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Winter prep - Treated with mite strips, now not many bees. Do i have a serious problem? Pennsylvania, USA


Ok folks back again to get some help.

5 weeks ago I put some mite strips in my hive to get rid of any of those pests. the hive was HEAVY with honey and there was a ton of bees. I took off my flow hive and put on a honey box.

Today we have a warmer day, 50F. So i go to the give to take out the strips and check on them before it gets cold. The hive is still heavy but there are only a couple thousand bees if that. I saw no eggs or larvae… the honey box i put on is not even touched. There was a few yellow jackets inside that i had to kill…

I am distraught - they where amazing this year. Anything I can do? is my hive doomed?


When to remove super (east coast)

A couple of thousand bees doesn’t sound like enough bees to carry a hive through winter, if that’s all there is. They say that a bee population can reduce from 80,000 during the summer to 15,000 during the winter.


What kind of strips? MAQs or Apivar? Or did you make your own? What was the mite count? Did you do a count in late summer (July/August)?

The way I see it, there are a couple of possibilities:

  1. Treatment started too late and now the colony is collapsing. I do counts in late July to early August. If the counts are high, I take the supers off and treat, or use a treatment which is allowed with supers in place. For counts, I always use sugar roll, although alcohol wash is more accurate. Sticky board counts are totally unreliable in most circumstances.
  2. If you used MAQs and took off the paper, or the weather was hot, the strips can be VERY hard on the bees, and especially on the queen.

If you only have one hive, there is probably not much you can do. If you can answer the above questions, we can try to help you to work out what happened, and how to prevent it if you try again next year. We can also advise about how to store the frames you have for use with a new colony, if this one doesn’t survive.

In the meantime, I would suggest that you reduce the hive entrance to just a couple of inches wide, to help the remaining bees defend the stores. Sorry it has been so upsetting for you. :cry:


I might add that they would be better in a nuc box. Do you have a polystyrene one. They are best for situations like this.


Hey there @Dawn_SD

Apivar strips.
I am sorry to say i do not know the mite count and no i did not do one late summer.

I used these strips: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01M0H2R13/

At the same time i put on my reducer which is this one:

I also removed my Flow Hive and left the two large supers and a honey super.

Did I kill my hive?


You did not kill your hive with Apivar. It may not be dead yet, but things are not looking good from what you describe. I want to be as gentle as possible here, but what probably resulted in such destruction was Varroa being treated too late. New beekeepers are not taught about this pest properly, so I don’t blame you, but you can learn from it, if you would like to.

The most important thing is to do reliable mite counts about once per month. If you find more than 5 mites per hundred bees at any time of year (sugar roll or alcohol wash), I would treat. At some times of year, counts as low as 3 per 100 bees is worrying. The most important time of year to treat is late July to mid August in the Northern hemisphere. You may have to take your honey supers off, or use a super-compatible method, but it is important to act unless you can afford to lose the colony.

The reason for treating in late summer is that mite numbers are high, and bee numbers are beginning to drop as the colony reduces its numbers and makes “winter bees”. If these winter bees get infested and damaged, the colony has nothing left to build up again the following year, even if they make it through the winter. Varroa is the commonest cause of colony loss in Fall in the US. October and November are the months where these losses are usually seen.

The strips and reducer that you chose are just fine. I think the problem is just the timing. Sorry that you have this worry. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that there are enough bees to make it through.


Thank you @Dawn_SD

A few questions if i may burden you?

How do you suggest is the best way to do a mite inspection?
Is there anything i can do now to help strengthen the hive for winter?

If i was dumb and treated and there was no mites, could that have damaged them even more?
You said you remove the flow hive then treat, is that just for the 5 weeks of treatment then you put the flow hive back?

And the last, do you know of any online bee keeper courses i can take?

Thank you so much


Hello Logan,
Sorry to hear about you bee troubles.

Check out these online courses from Hillary Kearney

And good luck


This forum rocks!
Such quick and friendly answers!

Thank you @BeePeeker
This course has been bought!


