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Complete hive loss from Varroa Mites this winter


I got these girls in May 2016.
I just had the first nice day here in western Nebraska and went do so an inspections on my girls. I was worried as I didn’t see any flying around, but it was only 50F so I shined a light in to the hive and saw no movement. After pulling the lid I found them all dead. Many I saw had Vorroa Mites on them, and when I pull the bottom board out it was covered with more Vorroa mites then I could bring myself to count. Before I insulated them for Winter I had NO mites on the bottom board and I never saw any on the bee’s on my final inspection in 2017. I didn’t even see any deformed wings on any bees ether.

No signs of mold, moth, SHB, and or odor. I had to work yesterday so I wasn’t able to pull all the frames and do a full postmortem, but I will this coming weekend.

Anyways the hive is an obvious loss, but I have a couple questions:

  • Can I re-use any empty, but drawn frames for a new package to help give them a head start? I’d plan to ensure they are cleaned out and then toss them in the freezer for a few days. (luckily a nearby guy can get me a package of Carniolan​ at the end of April, just a couple hour drive)

  • Can I put any honey supers back in to give my new package access to some quick quality food or is that a risk and I should just take the honey for my own eating? I know based on a windowed body I have that there is at least 1 almost 100% full frame of honey.

Thanks in advance everyone!


Yes, if you are sure it was only Varroa (no signs of AFB or other nasties).

Yes you can, given the same proviso above. If the honey is crystallized, they may be reluctant to use it, but I would try it.

Please don’t assess Varroa this year by looking at the bees! Please? Might I persuade you to invest in a few cheap bits of equipment to do a sugar roll or alcohol wash? If you don’t intend to treat ever, then fine don’t count. That is a different philosophy, and one that @BeePeeker and @Michael_Bush are very successful with. However, it isn’t something I can live with, and if you can’t either, you need to count properly to be sure about not needing to treat.

Sorry for your loss. I am glad that you are going to try again. :blush:


If you are not interested in treating the varroa with chemicals there are ways to treat naturally. I have seen the FatBeeMan and Barnyard Bees on Youtube use mineral oil with a few drops of wintergreen oil.

I personally use oxalic acid which is found naturally in plants. I am going to try using the mineral oil and wintergreen oil this year and see what results I can get. I had a hive abscond in October of this last year. Two full deep brood boxes of pulled comb and honey. I have two queens coming in early May. So I am in the same boat as you but the nice thing is it shouldn’t take the hive long to rebound without having to use resources to build comb.

Good luck this spring!


I also use oxalic acid vaporization. Good method and well-tolerated.


I would not suggest the winter green as it’s to easy to do to much and they can’t smell the queen but the fog works great with out it. I did that with the winter green and it confused my hive. The mineral oil works fantastically.


That sounds like the direction I’d like to go first for checking.

I have heard about using powder sugar or the FGMO fogging…so I might look at FGMO fogging as/if needed. Anyone have a suggestion on what to use for a fogger?


I use oxalic acid dribble and have had good results. They have updated the sugar roll test to make it more accurate.


You can use insect foggers with the mineral oil. There are many videos of people doing it on Youtube. Fatbeeman is one that stands out in my mind. I have used the fogger before with mineral oil and it worked just fine. I have also tried using the alcohol/oxalic acid solution as well. I did the treatment over a three week period and each week the numbers of varroa significantly decreased. After the third treatment I had very few varroa on the cornflute board. As of right now all three hives that I went into the winter with are still alive.

  • something I’ve been wondering about with varroa treatments, is why not use the strips inside the hives rather than the acid vaporisation? Aren’t they safer and simpler to use?


OK, there are several points to address here. First of all, for vaporizing, you don’t need to open the hive - much nicer and faster for the keeper and the bees. With strips, you have to take the hive apart and if you have 2 brood boxes, you have to put strips in each box.

Secondly, which strips? MAQS (Formic Acid) are quite toxic. If mishandled you can kill a lot of bees. They are also pretty hard on the queen - I think there is something like a 10% loss rate, which hurts if you paid $100 for your nice hygienic queen.

