Somehow we have not yet published a single post from this year’s Michigan Beekeepers Association Spring Conference back in March. And there are only eight months left until the next one, which our past reporting performance indicates is not much time at all. Let us then hastily commence.


Dr. Milbrath of the Sandhill reprised her Plan for Varroa talk from last year to a large and interested audience. Having already written about last year’s version of this talk we need not repeat ourselves but we shall post a few useful links.

We have dawdled enough that a revised version of the talk is available for viewing along with other recordings of webinars from Michigan State University’s Pollinator Initiative.

And there is an education section on her apiary website with links to articles on many aspects of beekeeping. The most relevant to varroa are:

We hardly need write anything further but we shall anyway.

Having heard the talk before we were better able to note smaller points that were overshadowed by the main message in the first hearing.

Some of the beekeepers who avoid treating their bees do so out of an attempt to stay “organic” and avoid “chemicals”. However organic farming standards do not allow the farmer to withhold treatment from a sick animal even if that treatment is not organic. Do honey bees under our care deserve less than cows or sheep?

Suddenly high mite levels can occur to anyone at any time. If you have been monitoring and treating responsibly then it is not your fault. You can not control hitch-hiking varroa from other colonies.

Although unnecessary treatments are to be avoided, allowances can be made for overwhelmed first-year beekeepers, who have so much to learn. Such a beek may simply treat by the calendar to keep varroa levels low while acquiring the skills to monitor in the next year.

Mite levels do tend to spike in the fall. Bees are reducing their population while the mites continue to increase theirs so the measure of mites per bee rises quickly. If you have observed this in previous seasons then using your local knowledge to treat in anticipation is permissible.

In a similar vein if you have lost colonies to varroa in previous years then treating by calendar to keep levels down is not “treatment”. It is “control”.

Let us end with a few words about our own monitoring. Wee Angharad has not yet suffered the indignity of a sugar roll. Dorcas a month ago scored zero mites in the sample. We shall be retesting her soon. Beatrix and Clarissa were tested just last week and also scored zero mites. We can hardly believe the low scores but it is yet early and they have each had a brood break for one reason or another. We shall remain vigilant.