Thursday, June 14, 2012

Look, who is in my bee hive now - Varroa Mites - Cheap DIY Remedy

This poor colony of Italian Ladies has been suffering since the day I got them:

1. I had to hive them while doing all those mommy chores.... so they ended up being hived AT NIGHT

It started bad: Argh... so, i dropped the queen cage in the package. now i gotta fish it out... then baby woke up and started crying... so i had to put the sugar feeder back in with hundreds of girlies now outside the door and a few smooshed ones.... SORRY! rushing inside to calm the crying baby. thank god for the dog who entertains ms a with playing fetch.... i need to hive them before sunset.

Update: i went out during a brief calm to fish the queen cage out with the hive tool but it is stuck. so, i will have to put my hand in as soon as everyone is fed & calm.... and the sun is going down.... they really need to be hived before dark.... *sigh* 

Update: after i fished out the queen cage (in the dark with a flashlight and all the bees basically asleep), i inspected it: there were several bees in the cage (there is normally only 1 queen in there). 

im not sure my queen was in there because of all that 'gewusel' and because i had ordered my queen unmarked (not digging the idea that someone snips her wings and/or paints sharpie on her just so i can find her more easily in the colony)... 

i figured she MUST be in there because a large cluster was around the cage. bees always surround their queen, waiting to feed her or get other orders :-D 

Aurelia was assisting me; holding all the tools and watching my total bungle bee job... 

So, i pulled the cork out of the cage, so that the workers can eat thru the candy thats stuck there and this way release her majesty, hung that thing from a frame in the super and shook the rest of the crew in. 

of course not all went in and i left the package sitting out, next to the hive, hoping the stragglers will get 'home', following her pheromons. 

next morning, while feeding sugar water, the 'stragglers' were still in the package and a bunch of dead bees at the hive entrance... OHNO! now i had to bring out the suit and open the hive. it looked alright; guess i smooshed a bunch when i hived them. when i checked on them later in the day, the stragglers had made it home, i saw many of my girlies already flying out to forage... 

THANK GOODNESS for their resilience! Note to self: NEVER IN THE DARK!

2. then, ANTS invading my hive....

Yeah, i loooove bees. last year the mites got them all and this year, i started sooo poorly with the hiving and NOW i got ants in the hive.... drives me crazy because the bees are still on sugarwater and the ants keep stealing it. i already poured boiling water over the ant hill.... they dont seam too impressed...

Read more about solving this problem here

3. and now M I T E S !
Yep, M I T E S ... I noticed a few bees flying funny and then I saw a crawler with eaten up wings.

Of course you know, THIS MEANS WAR!

So, what is my first strike? Powdered sugar and a sticky bottom board.

What do I do?
Make a sticky bottom board.  You may buy it or simply build it yourself. I build it myself, using cardboard, vegetable oil and a mesh that's big enough to let mites thru but no bees. Typically 3mm or 1/8 inch are recommended. However, I mis-estimated the size of my mesh (it is about 2mm) and then figured I should try it since the mites are at max. 1.6mm x 1.2mm in size and so they should fit thru a 2mm mesh. I bought 2x2 ft of mesh, costing me less than $2. It occured to me that some curtains may work for this as well or if you have a torn fly screen, there you go... you get the idea: Just measure the size of the screen/mesh/thingy.

So, I cut the board in the size of my super minus the walls. Smear vegetable oil on it. You can also use vaseline, whatever you have at home or is cheaper. This ensures the mites stick on the board and you can berid them. HALLELUJAH!

I stapled a thin rim on the four sides and then stapled the mesh on the rim.

Then the sugar... This is easy: Get powdered sugar, fill it in a glass jar, punch holes in the lid. There is your sugar shaker. No brush or other fancy equipment needed. I had to buy it: 1 lbs for about $2 (total of $4). Take all this to the hive. Put the sticky bottom board in first. Then, take the sugar and open the top of the hive and sprinkle the bees. Make sure you get many covered.

What this does? The mites cannot hold on then anymore to the bees and fall off. This also inspires the bees to clean each other and as a result, more mites fall off. 

Now what? After a day remove the sticky boards, scrape the sugar and mites and toss into a trash bag or some suggest to burn it (I see some homeopathic remedy potential here and will consider). A good tip is to not leave it on the ground as it may attract ants and boy, the last thing I need is more ants around my hive. Smear new oil on the sticky board and put it back in the hive. 

How often, when to do the powdered sugar sprinkling?

In spring!It is advised to do this treatment 3 or 4 times in spring at 5 to 7 day intervals. 

If you have an infestation like mine,  dust every 3 days for 21 days to capture mites that emerge from brood.

Before winter! Plan to do this treatment in autumn instead of chemicals. Do the dusting before the bees begin to form clusters because mites inside the cluster will not become sugared as not all bees will.

My only concern... the sugar may bring those dang ants back.... anyway, I have to get the mites down first.

If you want to read in detail how to do it, check out this pdf.

More on this gross mite stuff, here....

"Nature never says one thing and wisdom another." Decimus Junius Juvenalis

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