I tested for mites and I have 0 mites–how true is that really???

Welcome to the dog days of June (feels like August). We haven’t had rain at our queen rearing and mating yard for a month, and it has really impacted things. I’ve also heard from a number of beekeepers who I believe responsibly test and treat for mites that they are already finding some colonies with high or near high mite loads. Now is the time to be alert as far as what is occurring in your colonies–waiting until August or fall to do something may be too late. To test out a theory that actually matches existing knowledge of Varroa mites, I just did my monthly mite tests (which become most important in June, July, August and September) to determine when or what my strategy will be to manage the levels of mites (which pass viruses and bacteria to the bees). The results showed what they often show for me in June–0 mites in the colonies that were tested. I typically test full sized colonies (not mating nucs). When I finished that, instead of feeling overconfident, I selected some colonies that are currently queenless (a variety of reasons–one was our only swarm this year, another was being requeened for temperament, etc.). Every one of those handful of colonies showed positive mite counts! Because those colonies are currently in some stage of being queenless (not fully queenright), they do not have eggs and open larvae. So the reduced “hiding places” for mites likely also increases the number of mites that are “phoretic” or on the adult bees themselves. I never round down or feel overconfident in mite numbers (err on the side of caution…) but this painted a good picture of what is really happening. Now, mite levels can vary significantly based on location and a particular colony to be sure, however, unless you live on an island or own thousands of acres around you, your bees are impacted by mites that are spread from colony to colony (including from other beekeepers, commercial operations, and swarms). Know what is going on in your colonies, and adjust your plans for whatever that is! We’re not yet at the point where we’ll do any type of treatment (we only use organic treatments), but as soon as the honey supers are removed, we’ll test again and consider the next steps.

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