Category Archives: Varroa Mites

About the dreaded Varroa Mites

My Annual Inspection

An inspection or audit usually conjures up fear and anxiety. Not so with the State of Florida annual inspection of your honey bee colonies. I’m always amazed how nice, polite, knowledgeable and helpful the inspectors are. After all they want you to succeed in your hobby or commercial endeavor. Mr. Gary Van Cleef was my inspector yesterday and he went through my colonies like a pro (which he is). This was the first time the hives have been opened since I broke my left arm (Greater Tuberosity Humerus fracture @ the shoulder) Nov 11 last year. Still under doctors’ orders not to lift any heavy objects (which I can’t anyway) while I’m continuing physical therapy as my arm still heals.

Overall the hives were generally healthy. Gary said that hive #1 did indicate there might be an issue with either a failing queen or laying worker. I left the honey supers on all winter since I didn’t get them off before I broke the arm. Good thing I did because they ate the honey in super #1 (#2 top was full of honey) and the queen started laying in the 1st super. Lots of drone cells in the super. I’ll have to take some pictures this weekend and show you what it looks like. I’ve never seen so many drone cells. Swam cells were abundant as well so I definitely need to do some swarm control this weekend ASAP! Also this hive was a little aggressive, more than usual. All of my colonies are pretty docile and I have worked them on occasions with just the smoker and no veil. But during the inspection they were kind of uptight so I need to do a complete inspection of all boxes to find the root of the problem. There were more SHB that I would have like to see but with the warm weather we’ve been having I think that was pretty normal this time of year. Hardly any Varroa mites were seen. This was great because I used my vaporizer for the first time last fall to treat for those pesky mites and it looks like it did a good job.

Hive #2 was a pleasure to work. They didn’t fly around while Gary took the cover and supers off to begin the inspection. Super #2 (Top) was slap full of honey so I guess I’ll still be able to do a late extraction. The queen also started laying in Super #1 so again I’m glad I left the supers on without the queen excluders. Although I don’t like her majesty laying in the supers, she needed to lay in it and I’m glad she did. Nice laying patterns and very little Varroa or SHB seen in this hive. I’m going to make some splits from this colony since I like this queen. Maybe I’ll see her this weekend!

Hive #3 had comb all in the top cover. I mean literally row after row of comb. I have to take a picture of that also. This hive was busting at the seams also as you can probably imagine. Good laying patterns in super #1. Super #2 was full of honey also in this hive. We did notice that there were a few more Varroa than the other hives so I’ll have to treat this soon so the mites don’t get out of control.

I guess I’m pleased that they survived this long for me not being able to go into them for the last 4 months. So now I have to at least do swarm prevention and make some splits. Last year I was late in preparation and had two swarm on me… don’t want that loss again!

OA Treatment…

Yesterday, Nov 5th, I used my Heilyser Technology Oxalic Acid Vaporizer for the first time. I treated hives #1 & 3 to see what happens. I had noticed ed MANY bees in the beeyard walking on the grass over the past couple of weeks. I noticed that most of them appeared to be healthy (not tattered wings, K wings or just plain ole warn out bees) but they were constantly rubbing their bodies with their legs. Didn’t notice any varroa on them but little white or yellow specs on their legs and thorax.

So I figured it was time to use the vaporizer. The vaporizer worked well, dispersing the vapors in under two minutes but I left the hives sealed up for the recommended 10 minutes (total). I cleaned out the trays under the screen bottom boards so I could inspect them today and see how many dead mites I could see. Prior to dumping the trays, I did notice a few live mites (and small hive beetles [SHB]) crawling around the tray. Much to my suprise this morning, I saw about 10 or so dead mites and 5 or 6 dead beetles. Not sure if the SHB died overnight because of the temps (only 53°F) or the vapor killed them. At anyrate, glad to see them dead!

I was going to extract the 2 supers of honey but they were cemented together. I mean I spent over and hour trying to get the supers apart but I gave up. The frames were sealed as well so I need to spend some time this week trying to get this resolved. See what happens when you don’t inspect frequently enough! I didn’t get any pictures of the vaporizing but I did get a pic of the burr comb under the telescoping cover. Another reason to do frequent inspections!


Ordered a Vaporizer…

Seems with the warm winter that we had last year is partially to blame for the rise in my mite counts. Over the past several years when the state inspector dropped by, they were amazed on how little mites there were in the Varroa “roll”. Of course the State of Florida is “pro treat” and I informed the inspectors that I don’t treat unless it’s absolutely necessary.

So for the 1st time in 5 years, I’m going to treat with Oxalic acid (at least test) by the vaporizer method and see what the kill count is. I’ll post my results after I treat this weekend. The word “acid” is a scary word but it’s a natural acid so I guess I’m still organic to some degree.


Heilyser Technology Oxalic acid Vaporizer