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The ever-so-charming varroa mite

I’m just going to come out and say that I haven’t been looking forward to today. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s a gorgeous Saturday, the birds are chirping, my garden is blooming, my goats are munching… But today it’s time to test the bees for varroa mites.  This should have been done before I put the second hive body on, but in the case of my colony, they were ready for more space just two weeks after moving them here.  I felt like, even though they were thriving, doing the disruptive test would have been too much for them so soon after the disruption of bringing them here in the first place. Also I was procrastinating a bit, obviously.  But now it’s time, because if they need to be treated I want to start that now before I put the honey super on.  A honey super is a smaller third hive body that goes on top that they will store their extra honey in – honey I can then take.  The current treatments for varroa mite, which is a vector for a virus that causes wing deformation in honey bees, are non-toxic, plant based substances, but they would affect the honey nonetheless.

My varroa mite test kit

Because Randy Oliver, my beekeeping guru, recommends using an alcohol wash of 300 bees to count mite levels (see his website for exactly what I’m talking about) that’s what I plan to do. It means killing 300 bees, but a robust colony like I have going can handle that no problem. Randy equates the harm done to taking a blood sample: a small harm is done to the body for a proportionately far greater good. But this procedure means suiting up, smoking the bees, finding the queen so she doesn’t get killed in the test, shaking 300 live bees into a bucket, scooping them into a jar, putting the lid on a shaking them up. What could possibly go wrong? Stay tuned…!

Betsy and me getting ready to open the hive

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