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Hello folks,

Honestly, i have little experience in dealing with Varroa mites. Ive always understood that there is always mites in your hive however the important factor is how many. Over a 48hr period, yesterday i found 15-20 mites on the board in one of my hives. Should i be concerned? I do have a super on this hive so i am wondering if there is a safe approach to treating for them if i need to. Because of the mites i've been running this hive as tight (space wise) as i can if that makes a difference. However the flow is picking up and i will likely be needing to super them more soon. Any suggestions?

Also I'll go ahead an ask a different question while I'm here:

How soon does a queen in a swarm start laying once i hived them?

Thank you so much
 

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J.T - Lets see if i can help you out here. Varroa mites are a pain. There is only one product that I know of for sure that you can use while you have the honey on, that's HopGuard. It takes 3 applications, in about 3 weeks due to it drying out. Now to figure out if you need to do a treatment right now or not. Finding 15-20 mites on a sticky board isn't a good way to figure out your mite load. You need to do a sugar roll and see how many you come up with. If the number is above about 10 it means you have a 10 percent mite load as you put in about 100 bees to do the mite roll. At that 10 percent it is said that there is a treatment needed at that point. Most people don't treat a hive till around august though from what i've learned.

Second question - Swarm Queen begin to lay, that's actually a tricky one to answer. Most swarms are headed up by mated queens that were keeping good house at the previous place. Those queens actually have a high percentage of supersedure. So she could go in, lay a few eggs and then the house bees start a queen cell, or she could go in and set up house and the bees just get behind her and go like crazy. In either case the queen will usually lay again within a week of being hived.
 

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Doing a single mite drop test doesn't tell you much, IMO.

I test almost continously year-round and I can tell you that there a often single day spikes. I would immediately retest for at least three days (72 hours) and get an average mite/day figure.

I would also suggest you begin to test weekly/bi-weekly so you can see the relative change between tests, which is the important number. Unlike roll-type tests, you aren't going to get a percentage of infestation, as the mite drop is a passive test. (And don't confuse the results of each kind of test because they are testing different things.) Since a sticky board test is simple to do and non-obtrusive to the bees, it's not a big deal to add to your regimen, unless you have a lot of hives. If you set the screen BB/varroa monitor up so the slot for the sticky board faces the back of the hive, you can even run tests when your work schedule is such that you can't get to the hives except during the evening.

Meanwhile hunt up what the minimum thresholds for treatment are in your area, for the time of year. I'm in northern NY and I use the NYBeeWellness and the Ontario Tech Transfer Team's numbers, but those might not be useful for you if you live in a warmer climate than I do.

Find what the spring-time mite-drop threshold is for your area and after you've got more accurate averaged drop numbers, then decide what to do.

Now, a word on technique: you can't have "15-20". You've got to know exactly what the number is at the lower levels. (If you told me you had 50-75, then it wouldn't matter, because that's a serious issue no matter how you're counting. But for a 48 hour test, was that averaged or total or what?) I find it useful to look at the board with a magnifying glass and pick up each mite with the dampened end of wooden toothpick and set it aside on a clear area of the board along the edge. This way I don't have to worry about a perfect search pattern, or missing or double-counting the mites. I just keep looking until I can't find any more, then I sort through my pile of "mites" to remove non-mite debris; arrange the mites in groups of five for easy counting and I'm done. And then I know exactly how many mites are on the board. If you do the test regularly you get really good at seeing the mites. Also I try to run the test when I'm not going to be in the hive doing other chores, which can skew the drop rate a bit.

As far as whether drops counts or rolls are better, I think they are both very useful and provide actionable information, if they are done properly and faithfully. With rolls, I think you can get away with longer intervals, which is good because they have to be done with brood-tending bees to be useful, so they require a deep dive into to the hive to collect them. Drops, on the other hand, really need to be done much more often because you aren't looking at the rate of the mites on the bees, per se, you are looking at the rate of mites within the colony which, in general, ebbs and flows a bit depending on the mites' breeding schedule and success. When the drop rates are low, then you know there are fewer mites, when the drop rates go up and stay up, there are more mites, and you may choose to take action. Fortunately, since drops can be done so easily with no need to disturb the bees, their need for increased frequency isn't a big deal. What isn't very useful, though, is a once-a-season drop test, nor one not done for at least three days to get an average daily count.

As to running the hive "tight", I've never heard of that being a mite control technique, but then I'm a new beekeeper, so maybe it's true. However, FWIW, my hive with the consistently lowest, often zero, daily numbers is my least-crowded hive (not in numbers of bees, but in atypical intra-hive space planning). But who knows why that hive is the lowest one? All three of my hives are swarms from cut-outs, so it's not likely to have fancy VSH genetics.

As far as the swarm queen laying my experience was mixed: All my bees were from cut-out swarms last Spring. Two of the three likely lost their queen in the trauma of the cut-outs (those two had been in the walls from their swarm around two-three weeks and had already begun laying so we cut-out eggs and open brood with them). I believe they cooked up emergency queens from previously laid eggs. The third one had only swarmed into the walls eight days before. She's the only one I'm pretty sure that survived the cut-out because I found brood pretty early on, in less time than would have taken to raise an emergency queen, get her mated and laying. I should think that a swarm queen would start to lay pretty quicky if her bees had previously-drawn comb, or good opportunities to draw comb right after they were hived. My surviving queen had already begun to lay before the cut-out, so she had gotten busy in less than eight days. All of my swarms had chosen those walls because there was tons of comb from a long-standing feral/unmanaged colony. And we were near the height of the nectar flow.

Now keep in mind that I am a beekeeper of less than a year, and take my advice with that in mind. But I am also a vegetable farmer with long-time experience in insect "scouting" my crops to determine whether to treat them, or not. That has taught me that a single test is not very useful, so when I started monitoring my bees for varroa, I just did the same thing: test continuously. I even monitored all winter, even though there are no published thresholds for testing during the winter, in the north where we have extended broodless periods. It seems like a pain to do, at first, but you will get very good at it, and can easily incorporate it in the rest of your bee work. I find it a great comfort to know exactly - and recently - what my mite drop numbers are.

Enjambres
 

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enjambres, do you ever test the same hive twice during the same inspection? I bet you'd come up w/ two different numbers. I had an Inspector sample a hive and got a zero. I didn't believe it so I had him sample the same hive again. He came up w/ two mites that time.
 

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Mite quick strips can be used while supers are on, seven day application period. Temperatures have to be within certain limits that I forget right now. Check their web sight for more info: www.nodglobal.com
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Hi,

I just did a overnight natural drop test on my board and i counted 17 mites........I read in a book that if a overnight natural drop test shows 100+ I should treat the hive. I also read about a natural approach: flour dusting the adult bees to get the mites to drop. Would this be worth while? Thank you for the quick strip suggestion. Ill look into that as well.

Thanks
 

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Most folks who dust for mites use powdered sugar. Depending on who you talk to it either works or not. Some recent studies say dusting makes no difference. Dusting only gets the mites on the bees to drop off, the ones in the cells are not affected so you have keep dusting about every week. It's labor intensive if you have very many hives. I tried dusting for a while and didn't see much difference but many beeks swear by it.
 
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