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Honeyrun Farm produces pure raw, honey, handcrafted soap, and beeswax candles in Williamsport, Ohio


The time is nigh

Jayne Barnes

-Posted by Isaac

Lock up your daughters! Look who's back in town.

The Seth man! Back from the Air Force and now officially trained in EOD. That's Explosive Ordinance Disposal, for you civilians. That's right, like one of those guys in The Hurt Locker, Seth is a military bomb man.

Which is good news because this week we were disposing of varroa bombs. Seth helped for a full day, but then he had to run off. He's due in South Korea by mid-August and before that, he's got girl matters to attend to in Washington state. He's busy! (Like an old bull who's work is never done.)

This week, and for the next month, our target is this:

And really, over the next four months... it's time to do something about the mites!

You don't have a mite problem, you say?      

Bahahahahahah! Everyone has a mite problem! Everyone with a beehive, that is. If you really don't think you have mite troubles, and are a bit green to beekeeping, then this blog post is for you!

(No, I still don't know the blog audience. And the one "like" or comment I get every six months doesn't help much. I assume that there are beekeepers in this group, and I also assume that you're somewhat new to it, simply because a more career oriented beekeeper wouldn't take the time to read a bee blog with corny jokes. I know I wouldn't!)

The varroa mite photo and caption above is from this month's Randy Oliver article in the American Bee Journal. If you are interested in learning how to keep bees alive, I would highly recommend subscribing to ABJ. And reading Randy Oliver! (If you like to talk about beekeeping and chickens and woodworking and gardens then get that other magazine.) 

This is for those of you who want to do more than talk about beekeeping while your bees die in the meantime. In this post we confront enemy #1-- Varroa Destructor.

 Check for mites- Not exactly necessary this time of year because, yes, you have a mite problem! But just to show you, and to see how much of a problem you have, here's how you check. Find a strong hive-

And pull a frame of brood. Young bees give a more accurate mite count. 

Take a second or two and look for the queen. If you find her, than pull another frame, dummy! 

You need about a half cup of bees (300) to do this right. I like to bang them off the frame into a pan, then scoop them up. From there, they go into your alcohol wash. 

(If the bee police didn't come after me for the knee stinging video, than this will surely do it.)

Isopropyl alcohol works fine. If it helps, you can pretend that you're only getting the bees drunk. (See... corny!) But in actuality, you're killing them. Dummy.

Shake your wash about 30 seconds. You are removing the mites from the bees.

And take a look.

Wow! Look at all those mites! If you see over 9 mites (3%), you have a problem. The above picture is a little deceptive. That is actually five hives worth of mites. We don't like to waste our valuable alcohol, so that day we simply reused it, subtracting the previous total from that particular hive's wash. Seth has good eyes. And he can do math. A bonus! 

With Seth's help, I like to do a mite wash on one or two hives per yard. It's good to keep track of certain hives through the fall, know your numbers, and make sure your treatments are actually doing something.

When I'm by myself, especially this time of year, I don't bother mite washing as much. Maybe two or three washes the whole day. Why? Because I already know I have mites! And it's time to treat. Believe me! Vox Clamantis in Deserto. Am I the lone voice crying in the wilderness? It's time to treat those bees!

Yes, it's time to treat! This sort of came up a month ago. We had a bunch of beekeepers out, including the great Pickaway County bee inspector Bill Huhman. The subject of the day: MITES.

One old fella asked, "If you're telling us we already have mites, and we already know we're going to treat, than why are we wasting our time with these washes?"

Bingo! The old fella nailed it.

Whether or not you feel like doing a wash, by August you've got mites. Or you will soon. Trust me. Mites are real!


And mites are hell on bees.

Sure, a mite wash will tell you the extent of the problem, but if one hive in the apiary has a mite load, they'll all have mites eventually. Disease and crashing colonies will soon follow. You can take mountains of time and do a lot of washing... or you can just treat. And that's what we do.

Treat those bees.- This time of year, with the supers on, we go through tons of formic acid.

Don't let the skull and crossbones fool you. It's just acid. But don't put your nose on it!

Don't let the skull and crossbones fool you. It's just acid. But don't put your nose on it!

As you can see, in August the hives get the full dose.

If I have it, and because I'm already in the hive, I like to throw in some protein. Hey, kill two birds.

A week later the protein will be gone. And (hopefully) most of your mites.

To find out, go ahead and do a wash. Did it work?

Even if it did, don't let your guard down. It's only August, and those little devils come back! From now until December, Ms. Varroa Destructor will be a big concern.    HELL IS REAL- ?? - Hotly debatable. But there's no debate about mites. I'm telling you, VARROA IS REAL! And varroa is hell. 

It's time to treat those bees!