If Varroa Mites Are Bugging You...Coming Soon: UC Davis Course and WAS Presentation

Aug 30, 2017

Elina Lastro Niño, Extension apiculturist
Elina Lastro Niño, Extension apiculturist
If you're a beekeeper and varroa mites are bugging you--to the point whether you wonder if you're keeping bees or the varroa mites are keeping you-- there's hope.

Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño of the University of California, Davis, and  staff research associate Bernardo Niño are planning three classes this fall and one deals specifically with “Varroa Mite Management Strategies.” The all-day short course starts at 9 a.m. and ends at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 22 in the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, 1 Bee Biology Road, west of the UC Davis central campus.

Current beekeeping challenges call for all beekeepers to have a solid understanding of varroa mite biology and management approaches, the husband-wife Niño team said. “We will dive deeper into understanding varroa biology and will devote the majority of the time to discussing pros and cons of various means to monitor mitigate and manage this crucial honey bee pest.”

The course modules will cover varroa biology, effect of varroa on honey bee colonies, non-chemical management, and chemical options. The practical modules will cover mite monitoring, treatment applications, data/record keeping and inspection of colonies for varroa.

The varroa course is limited to 25 participants, who are asked to bring their bee suit/veil if they own one. The $175 registration fee covers the cost of course materials, lunch and refreshments. Registration is underway at https:registration.ucdavis.edu/Item/Details/342. The last day to register is Wednesday, Sept. 20. The blood-sucking varroa mite, which can also transmit diseases, crippling and decimating a hive, is considered a beekeeper's No. 1 enemy.

The Niño team also will give presentations at the Western Apicultural Society's 40th annual conference, to take place Sept. 5-8 on the UC Davis campus. Elina will speak on “Impact of Varroa on Honey Bee Reproductive Castes): Where Will the Research Lead Us?” at at 8:30 a.m., Thursday, Sept. 7 in the Activities and Recreation Center. The three reproductive castes are the queen and worker bee (female), and drone (male).

Bernardo will speak on beehive iterations on Thursday afternoon, Sept. 7 during a conference tour of the Laidlaw facility from 1 to 4. This is part of several education stations planned at the facility and the nearby bee garden, the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, both operated by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. There's still time to register for the Western Apicultural Society conference.

Then in October, the Niños will teach two more classes at the Laidlaw facility as part of their fall schedule:  “Planning Ahead for Your First Hives” is on Saturday, Oct. 7; and “Queen Rearing Basics” is on Friday, Oct. 20. Both are one-day short courses set from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Laidlaw facility.

Capsule information:

Planning Ahead for Your First Hive, Saturday, Oct. 7, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.: Participants will learn about and practice many aspects of what is necessary to get the colony started and keep it healthy and thriving. This short course will include lectures and hands-on exercises. “This course is perfect for those who have little or no beekeeping experience and would like to obtain more knowledge and practical skills to move on to the next step of owning and caring for their own honey bee colonies,” the Niños  said. At the end of the course participants will be knowledgeable about installing honey bee packages, monitoring their own colonies and possible challenges with maintaining a healthy colony. 

Lecture modules will cover honey bee biology, beekeeping equipment, how to start your colony and maladies of the hive. Practical modules will cover how to build a hive, how to install a package, how to insect your hive and how to monitor for varroa mites.

The course is limited to 25 participants; participants are asked to bring their bee suit or veil if they own one. The $95 registration fee covers the cost of course materials (including a hive tool), lunch and refreshments. Registration is underway at https://registration.ucdavis.edu/Item/Details/314. The last day to register is Friday, Oct. 6.

Queen-Rearing Basics, Friday, Oct. 20, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.. Participants will have an opportunity to learn about the theory behind the queen rearing strategies and topics from basic queen biology to basics of breeding honey bees. “This course is perfect for those who want to learn more about the most important individual in their colonies or have been thinking about rearing the own queens, but might not feel ready to do hands-on exercise," the Niños  said.

Topics covered will include honey bee queen biology, ideal rearing conditions, various queen rearing techniques, mating new queens, installing new queens and basic breeding principles. The course is limited to 25 participants who have basic beekeeping experience. The $125 registration fee covers the cost of breakfast, lunch and refreshments. Registration is underway at https://registration.ucdavis.edu/Item/Details/341. The last day to register is Wednesday, Oct. 18.

About the Niño Team: Elina Niño holds a doctorate in entomology from Pennsylvania State University and Bernardo Niño holds a master's degree in entomology from North Carolina State University. 

Through her extension activities, Elina works to support beekeepers and the beekeeping industry. Her lab offers a variety of beekeeping courses and educational opportunities for beekeepers, future beekeepers, other agricultural professionals and the public. Most recently, her lab has implemented the first ever California Master Beekeeper Program. Her research interests encompass basic and applied approaches to understanding and improving honey bee health and particularly honey bee queen health. Ongoing research projects include understanding the synergistic effects of pesticides on queen health and adult workers in order to improve beekeeping management practice, testing novel biopesticides for efficacy against varroa mites, a major pest of bees, and understanding the benefits of supplemental forage in almond orchards on honey bee health.

Bernardo, whose master's degree dealt with the population and genetic colony structure of the Eastern subterranean termite, switched to honey bees eight years ago. He now keeps “more than 130 colonies “happily buzzing to accommodate the needs of all the researchers in the lab,” and leads projects on varroa control and honey bee health. He has also developed a number of educational programs for diverse audiences and for the past seven years he has been involved with organizing and running queen rearing workshops and serving as the program supervisor of the California Master Beekeeper Program. 

For more information, access the Niño lab website at http://elninobeelab.ucdavis.edu/. Be sure to read Elina's  newsletter, UC Davis Apiculture, linked on the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology home page. You can also keep in touch with the Niño lab's Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/elninolab/