Springtime has brought some unexpected challenges to the Sensible Fitness beehives. Even though I treated the hives for the deadly varroa mite that was present last fall, they appeared again this spring. The mites are like a tick and will literally suck the life out of a bee. If left untreated, this pest will destroy the entire colony.

mite strips on a hive

There are multiple forms of treatment, but the one I chose was using “mite strips”, which is a chemical strip that slowly evaporates over a week, killing the mites. This is the only form of treatment that is allowed when planning to harvest honey. While the treatment will penetrate the papery covering on the brood, where mites are present, it will not penetrate the waxy covering on the cells holding honey.

The mite strips are placed on top of the frames, left for a week, and then removed.  The odor from this treatment is pretty powerful and during the early days of treatment the bees will often cover the exterior of the hive during the day and this is called “bearding”. At days end, the bees go back into the hive and perform business as usual.

bees bearding on a hive

After the treatment, I could not find any signs of mites, so I feel it was successful.  This does not mean the hives are free and clear for the season, and I will keep a close eye on things into the summer.  With the significant time investment beekeeping requires, I now know why most beekeepers are those in retirement with a little extra time on their hands.  The old timers tell me that 30 years ago, you checked on the hives once in awhile and simply harvested honey at will.  Not the case with today’s varroa mite and other pests.

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