If you have kept bees for very long than you know about the Varroa mite. This pest returns to the hive on foraging bees that are working the flowers. To give you an idea of the size comparison if we were the bee the mite would be the size of a rabbit. Now think some bees have several mites on them. After it gets it's free ride into the hive it's goal is to enter into the cell with a young egg of a honeybee preferably a drone egg. This is where it will feed and lay eggs over the next few days. So by it feeding on the bees it weakens them infesting them with pathogens and viruses. Which completely destroys the colony especially during winter months.
To better understand the Varroa Mites life cycle click here
The best option if I were to choose is to raise bees that have good hygienic behavior. These bees would manage the mites themselves by keeping each other clean and removing infected brood. But this is not always an option.
No one likes to use strong chemicals in their hive or even around the colony. So I use Mite Away Quick Strips (MAQS) for mite control. Plus you can treat with honey supers on and they are not affected. This option has been found to be certified organic with the active ingredient being formic acid. Ideally you want to treat in the spring and pre-fall. It's best if the colony can raise 2 full batches of brood before the cold weather forces clustering. That way you are sure to have strong healthy bees for winter.
The Facts About Formic Acid
|Proper Way to Place Strips On Hive|
Beekeeper have been concerned for years about treatments contaminating the wax in the hive. Formic acid is not lipophilic, so it can not absorb into the wax. This acid is natures defense chemical with it being the defense of some plants such as stinging nettles and insects such as ants. Some birds will carry ants on them because they keeps the mites off them.
In most cases the treatment goes without issues. But in some cases I have witnessed bees bearding outside the hive after treatment. This has been a rare site though my bee yard during treatment but have seen it happen. As long as they have proper ventilation you should not attempt to adjust treatment let the bees manage it. Some colonies may have some egg and brood loss at the start of treatment others do not.
Any queen cells found before or after time of treatment should be left alone for queen to emerge and mate.
MAQS Corrosive Behavior
Formic acid is corrosive to metal. So make sure you do not lay them on the hive lids while opening a colony. Also if you use metal excluders make sure the strips are not touching. I recommend using plastic excluders with treatment but a spacer will allow room for the MAQS and a metal excluder without any corrosive activity.
As you can see in the picture I use metal excluders. They have wood running through them which works to keep the strips from touching the metal. This seems to work fine. It's the physical contact of the strips to metal that is corrosive.
Watch My Full Demonstration In This Video
National Organic Program Regulation