infested ! … with Varroa !!

New Drone with 4 Varroa

Infestation Alert – real and present Danger

Hi Everyone,

Well the title of this says it all. Part of our Summer program in the Apiary at kiwimana HQ is our continued efforts to ‘grow Bees’ we can’t grow Bees or have honey or enjoy our girls if our colonies die.

So with each season comes monitoring, inspections, record-keeping, apiary maintenance, gear checks, and so on….

Recent inspections have shown mixed results.

A: Our Apiary up at the organic farm has seen mite infestations – Gary has been treating these with the Kiwi Oxalic Acid Vaporizer.

B: Our Quarantine Apiary has seen thriving hives but varroa are starting to appear.

C: kiwimana HQ, as I progressed through the hive inspections 4 of the hives looking good but number 5 – not good~!

This hive is called, Swanson 10.


Swanson 10 is our main genetics from which we have ‘grown’ our apiary. The girls in these colonies are lovely to work, calm and productive Italians. Not huge honey production this year but we’ll talk about that shortly.

The queen of this hive is a new, 2013 season, queen. Which was ‘grown’ from a split we did earlier on in October (2013) and to help the split, we gave them a couple of 3/4 frames with Honey.

She is a great layer and the population is excellent for this time of year and they are working hard.

However the 3/4 frames were not upgraded to full-depth so what this has led to is, comb being drawn-out on the bottom of the frame – so note – any space, the girls will fill it and fill-it they did, with Drone Comb.

Outside the hive were some tell-tale signs of ‘issues’. There were dead brood lying in the grass, on some frames I saw some Bees with ‘Deformed Wing Virus’ – indicative of PMS (Parasitic Mite Syndrome) or Varroa mite infestation.


What this has done is caused us to create an opportunity for ‘varroa destructor’ to have a yummy and big drone store – easy access as it was in the lower level of the hive, also another pest has ‘wormed’ its way in to the hive, ‘wax moth’.


This has resulted in an infestation, when I opened one cell – 4 varroa mites crawled out!

Look at this newly emerged Drone, initially you could see one mite on him but then, others emerged.

Varroa in Cells

Emerging Drone Varroa sitting on capping

New Drone with 4 Varroa

The wax moth has multiplied and started eating the wax-comb and creating a suffocating web.

WaxMoth Adult
Baby Wax Moth
wax moth and varroa party


So what I did was, cut-off the extended comb which was full of drone-comb – and not looking too healthy.
It looks like the girls had been checking cells and opening those with mites but there were too many for them to manage.

Damaged Cappings
Worker wVarroa


Immediately went to the workshop and got some Api Life Var and took one wafer and cut it in 4, cleaned the top of the frames and placed the pieces in the center close to brood area. The treatment will stay in there for 7 days, then I will add another wafer. I’ll repeat this until the treatment has been present for 28 days.

The cut-off comb was placed in the freezer to kill off the pests, yes sadly we lost a few Bees as they were too infested to save.

The comb was then placed in our wax-melter. We’ll filter this and clean it for creating wax blocks.

What follow-up is required?

I will go back in and check mite levels using the sugar shake method, a bit more invasive than an inspection-board or ‘sticky-board’ check but I am going in to add the next wafer anyway and have to open the hive. Gary has made these handy ‘sugar shake jars’ which make it very easy.

I will re-check the frame, I aim to replace it with a full-depth if possible.

Could this have been Prevented?



By inspecting and knowing your hive and what they are up to.

There are always discussions about “how many times do you need to inspect your hive?” – ask one question and you’ll get lots of differing views.

A commercial beekeeper says hobbyists go in to the hive too much, “…just leave them to it…”

A hobbyist may not even know that inspections are important.

Some new Beeginners do go into their hives too much and have lost their girls because the colony has not felt safe.

Our View?

kiwimana’s view is that inspections are extremely important and must be conducted regularly, especially over the periods of increased or high population. You must know what state your hive is in. You must know if they have enough space, enough stores, are there drones? is you queen laying properly?

Our recommendation is that inspections should be carried-out at least once a month or maximum two-weekly over the high population periods. Population starts to increase in Spring and continues right through to Summer.

These are the times when Bees are out regularly and can pick-up mites, AFB, etc.

Note of Caution: Colonies are used to a dark, warm and dry hive – this means they feel safe. If you constantly open your hive, the colony feels threatened therefore, ‘unsafe’ – they may abscond to find a new location if you ‘over-work’ your hive. Not every inspection needs to be a ‘full’ inspection.

