Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Sick Bee

Vampires are a really hot item these days in novels and movies. Both kids and adults have their PG and R rated versions of programming that we can watch... and enjoy.

But this is no pleasure and this one is a real X-Rated Horror.

Click the picture to enlarge the photo and you'll see why.

I found her outside her hive. She'd been evicted by her sisters. They probably didn't want to but they knew they had to.

She'll die of course. Probably later that night as the temperature dropped and the spring air cools her body. Whether her hunger or the cold air would get her first, I'm not sure. I don't want to think about it.

I hated seeing her suffering. I wouldn't feed her either--not because I didn't want to--but because I knew it would only prolong the suffering and unavoidable death.

She can't fly and she could barely walk. Her abdomen is deformed. Probably her internal organs aren't functioning well either.

Are you wondering why?

Because of a vampire called Varroa Destructor. Varroa Mites were inside this bee's cell when she was a defenseless pupae, capped and waiting to make her final metamorphosis into a worker bee.

They fed so well on her--latching onto the thorax, her back, where there's a good supply of blood to suck on. They fed so vigorously that they destroyed her tissue. Her body could not develop normally and her wings and body are malformed.

She'll never fly. She'll never be a nurse bee. She'll never fulfill the role she was born to do.

It could be Deformed Wing Virus (DWV). Mites are dirty mouthed and like mosquitoes they not only steal a blood meal, they spread germs and disease as well.

What can the beekeeper do? There are various methods to treat the hive, some organic and others not. For myself, I'll be using a natural product called Formic Acid. The fumes it creates eats away at the mite's shell and weakens/kills it. The weakened mites lose their grip on the bee's fur and falls. Hopefully the fallen mite will land on the greased board sticky board at the bottom of the hive where it will stick and be held until it dies.

Photo - Here's the sticky board - it's plastic cardboard that sits under a screen at the bottom of the hive. The bees can't get through the screen (called a Varroa Screen) but the mites do. It's been greased with Crisco Shortening.

Use Crisco, vaseline or any product that will make the board sticky - this will trap and hold the mite preventing it from climbing back up in the hive and find another bee to latch onto.

To see the mites in the photo - you can easily count them. Click on the photo to enlarge. I've circled a couple in red so you can see what they look like.

Hive #2 is a concern - it was heavily infested before the Formic Acid was put in the hive. The photo is from after the Formic was put in place.

To determine the level of infestation beekeepers will put in a cleanly greased board and then return in either 24 or 72 hours. If 72 hours, divide the total mites counted on the board by 3 to get the daily drop levels. Anything over 20 is considered a very heavy infestation.

To determine the effectiveness of the treatment, a count is also done, again on a clean board, while the treatment is in place.

With the Formic Acid pads fumigating the hive a lot more mites are falling. I'm certainly not sorry to hear that!

This girl will never fly or enjoy being a nurse bee but I hope I've given her short life meaning in a new bee task as an Education Bee. Let her example help you make decisions on how you'll care for your hives.
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