The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Preparing for winter with a varroa mite count

Warre hive entrance

Package of beesGetting ready for cold weather is a two-part project with our bees.  The first step is to make sure they have enough honey, but equally important is ensuring the bees are healthy enough to make it through the winter.  That means counting varroa mites to see if these blood-suckers will weaken our colony unduly.

I wasn't terribly concerned about varroa mites this year for a variety of reasons.  Most importantly, we started with a package this spring, which (like a hive split) naturally causes a break in varroa mite reproduction and lowers populations of this pest drastically.  We also paid extra to get bees from a source that doesn't treat chemically, meaning that the colonies which can't handle mites have been bred out.

Sticky board

So I wasn't surprised to find only 22 varroa mites on my stickyboard after a three day test.  There were so few mites on the board that I counted every one rather than measuring out sample regions!

If your mite counts don't turn up as stellar as ours, you should first estimate how many mites you had fall per thousand bees in the hive --- it's not as big a deal to see a lot of mites if you have a lot of bees.  Next step is to use these organic varroa mite solutions --- we've used options 1, 2, 3, 4, and 9 so far.

Now I just need to sit back and watch the bees sock away honey, then leave them alone until spring.

Good food comes from healthy animals and a POOP-free chicken waterer is the first step in ensuring the health of your backyard flock.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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It sounds like you are starting to get the upper hand on those mites. Are you using foundation, and if so, what size? Scaling down will certainly help as well....
Comment by Tyson Sun Sep 23 22:02:56 2012
Tyson --- No foundation at all with this set of bees. The Warre hive came with beveled top bars, and they haven't even needed strips of foundation to get the bees building straight. Since the bees are on their third box, they've probably regressed down to natural size --- I'll just have to remember to take off the top box in the spring and cut out the wax so they won't go back to big again.
Comment by anna Mon Sep 24 08:36:26 2012

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