Apivar strips are reportedly non-toxic and non-accumulating, but they are an insecticide. You can’t use them with harvesting supers on the hive. There will eventually be resistance to them, so you need something else to rotate into your treatment program.

Unfortunately no method is perfect, but I think vaporization is one of the best methods I have tried.


thanks Dawn, I had read the Apivar info a few weeks back when the issue came up about the use of the strips in Aus. here. So I believe you are saying that the oxalic acid vapour is not something that the mites will become resistant to. I think Dee posted a link at one time showing the vaporisation treatment being done, but the person doing it had to mask up pretty well, so I can imagine not everyone would take similar suitable precautions.


There is a technique where you can use the insect fogged using oxcilic acid and I believe alcohol. It’s clean and easy with out putting a hot iron in your hive.


Mineral oil has been a proven failure except for coating everything in the hive with oil (bees included) resulting in a mess. There have been some influential beekeepers that have been known to take someone’s idea, good or bad, tested or not, and promote it via youtube video.


I was able to take down my hive today and here are some extra photos. Thoughts?

  • I found lots of Varroa on the bees and all over the place, but nothing else. Everything smells great, no mold, etc.
  • There was a lot of honey, pollen, etc. left in the frames while at the same time having a lot of free space to lay brood when the season was right.
  • Very little capped brood (24 cells between 2 frames; 2 clusters of them). I cut this out before freezing.
  • I found a lot (maybe 100) of bees face first in empty cells and had to pull them out before I froze the frames. A couple were 2 deep on frames they build a little bit too wide.
  • I never located my Queen, but searching the SBB was hard and I gave up after a while.

I have taken all the frames (honey/pollen in almost all 16 of them), bagged then, and tossed them in a deep freezer. I am working the rest of the wood used (tops, bottoms, etc.) into another deep freezer to be 100% safe.
I would like to leave these honey/pollen frames in the deep freezer until my new package arrives and then rotate them in as food for my new girls. I plan to put them above the hive with a queen excluder separating this food from the new frames (NF32), so the queen doesn’t try to use this wax. After seeing the following photos and reading above is there any concern about doing this?
Is there much risk they would try to build out the couple frames that weren’t 100% drawn? I’d had to have them waste energy doing that vs. building on their new foundationless frames.

Some of the capped brood, plus bees with mites on them:

Here are 2 deformed (maybe just pulled from cells for being dead?) bees I found in the bottom:

Lots of honey (LOTS AND LOTS), pollen, etc. from the looks of it left:

The SBB and a close-up of an area of it after moving the bees around look a bit:

Thanks in advance to everyone responding!


Doesn’t sound like a waste to me if they are only putting finishing touches on vs having to build an entire frame.

Thanks for posting your pics - although very sad :sweat: It was easy to see the varroa urine crystals in one pollen frame shot. Better luck this year!


I fell for that and it didn’t work out to well. But with the bug fogger there is an alternative method of using oxcilic acid to treat vaporize the bees. I have that flat iron sort of doohinky purchased from Brushy Mountain Bee Farm and it concerns me because I keep thinking its going to set my hive on fire. It’s like a wood burner too. Unless I find a method of inserting it in my hive without burning the wax or wood I’m going to be nervous and seek another delivery method. However, I’m treating as recommended and the bees are fine so far.


I have the same way so I use the JB 700. No heating element in the hive.


If you use it on a Flow hive, there is a way you can make that very unlikely. I made a metal slider to replace the core flute, using a double sheet of thick roofing flashing. I slide that into the lower slot of the bottom board, and position the iron on top of that, sealing up the gap at the back (and the entrance) with a cloth. Flashing won’t burn at OA sublimation temperatures. You can even swing the iron from side to side every 10 seconds or so to avoid melting/burning any low-hanging wax.


Hi Dawn, interesting… did you use an adhesive silicone to join the sheets together? Does it get condensation forming on it on cool evenings or do you only use it during treatments? Is it galvanised or zincalume or something else?


No, I just folded it. I only use during treatments, the rest of the time the core flute is in the upper slot, because my mesh floor leaks bees and lets ants into the hive otherwise.

This the stuff I bought: