Varroa is now present in virtually every country in the world. Helping your bees to manage varroa plays an important role in the health of your colony, and also the successful pollination in your garden and further afield.
The good news is that helping your bees combat the mites involves getting to know your bees better and improving your beekeeping skills. The steps we recommend are to become more familiar with your bees, follow good beekeeping practices, monitor for mites regularly, and apply control methods or treatments when necessary.
Keep your bees healthy
Strong and healthy bees are the best defence against most honeybee pests and diseases. Luckily bees do most of the work, but as a beekeeper, one of the most important things you can do to help is to know your bees well and keep track of changes within your colonies. A weak colony is at a higher risk of parasites like varroa. Likewise, having a lot of mites in your colony makes your bees more vulnerable to other pests and ailments.
Regular brood inspections are the best way to get familiar with your bees. Make varroa monitoring a part of your inspection routine and keep records to track changes in your colonies over time.
Varroa mite on a bee
The more you learn about your bees and get to know them better, the better you’ll be at spotting when they need a helping hand. A weak hive may require feeding, a suitable water source, drier conditions, extra ventilation, or even a new queen. If you’re unsure of something, get advice from more experienced beekeepers. Check out the support articles and educational resources on our website for extra info.
Remember that your bees affect the health of your neighbours’ bees too. Diseases and parasites can be spread through drifting, robbing, and swarming, so it’s a good idea to talk to other beekeepers to keep abreast of issues affecting bees in your area.
Good hygiene is really important to stop the spread of any diseases between hives or other apiaries. Keep your beekeeping equipment and clothes clean if working on more than one hive, and be careful if buying second-hand equipment.
There are a few different methods you can use to monitor your colonies for varroa mites. These can be incorporated into your regular brood inspections.
This method is a quick and effective way of detecting varroa mites. It involves taking a sample of adult bees from the hive and washing them with alcohol.
This method works on a similar basis to the alcohol wash method, although it is less effective it has the benefit of not killing bees.
Because varroa mites prefer to reproduce on drone brood, uncapping drone cells is a quick way to check for varroa that requires little equipment.
Putting a sticky mat at the base of a hive can help to detect mites, but should be used in conjunction with other more effective monitoring techniques.
Varroa mites on a developing bee larva
Apply treatments when necessary
Beekeepers have a number of ways to help keep varroa mite numbers in check. Some of these are preventative techniques, like providing a brood break, uncapping drone brood, or introducing varroa-resistant genes into your colonies. If the mite levels get too high, it can call for stronger treatments. A combination of different tactics is advisable, depending on the advice for your region and your own requirements.
With a bit of help and some TLC, your bees will be in the best position to tackle the mites if they arrive in your area. In the process, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of what’s happening in your hives, and help to protect other pollinators too.