Beekeepers Friend

Peaches' Beekeeping Blog

March 28, 2011

Mites in General

Right now, we have only two mites in the United States that we are concerned with. Trachea Mites and Varroa Mites.

Trachea Mites are minute eight legged critters that I think are arachnoid in shape. They live in the trachea tubes (breathing or air tubes of the honeybee). They attach themselves to the inside walls to suck the blood of the bee and they usually congregate in mass and actually close off the airflow. However, they have not been as bad in the last 10-15 years as they have been prior to that time. They are considered a secondary pest now.

The Varroa Joccobe (sp) now known as Varroa Distructor is the one we are most concerned about. They also have eight legs and are red to nearly black. With the Varroa D., we now live with several viruses. However, it seems that with a few Varroa mites, the viruses are not as many or as strong as they would be as with an infestation of mites. Also, since the Varroa are parasites (you can see them with the naked eye), the bees also have to deal with a major blood loss.

Imagine if you will, a blood sucking frisbee about the diameter of a flat volleyball attached to your back between your shoulder blades. Maybe even two just asuckin’ away at your blood and making you weak. Pretty soon you would start feeling tired and rundown and just don’t want to do anything. That is the way the bees feel and pretty soon they will be so lethargic that they will not clean house, feed the babies, and guard the entrance to the hive.

Editor’s note: The Small Hive Beetle came to the USA by way of cargo ships from sub-Saharan Africa. Now I am assuming that is in the region of the Sahara Dessert.

Normally a strong colony of bees will build a fence of propolis around the edges of the frame’s top bar all the way to the underside of the top board and herd the beetles into the corral and close the entrance except for a small opening in one end. They will feed the beetles through this opening as the beetles have learned to mimic the baby bee larva’s hungry pheromone. When we beekeepers open the box to check the bees, we break the corral and the beetles scatter to parts unknown.

That is when they find out that the bees have gotten slack in their vigilance and begin to move around and start laying eggs. The larvae hatch and enter into the honey, shoot a breathing tube up to the surface through which they can breathe air. Then the larvae eat some of the honey and then defaecate in the honey and it starts to ferment and to run, ruining the honey. That is when it is okay to cry. 🙁

Some of the beetle larvae then start crawling over the top bars and leave a slick slime on the wood. When you see this, then you cry some more. Your honey harvest in this hive is lost and you have to clean it out with a water hose, washing the slime and honey out on the ground.

However, before you get to the hive to clean it out, you will find the Lesser Wax Moths have moved in and started to lay eggs and the little larvae have hatched and is eating their way through the wax comb and the honey is running out of the front entrance. You might even find that the larvae have spun silk webbing all through the frames and tying them together. Now it is major cleanup time.

Please do not accuse the Small Hive Beetles and Wax Moths of killing your hives. Both of them are creatures of opportunity. If the bees were not weakened by the Varroa Mites, they would have kept the beetles and moths controlled. Refer to the two posts preceding this one to refresh your memory about controlling or thinning out the mites. Thing to remember is if you control the mites, then you control the beetles and moths.

Now that I have written a book in this post, I will let you get back to your other jobs and ponder my words of wisdom. At this point, I tell you that this post is based upon my memory and it is considered faulty at best. You need to research my information and talk to and ask questions of your mentors and association members. They are still your best source of information.

Let me go so I can start thinking up excuses for not splitting my hives again for the third week in a row. Remember, swarm season is upon us and your colonies will swarm if you do not split them first. Bee sure to keep your veil handy, your smoker lit, and your hive tool sharp.

2 Comment(s)

  1. Chelsea | Mar 29, 2011 | Reply

    Ooh yuck, what a description! I can’t get the image of “volleyball-sized frisbees sucking my blood” out of my head.

    I had no idea that the bees would corral and “look after” small hive beetles like that. From what I’ve heard from our local bee inspector, small hivebeetles mainly just make a mess of things (like wax moths) and aren’t directly dangerous to honeybees (basically, just like you say!).

    I read your post on testing and treating mites too – thanks for that. Do you use grease patties for tracheal mites? Do you know if it works? Or does icing sugar help?

  2. ekpeach | Mar 29, 2011 | Reply

    All insects including Flies, Wasps, Yellow Jackets, Ants, Small Hive Beetles, and Wax Moths are essential to the ecology. They eat insects, dead or alive, plants, dead or alive, fruits, dead or alive, wax and diseases. I agree that they can be nuisances, but without them and buzzards, hyenas, sharks, and entities like that, we would have dying, decaying, and putrid stuff laying around and making the world stink worse than what we have made it by ourselves.
    Keep reading. I will be posting some of that information in the near future.
    I do not use grease patties anymore unless I can monitor the colonies real close. The hive beetles love that kind of food, and they can lay lot of babies on the protein and grease. I really do not treat for trachea mites. I don’t know why just that I don’t feel I have a big problem with them.

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