Controlling Varroa mites is essential for maintaining healthy and productive bees. If you see signs of this parasite in your colonies, the right suite of tools is needed to successfully limit the consequences of an infestation. The Bee Gym is a great way to make the bee’s natural grooming behaviors more effective at removing these mites.
Why are Varroa Mites Dangerous for My Bees?
Chances are if you raise honey bees, you’ve heard of Varroa mites. A colony with an infestation of these external parasites may show several symptoms including producing less honey. Additionally, brood from infested hives are often malformed and missing appendages, and the overall health of colonies is negatively affected.
There are many ways to check for the presence of Varroa mites in a colony, including the EasyCheck system from Véto-pharma. Once you have identified the presence of Varroa mites in your hive, the best way to protect the health of your bees is to use a multi-faceted approach to controlling the infestation.
How do I Control Varroa Mites?
Typically, controlling Varroa Mites requires treating hives with chemicals. There are several systems available for delivering these chemicals into the colony, all of which have their own benefits. To find what works for you, we suggest trying a variety of products. Using treatments with different active ingredients helps to avoid building resistance in Varroa mite populations.
While these chemical-based treatments represent the primary tools used to treat infestations, successfully combating Varroa mites requires a balanced approach. A well-rounded program includes regular inspections, carefully timed treatments and encouraging the bee’s natural grooming and cleaning behaviors.
Installing the Bee Gym
The Bee Gym, a patented device from Vita Europe, Ltd., is a great way to give your bees a helping hand in ridding themselves of Varroa mites. Adding the Bee Gym to your integrated pest management regimen is simple. When performing a colony inspection, place the device on the open mesh floor of your hive approximately ¾” from the hive entrance.
Leaving a gap between the entrance and the Bee Gym allows bees returning with full pollen baskets to avoid losing pollen. The side with the Bee Gym name should be facing up and closest to the hive opening. Once you have placed the Bee Gym in your hive, the only required maintenance is a yearly inspection and cleansing.
How the Bee Gym Works
The Bee Gym takes advantage of your bees’ natural desire to groom themselves. When first placed in the hive, bees attempt to remove the device as they would any foreign object. However, they quickly adapt to its presence and begin to use the Bee Gym’s features to aid their grooming behaviors.
The Bee Gym contains two main types of grooming aids. The first is a taut wire bees use to groom their backs. Secondly, the Bee Gym has specially shaped tabs called “flippers” that stick up from the frame. When placed in the hive, bees use these aids to more effectively remove Varroa mites from their body. Mites then fall through the open mesh floor of the hive, where they may be collected and counted on a Varroa Sticky Board.
For more information on the Bee Gym, watch the following video or visit the Vita Europe, Ltd. website.
For beekeeping equipment and educational materials, visit our online store.