Keeping bees is very rewarding. Not only are you paid for your time and efforts with delicious honey, but beeswax, pollen, propolis and even splits can seem like a payday after a year of keeping your bees healthy and alive.
To keep your bees alive, you have to be diligent about keeping pests out of your hives. Bears, skunks, mice are just a couple pests that can quickly decimate a hive, but it's just as much a problem if you let hive beetles, varroa mites or wax moths to infiltrate a colony.
For a quick rundown, here are 5 pests bugging your bees:
Strong, healthy hives are usually able to fend off wax moths. If you have a weak colony, typified by lack of bees and brood, it's possible that the moths will move in and overtake the hive. An entrance reducer might help, but it's best to make sure that the hive is strong.
2. Varroa Mites
Varroa mites are parasites that attach to and feed on the bees and also feed and kill the larvae. You will find them in every hive; it's just a matter of how many are there. Obviously, the fewer the better. It's best to do a powdered sugar or sticky board test to see how intrusive the mites are in each hive. There are a variety of chemical treatments such as Apivar or oxalic acid to reduce the mite population.
3. Hive Beetles
Like varroa mites, it's pretty much a given that you'll find small hive beetles in your apiary. They're about the size of tick and will scurry away from the light when you get into the hive. The beetles will begin to repopulate within the hive and their larvae will feed on wax, honey and bee larvae. If there are enough beetles, it can effectively kill the hive. There are beetle traps on the market, as well as ground sprays to keep them away from the apiary.
4. Tracheal Mites
Too small to be seen with the naked eye, these invasive mites will lodge in the trachea of a bee, lay eggs, which will then hatch and feed on the blood of that infected bee. Ewwww. The damaged bees may stumble around, show an inability to fly, or develop a "K" wing. Since these mites can't handle menthol, some treatment involving it usually is sufficient to kill them.
Because Florida is a warmer climate mice aren't as big a problem as in other parts of the country. However, mice, which love to find comfy, snug places to ward off the cold, love the warmth of a healthy beehive and will eat the wax, honey, and even the wood of the supers or frames. Regularly checking your hive and keeping entrance reducers on can help in cold weather.
Of course, ants, wasps, yellow jackets and more can be a problem, but this is a slight overview of some common pests in apiaries. It's best to be proactive, check your hives appropriately during the various seasons and try to prevent any infestations. To learn more about best practices and treatments, past ABA President Keith Parmer will be discussing pests at the meeting on Tuesday, March 14 at the Leon County Extension office, 615 Paul Russell Rd. Please RSVP so we'll know to expect you!