by Tammy Taylor~
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Varroa Mites are a constant problem in beehives these days. They are a small parasitic mite that will attach to the bee. A female Varroa mite will enter a bee’s brood cell before it’s capped and lay her eggs there. By the time the bee emerges from her cell there are several mature Varroa ready to continue wreaking havoc on the hive. The mite is large enough to be able to see with the naked eye but DANG they’re still very small! But detection & treatment is important so into the hive we go!
One method I’m fond of using to scout for the little beasties is to go to the hives with RancherMan while he’s doing his inspections. Armed with my camera I’m able to get up close & personal taking pictures of the hive, the frames, the bees, etc. It’s not unusual for me to come back inside with several hundred photos!
But these pictures also serve as a pictorial history of our hives as well as any changes from one inspection to the next. PLUS I’m able to download the photos to my computer and really ZOOM in! At the most recent inspection as I was scouting for Varroa I saw this:
There were a few other bees that I was able to see which carried a mite as well. Now Varroa are tiny but they’re huge to the bee. I mean c’mon, if this bee were the proportional size of a human, that mite would be as big as a dinner plate! After seeing this Varroa evidence, RancherMan & I decided to do a more thorough inspection for varroa mites using a sticky board. Although it showed our mite level is still low, we decided it was a good time to treat the hive.
Varroa Mite Treatment Options
There are various methods beekeepers use to treat their hives for Varroa:
- Thymol crystals (extracted from thyme oil)
- Powdered sugar – sprinkled into hive
- Various bee-safe chemicals & vaporizing applicators
We like to use the gentlest method of treatment first, then move on to the harsher treatments only if the more gentle treatment doesn’t offer the desired result. Although we’re not ruling it out, we’ve not taken the chemical route yet. There are a few more natural methods for treating Varroa.
Powdered Sugar Method Of Varroa Treatment
Some people use a shaker to shake powdered sugar into their hives. The bees will then clean each other to remove the sugar. As a result of their cleaning they often clean the mites off each other as well. Some beekeepers don’t like to use commercial powdered sugar since it typically has cornstarch added to keep it from caking. Those people prefer to use granulated sugar that’s been placed in a blender and ground into a powder. I don’t know whether or not we’ll personally bother with that step or not for our hives. Time will tell if we decide to use the sugar-shaker method in the future.
Thymol And Fogger Varroa Treatment
For now our favored method to treat Varroa is Thymol & food grade mineral oil in a propane-fueled fogger. Thymol is extracted from thyme oil and sold in crystal form. We’ll mix those crystals with food grade mineral oil. Although it was very easy to find regular mineral oil, finding FOOD GRADE mineral oil was a challenge for us. So we bought it online and had it shipped directly to our home. Easy peasy! (We bought our fogger online at *WALMART . You can find *Thymol and food-grade mineral oil online at Amazon)
First of all RancherMan made a thymol mixture by blending 50 grams of pure Thymol crystals and 1000 cc’s (1/4 gallon) of food-grade mineral oil. He loaded up his fogger with the mixture and put on his beekeepers veil (never work the hive without at least having your veil on – eye stings are dangerous!)
Fogging The Hive With Thymol
When he got to the hive he didn’t want to disturb the bees any more than necessary. He cracked the top telescoping lid to offer an air flow-through and he pointed the fogger into the hive entrance and pressed the trigger to release the fog. The fog goes into the hive and rises up through the frames and out the top, effectively treating the entire hive.
He went ahead and placed some fog under the telescoping lid as well just to make sure the hive was fully treated. Finally he closed everything back up and left the bees alone to allow them to settle.
It’s recommended once you fog the hive that you fog again two weeks later to treat the Varroa mites that have hatched since the last treatment. Therefore RancherMan will wait 2 weeks and retreat with the fogger. He’ll then use the sticky board again to gauge the treatment effectiveness.
BEGINNING BEEKEEPING SERIES:
- Preparing For the Hives
- Obtaining Your Bees
- Inspecting Your Hives
- Expanding The Langstroth Hive
- Varroa Mite Inspection
(You can see ALL our posts about beekeeping HERE)
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