So today’s inspection was all about checking for mites going into the fall. If there is a mite load of 5 or more mites per 300 bees (1/2 cup of bees), then I need to treat. It’s about a week long treatment, then you have to check again.
Bumblebee on zinnia
I’ve kind of been putting off the inevitable because I hate checking for mites. You kill 1/2 a cup of bees in the process. You have to take the bees from the open brood frames because that’s where the mites will be present as they try to hide in the larvae cells before they’re capped off so they can be multiplying clandestinely while the bees are maturing. The open brood frames are also where the queen resides. So you have to be careful not to get the queen in your 1/2 cup of bees. Plus you’re robbing the hive of 300 nursery bees.
All in all, not a pleasant task. But it’s better than losing the whole hive to mites.
So about 9:30am I headed out there with:
- 2 mason jars half filled with alcohol, with lids
- 1/2 steel measuring cup
- 2 extra bee boxes for sorting
I suited up, got the smoker going real good, and decided to dive into the blue hive first.
This hive has 5 boxes. The top box has 6 frames full of nectar and a very empty and dry inline feeder.
black bumblebee on zinnia
As I went through the boxes, I sorted open brood into one empty box and closed brood into another empty box. I kept an eye out for the queen, whom I have yet to ever see since they made her. I have no idea even what I’m looking for – a dark brown Carniolan or a golden Italian. And she won’t be marked.
I sorted and sorted, keeping track of food and bees and brood. Then in the bottom box – THERE SHE IS! I finally saw Queen Siste Sjanse. She’s a svelt golden Italian (of course – why can’t they make a Carniolan?). Here’s a video of her on her frame. Queen Siste Sjanse on the move.
So because I knew exactly what frame she was on, I carefully put her back in the bottom box. Then I knew I could capture the bees I needed for the mite check from the open brood frames that were in one of the sorting boxes without accidentally getting the queen.
I got an alcohol jar ready with the lid open, and I take the steel 1/2 cup measurer and gently scrape it along the face of a frame, scooping live girls into the cup and immediately dumping them in the alcohol jars. I did this on three separate open brood frames until I had 1/2 a cup of bees.
This really upsets the bees – they were flying around and kind of bumping my bee suite and hood. I could imaging the little girls hitting the alcohol batch and screeching out and the rest of the bees hear their tiny little last cries……..Jeeeeez.
- 11 frames of bees
- 5 frames with open brood
- 8 frames with closed brood
- spotted Queen Siste Sjanse
- about 1 3/4 boxes of nectar or honey
I’m going to go ahead and give them food a few times this week, with some HBH, just to supplement their nectar and get them some good natural medicine in their food going into the fall.
This hive has 6 boxes. Again, I set aside a couple boxes for sorting, and the top box has a dry and clean feeder in line.
really nice frame of capped brood from orange hive
In this box, I found Queen Håper in the 2nd box from the bottom. Here’s a video of Queen Håper. You can see she’s marked with the green dot and it’s hard to find her because she was covered in bees the whole time.
And again, since I found the queen, I was able to gather my 1/2 cup of bees from the already sorted open brood frames in the sorting box. Again, the tiny cries…the upset bees…
- 12 frames of bees
- 2 frames with open brood
- 11 frames with closed brood
- 2 1/2 boxes very full of nectar or honey
- I spotted Queen Håper
I’m going to go ahead and give them a couple feedings with HBH, just to get the good medicine in them. They don’t need the food.
I took the jars with the dead bees and alcohol into the house. I cut a sheet about 9 inches square of 1/4″ wire cloth. For each jar (I had them labeled blue and orange), I shook and spun the jar for a good 2 minutes.
one of the girls working a zinnia
I put a steel bowl on the counter, a white smooth cotton cloth over the top, then the wire mesh. Then I’d empty out a jar of bees onto the mesh. The alcohol goes through the cloth and into the bowl. I move the bees around on the wire cloth. Then I put them back in the jar, fill it with alcohol again, swish it around again for 2 minutes, then pour them out again. This is to make sure all the dead mites wash off the bees.
Then I got rid of the dead bees in the garbage and check the white cloth for dead mites.
- blue hive – no mites
- orange hive – 1 mite
So, you get a little nervous year after year as the OF’s tell you that you WILL have mites, you MUST have mites and if you DON’T find mites, then you’re DOING IT WRONG. I have performed every kind of mite check – powdered sugar, the oiled grid paper below the hive for a week, and alcohol washes. One time I found a mite count and treated. Otherwise – nothing. Like today.
My theory (totally unscientific methodology) is that mites are kind of like fleas. The bees have to get them from somewhere. They crawl (they don’t have wings) and they don’t just manufacture themselves under hives. So maybe the bees get them from other bees. Or flowers that had other bees with mites on them. So the big bee guys who have hundreds of hives are kind of like the off-leash dog park – you’re dog is gonna get fleas from the other dogs.
But if my bees are just in my yard, and yeah, they go to flower within 3 miles but how many mites drop on flower? I think the backyard bees just aren’t exposed like the yard bees are. You do have to check, especially if you buy bee packages and I’ll continue to check in spring and fall.
But I’m not going to treat this fall. If I don’t have to put chemicals on the hive, I don’t want to.
I’ll feed the bees early tomorrow morning, before they and the VSD’s are up. Here’s a movie of a big fat bumblebee working on a zinnia. You can actually see it jabbing it’s proboscis down into the flower each time to get the nectar.