Start with a friend that has experience. It’s important that you learn the proper way to behave around a beehive from someone with experience. An experienced beekeeper can provide you with wisdom and guidance that may be difficult to find online.
Check on your bees. You will need to check on the status of your hives more often than you will be harvesting honey. When checking on your hive, simply wearing a hat with a veil is often considered enough protection, but you may also choose to wear a jacket.
Once you have approached the hive, you’ll need to open it and remove some of the interior frames to check on your bees progress in developing the hive and making honey. Remember to liberally use your smoker throughout this process to pacify the remaining bees.
Use your hive tool (a small crowbar) to pry up the corner of one of the interior frame walls, then slide it up slowly.
In different frames you slide out you will find honey or even frames filled with the queen’s larvae.
Frames that are capped in beeswax are full of honey and ready to be harvested.
Always check your hive for a queen "queen-rite" . You don't need to see the queen but check for newly laid eggs. A good beekeeper learns to recognize disease and pest and takes care of them before they get out of hand.
The varroa mite (Varroa destructor) is the most serious pest of honey bee colonies worldwide. This parasite was first detected in the United States in the late 80's. Virtually all feral (or “wild”) honey bee colonies have all but been wiped out by these mites, and beekeepers continue to struggle with varroa infestations in their hives. The number of managed beehives has dropped by an estimated 44 percent since the invasion of the mites. It is vital, therefore, to understand the varroa mite and the options available for its control.
The mite is an external parasite which attacks both adult bees and the developing honey bee larvae. The adult mites have a flattened oval shape, are reddish-brown in color, and are about 0.06 inches wide (about the size of the head of a pin). The mated female mite enters the cell of a developing bee larva and lays up to six eggs. The developing mites feed on the pupae and, depending on the number of mites, may kill it, cause it to be deformed, or have no visible effect. While the males die in the cell, the adult daughter mites climb onto an adult worker bee and feed on its hemolymph (bee “blood”). The female mite can then repeat the cycle by entering cells of other developing larvae. Mites prefer drone larvae over worker larvae, but they will infest worker larvae and eventually kill the colony if preventative measures are not taken.
Alcohol washes are an accurate and fast way to determine the Varroa mite infestation rate on a subset of the adult bees within a colony. Test results allow you to compare the infestation rate with published thresholds and make decisions about whether, or not, treatment is warranted.
It’s a good idea to monitor regularly throughout the entire bee-working year to make sure mite levels remain below economic thresholds and to plan ahead for treatment opportunities. It’s also a smart idea to do a post-treatment alcohol wash approximately 10-14 days afterward to verify that the treatment was effective.
Because the actionable levels of infestation (e.g. when treatment is needed to protect the colony from harm) are quite low - only 2 or 3%, a particular subset of the bees in the colony is chosen to act as surrogates for all the adults in the hives. The bees with the highest infestation rate are the young nurse bees occupied tending the brood. Phoretic-state Varroa mites congregate on the bees working near the open brood so that they can easily enter a mature larva’s cell before it is capped.
To maintain the accuracy of the test, it’s important to choose the sampled bees correctly and consistently, both as to the location they are taken from, and the number of bees in the test sample. The methods described below will help you do that.
Doing alcohol washes regularly will improve your skill in collecting the sample and performing the test accurately. It may seem a bit awkward at first, but with experience it will become faster and easier and a routine part of your hive management skills.
An alcohol wash uses isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol or non-foaming, winter windshield wiper fluid to separate the mites from the sample of bees. Using a Varroa Easy Check sampler is an accurate method to determine mite levels. Compared to a sugar roll, an alcohol wash is faster because you do not have to return the tested bees to the hive. The disadvantage is that the sample of 300 bees is sacrificed during the test..
Many beekeepers are hesitant to kill the tested bees. Keep in mind that although 300 bees seems like a large number, a queen typically produces between 1,000 and 1,500 eggs per day and the loss of 300 bees has no harmful consequence. We use the Varroa EasyCheck to check our bees for mites.
When inspecting your hives, we suggest wearing protective clothing and using a bee smoker to help keep the colony calm.
Make sure the queen is not part of your sample! We suggest locating the queen so she may be isolated and protected during this process.
3 mites is the threshold
Check out The Easy Check