Full Sized Mite Board

I built a small mite board using sticky pest strips a while back.  It worked, but you had to keep buying the strips, and the sample area was small.  The new mite board is bigger and instead of sticky strips uses white coated masonite board and spray oil.


The bottom board (right) is the white coated masonite with a 1×2 cleat attached to the bottom.  Its purpose will be more obvious later.  The top that holds the screening is a 1×2 ripped in half and held together with small angle brackets.  Everything got a coating of bright yellow spray paint as much for ascetics as for environmental reasons.


Once the paint had cured I put down more of my aluminum 1/8″ screening.  Looks good, but I am starting to wonder if my use of yellow for every bee related article is over doing it…  NAHHHHH!


Now to put it under the hive.  Before I do, I gave the mite board a heavy spray of cooking oil.  The coated masonite shouldn’t soak anything up, so when I am done I can clean it and use again as many times as I want.


It looks good under the hive, and the cleat is more obvious now.  Just sit the top on there, and slide it back until you hit the cleat.  It also gives you something substantial to quickly grab and get away.  Trust me, you don’t want to spend a lot of time messing around under there.

The board works perfectly, I am really happy with this design.  It installed quickly, caught the mites, didn’t cost much, is super reusable, doesn’t trap bees, looks great, and makes it very easy to see mites.  The only problem is that I have a lot of mites.


It is hard to distinguish in the above picture, but there are dozens from a single day of monitoring.  We are going to have to start doing something immediately.  I have read good things about the powdered sugar treatment.  I still have honey supers on, so I can’t use some of the really aggressive stuff.  A single powdered sugar treatment isn’t highly effective, but done consistently week after week, it can supposedly knock down the population.  Our starting numbers are really high, so hopefully it can only go down from here.  Look at those horrible buggers!


Hive Update

Lots of new things are happening with the hive, and they aren’t all good.  I will start with the great news.  The girls have been packing away around 10 pounds a week lately.  WOW!

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Look at that honey super pack on the pounds.  It has been going so quickly in fact that I didn’t have any supers ready to go.  Luckily I had some time to build them up properly and even do a little extra decorating.

I broke out the mill and carved up a little cartoon bee spray paint stencil.  I kind of want to try something different with the head next time, but for now it looks really good.


A full honey super weighs about 50 pounds.  I subtract the weight of the box and empty frames, which is why mine appear to top out at 40 pounds in the above graph.  The height of my hive was causing problems, so I ended up chopping down the legs a bit.  It puts the heavy supers at a more comfortable lifting height.  Before and after shots show what I mean.

With the new lowrider setup, the 3rd super is now lower than the 2nd was previously.  It was tons of fun out there sawing away with power tools while a bazillion bees flew around angry that their home was being disturbed.  No stings while doing it, so booya!

Varroa Mites

The bad news is I put another sticky trap under the hive and came back with a pile of varroa mites.  I estimated 12 per day, but it is hard when there are that many.  Previously I had about 1 mite per day.  One big difference was that I had the mite trap in place while we did our inspection.  Between smoking, moving boxes and frames around, and taking everything off to chop down the legs, I probably knocked a lot of mites off.  That is my hope at least.  I will wait a day or two, then reset the trap and try again for only 24 hours.  Doing it for 4-5 days at a time produces way too much debris on the trap.  If the next test again shows a lot of mites, then we will probably institute powdered sugar treatments.  Poor girls.


Improved Mite Measures

After my disastrous attempt at trying to track the mite population in my hive I took a closer look at what I was trying to do.  The bottom board is slotted, but does not have any method of sliding in a sheet or board that will keep the bees out.  I have to build some kind of lid on the trap so that the bees can’t get in.

Online I see a reference to number 8 hardware cloth pretty regularly.  It is a wire mesh that has 8 wires per inch, or ~1/8″ gaps.  The bees can get through 1/4″ mesh.  My hardware stores only sold the 1/4″ in hardware cloth, so I had to fall back to aluminum screening.  It feels sturdy and will not get chewed up by insects.

I went with a similar cheap bottom board as before with a single sticky paper sheet tacked down.  The lid is a simple 1×2 perimeter with the aluminum screening stapled on top.  Nothing pretty, but it fits under the hive and keeps the bees out and the mites in.

I tested it out for a 5 day period under the hive, checking occasionally to make sure no bees were being harmed.  It worked well.  In 5 days of usage I counted 5 mites on the sheet.  My current rate of 1 mite per day will help me keep tabs on what the mite population is doing.  Up down or steady, I should have a decent finger in the wind.

wpid-20150531_100035.jpgI wouldn’t suggest placing this trap out much longer than a week.  A lot of little bugs got in there, and the hive is always dropping debris.  As it was, it took a magnifying glass with light to really make sure I could tell the difference between a dark spec of debris and a mite.

Lastly as a bonus of sorts, when I pulled the thing out it was covered in about a dozen small hive beetles.  Horrible as it is to see them, I was able to carry them away from the hive and smash every one.  I wonder if they are attracted to the pollen and other junk left behind by the bees.  Could this make a good out-of-hive trap for SHB?  Who knows, but I will be sure to observe the hive beetles every time I use this trap.

Sticky Paper Mite Control

I have read that sticky paper is a good method of tracking the mite population in your bee hive.  I bought a vented bottom board for partially this reason.  Great, lets go buy some cheap insect paper, tack it down to a board and leave it under the hive for a few days.


Well crap.  Bees are either attracted to this stuff, or just very exploratory.  It might have a sweet smell to attract things like fruit flies.  I got a lizard too, which is kind of impressive.  Poor girls, I feel horrible.  I need to either build a cage over it that they can’t get to or figure out how to get it under the hive in such a way that they can’t get in.  I will have to inspect my bottom board closely next time I am out.

Might as well look over it carefully for mites.  Do I have any amongst all these poor bees?  Yep.  Taking a picture through a magnifying glass is darn near impossible, but those two ovaly things are mites.  The good news is that in 2 days I only count a hand full of mites on the sticky paper.  So much for the sign keeping them out.


“No Mites” Stencil

I have been trying to make spray paint stencils with my swivel cutter for a while.  It isn’t going well.  Not sure if there are tricks to clean cutting, or if my setup needs improvement.  Probably both.  Instead I decided to go a different direction and use hardboard (sometimes called masonite) to mill spray stencils instead.  It is cheap, mills well, except for a bit of fuzz at the edges, and holds flat against the spray surface.

Our bees are doing well and they look really healthy.  They are kicking so much butt, in fact, that the hive deserves some decorations.  How about a nice “NO MITES!” sign.  For anyone not familiar with mites and bees, look up varroa mites if you dare.  They are horrible creatures that parasite honey bees.

DSC_0069I ran into a few small stencil problems.  To do the NO cross out, I had to break up the spray job.  You mill out the areas for the paint to go through, and there would be two floating half circles if I did that.  Instead I milled most of the shape, but left some edging to hold it all together.

DSC_0067I thought this was a great solution!  Spray the mite down, spray part of the circle, then just rotate, line everything up, and spray again.  Apparently the cross portion isn’t symmetric.  I must have eye balled it in the software.  When you rotate, not everything lined up perfectly, sooooo I kind of fudged it.


When you stand back a bit, everything looks pretty good, but I need to work more on my spray technique.  Lets just say I didn’t exactly do a lot of vandalism in my youth.  Does that banksy guy offer classes?  At least the mite turned out reasonably well.