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The Three most important words beekeepers should know

“Every honey bee colony in the continental United States and Canada either has Varroa mites today or will have them within several months.” – Honey Bee Health Coalition

mite on drone larvaThis bold statement by the Honey Bee Health Coalition is the same advice Oregon Master Beekeeping mentors tell their students. In fact, at the first class session of the Oregon State Master Beekeeping Apprentice Program, the powerful opening statement students hear is, “If you learn nothing else from this class, it should be these three words: treat for mites”.

Varroa mites are a major problem for beekeepers. Many hobbyist beekeepers either deny that their bees have mites (because they cannot see them) or do not want to use a mite treatment, thinking it is unnatural. We hear this frequently. Unfortunately, in the winter and spring we also frequently hear from beekeepers who had a strong hive going into the fall but have no bees in the spring. There is a great article on the Bee Informed Partnership website that summarizes this issue that is well worth a read.

So now you know you need to treat for Varroa mites and your question is: which treatment is best? The short answer is: That depends. Lots of different factors will determine which mite treatment you choose. A great resource for the different mite treatments can be found on the Honey Bee Health Coalition Website.

This guide gives the most effective treatment to use during the corresponding time of year. Right now we are in the “Population Decrease” phase, so the recommended treatments are the two thymol based products, Api Life Var and Apiguard.  Two other products, Mite Away Quick Strips or Apivar also prove successful this time of year.

We like to recommend the thymol products in the fall due to the higher temperature treatment range. Apiguard can be used from 60 to 105 degrees, which makes it a terrific treatment for the Pacific Northwest, which recently saw a summer high of 104 degrees!

Since rotating treatments is highly recommended, we use thymol treatments in the Fall and Mite Away Quick Strips or Apivar in the Spring.

The best time to treat in the fall is right after taking off the honey supers. Treatment can start any time from mid-July to the month of August. If you have not treated yet-- NOW IS THE TIME.

Bee a good neighbor! With bees drifting up to 3 or 4 miles, we need all beekeepers to treat for varroa mites. Let’s look out for each other and keep our bees healthy.

8 thoughts on “The Three most important words beekeepers should know”

  • Gerald

    This is my first season back into beekeeping in 55 years. Things have radicly changed since I was a teen beekeeper in the 1950's n 60's.

    I've taken a bunch of pest, mite n bee management classes to catch up. Even being an former experience beekeeper its way different now. I've found n secured a progressive mentor to help guide me.

    This weekend I am helping treat 60 to maybe up to 80 colonies for mites. We did a mite check several weeks back (even my five personal hives) n found low to high counts of varroa mites. We will be busy strapping in Mite Away Strips this time.

    We will do a quick backup mite count recheck about end of September. If any still meet or exceed a predetermined level of 3 mites per 100 bees we will retreat with a oxide vapor method as the temps will have drop n it's best to use a variety of different treatment methods.

    During my first season I have imported all SBBoards, brood break, n some drone frame method into my mite control regiment. Thus hoping I will have a successful winter over of strong healthy colonies.

    Happy beekeeping,

    • GloryBee

      Welcome back to beekeeping! It sounds like you're doing everything right in regards to treating your hives. Wishing you luck in the overwinter. Be sure to check back soon for some tips about wintering your hive!

  • Patrick

    I was thinking from reading a lot of articles that vaporizing Oxalic Acid was the absolute best mite treatment. What is everyone else's feelings?

  • Dale Rye

    Farm chemicals are far worse than any mite

    • GloryBee

      Agree that farm chemicals can potentially be harmful if you live near a farm. Mites are harmful everywhere!

  • Jake

    I agree mites are the biggest problem we have as beekeepers. My question is , at the end of the treatment phase and you still have a high dead mite count on the sticky board , what's our next move. should we continue with the treatment? I'm using Apiguard

    • GloryBee

      Jake, Superb question.

      The first move is to resample to see if results match the high count you found.

      If the mite count is still too high you could use another treatment of Apiguard. Remember to close or cover the screen bottom board during treatment for maximum effectiveness.


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