How to Detect Tracheal Mites in Your Beehive
Trachel mites, organisms that can terrorize the bees in your hive, are much smaller than the period at the end of this sentence and can’t be seen with the naked eye. Dissecting an adult bee and examining its trachea under magnification is the only way to identify a tracheal mite infestation.
As its name implies, this mite lives most of its life within the bee’s trachea (breathing tubes). Mated female mites pass from one bee to another when the bees come in close contact with each other.
Once the mite finds a newly emerged bee, she attaches to the young host and enters its tracheal tubes through one of the bee’s spiracles (holes that are part of the respiratory system). Within the trachea the mite lays eggs and raises a new generation. The tracheal mite causes what once was referred to as acarine disease of the honey bee.
The only surefire way to detect tracheal mites involves dissecting a bee under a microscope. Whenever you suspect tracheal mites, call your state apiary inspector for information about how to have your bees inspected.
A few clues may indicate the presence of tracheal mites. But the symptoms are unreliable because they also may indicate other problems. Here’s what you may observe:
You see many weak bees stumbling around on the ground in front of the hive.
You spot some bees climbing up a stalk of grass to fly, but instead they just fall to the ground. This happens because mites clog the trachea and deprive the bee of oxygen to its wing muscles.
You notice bees with K-wings (wings extended at odd angles, not folded in the normal position). This also can be an indication of Nosema disease.
Bees abandon the hive (abscond) in early spring despite ample honey supplies. This can happen even late in the fall when it’s too late to remedy the situation and making the time right for ordering package bees and starting anew in the spring.