Today beekeepers Fred and Jon conducted mites counts on four (4) of Fred's hives. It was the first time for both of us. We had both watched two Randy Oliver demos on You Tube the night before; both sugar roll and alcohol wash methods. With two people the mite counting process took only about 5 minutes per hive. We used the alcohol wash method to check for mites. This method sacrifices ~300 bees per hive. I didn't want to kill the 300 bees, but felt that I needed to better understand the mite levels in my hives. The sugar roll method keeps the bees alive, but is not as accurate. Interestingly 3 of the 4 hives still had capped brood. None had eggs or uncapped brood. So the queen have transitioned to their period of not laying.
To run the mite check first you must pull a brood frame and bees. Very carefully check for the queen. If she gets in your 300 bee sample you just killed your hive. We did encounter a queen in one of the four frames we pulled and gently set her aside. Then you shake the bees from the frame into a plastic pan. Next you quickly scoop up a half cup of bees and pour them into the mite washing gadget.
The mite washer is two plastic cups that nestle together. The bottom of the inner cup is cut off. A piece of cheesecloth is wrapped around the bottom. A cup of alcohol is placed in bottom cup. The inner cup and cheesecloth are inserted into the outer cup. Pour in the bees. Put on the cap and begin shaking for a minimum of 30 seconds. The mites and bees are killed. The mites drop through the cheesecloth and collect in the bottom of the outer cup. See pictures. We poured the alcohol and mites into a tea strainer to make counting easier.
As previously stated we checked 4 hives; 2 with Russian queens and 2 with Ankle Biter queens. The two Russian hives had 5 and 1 mites from the 300 bees samples or a 1.6% and 0.3% infestation rate. The Ankle Biter hives had 3 and 1 mites or 1% and 0.3% infestation rate.
I had treated all four hives twice. First time in mid-August with MAQS and later in mid-September with oxalic vapor. I plan to treat them once more in mid-October when all the brood will have emerged and the mites can no longer hide in capped cells.
I'm not sure if my infestation rates are good or bad. Over the past 10 years the recommended maximum infestation has been lowered. In the 1990's it started out at 20 per sample. but is now down to 1 to 3 per sample.