It has been said that the largest enemy of the honey bee is the Varroa mite. Latching on to the bee, weakening their immune systems and causing an increased risk of disease and virus with their bite, it is the equivalent of a human being having a tick the size of dinner plate attached to their body—a sickening thought. This is probably also why beekeepers need to have a Varroa control plan in place or should be aware of the threat that Varroa mites can cause within the hive.
One of the ways the BIP Tech teams will be experimenting with Varroa control in the coming spring will be by way of the Pettis Test developed by Research Leader, Jeffery Pettis of the USDA-ARS Bee Research Lab in Beltsville, MD. To view the complete protocol and try it yourself click the link HERE.
The Pettis test looks at colonies that appear to be resistant to Varroa mite treatments, which, unfortunately is a fairly common occurrence. Overtime, Varroa mites develop immunity to mite treatments leaving chemicals and methods ineffective. The test looks at the effectiveness of Coumaphos, also called CheckMite+ and Fluvalinate, known as Apistan. The two products come in the forms of strips that are usually placed into the hive. In the case of the Pettis Test, the two products will be tested simultaneously and the medicated strips are placed into jars with sampled bees, collected in slightly similar way to a sugar roll. By taking a sample of bees and looking at the number of mites killed in a certain period of time, you can determine if a hive’s mite population is resistant to treatments.
The equipment needed is simple and other than Apistan and Checkmite, which can be ordered at http://www.brushymountainbeefarm.com/, all are items you might have on hand. If you are interested in learning to control your mite population or curious if the mites in your colonies are becoming resistant to treatments check out the test. It is a non-harmful, simple way to get new insight into the health of your colonies and may lead you to investigate introducing a chemical rotation in the management of your colonies instead of relying on a single product.