Updated: Nov 19, 2021
The main killer of our beehives is the Varroa Mite. To be successful as a beekeeper requires you to know your mite count. Testing and treating for mites is a extremely important. If you haven't treated for mites throughout the year, then you will know the outcome by the upcoming spring. Tends to end up resulting in a struggling or dead beehive. Testing for varroa mites can be challenging for beekeepers. To get an accurate count, requires doing a proper test. Here are some common mistakes.
Sample nurse bees and not the foragers - Make sure to get nurse bees from an open brood frame for best results.
Powder Sugar Shake vs. Alcohol/Dawn - The Alcohol/Dawn soap solution wash method does kill the 300 bee sample, and the Sugar Shake doesn't. The test results will be consistently more accurate in the Alcohol/Dawn soap wash method. We recommend using the soap solution wash.
Improper Execution = Improper Results - Make sure to shake the bee sample with the powdered sugar method hard and long enough to dislodge the mites to get an accurate count. Not wanting to harm your bee samples with these methods is completely understandable. I feel the same when testing, but which is worse; losing a few hundred bees out of the 60-80k in your beehive, or possibly killing off the entire colony? We are sacrificing less than 1% of the population to potentially save the entire beehive from a large mite infestation, resulting in 100% loss of the colony.
How to Determine Percentage of Mites.
When your counting the mites in your test, you're figuring out how many mites per 100 bees. 1/2 cup = 300 bees approximately. You will then divide the number of mites in the test by 3, and that will give you a percentage. (7 mites in test, 7 divided by 3 = 2.33%)
When Should I Treat?
We want to stay between 0-2%. When you have over 2% mite count results, then you should start treating soon. If your mite count is really high then you may need to use something a little stronger, and may require multiple treatments. It is much better to keep the count in the low range, then to try and fix an out of control mite infestation.