Tips and Topics

Drone Trapping of Varroa Mites

Drone trapping is a great way to reduce the number of Varroa mites, without the use of chemicals, during the honey production season. It is based on the life cycle of the Varroa mite, and the mite’s preference for drone brood.

A female mite will enter the cell 1-2 days before it is capped, then wait for 60 hours after capping to begin laying her eggs. One mite egg is laid every 24 to 30 hours. Since the drone pupae remain capped about 3 days longer than the workers, more eggs are laid in the drone cells. On average, 2.8 mites will emerge with a drone compared to 1.8 mites with a worker bee.

Research has shown that the population of mites in a hive can be greatly reduced if the drone brood is removed before the cells are uncapped and the mites emerge.

The United State Department of Agriculture helped Pierco to develop the mold for a beeswax-coated plastic drone cell foundation for use as an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) technique for control of Varroa mites.

Pierco Drone Comb Instructions

Bees naturally want to build about 10% of their comb in the larger size drone cells. By using a Pierco Drone Brood Frame, you can better control where the drone comb is built, and reduce the amount of the smaller-celled worker foundation that the bees convert to drone comb.

Place the drone frame near the center of the brood nest, in 2 – 4 position. The bees will accept the frame and begin to build comb more quickly than if it were in the first position, against the wall. Its bright green colour makes the Pierco drone frame easy to identify in the hive.

You should have two drone frames for each hive, so you can rotate frames. When the majority of the cells are capped, simply pull the drone frame and replace it with your second drone frame to continue the cycle of drone trapping.

For best results, make sure that most of the cells are capped when you remove the frame from the hive, but be sure to pull it before the drones and mites begin to emerge.

Freeze the frame of capped brood for 48 hours, to kill the drone pupae and mites in the comb. After freezing the frame, it is not necessary to clean it off — but you may wish to scratch open the cells. The bees will clean out the dead mites and pupae when the frame is returned to the hive.

Those with limited freezer space may simply scrape the capped drone cells off the frame and let the bees rebuild the comb. Be sure to scrape the cells into a bucket and remove it from the bee yard, to keep the mites from “hitching a ride” back to the hive on any foraging bees. Another method is to blast the frame with a garden hose to uncap the cells and rinse out the mites, leaving the comb intact for the bees to use again. The more thoroughly you flush the frame with water, the more mites will be removed.