Variable Efficacy of Mite Treatments?

Drone bee with cocoon stuck on eye and worker with varroa mite present.

Drone bee with cocoon stuck on eye and worker with varroa mite present.

Variable efficacy of mite treatments has been a constant battle for beekeepers in the past 28 years. However, there are some things we can do in the colony to increase a treatment’s efficacy. Many treatments available to beekeepers are spread through the hive by the bees and also by the bees fanning and ventilating the hive. This ventilation is a crucial part of the hive as a whole since pheromones are spread through the hive via ventilation and traffic from worker, queen and drone bees.

Drone pupa with varroa mite present.

Drone pupa with varroa mite present.

Through my experience, and especially over the past 8 years, I have noticed many different types of beekeepers: there are those who are diligent in scraping burr comb, there are beekeepers that scrape the hives only a few times a year, and those who choose not to scrape at all. After seeing this trend year after year the thought came to me, how does bur comb effect mite treatment efficacy? This question is still not answered scientifically but I do feel that contributes to the inconsistencies within apiaries treated in the same way. These varied results are especially noticed with using fumigation type treatments, one example would be formic acid or Mite Away Quick Strips (MAQS). There have not been any studies that I found on evaluating the treatments with or without burr comb but I think this something that needs to be and could be evaluated.

Varroa Mite on deformed wing virus bee.

Varroa Mite on deformed wing virus bee.

Scraping burr comb down 3-5 days prior to treatments could affect the efficacy of the treatment. I would not recommend scraping bur comb and treating within the same day due to hive stress from having to clean, repair and reconstruct ventilation pathways. During time of treatment, it may also be beneficial to feed the colonies some protein supplement, this will give the bees some extra food to cope with stress and also draw them closer to the treatment. Feeding sugar syrup is another method you can use to give the bees some help with coping with the treatment stress, but a fondant patty may be better because it will draw bees towards the treatment.

Worker bees with Deformed Wing Virus (DWV).

Worker bees with Deformed Wing Virus (DWV).

I have been scraping my hives since I started beekeeping because that was the way I learned, but only after many years have I realized that this habit may contribute to successful overwintering and more consistent mite treatments. I hope this information was useful and I would appreciate any stories or information on how scraping burr comb has increased or decreased efficacy of mite treatments.

Queen Bee

Queen Bee

Written By: Rob Snyder

Rob Snyder has written 63 post in this blog.

I currently work out of the Butte County Cooperative Extension in Oroville, CA as a Crop Protection Agent. I received my B.S. in biology from Delaware Valley College, PA. There I attained a majority of my entomological knowledge from Dr. Chris Tipping and Dr. Robert Berthold. After graduation, I was an apiary inspector for 2 years at the Department of Agriculture in Pennsylvania. In my third year there, I still inspected some colonies but I mainly focused on The Pennsylvania Native Bee Survey (PANBS) where I pinned, labeled, entered data and identified native bees to genus species. Leo Donavall assisted me in learning the basics on positive Identifications of the native bees. Around the same time I began working on coordinating kit construction and distribution for the APHIS National Honey Bee Survey. I was also fortunate to conduct many of these surveys with fellow co-worker Mike Andree and Nathan Rice of USDA/ARS throughout California. All of these experiences have led me to where I am today, working to assist beekeepers in maintaining genetic diverse colonies resistant to parasites while reducing the use of chemical treatments in colonies. The BIP Diagnostic Lab at the University of MD is in an integral part of this process by generating reports in which we can track change and report to beekeepers vital information in a timely manner which may influence their treatment decisions.

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