at that point in the day, or maybe the bees are ridding the hive of the thymol? Or perhaps they are just moving pollen around on their back legs. Do bees clean themselves more frequently after eating sugar syrup? I found a 1984 paper on excessive rubbing of the abdomens and back legs that suggested permethrin exposure, and there are a lot of farms nearby, so I can't entirely rule it out, but I have not noticed any other odd behaviors, no bees dying, etc.

I was hoping someone on the forum here may have a solid grasp on whether what I am observing is just me being an anxious new beekeeper worrying about a normal behavior I happened to catch or whether this is an obvious behavior reaction to an issue in the hive. I have the video uploaded to youtube, and with y'alls help I can edit the description to really help describe what behavior I am showing so others can learn from the youtube video as well!

Thanks and I hope the video is enjoyable and interesting for everyone!
 

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Probably would be good to do an alcohol wash. If you are seeing varroa visually then the problem is likely much greater.

Here is a video that shows the leg rubbing behavior. I think the visual is enough to confirm the hive is a mite bomb. You can see a mite or 2 on bees entering the hive.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YnOM5gYxoCk

Don't have a clue if Lavender has anything to do with the many off cast mites on the landing board. From my own observations the leg rubbing and other grooming behavior is fairly common. I wonder if it is just a normal trait or is in response to irritants.

Here is another video that might help understand varroa. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DK2Xi0ST4rA

Personally my philosophy is to develop a varroa treatment schedule by doing regular mite checks. Lessons learned is that you can't ignore it or be lazy about it. Plus vary the treatment types.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for finding that video; very interesting with the lavender. Yes, I am sure there are far more mites than the one I saw, which is why I started the thymol treatment without even doing an alcohol wash to do a count. I do wonder if that behavior grooming is actually removal of the mite after it dies, as there are the mite deaths in the video you sent me and I noticed this behavior 13 days into the thymol treatment and not before. It may be a normal trait as well like you mentioned.

I haven't seen any more of this behavior since I took this video. How long post thymol treatment would you recommend an alcohol wash to do a mite estimate? I am thinking early July, but if you recommend sooner I certainly will go for it.

I certainly should have been more proactive; it amazes me that even 5 weeks from package start to starting the thymol treatment after noticing a mite was too long to wait. Definitely lesson learned.

Thanks for the response! Out of curiosity, what other mite treatments besides thymol do you prefer to vary with? I have been reading on this guide so far: http://scientificbeekeeping.com/first-year-care-for-your-nuc/
They mention oxalic treatments, Hopguard II, and Apivar strips. I also plan on following the instructions and count recommendations for the alcohol wash based on this site.
 

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I am still in a learning curve. Losing hives is no fun so I am trying to reduce loss to a minimum what ever that means.

Working on creating a journal/calendar of BK experiences. The idea is to keep track of potential influences over a year and maybe learn and draw some conclusions. Things like mite counts I think critical. When to do them could be subjective because you can't control when bees bring in excess mites. We always have mites, but if your bees rod out a failing hive the numbers can climb fast.

So, I might decide to do an early spring check/alcohol wash. Knowing a good estimate will determine when to treat. From what I now understand a June or early July check is important. The goal is to keep counts low, as in 1 or 2 mites / 300 bees. Some folks treat in a prophylactic way where if they see one mite they might use HopGuard 2, or a single dose of MAQ's. I'm not completely sold on this approach yet. I don't know enough about potential negative effects on a hive. I don't think waiting until late Fall and using OAV treatments is the best practice given what we now know regarding the damage the mites do to bees. I want to ensure the winter bees are healthy. This means treating earlier and trying to reduce mite load to a minimum beforehand.

You can find a lot of information and opinion here; https://pollinators.msu.edu/resources/beekeepers/ MSU has several papers and video's on Varroa on the site.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=as6lmZkN__E Another lecture worth watching.

It's easy to get too busy and put off checking the bees. Having a calendar and notes from past years will help. I used to be able to remember a lot more data. I now rely on a smart phone and reminders.

Simply making observations at the hives several times per week, time of day, weather, temperature, rain events, forage, is pollen coming in,...........You add things as you go along. All of this might prove useful in learning something.

Doing a thorough inspection and recording what you see in a hive on a fairly regular basis, especially when you start keeping bees, will help you.

It can seem overwhelming at first, so keep it fun and learn from failures. If you can find a good local mentor this helps a lot. Ultimately you will figure out how you want to keep bees, and form your own style.
 

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Lavender helps kill the bees. There's this new German device called the Duplex Framebox, and kills 95% of all varroa mites organically.
 
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