Seasonal management, June 2009: Extracting and pest management

By Stacey Adair

Seasonal management for June, headed into July usually entails possible extracting to move to Sourwood, or even continuing to super through June to get some of the later nec- tar, including clover, privet, and sumac. John Gee will be giving us a demonstration on how to extract your honey. After extracting, if you are not moving bees for a second crop, you should start considering which treatments you will be using for mites, if indicated.

Varroa mites have been a persistent pest for many years, but you can certainly check mite loads if you are wanting to try to make it through the season without using treatments. There are many ways to sample for varroa, so I thought I would mention a few methods as part of seasonal management. I am going to use IPM (Integrated Pest Management) as the gold standard which we should all try for in our beekeeping practices. But as we all know, sometimes situations require a little more horse power to manage than others, so I say this is an ideal we should strive for. What is IPM? Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that relies on a combination of common-sense practices. IPM programs use current, comprehensive information on the life cycles of pests and their interaction with the environment. This information, in combination with available pest control methods, is used to manage pest damage by the most economical means, and with the least possible hazard to peo- ple, property, and the environment. Pest management, as opposed to pest eradication, implies that some pests will always be around.

A goal of IPM is to manage these pest populations, keeping their populations below a level where damage can be tolerated. IPM is not anti-pesticide, but it does promote limited and judicial use of chemicals, knowing the best time to use them most effectively. Current IPM techniques in beekeeping employ the use of a screened bottom boards (allowing groomed mites to fall to the ground), hygienic and mite resistant bee stock, along with other types of management of varroa populations. One management technique which is labor intensive, but disrupts the varroa cycle is removal of all drone brood from the hive once it is capped. As you can see, this would be very labor intensive, but probably doable for just a few colonies. Also, dusting with powdered sugar can be an effective means of keeping mite numbers down in a colony. The Dowda method is a favorite method used by some of our beekeepers, and the technique will be included later in the newsletter. In order to know when you might need to use a chemical for more control, you must determine mite load by sampling.

Ether or Alcohol roll uses a wide mouth mason jar, a tight fitting lid, and about 100-200 worker bees trapped into the jar. To sample, use about a 1 second spray of engine starter into the jar, or about 2 teaspoons of alcohol. Roll or swirl the bees in the liquid for about 1 minute, then pour the fluid and bees out. Supposedly the mites stick to the glass jar and can be counted. The average mite drop is 50% off the bees, and 100% mortality of the bees, so I don’t favor this technique.

Powdered Sugar Shake uses a mason jar with a 2 piece lid, and the center part of the lid has been replaced with 8 mesh hardware cloth. It also uses 1 tablespoon of powdered sugar. You trap 100-200 bees in the jar, sprinkle 1 Table- spoon of powdered sugar into the jar, and roll gently for 1-2 minutes. Then you let the jar sit for another minute or two to allow the mites to be dislodged. The last step requires shaking the sugar through the #8 mesh onto cheesecloth, then gently sifting the sugar through the cheesecloth, leaving the mites on top. This method produces nearly a 90% mite drop and usually no bees die in the testing. They can be returned to their colony.

A third method for mite detection involves drone sampling. You can pull out frames from the colony, use a capping scratcher to uncap the drone, remove the larvae and look for the mites on the brood. Magnification may be helpful with this technique since the mites can be immature too and harder to see. You need to sample 100-200 drone brood for this method.

Once the testing is completed, a 5% or less infestation is usually a tolerable level for IPM. If 15-25% infestation is noted, a more aggressive control measure is needed, which would probably include chemical treatment. For a long time we were very limited in the approved chemicals for varroa treatment, but now there are many more options, with newer, softer chemicals and more natural treatments. I would encourage everyone to look into the many different types of treatments that are available, and see what works best into your operation.

Stephanie Tarwater will be speaking to us in depth about all the approved treatments for honeybee pests. John Gee, our medication coordinator will have many different types of treatments available to us for varroa and tracheal mites. Please remember in doing your research to see which product might work best for you, to consider the temperature outdoors and in the hive. Some of the products cannot be used in the extreme heat of the summer, and waiting to use them until cooler temperatures may put your hives at higher risk for heav- ier infestations, so do your homework! And please, bring your questions to the meeting and feel free to ask our speakers if you have questions specific to their topics. Our goal is to help everyone be successful beekeepers!!

See you next week!

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