Sadly mites tend to be one of the more common issues affecting honey bees. Be it varroa or tracheal mites, both little bothers can cause seriously issues for your honey bee hives.
So what are tracheal mites, how can you tell if you have them and what do you do about them?
Tracheal mites and tiny mites that live in the trachea of bees. They kill the honey bees by reproducing and growing, eventually blocking off the airway of the bee, suffocating it. This pest lives in adult bees.
Signs of Tracheal Mites
Because tracheal mites live inside of your bees you can’t actually see them. The only way to be certain that you have an issue is to look at a dead bee under the microscope. If you don’t have one of those handy you can often contact your local extension office who will sometimes provide this service for free or for a small fee. Unfortunately there aren’t other solid ways to determine tracheal mite problems:
” No one symptom characterizes this disease; an affected bee could have disjointed wings and be unable to fly, or have a distended abdomen, or both. Absence of these symptoms does not necessarily imply freedom from mites.” -USDA
Tracheal Mite Treatment
Unlike many issues tracheal mites can be handled naturally. A menthol canola mix can be used when the weather is still warm. Basically the menthol evaporates, the bees breathe it in and the menthol kills the mites. You can also use chemical means like Apistan (pesticide), checkmite, etc after the last honey harvest.
Photo by Lilia de Guzman courtesy of the USDA