Beltsville Screen Insert Curbs Bee Mites
By Jan Suszkiw
January 18, 2000
Beekeepers no longer have to rely
solely on chemicals to battle the pesky varroa mite, thanks to a new control
developed by an Agricultural Research
Service scientist. Entomologist Jeff Pettis and colleagues at the
Research Lab in Beltsville, Md., developed the Beltsville Screen Insert to
help thwart the mite.
Honey bees produce $270 million of honey, beeswax and other hive products
and pollinate nearly $10 billion worth of crops annually. Varroa mites attach
to bees and feed on them, reducing their population and inhibiting their
productivity. The screen will be a boost to both hobby and commercial
beekeepers who produce honey and rent their colonies for pollination services.
The screen separates the mites from the bees by creating a 1.5-inch gap
between the bottom board and hive bottom. When bees groom each other, they
sometimes knock the mites off. Smoke and chemical treatments applied by
beekeepers also help remove the mites. The inserts wire mesh allows the
mites to fall through the screen and onto the hive bottom, so the mites
cant reattach to bees as they enter and leave the colony. After taking
monthly samples of the fallen varroa, it was found that the screen reduces
varroa populations by 15 percent.
Varroa mite infestations have become such a serious problem that maintaining
bee colonies without chemical treatment is virtually impossible. Currently, the
only pesticide approved for general use for varroa mite control is Apistan, a
strip that contains the chemical tau-fluvalinate. But varroa mites have begun
to show resistance to the chemical, so scientists are looking for alternatives
such as the screen.
The screen reduces the reliance on synthetic chemical pesticides while still
helping control the mites. Researchers are continually developing and improving
the screen, but it is already being sold in the Brushy Mountain beekeeping
Scientific contact: Jeff Pettis, ARS Bee Research Lab, Beltsville,
Md., phone (301) 504-7299, fax (301) 504-8736,