George Imirie's PINK PAGES
VARROA KILLS IN JULY
It is most discouraging to have a strong colony of bees make a wonderful crop of
honey in May and early June, maybe even a record crop for some, and then find the colony
DEAD in July! This is happening all over the country, and Maryland is no exception. WHY?
Examine the life and source of food of the Varroa Mite. Female mites feed on adult
bees for 1-2 weeks before moving into an open bee larva cell just before the cell is
capped. After the cell is capped the female mite feeds on the developing bee for several
days, and then begins producing young mites which also feed on the pupal bee. When the
young adult bee emerges, probably injured by the mites, so do the mature mites emerge.
On an average, when an adult female mite enters a workerbee cell to reproduce, 2 new
fertile female mites are produced, and perhaps 3 new mites are produced from a drone
cell because the 24 day gestation period for drones is 3 days longer than for worker
bees. Obviously, mite population increases very rapidly during honey bee brood rearing,
especially when drone brood is available.
Varroa mite "feasting" upon bee brood leads to dead bee pupae or deformed, under-
nourished adult bees. Often, small deformed wings on young adult bees are a common
sign of heavy infestation. These colonies usually collapse and die-off in mid summer
to autumn, or very shortly after the main nectar flow ends. Further, if a colony begins
collapsing from mite infestation, nearby colonies are reinfested through robbing and
If you are really a beeKEEPER rather than a beeHAVER, you will want to save your
bees from death. This simply means TESTING FOR VARROA MITE INFESTATION, and that
does not mean the bee inspector. They are your bees, so you make the test. You test
everything else like checking for a fever with a thermometer, checking the dip stick of
your car's oil, checking your dog for worms; so surely you can check your bees. HOW?
There are TWO different ways: A) The sticky board test which is the most accurate,
but the most work and requires the use an an Apistan Strip., and 2) The ether roll test
that kills about 300-500 of your bees (and even your queen if you are not observant)
and is not very accurate, but gives an indication. I will describe both tests.
Sticky Board Test: Cut a piece of cardboard, masonite, or thin plywood about 1/2"
smaller than the inside measurements of your bottom board. Also, cut a piece of
freezer paper and 1/8" hardware cloth or screen wire to about the same size. Spray
PAM (a cooking oil) on one side of the freezer paper and lay it flat on the piece of card-
board, place about 4-5 spacers (each about 1/4" high) at the corners and center of the
paper, and place the hardware cloth or screen on top of these spacers. (The spacers
are present to keep the bees from being stuck on the paper or removing any mites that
fall on the paper.) Insert all of this on the hive bottom board. Now insert one or two
Apistan strips between the brood chamber frames, and leave for 24 hours. If you can
count 100 mites or more on the sticky paper after a 24 hour test, your bees are badly
infected and should be treated with 2 Apistan strips in each brood body immediately
and with NO SUPERS ON THE COLONY; and the word "immediately" does not mean next
week or next month or your bees might be dead by then. Once a colony is so infested
that collapsing is close at hand, emergency treatment is needed to save it.
Ether Roll Test: Scrape or shake about 300 bees off of 3 or 4 brood combs near
the center of the brood nest into a quart jar. Shake them to the bottom of the jar and
spray them for just 1 or 2 seconds with ether, engine starting fluid which immediately
kills both the bees and mites. Close the jar and shake it vigorously for 30 seconds, then
hold the jar in a horizonal position and roll it a few times. Most of the mites will be
dislodged and stick to the sides of the glass jar where they can be easily counted. This
test is not nearly as accuate as the Sticky Board Test, but it does give a crude indica-
tion of mite infestation. If you find more that 15-20 mites in the jar, immediate
Apistan treatment should be started
It should be noted that Varroa infestation is temperature dependent because
colder areas have less brood time than warm or hot areas. Hence, areas near the
Canandian border usually only require one Apistan Treatment each year preferably
in the late fall or early spring. Contrastingly, areas in the South like Florida or Texas
will require two separate Apistan treatments each year. In the Maryland area, a good
8 week apistan treatment beginning October 1st and ending about Thanksgiving is
usually sufficient each year, but colonies should be tested by either the Sticky Board
Test or the Ether Roll Test on March 1st and again about July 4th and treated again
with Apistan if the test indicates a high mite infection.
If you lose your bees because your laziness prevented testing, you not only will
have to spend about $50 next spring for a new package of bees, but those bees will not
produce much honey for you for that entire year. TEST FOR VARROA IN JULY!
Certified EAS Master Beekeeper