A half cup of bees is roughly 300 bees.

There are many different ways to keep mites in check, but we like to offer sample mite management plans each year for beekeepers that get overwhelmed by so many different options. This year, we have plans for beekeepers in both northern and southern regions. We can’t guarantee that these plans will perfectly solve your varroa problems, but they should be pretty trustworthy because they were created by a veterinarian, a Ph.D. in varroa biology, and two Master Beekeepers with decades of beekeeping experience in different parts of the country.

General Principles:

  • Monitor for mites using alcohol wash or sugar shake.
  • Keep records of your mite data.
  • Assess levels throughout the season.
  • Treat whenever mite levels are above 2% infestation.
  • Have miticide on hand before you need it.
  • Newly purchased bees may have been treated, and require less treatment their first summer.

If this is your first year as a beekeeper, click here to read our plans for beekeepers with a brand new colony.

 

Plan for Overwintered Colonies in Northern Regions

President's Day (February 20):

  • Install Apivar (1 strip per 5 frames of bees; 4 strips total for most hives). This requires 8 weeks for the treatment, plus at least 2 weeks for the waiting period after you pull the strips out before adding supers by May 1st. You can watch our video on Apivar here.

Tax Day (April 15):

Apivar strips placed between brood frames.

Mother's Day (May 14):

  • Test mite levels in all hives OR 10-30% of hives in each apiary. If any hive yields more than 2 mites per 100 bees, treat the entire yard. Treatment at this time of year will likely be two strips of Formic Pro for 14 days (since it is fine to use when honey supers are on the hive) as long as temps are between 50 and 85°F. HopGuard 3 or a single strip of Formic Pro can also be used with supers in place, but won't kill reproducing mites in the brood. You can watch our video on HopGuard 3 here.

Flag Day (June 14):

  • Repeat the Mother's Day plan again, treating if needed.

Independence Day (July 4):

Mites left over after an alcohol wash.
  • Repeat the Mother's Day plan if you have not treated yet. If treatment is required now, monitor temperatures in your area carefully to find a safe stretch of time to treat with Formic Pro (50 - 85°F) OR HopGuard 3 (52 - 92°F). Even if you've ignored your mites up to this point in the year, checking on mites around Independence Day is a critical chance to prevent a mite catastrophe come fall/winter.

First week of August:

  • Repeat Mother's Day plan again.

Labor Day (September 4):

  • Harvest the summer honey crop. Check mite levels. Treat with either Formic Pro (formic acid) or ApiLife Var/Apiguard (thymol-based) if mite levels are above 2 mites per 100 bees. If you don't have time to check mite levels, default to treating every hive.
Treating with two strips of Formic Pro.

Once, between Thanksgiving & Christmas:

  • Treat every colony with either vaporized or dribbled oxalic acid, to clean up lingering mites and knock levels as low as possible for next spring.

 

Plan for Overwintered Colonies in Southern Regions

Notes on southern beekeeping:

  • In warm southern regions, expect to see capped brood year-round
  • In central Georgia, for example, the strongest nectar flow typically starts in late March or early April and lasts until the first of June
  • Successful beekeepers often check mite levels at least 4 times per year and treat 4-6 times per year

 

Once between Groundhog Day (February 2) & Spring Equinox (March 20):

  • Test mites levels once daytime temperatures are warm enough for bees to fly. If any hives yield more than 2 mites per 100 bees, treat the entire yard. Treat with Formic Pro if daytime temps are between 50 - 85°F, or else use another miticide that is safe to use during the honey flow, like HopGuard 3 or three repeated applications of vaporized oxalic acid, 5 days apart.

Mother's Day (May 14):

Performing a sugar shake to get a mite count.
  • Check mite levels. Only use products that can be safely used during the honey flow when supers are on: Formic Pro, HopGuard 3, or oxalic acid vaporization or dribble. Formic Pro kills mites under the brood caps, but oxalic acid and HopGuard 3 need repeated applications to catch mites that are protected in the brood during the first treatment.

Flag Day (June 14) through Independence Day (July 4):

  • Harvest the honey crop. Check mite levels. Install Apivar (1 strip per 5 brood frames of bees; 4 strips total for most hives). Treatment takes 6-8 weeks, plus an extra 2-week withdrawal period before any honey supers can be added again.

