So you’ve spotted creepy red dots on your bees. Even worse, they move!
Yep, that’s varroa, or the parasitic mite more officially and ominously called varroa destructor.
We found the lil nasties in our Kerry hive this spring and have been treating the besieged girls with powdered sugar for the past 3 weeks. It’s not as simple as slapping on a strip of Apistan, but it’s a more gentle approach of the kind advocated by practitioners of Integrated Pest Management.
Here’s how it works…
Overview of Powdered Sugar Treatment for Varroa Mites
- Take a baseline count of varroa in your hive. Use the sticky board method to count the # of varroa (either total or average per square inch) that fall over a 24 hour period.
- Gather your equipment for powdering. After experimenting with plastic jugs covered in nylon, I like using a flour sifter best.
- On a clear sunny day, clean the bottom board and coat in Vaseline (or use a new sticky board).
- Then, one by one, remove and powder each bar of bees. Yep, every single one.
- After 24 hours, remove and clean the bottom board, noting with glee how goddamn many varroa were successfully cleaned off by the girls.
- Repeat once a week for three weeks. This repetition is critical as it addresses the varroa lifecycle.
- After three weeks, take another powder-free count of varroa using the sticky board method.
- Your new count will be significantly lower than the baseline. If not, consider more agressive chemical treatment like Apistan.
More Resources on Treating Varroa
- Sugar Dusting for Varroa Mite Control (a comprehensive and hilarious read)
- Treating Varroa without Chemicals (written especially for top bar hives)