I have always recommended two-weekly inspections to our new Beekeepers – the aim is that they can learn about what is normal and get to know what is happening in their new hive. As they become more familiar they will learn what is normal and inspection schedules can be modified.

WARNING: to leave a hive unattended for long periods can mean DEATH.

Interesting….a new beginner called us in to look at their hive, they said “…there are lots of Bees coming and going…” so we started our inspection – turns-out the hive was being robbed-out, and inside AFB ~!

Don’t be that beginner~!

Will this hive survive?

Due to this ‘infestation’ issue, it is very possible the hive may fail. I hope I have caught this in-time.

  • Have you checked your hives?
  • Do you have records of your mite-level trends?
  • Have you conducted a mite check?
  • Have you done a sugar-shake test?
  • When did you last treat?
  • What do your Bees look like?
  • What’s happening out front of your hive?
  • Do you have drone comb in your hive at the moment?

Call us if you want to chat about your hive (09) 810 9965 – or if you want a second opinion, we have ‘Beekeeper Services’ available (check-out our on-line shop) and we can come to your site and look with you.

Thanks for reading and supporting kiwimana.


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5 thoughts on “infested ! … with Varroa !!

  1. Avatar photo
    Jeanette says:

    I really appreciate you sharing your disasters in the apiary as well as your triumphs. I hope that your hive (with all its valuable genetics) survives.

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    Debi says:

    I so detest those wax moths. When was the last time you treated this hive and what did you use. I am still pretty naive in thinking you treat, they will be fine. Sometimes it is just hard to work out what to treat with, Hard to alternate with a swarm as dont know what they were treated with last time.I do hope this hive makes it. It certainly highlights the need to be on constant alert and learn to read some of the signs. I now know what wax moth poo looks like on the sticky board, so I can start looking for them straight away.Thanks for an honest post. and great photos.

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    John Smith says:

    I disagree with opening up the hive that often. What happens when you open the hive? You loose its core tempreture of 35C. The bees are constantly having to bring the tempreture back up, which is stressful on the bees. The act of opening the hive is stressful enough.
    Why do you think that AFB is rare in wild hives? It’s because the bees aren’t subjected to constant interference by humans.
    Instead of applying chemicals and interfering with hives we should be letting the bees fight and adapt to these problems so in the long run they’ll be better equipped to deal with these pests and diseases.

    • Avatar photo
      Margaret Groot says:

      Hi John, Thanks for your comments. I agree that AFB can bee spread by bad Beekeeper Hygiene its one of the first things taught to our students, its also important to note its also transferred by spores which any honey Bee can pick-up when foraging….wild hives are just as vulnerable, but may not bee detected due to unawareness of their existence. In NZed, the North Island appears to have lost its wild bee populations – indications through our research has named varroa as the principle cause because even with AFB wild bees have been around. Recently we have seen a huge colony set-up on a farm, we can’t confirm its a “wild Bee colony” (mainly because we know there are lots of Beekeepers in the area) but they seem to have created a fortress type foundation hanging quite solidly from a huge willow tree branch – our personal view is to leave it there and if they survive winter, it will bee so exciting ! … the land-owner is also keen to leave it, so we’ll have to bee patient and see how they go. We treat organically and yes we open our hives to do that. We at kiwimana have created tools which means we can ‘monitor’ mite levels with natural mite fall (NMF) counts which is non-invasive. You mention ‘interference’, mmm….there are merits to your comment, I know of Beginner Beekeepers who have gone in to their hives so much that the colony absconded! We encourage monitoring firstly and foremost, if trends show increase in mite-levels then we will treat. Inspections are, in my opinion necessary, reasoning? … is that if the Beehive becomes over-run which can happen within a very quick 21 day cycle in the height of Summer – yes you could lose your colony and treatments help to keep levels down so as to enable the Bees to learn how to manage. In reality John, it’s not the Bees fault there is varroa here, its us human’s fault, so the Bees genetics are not at fault so why let them suffer because of our human-failure? …at least we can help minimise the risks while they ‘adapt and modify’ their Bee behaviours which we have seen in our colonies over our time in Beekeeping…at most the Bees will get through this threat and bee stronger going forward. The other side is to teach and educate and share information to help people understand the risks that Beekeeper behaviour can cause the Bees. Beeing sensible about inspections, not in the rain, not in the wind, less in Winter more in Summer, as in NZed we generally have Brood all year round so monitoring is key – non-invasive methods such as using our awesome kiwimana meshboard with removeable and re-usable inspection board. Its hard to adapt bee behaviour if they are all dead. Thanks so much for your comments John. Regards, Margaret

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