Honey Bee Alcohol Mite Wash

Over the years of beekeeping varroa mites have always been a problem. The first few years I did nothing to the colony to help them with their mite population. That resulted in dead colonies over winter. I quickly learned that by treat in August my colonies would have enough time to raise healthy bees for winter. My overwintering success rate jump dramatically but still I did not know what the mite population was. Were my bees infested or did they have any varroa hygiene sensitivity of any king? This year I was convinced by a fellow beekeeper read an article by Randy Oliver of Scientific Beekeeping.com about mites counts and ways to check them. Not long after reading this article I gave it a try. It was not hard, it only took a few minutes per hive. I learned that some of my colonies manage mites very well with any assistance from me. They averaged 1.6 mites per hundred. My worst out of 20 colonies was 4 per hundred.

To do this test you will need a few items.

1. Rubbing Alcohol
2. 2 Mason Jar (lids will need modified, link here)
3. 1/2 cup measure cup
4. Large bowl or tub (white is best)
5. Water

NOTE: Rubbing alcohol is very flammable so keep it away from your smoker at all times.

Step 1

First go into your colony and find the queen, set her frame to the side for her protection. Then look for a frame of brood in mixed stages (open and close cells). After the frame is found shake it over your large bowl. Then quickly shake the bees into the corner or edge of bowl and scoop up a 1/2 cup and pour them into the mason jar. Place the lid on the jar before any escape. Dump the remaining bees in the bowl back into the hive and close it up.

Step 2

A 1/2 cup of bees is approximately 300 bees, which we now have contained in the mason jar. Now pour rubbing alcohol through the screened lid until the bees are all floating, screw on the top jar and shake, shake, shake. The shaking will dislodge the mites from the bees.

Step 3

Pour the alcohol into the bowl and watch for mites. After the jar has emptied you can better the results of the test by washing the bees a few more times but with water. The bees and mites are dead so alcohol is not needed anymore. I like to wash them 3 additional times to make sure I have all the mites for my mite count.

Step 4

After you get your mite count you need to do some math to figure the mite population. For this example lets say I found 12 mites.

12 Mites divided by 300 bees (what we had in jar)= 0.4 x 100 = 4%   or 4 mites per hundred bees

Remember before doing this test you will need to modify a mason jar lid http://scientificbeekeeping.com/sick-bees-part-11-mite-monitoring-methods/ scroll down about half way and you will find how to modify it.

Or you can purchase a jar with the modified lid

This population chart shows the growth curve of mite over bees in Aug.- Sept.. A colony with this heavy of a mite load would most likely not survive winter without some kind of a treatment.

Read more about different mite washes here