No burden at all, thank you for asking the questions. :blush:

I don’t like killing bees, so I use the University of Minnesota sugar roll test. I actually bought their gizmo device from a bee supplies store, but you don’t need to do that. Details of how to do the counts are here:

As @Dee said above, if you have a nucleus box, you might make life easier for the remaining bees to transfer them and the best frames of food into a 5 frame box for winter. If you don’t have one, I would reduce the hive down to one box with the best frames in it. The extra frames can be frozen for 48 hours (to kill off wax moth and SHB larvae and eggs), and then stored in hive boxes tightly wrapped top and bottom with burlap for winter, to avoid rodents and insects from getting to them.

Highly unlikely, unless you used MAQs (formic acid) on a hot day. That can really do a number on your bees.

I didn’t quite say that. I said remove the honey super. Especially if you are using Apivar. I think Apivar is actually 6 weeks, but it is some time since I used it and I don’t have a package here to check. I seem to remember that the maximum is 8 weeks for it.

However, it is much more convenient for me to treat with Oxalic Acid (OA) vapor, plus it is organic and a natural product (present in rhubarb, for example). If you need to treat with a super on, @Dee has described a method for removing the super for about 15 minutes, vaporizing OA, then putting the super back on. Strictly speaking, this is not approved by the EPA, and I haven’t tried it, but lots of people have.

The advantage of OA is low toxicity, it is present in plants and honey already and it works really well and very fast (much faster than Apivar). Even if you treat with brood present, you can get a full course done in 3 to 5 treatments over about 2-3 weeks. The disadvantage is that you have to buy about $150 of equipment to do it right, and you must avoid the vapor as it is highly irritant to eyes and lungs.

I do know of one, but it is entirely focussed on Natural Beekeeping, and all of this stuff I just told you about Varroa would be considered heresy… :wink: Nevertheless, you could still learn quite a bit about other things. It is run by Hilary Kearney (hi Hilary! :smile: ) of www.girlnextdoorhoney.com - she advertises it on her web site. :blush:

Please keep in touch, and let us know what you decide to do and how it works. I am rooting for you, hoping that all goes well and the bees pull through.


I should type shorter messages… Looks like we both suggested this at more or less the same time. I wonder if Hilary would give us a referral fee??? :smile:


Thank you so much!

Your posts are NOT too long. This is great

I already ordered the course, the mite tool and reading the docs you sent.

Tomorrow I will reduce the hive down to one box, both are SUPER heavy with honey, so I am sure i can find some good frames for them.

Do you think I should feed them too? I have some bee food I bought for the winter.



Ha Ha :star_struck:
She really should :purple_heart: :honeybee:


With so few bees, and the queen not laying (assuming she is alive), I would not feed them those patties. They are good, but only needed when baby bees are expected, and they are not as good as the naturally collected foods. If you can pick and choose, I would select 6.5 to 7 frames of honey and one to 1.5 of pollen. I know that is impossible, but it gives you an idea of the ratio. If you are going to store frames with a lot of pollen outside the hive, keep it frozen, or the pollen mites will get it before the bees do. But then you can use your feed patties in the spring instead (about February would be good).


With so few bees left in your hive, you may not be able to do a count. However, the equipment will be good for next year - it seems like you have the bug and the will to learn. :wink:

One great idea I got from UMN to help with mite counts - get a piece of roofing flashing (from Ace or Home Depot etc), about 20" x 16" and fold it in the middle to make a shallow V-shaped sheet. When you shake nurse bees off a frame onto the flashing, they can’t get a grip and they are really easy to tip into the Gizmo. Turns a sweaty difficult job into a 30 second exercise. Great concept. :blush:


Hi Chris,
To expand on what Dawn meant about Hillary thinking her advice would be heresy: Hillary is a follower of the Beekeeping Naturally methods (which we follow too) promoted by master beekeeper Michael Bush.

You can read more on how this might change your approach to varroa control here:

It is always good to know all the options, whichever methods you employ.


Thank you so much @BeePeeker I will take a look over this site.

Thank you so much.


With only a few thousand bees it should have been easy to spot the queen. Do you still have a queen? If not, your next course of action is defending the wax combs and honey from pests and robbing.


I might have missed her - sorry.

How do you suggest I defend the wax combs and honey @Red_Hot_Chilipepper?


If I didn’t treat I would have no bees.
As it is I have quite a few leave alone beekeepers near me. They lose their bees every year and buy new ones. Meanwhile my bees rob them out and I have to kill not only my bees’ varroa but their too.
Don’t get me going on small cell!