How to Identify Varroa: An Essential Guide for Beekeepers
Beekeeping is an exciting and rewarding activity, but it can also face challenges such as parasites that threaten the health of bees and hive productivity. Among these parasites, varroa is one of the most formidable. In this article, we will explore different methods to identify the presence of varroa in your beehives.
Why is it essential to identify varroa?
Identifying varroa is crucial for the health of bee colonies as it allows evaluating the infestation's impact on the colony, determining the control strategy, and preventing the infestation's spread.
A high level of varroa infestation can lead to a decrease in honey production, increased bee mortality, and, in some cases, colony death. It is therefore important to detect varroa presence as soon as possible.
Beekeepers should inspect their hives regularly, at least once a month, to identify varroa. The parasite may be visible to the naked eye as a small round or elongated body, brown or white in color, on the backs of bees. It is also possible to use a magnifying glass or microscope for more precise varroa identification.
Methods to Identify Varroa
- Visual inspection of bees
One of the simplest methods to identify the presence of varroa is through visual inspection of bees. You can carefully observe adult bees at the hive entrance or inside brood cells. Adult varroas are small, reddish-brown mites that are easily recognizable. However, this method is not always reliable as varroas can be difficult to spot, especially when their numbers are low.
- Sugar Dust Detection Test
The sugar dust detection test is a more accurate method to identify varroa. To perform it, you'll need an empty container with a fine-mesh sieve and powdered sugar. Take about 300 to 400 bees in a container, gently shake them to coat them with powdered sugar, then shake them again over the container. The powdered sugar dislodges varroas from the bees, and they fall through the sieve into the container. Count the number of collected varroas. If you find more than a few, it may indicate an infestation.
- Sealed Brood Test
Varroa prefers to infest sealed brood cells as they provide an ideal shelter for reproduction. To perform this test, delicately extract a sealed brood cell and cut it in half. Finding adult varroas or nymphs inside indicates an infestation.
- Sticky Boards
Sticky boards are another method to identify varroa. You can place these boards under the hive's bottom board, where varroas naturally fall. After a few days, remove the boards and inspect them for varroas stuck to them.
Once varroa is identified, it's crucial to determine the infestation level.
To do so, count the number of varroas found on a certain number of bees.
Generally, an infestation level of 2 varroas per bee is considered high.
If the infestation level is high, it's necessary to implement control measures.
There are several treatments available to combat varroa, with the most common being Stop Varroa.
Stop Varroa is the only treatment that eliminates 100% of varroas and can be used in organic beekeeping. It is safe for bees and does not contaminate your honey.
Identifying varroa is a crucial step in hive management. The earlier you detect an infestation, the better your chances of controlling it and protecting your bees. By using these detection methods, you can regularly monitor your colony's health and take swift action if infestation occurs. Remember that varroa control should be an integral part of your beekeeping practices to ensure the well-being of your bees and the success of your apiary.