During my hive inspection yesterday, I pulled out the plywood beneath the screened bottom board on Hive A and saw ... a whole bunch of varrao mites! Some alive, most dead. How could this be? I hived the package only three weeks ago. Prior to that, the hive only had one season on it. Last year, the hive perished unexpectedly (there may be a clue here), and I packed the fully drawn frames and hive away for winter. They were double-wrapped in plastic trash bags and then sealed in a box. How can I have varroa mites so early in the season? Can they over-winter on wrapped, empty frames?
I ran to Stedman Bees in Silverdale, Washington, and got a package of Mite-Away Quick Strips (MAQS), but waited until today to install them as the hive had been significantly disrupted yesterday with an inspection.
I'm still wondering: How the heck can I have a varroa mite problem? There is a healthy, robust hive only three feet away. Stedman's told me that the mites could have survived in the wrapped-and-boxed hive over the winter, but I am suspect as there were no hosts on the empty frames. So how do I have a mite problem?
I'm seriously asking the question. I'm a second-year beekeeper. I don't pretend to know all the answers. I just journal what I do, and hope that others can learn from my successes and mistakes. I'm looking for an answer to this question, if anyone has any idea.
I thought that since I'm using drawn foundation from last year (and assuming that my colony collapse was due to mites), the workers just might be cleaning cells and dead mites are falling to the bottom. But there were live ones, too. And yes, I know they are mites and not bee louse.
I am mystified. At any rate, today I applied the MAQS, according to package directions. I will let everything sit for a while and report back later.
Comments? Thoughts? Expertise?
I would have to guess that the overwintering hypothesis is likely correct. Mites are tough creatures and can survive in a stasis-like state for extended periods of time. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if the ones you're seeing now were in there since the last hive lived in those boxes.
Between the MAQS and a little powdered sugar to induce social grooming, I'm sure they'll be fine.