Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Varroa should be a constant in the beekeeper's plans

Varroa remains the most persistent and widespread threats to bees and bee colonies. No beekeeper in the world – except maybe in Australia where varroa has not yet invaded – can ignore this threat.

But knowing what to do about varroa is not easy. There are no standard procedures or treatments to rid a hive of varroa. Most beekeepers are coming to the conclusion that varroa must be managed rather than eradicated. They must also consider varroa with everything they do with their hives.

So, what can you do?

Experts say finding the most varroa-resistant types of bees is the first step to keeping a healthy hive. Re-queening with a Russian queen or some other variety that shows some tolerance of varroa is a procedure that is recommended.

Another procedure is monitoring to see if varroa mites are becoming a problem for the hive. There are several ways of doing this, and they are described in detail in many beekeeping manuals. One of the easiest is the use of a sticky board and counting the varroa mites you catch. This should be done consistently so you can compare what you find to previous inspections.

The treatment methods for varroa confront beekeepers with a dizzying array of choices. Beekeepers should decide what treatments they are comfortable with and which ones they can perform on a regular basis.

Treatments include:

• drone brood removal

• dusting with powdered sugar

• screened bottom boards

• thymol-based products before or after the honey flow

• regular replacement of old comb

• soft chemical treatments

• working with other beekeepers in your area to keep varroa infestation down

• continual monitoring for varroa

Many beekepers use a combination of these procedures and treatments to ward off varroa. A few years ago, we depended soley on chemical treatments but have found that varroa mites can grow resistant to most chemicals that are used year after year.

The persistence of varroa is a discouraging problem for beekeepers. Despite their best efforts sometimes, varroa can weaken or destroy a colony that only a few weeks before seemed strong.

Still, beekeepers must continue in their anti-varroa efforts. We have little choice but to try to find ways to keep this pest in check.

They should also remember that the efforts of many scientists and apiculturists are devoted to helping them in this regard. These folks are working to develop organic treatments and varroa tolerant strains and are making significant progress. Beekeepers would do well to stay informed about these efforts.


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jurneez- With the Dogs, Pate and Mya who Really Rule the Farm said...

Thx so much for this concern in our country. We are a sustainable organic farm in VT and about to start our bees. We've heard about this for quite some time but the community in full needs to know the details you share.

Thx again,

adam said...

Another important point is to detect varroa mites in the first place. Many bee-keepers did not detect varroa until it is too late. Some varroa treatment methods should be avoided as they affect the quality of honey.

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