Guest blogger here! Today a Dow Gardens intern, Sara, observed and assisted with the hive work, and is sharing with you the process from her viewpoint.

Today we sampled our hives for Varroa mites. We scooped up 100 ml of bees (about 300 adults) from each hive using a cup we made ourselves and put them in a glass jar. Then we shook them up with some powdered sugar. The sugar coats the surface of the honeybees, so the mites can’t stick to them and they fall off. We poured out the sugar through a mesh lid (to keep the bees in) and dissolved it with water so we could see the mites. We didn’t find any today, which means our control measures earlier in the year worked! If we had seen some, we would have been able to divide the total number by three to see how many mites/100 bees were in each hive.

So why did we sample for Varroa mites anyway? Varroa destructor is a species of parasitic mite that reproduces in honeybee colonies. When the mites attach, they spread the Deformed Wing Virus to their bee hosts, which can eventually lead to the death of a whole hive. If we know how many mites we have in our hives, then we can breed queens from hives that aren’t as infested, use less pesticide when we don’t need it, and ultimately help our bee colonies!

We also verified the success of the hives and see that all three are moving into the new stories we provided two weeks ago. We see them working in the supers, and could feel the weight of newly collected honey as we accessed the brood boxes to sample for mites. The bees are working their new stories well, as we saw newly built wax, as shown in the photo. New wax is very white, and as it ages it turns darker in color.