Varroa – Part 1: identifying varroa mites

Last week I was surprised by the high mite counts in several apiaries in the Rakiraki area.

Forked drone pupae usually uncovered mites, and colonies treated with a miticide dropped thousands of mites onto sticky boards (see photos).

Left untreated, the bees’ lifespan is shortened and the colony produces less honey.

Varroa is also associated with brood disease and can cause colony populations to dwindle and die.

Identifying varroa mites – Method 1

The easiest way to estimate the mite load in a colony is to fork drone pupae.

I count 10 visible mites. Probably more on the other side. .
Photo courtesy of John Caldeira

The reddish-brown mites are easy to see against the white drone pupae.

Identifying varroa mites – Method 2

The second easiest way is to do a “sugar shake” by placing a half-cup (roughly 300) bees and a tablespoon or two of confectioners powdered (baking) sugar into a screen-topped jar.

This is from a hive in the Gallau area of Rakiraki.
Photo courtesy of John Caldeira

Gently roll the the bees around in the sugar and shake for at least one minute to dislodge the mites.

Then pour the sugar onto a light-coloured surface so the dark mites are easy to see. Spraying the powdered sugar with water dissolves the sugar making the mites even easier to see, but not necessary.

The above methods are not intended to produce science-quality mite measurements, but they are a practical way to learn if a colony needs mite treatment.

Identifying varroa mites – Method 3

A third way is to place a miticide such as Apistan in the hive overnight with a ‘sticky board’ on the bottom board to catch dying mites.

Sticky boards can be made from ordinary poster paper coated with a bit of cooking oil.

The reddish-brown pinhead size dots are mites! This is from a hive in the Ellington area of Rakiraki.
Photo courtesy of John Caldeira

Originally posted on Fiji Beekeepers Association Facebook Group by John Caldeira:

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