Deformed Wings


I’ve found 3 young bees and 2 drones with deformed wings in the past week. One of the drones was so badly affected his body was misshapen as well. Varroa mites go for the drones first because they are bigger and easier to live on their bodies and in drone brood, but the fact that I’m seeing young bees getting kicked out of the hive with shriveled wings (pictured above) suggests I have a large Varroa mite problem at this point.

Varroa mites are a very common problem for beekeepers. Many treat with Miteaway strips (formic acid) and/or some use other methods such as a powdered sugar treatment or interrupting the brood cycle with some hive management. This is my first experience with these mites and I do have some miteaway strips which came recommended by my bee class instructors as being highly effective; however, there is evidence that Varroa mites can become resistant after a couple of years of using this treatment. The strips must also be used in 50 to 80 degree temperatures, and we’ve had a couple 79 degree days already. I need to decide quickly what my course of action is going to be, if I intend to split this hive, and before the temperatures are consistently above 80 degrees.

Which leads me back to my goal and the whole reason I got into beekeeping to begin with. Honey bees are in trouble in so many ways and I really want to try and have a positive impact on them. To me, it is important for my bees to be treated as naturally as possible and to be as genetically strong as possible to fight through all the ailments that are out to get them. So now, my question.

Do I treat them this first time with Miteaway strips since I know I have a big problem right now, nip it in the butt for this year, and then learn and perform the other more natural treatments for next year? Or do I dive into these more natural treatments now with the chance that they aren’t successful on my large mite problem and risk losing these bees that worked so hard to live and survived the harshest winter we have seen in a long while? I don’t know…but I’ll let you all know what I end up doing.

Aside from the mite problem, on this beautiful Mother’s Day, I’m about to become the proud new owner of another hive! My package of bees is arriving today some time between 3pm and 10pm. If it arrives so late, I will probably install them tomorrow after I get off of work.

More photos of my new hives coming soon!!



7 thoughts on “Deformed Wings

  1. You may as well try the natural alternatives from the start. If your bees were strong enough to survive the winter then they should be alright with the less effective natural treatments. And instead of splitting them this year like you had intended you could do a “shook swarm” and just shake the bees into a new box. It will knock a few mites off of the bees and delay the reproductive cycle of the mites by a few weeks.

      • haha, yeah, no thank you. Try the natural alternatives first. It’s supposed to work best if you use various different treatments through out the year so that the mites don’t build resistance to any one chemical, and it keeps numbers low. Plus then you still have edible honey. It’s so bizarre to me that you would feed your bees poison so toxic that the honey is no longer even edible. I understand the reasoning behind wanting to keep your bees alive, but I feel like there has to be a better alternative.

  2. Sorry to hear this. Which “more natural” treatments do you have in mind? If you are determined not to use commercial treatments, repeated icing sugar shaking each time you inspect) over each side of the bees on all the frames, not just over the tops) and drone brood uncapping are options, although they will only affect a relatively small percentage of the mites. I usually treat with Apiguard (thymol based) in autumn and oxalic acid in winter, combined with techniques like shook-swarming and artificial swarming in spring/summer. Although thymol and oxalic acid are natural compounds I know some beekeepers are against using them.

    • Thanks for this comment, I’ll take a look at Apiguard.
      As for “more natural” treatments, I think I was mainly referring to breaking the brood cycle and also the powdered sugar treatment. We ended up interrupting the brood cycle because, well, I ‘ll be writing a pretty lengthy post about that next but in short it turned out that my survivor hive was absolutely exploding with bees – they had 12-15 swarm cells! so we did a little bit of rearranging those frames into new hives to raise queens with my crazy survivor’s genetics. I’m hoping that nips the mites in the butt…I guess I’ll find out for sure in about 6 more weeks.

    • Thanks for letting me know about the HopGaurd. I’ll have to read up on that one!
      Yes, actually Megan came over to help me with my hives this past weekend. We ended up just breaking the brood cycle on all of them, so I’ll just see how it goes with that, but she does recommend the formic acid. It’s completely all-natural and doesn’t build up in the wax. If I continue to have mites after this interruption in the brood, then I will probably end up using the Mite Away strips; but at this point we’re heading into 80 and above degree weather which the strips are not intended for, so I will likely treat next year in the spring.

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