Curly wing is not a fashion statement for a bee

November 4, 2011 | By | Comments (2)

It’s been a long summer, and we Sunset beekeepers have been so busy making a magazine that we just haven’t had time to go out to the bees. The last time we were in the hives was during our August honey harvest.

Finally today we had a spare afternoon, so we went out to check on the girls. There are a lot of bees in all three of our hives (especially Briar Rose, who is as testy as ever). But of course, all the hives have some kind of trouble.


See this bee in the photo above? Notice anything wrong with her?

That’s right. Her wings are twisted and deformed. This poor girl is suffering from curly wing, a virus transmitted by the evil varroa mite.

Unfortunately, it’s too late for this girl; the curly wing will never get better. She’ll never fly out to forage in the great blue beyond. Eventually, she’ll get kicked out of the hive or simply die (a bee’s life is harsh).


This is a frame of bees from our newest hive, Tess. See those red circles? They mark a mite on a bee. When you can see this many mites hanging out on a frame of bees, you know you have a mite problem.

Tess is a sweet, delicate hive, making her a perfect host for varroa. But even our evil-but-bursting-with-bees hive, Briar Rose, is afllicted with mites, although she has far fewer of the little nasties than does Tess.

Yes, I know. If we had been better beekeepers, we’d have treated for mites much earlier. Now our bees are really overrun, and we know we’ll need some luck to pull them through the winter.

Today we treated them with formic acid pads. (We still have a bucket of the pads, but when these are gone, we’re looking forward to trying a new product called Mite Away Quick Strips.) We’ve tried the no-treatment route, without much luck, and have decided that we really have to intervene to help the bees control the mites.

The formic acid treatment will take care of the mites on the bees, but there are probably mites in the capped brood. We will just have to wait, and hope for the best.


  1. tina K

    Hopefully all will be ok. I see the queen in your photo on the upper right side.

    November 8, 2011 at 4:47 am
  2. Chuckarama

    If you’re treating with Formic Acid or MAQS (MAQS are timed release formic acid pads), and doing it right (temp is a factor), it will usually penetrate into the capped brood and kill developing mites as well. Formic Acid treatment is the only kind I ever use, if I have to, for several reasons. First, it’s a natural ingredient in honey already, you’re just applying it at a higher dosage, but there is no long-term residue or harm done to the bees or honey from it. Second, it penetrates into the brood more effectively, killing the mites where it really matters.

    I treat because I hate sending a whole hive to it’s death. What I usually follow on is with a new queen (as soon as is humanly possible with weather/season etc) from a well developed mite resistant stock. Over the years, I’ve had to treat less and less, so it’s become an important follow on step for me. If I can time it right for early June, I pull the old queen, put in the formic acid treatment, come back in a week and knock down any emergency queen cells. Wait another week and introduce the new queen. This short gap in the brood cycle makes a HUGE difference in mite infestations as well, I’ve noticed.

    November 5, 2011 at 9:40 pm

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