Bees preparing for winter, students check-in on the colony’s health

On Wednesday the AP met with their bee mentor, Walt, to perform a mite check. In lessons and seminars, students have been learning about the challenges that colonies are facing around the world. What better place than our very own hive to further investigate some of these issues. In a sample of 323 bees, the students encountered 8 aptly-named Varroa destructor mites. Eight mites do not sound like an excessive amount, but our hive is occupied by at least 40,000 bees! When we apply our measured mite density to the entire hive, we end up with nearly 1,000 mites present in the population. Luckily, the mite load in the hive is below the threshold considered to be alarming, but treating for mites before winter not only helps our bees but ALL bees in the area by reducing the spread of the pest. The mites are about the size of a sesame seed and they are a vector for several infectious diseases that can wipe out an entire colony. For a bee, it would be like having a dinner plate-sized parasite attached to your back or stomach while you also have the flu.