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Keeping an eye on varroa mite levels

Honeybee on Joe Pye Weed

The bees haven't managed to do any extra comb-building this week, as evidenced by a photo up through the bottom of the daughter hive.  Sure, there are scads of flowers available at the moment, but bees can't fly when it's raining every day.  Luckily, both of Worker beesour colonies have socked away so much honey that they could probably coast until winter if they had to.

Honey is on my mind because this is the time of year to start thinking about the hives' winter survival.  But survival through the cold months doesn't just mean honey stores.  Varroa mites can be a huge drain on a hive's resources in the winter, and the populations sometimes balloon in late summer and early fall.  So I like to do a mite check in August, another in September, and one more in October just to make sure the colonies are on track.  Our two hives passed with flying colors during this first round --- the daughter hive dropped two mites per day while the mother hive dropped 1.3 mites per day, far below the worrisome threshold.

What will we do if mite levels rise over time?  We already use a lot of the methods of varroa-mite treatment/prevention listed here.  Last year, we tried out treating bees with powdered sugar as well, but I don't think I'd do that again --- it could be just a coincidence, but the hive dosed with sugar is the only one where I've ever had a colony abscond in the fall.  Instead, I might try the rhubarb trick that an old-timer recently shared with me.  Better yet, here's hoping our hygenic bees will groom off so many varroa mites that I won't have to do anything at all.

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David Kline, an Amish organic farmer, wrote in his book "Letters From Larksong" that he had excellent results with using walnut sawdust in the bottom of his hives for mite control. Might be worth a look!
Comment by Dave Tue Aug 26 06:33:38 2014

One very unique homestead, $1,500 per acre, the opportunity of a lifetime