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Well, now I have my first hive and want to begin monitoring for mites. I have a screened bottom board (sbb) and one sheet of sticky board. I presume I just lay the sticky board underneath the sbb on the base of the hive, but have a few questions:

1. How often and for how long do I leave the sticky board in place?
2. How many mites are too many? At what point do I need to do something?
3. When counting the mites do I try to count them all, or just a representative sample (say 1/4 of the board) and multiply for the total count?
4. Can I use the same sticky board several times? If so how do I make sure I do not count the older mites when I take a later count?
5. How can I make my own sticky boards?
 

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I do a natural drop count for 3 days, the first week of the month. I remove the board each day, do the count, clean and replace the board.

How many are too many depends on the time of the year, the population of the hive, if the hive has brood, and where in the US you are. Check with your State Apiary Section to get the figures for your area.

When counting, all you need to do is reach the number of mites dropped that would start to cause damage to the hive. If you are really interested in documenting varroa numbers then count all mites dropped. One of the main things to look for is the amount of increase each month so as to establish a trend.

I have plastic signboard and pieces of white Masonite board with a slick finish. I wipe the board, replace the mineral oil coating and replace under the hive. I have spare boards and can replace a board and then count the mite fall later.
 

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when the boards are in just to have a bottom to stop drafts and such you will still need to take out and clean the board on a regular basis. The stuff the bees usually carry out with a solid bottom end up falling thru and it builds up and is free range for all the bee pest that we haft to deal with.
 

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I test for three days every week. Or in the winter, continuously, as I leave the board in as a draft preventer. I have no problem finding and counting the mites even after 30 days of built-up hive debris (mostly sugar falling off the bricks).

I use kitchen oil (olive, corn, etc.) It's seems to keep any mites from avoiding being counted and it washes off readily before the next round.

When counting I use a wet, smushed-end toothpick to lift each mite and set it aside in a clean corner of the board. When I can't find any more mites, then I go back to the collection spot and group them in 5's and discard any stray bits of non-mite debris I accidentally picked up. Counting the mites without removing them when you see them, or trying to count a partial area of the board makes it tough to get an accurate count. Lifting each mite and setting it aside means your search pattern can be relaxed and you don't have to worry about double counting. I've never had to count more than 100 mites in a test (and that was a 30-day period in the middle of the winter when I couldn't get in my hives at all), and seldom more than 40-50, even for heavy-mite periods, so it's not too tedious.

In the summer some mites won't be dark brown or black, you will see lighter ones.

I use a magnifying glass and a flashlight when searching.

I wish I had a microscope, or at least a hand lens, strong enough to see if the bees have done any damage to the mites. (You go, girls!)

Take a large paper clip and unbend it enough to expose a point. Stick it through the board about 3/8ths of an inch in from the end about halfway along the short end. Work it around until you have a little tab made of the paperclip sticking out, rebend as needed. This will make extracting the board easy even with gloved fingers, or in the dark.

Set your SBB up so the slot is open at the back of the hive so you can insert and remove the boards without being in the flight paths or exciting the guard bees outfront. That way you can do the testing whenever it's convenient for your schedule, even during the evening.

Be sure to use the wooden entrance barrier, or make up a screened one so bees and hive moths can't get in to access the sticky surface. Don't want any mites hitchhiking away, nor do you want any robber bees to get that far under the SBB. Makes everybody cranky when they are banging on the floor trying to get in, even if they can't!

If you see a sudden high spike or complete absence (when you are testing weekly), immediately replace the board and do several consecutive 24 hrs counts to confirm the numbers. I'm not entirely sure what the out-of-bounds numbers mean, but they may be anomalies due to changes in temperatures, bees reproduction rates, etc. And the spikes are why infrequent testing is not very useful. What you are looking for is a read on the changing numbers. An for that regular stickies are quite useful.

And write down your counts some where. You won't remember them if you are doing them often enough to be useful.

The thresholds are some what regional, and definitely seasonal. I use the NY and Ontario ones, but that won't work for you in TX.

Don't confuse the numbers in the averaged 24 hr drop with the often-quoted percentages derived from roll testing methods. Those are completely different scales.

Also there's valuable information on the state of affairs in your hives to be gleaned from looking at the pattern and type of debris on the board before you disturb it by rooting around to do the counts. From the patterns of the debris, you will learn to see when the cells are being opened, or capped, what pollen is being brought in and where your brood cluster is. I am still studying my boards to extract all I can from them.

Also, I try to run my tests during a period when I am not messing around in the hives so as not to skew the numbers.

Enj.
 
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