Labor Day (September 4):

  • Check mite levels. Use Apiguard following the instructions on the label, as long as daytime temperatures are between 60 - 105°F. You may use 50g or 25g doses depending on the ambient temperatures. Use a shim to provide space for the Apiguard, and insert the tray into the screened bottom board to hold thymol vapor in the hive. ApiLife Var is also a fine thymol-based choice, but consult the label for application instructions.
Treating with Oxalic Acid vaporization.

Columbus Day/ Indigenous Peoples' Day (Oct 9):

Between Thanksgiving & Christmas:

  • Oxalic acid vaporization or dribble, 3 times, 5 days apart.

 

Plans for Beekeepers with a Brand New Colony

Notes on your first year of beekeeping:

Feeding sugar syrup as needed.
  • You will likely be feeding sugar syrup to a new colony for a large part of their first season, especially if the bees need to build comb
  • A reputable bee supplier should provide bees with low mite levels, but you won't know for sure until you check your mite levels yourself
  • If you are new to beekeeping, ask other (successful) beekeepers in your area what they are doing to keep their bees healthy

 

New Beekeepers in Northern Climates

Mother's Day (May 14):

  • Test mite levels in all colonies by sugar roll. If any yields more than 2 mites per 100 bees, treat all colonies with a miticide. Treatment this time of year for a new colony will likely be one strip of Formic Pro for 14 days as long as temperatures are between 50 - 85°F.

Flag Day (June 14):

  • Test again, and treat if needed as in May.

Independence Day (July 4):

  • Test again. If treatment is required, be sure to find a stretch of days under 85°F to treat with Formic Pro (two strips, as long as the colony has grown well) or under 92°F for HopGuard 3 treatment (a tutorial for HopGuard 3 use can be found here). If you have not done any mite checks or treatment since getting your bees, this is a crucial chance to prevent disaster.

First Week of August:

  • Test again, treating with Formic Pro if mite levels are greater than 2 mites per 100 bees. Be mindful of the maximum daytime temperature before treating with formic acid.

Labor Day (September 4):

  • Check mite levels. Treat with ApiLife Var/Apiguard (thymol) or Apivar (amitraz) if levels are above 2 mites per 100 bees. If you can't monitor, default to treating every hive. Follow the label instructions on whichever miticide you choose.

Once, between Thanksgiving and Christmas (Suggested):

  • Treat every colony with dribbled oxalic acid (read label instructions for instructions), to clean up lingering mites and knock levels as low as possible for next spring.

 

New Beekeepers in Southern Climates

Mother's Day (May 14):

  • Check mite levels. If any hive yields more than 2 mites per 100 bees, treat all colonies. Treat with Formic Pro if daytime temps are between 50-85°F, or else use another miticide that is safe to use during the honey flow, like HopGuard 3 or three repeated applications of vaporized oxalic acid, 5 days apart.
Apivar comes in three sizes: 4-pack, 12-pack, and 60-pack.

Flag Day (June 14):

  • Check mite levels, and treat if mites are above 2 mites per 100 bees. Treat with Apivar, (1 strip per 5 frames of bees; 4 strips total for most hives) and follow instructions strictly, including removal of strips six weeks later. Note: Any honey on the colony during Apivar treatment is safe for bees, but not suitable for human consumption.

Independence Day (July 4):

  • Check mite levels again unless you began Apivar treatment in mid-June. If mites are above 2 mites per 100 bees, treat with Apivar as above, and remove strips six weeks later.

Labor Day (September 4):

  • If you are not already treating with Apivar, check mite levels and treat if more than 2 mites per 100 bees. Use Apiguard following the instructions on the label, as long as daytime temperatures are between 60 - 105°F. You may use 50g or 25g doses depending on the ambient temperatures. Use a shim to provide space for the Apiguard, and insert the tray into the screened bottom board to hold thymol vapor in the hive.

Columbus Day/Indigenous Peoples' Day (October 9):

  • Check mite levels and treat if more than 2 mites per 100 bees. Treat again with Formic Pro if temperatures are between 50 - 85°F, or else treat again with Apiguard.
A closeup of the Varroa Mite.

Thanksgiving through Christmas:

 

Final Thoughts

We hope that you have learned some valuable information from the sample plans above. The importance of a solid varroa monitoring/treatment plan cannot be understated. Should you have additional questions or concerns, please don't ever hesitate to contact us through our Help Desk, via email at support@betterbee.com, or via phone at 1-800-632-3379.