Many people enjoy honey, yet we are often afraid of the bees that make this natural sweet-smelling commodity.
However, did you know that bees are also harmed by other pests? So go ahead and read some more.
Mites in beehives can be a major issue, possibly causing the extinction of entire colonies. Mites and the diseases they disseminate are among the most significant causes of the deadly colony collapse event.
Mites and bees don’t mix well, so if you keep bees, know what to look for and how to deal with mites.
In this article today, we will cover the various impacts of mites on honey bees as well as practical techniques for controlling and eliminating mites.
What are Bee Mites and How Do You Get Rid of Them?
Mites are arachnids that are closely related to spiders. Because they bite people, they can be pests, but they can also be harmful to other animals.
We’ll talk about the varroa mite, which is a well-known mite.
Varroa Destructor (Varroa mite)
Varroa mites (Varroa destructor and Varroa Jacobson) are little red-brown honey bee parasites.
Varroa mites can eat and live on adult honey bees, but they mostly feed and multiply on larvae and pupae in the developing brood, causing honey bee deformity and weakness, as well as transmitting a variety of viruses.
Colonies with a low infection have few symptoms, but as the mite population grows, symptoms become more noticeable.
This results in a decrease in the honey bee population, queen bee supersedure, colony disintegration, and mortality.
A varroa mite can be seen on a bee. It’s roughly 1.5 mm long and looks like a tick. These mites eat by piercing the bees from the outside.
They interfere with the honeybee colony’s life cycle to reproduce at the same time. Affected colonies may appear to be vigorous and productive throughout the summer, but they will die off in the fall or winter.
Infestations of Varroa mites can build up in 3–4 years, resulting in the scattered brood, crippled and crawling honey bees, decreased flight performance, a lower rate of return to the colony after foraging, a shorter lifetime, and a drastically reduced worker weight.
An irregular brood pattern, sunken and eaten cappings, and larvae slumped in the bottom or side of the cell are all indications of parasitic mite sickness.
The Varroa Mite’s Impact
- Nurse bees can detect parasitized worker bee broods and uncap and remove infested pupae before they become infested.
- Varroa mites can reproduce. Nurse bees encase sick cells in wax, trapping the mites inside. Grooming behaviour aids in the dislodging and killing of mature female Varroa mites from adult bees.
- Varroa populations can only replicate in drone brood cells, with worker brood cells entering only occasionally. (This is significant because Varroa’s capacity to proliferate on worker bee broods is the source of the European honey bee’s most serious issues.)
- Varroa mites enter their phoretic phase and the total mite population decreases when Asian honey bee colonies go without drone brood for long periods.
Honeybee Mite Infestation
While most produced honey bee strains in North America are now tracheal mite resistant, varroa mites can still cause severe damage.
They spread two major viral illnesses in bees: deformed wing virus and acute bee paralysis virus, among others.
Either of these can result in the colony’s demise. If you discover that larvae are dying prematurely, you may have viruses in your colony.
Control of Mites in Honeybees
First and foremost, you must determine what you have, the sort of mite you have, and whether or not it is a mite that is producing difficulties in the hive.
If feasible, start a colony with resistant bees. Tracheal mite-resistant stock is more prevalent, but scientists have recently created honeybees that are varroa-resistant.
How To Get Rid Of Varroa Mites
- Under the hive, place a varroa mat. This is a sticky mat with a screen over it. Because of the screen, bees are unable to touch the mat, yet mites fall through and are gathered.
- Utilize varroa-specific biopesticides. Essential oils or formic acid are used in these. Apistan, Apivar, and Checkmate are examples of synthetic insecticides.
- Other insecticides should not be used on your colony since they can kill the bees. If you’re not sure what to do to help your hives, talk to your local extension office.
The goal of cultural approaches is to reduce pest reproduction. Purchasing mite-resistant honey bee stock, providing tiny cell comb, and offering a brood break are cultural strategies for varroa mite control and prevention.
Stock Resistant Bees
Chemical management of varroa mites can be reduced by using mite-resistant bees. Various bee stocks with mite-resistant characteristics have been produced for that purpose. Importers have emphasized European honey bees that have spent a long time in contact with varroa mites.
The spring and summer reproduction of varroa mites often results in a huge population in the fall.
If the economic threshold is met, a chemical miticide should be sprayed before the generation of winter bees for the best overwintering performance.
When possible, gentle chemicals should be employed for these bees.
Soft chemicals include organic acids, essential oils, hop beta acids, soap solution, etc. which are all naturally generated.
These treatments work without leaving chemical residues in honeybee products like wax. If chemicals are to be employed in the hive, mild chemicals should be utilized initially before considering harsh chemicals.
Furthermore, colonies should only be treated if monitoring efforts suggest that they are required.
We’ve seen the devastation that varroa mites can cause to our bees and even our prized honey.
Controlling varroa mite populations in honey bee colonies can be done in a variety of ways. Each option offers benefits and drawbacks, but recognizing the consequences of each choice is a vital aspect of making a decision.
Have you ever had a bad infestation when caring for bees? What was your experience like, and how did you solve the problem? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.