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⬢⬡ Inside the Hive: Treating your hives for Varroa Mite ⬢⬡

Updated: Jun 13, 2023


Regularly monitor the mite infestation levels in your hives

Beekeeping in the Winter
Parakore Hives in South Otago

As a beekeeper, you know that mite infestations can be a serious threat to the health of your hive. That's why it's essential to regularly monitor the levels of mite infestation in your hives.


In this blog post, we'll discuss why monitoring is so important and provide tips on how to do it effectively. We'll also cover some of the common signs of a mite infestation and what steps you can take to prevent and treat them. By staying vigilant and taking proactive measures, you can help protect your bees from these harmful pests. So, if you're a beekeeper looking to keep your hives healthy and thriving, keep reading for our expert tips on mite infestation monitoring.


Understand the life cycle and behaviour of Varroa Mites

Varroa mites are a serious threat to honeybee colonies, and understanding their life cycle and behaviour is crucial for beekeepers looking to protect their hives. Varroa mites are parasitic creatures that feed on the blood of adult bees and their developing larvae. They reproduce by laying eggs in brood cells, where the developing bees provide a food source for the mite's offspring.


The life cycle of varroa mites consists of five stages - egg, larva, protonymph, deutonymph, and adult. The entire process takes around 10 days at typical summer temperatures. Once an adult female varroa mite has entered a brood cell and laid her eggs, she will remain there until the new bee emerges. At this point, she will move on to another cell to continue her reproductive cycle.

Varroa Mite
Varroa mites are responsible for the loss of tens of thousands of hives in New Zealand each year, killing countless bees like this one. Photo / NZ Herald

Beekeepers can take steps to control varroa mite populations by monitoring their hives regularly for signs of infestation and treating them with appropriate methods such as chemical treatments or mechanical removal. Understanding the life cycle and behaviour of varroa mites is an essential part of effective hive management and ensuring healthy honeybee colonies.


Use integrated pest management (IPM) techniques for control

Integrated pest management (IPM) techniques can be extremely effective in controlling pests and minimizing the use of pesticides. IPM is a holistic approach that includes monitoring, prevention, and control strategies to manage pest populations.


To implement IPM, start by identifying the pests you're dealing with and understanding their behaviour patterns. Then, take steps to prevent them from entering your home or business by sealing cracks and gaps, eliminating sources of food and water, and keeping your space clean.


When it comes to control strategies, consider using physical barriers such as screens or traps to capture pests without the use of chemicals.


Using IPM techniques for pest control is a more environmentally friendly and sustainable approach that can help keep your space free of unwanted visitors while also protecting our planet's fragile ecosystems.


Natural and organic methods for controlling varroa mites

If you're looking for a way to control varroa mites in your beehives, natural and organic methods are the way to go. Chemical treatments can be harmful to bees and can also leave residues in honey. Natural methods, on the other hand, are safe for bees and humans alike, and they're better for the environment.


One effective method is using powdered sugar. By dusting your bees with powdered sugar, you encourage them to groom each other more frequently, which dislodges the mites from their bodies. Another method is using essential oils like thyme or eucalyptus. These oils have been shown to repel varroa mites and can be added to sugar syrup or used as a fumigant.


Another option is drone brood trapping. Varroa mites prefer to reproduce in drone brood cells, so by removing these cells from your hives, you can reduce the mite population. This method requires some effort but has proven to be highly effective.

Using natural and organic methods for controlling varroa mites not only protects your bees but also ensures that your honey is free from harmful chemicals. Give these methods a try – you won't regret it!


Consider using resistant bee strains

When it comes to beekeeping, using resistant bee strains can be a wise choice. These bees have been bred to have a natural resistance against pests and diseases that commonly affect hives, such as mites and viruses. By using resistant strains, beekeepers can reduce the need for chemical treatments, which can be harmful to both the bees and the environment. Resistant bees also tend to be more productive and adaptable to changing environmental conditions, making them a great choice for sustainable beekeeping practices. While the initial investment may be slightly higher than traditional bee strains, the long-term benefits of using resistant strains make it a worthwhile investment for any serious beekeeper.


Maintaining a healthy hive with proper nutrition and management practices

Maintaining a healthy hive is crucial for the success of beekeeping, and proper nutrition and management practices are key. Bees require a balanced diet of carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, and minerals to thrive. This means providing them with a variety of pollen and nectar sources throughout the year. It's also important to monitor the health of the hive regularly and take steps to prevent or manage diseases and pests.

Effective hive management practices include ensuring proper ventilation, maintaining an appropriate population size, and providing adequate space for brood rearing and honey storage. Regular inspections can help identify issues early on and prevent more significant problems down the line.


By prioritising proper nutrition and management practices, beekeepers can ensure that their hives remain healthy and productive, helping to support both their own livelihoods and the broader ecosystem as a whole.


Using Varroa Mite Strips

Using Varroa mite strips is a common and effective way of controlling the spread of Varroa mites in bee colonies. At Parakore honey we prefer the use of organic strips. These strips contain "soft" chemicals such as oxalic acid, thymol and formic acid that kill the mites without harming the bees. The strips are placed between the honeycombs, where the bees will come into contact with them as they move around the hive. Over time, the chemicals in the strips will be released and gradually kill off any Varroa mites that come into contact with them. It is important to follow manufacturer instructions when using these strips, as overuse or improper placement can harm the bees or lead to chemical residues in honey. With proper usage, however, Varroa mite strips can be an effective tool for keeping bee colonies healthy and thriving.


In closing....

Varroa mites can be a serious problem for beekeepers, but there are many effective treatment options available. We prefer organic or "soft" chemiclas or natural remedies; it's important to find the solution that works best for your bees and your beekeeping practices. By regularly monitoring and treating for Varroa mites, you can help protect your hives and ensure the health of your bees. Remember to always follow the instructions carefully and consult with a beekeeping expert if you have any questions or concerns. With proper treatment and care, your bees can thrive and continue to provide important pollination services for our ecosystems. Our beekeepers are available for friendly advice at anytime. If you have any questions related to this article, please email enquiries@parakorehoney.com.


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