Varroa and IPM

At this time of year, it’s likely that your bees are basking in the glory of a major summer nectar flow, working hard to build up those honey stores for the winter…and a little for sharing. However, there is someone else who is enjoying the bounties of summer as well, the Varroa mite. The Varroa destructor is a parasitic mite that feeds on the blood of bees, and spreading viruses throughout the colony. The mite looks like a reddish-brown crab and is about 2mm in size, quite large for a bee. It would be similar to having a grapefruit-sized parasite on your body!

Varroa mite lifecycle is strongly linked to drone lifecycle, which is why Varroa mites flourish in the summer when drone brood production is at its peak. The female mites prefer the more spacious cells and longer maturation time of drone brood, laying their eggs in the bottom of the cell so the newly hatched mites can feed on the blood of the drone larvae. Despite their size, Varroa can be tricky to spot and by the time you’re seeing them it’s likely that you have significant levels.

Summer is a critical time for monitoring mite levels, as mite levels are reaching their peak as the brood nest is declining, meaning there are fewer bees able to actively remove mites, and the colony can quickly become overwhelmed. It can almost be guaranteed that a honeybee colony will have varroa mites, so the goal is to determine the levels of mites and ensure that that it is not beyond what the bees can cope with.

There are a few ways fairly easy ways to determine mite levels in your hive.534341_415015731892036_1159076369_n

  1. Sticky Bottom Board

This is the best way to sample entire colony. Cover a white piece of heavy white card stock with Vaseline and slide into the hive on top of the bottom board. As mites fall or are removed from bees they will stick to the board. Leave board in hive for 24 hours, remove and count number of mites. More than 8 indicates that mite levels are beyond the normal threshold. Ideally a beekeeper will take 24 hour samples once a week for 3 weeks to get a reasonable average.

  1. Jar Sample

Collect approximately 300 adult bees from the brood chamber into a mason jar (¾” of bees in a one litre/quart jar). Cover the lid with a 1/8” mesh and sprinkle a heaping tsp of powdered sugar over the bees. Roll the jar a few times until the bees are covered and then let it sit for a minute…the mites will begin to drop off the bees. Then shake the mites and sugar out over a white surface, out of the wind, for at least a minute and until mites stop falling out. The threshold for mite levels using this method is 8. Bees can then be returned to the hive.

If mite levels are high, action should be taken immediately to lower levels. Even if your mite levels are low, it’s important to keep an eye on the situation so that you don’t discover a mite population boom in September…often too late to effectively treat the hives. There are many books and resources that address treatment of Varroa mites, our website lists a few that we like.

A.B.C also offers a Winterization and IPM Workshop that will give you the tools to ensure that your hive head’s into fall with the best chances of survival. Visit our course page for details and registration.

Free Children’s Summer Gardening Workshops


This month the West Hillhurst Community Association and the Calgary Foundation will be hosting a series of free kid’s workshops on Saturdays from 10am-12pm. Each Saturday will cover a different topic from worms and seeds to painting and yoga! On August 23rd A.B.C will be teaching a very special bee workshop to learn all about these fuzzy insects and how important they are to our environment.

Combine these workshops into a fun Saturday with the family by visiting nearby Bowview Outdoor Pool or Riley Park. Parent supervision is required and workshops are limited to 40 kids so registration is encouraged. Visit the eventbrite page for more details.

Bees4Communities Profile: Calgary Food Tours & PEL Recycling

This year, the Bees4Communities program has two new bee yards in the inner-city neighbourhood of Inglewood, an ideal location for beekeeping! The Bow and Elbow river valleys and numerous parks and natural areas offer a smorgasbord of nectar and pollen, not to mention all of the beautiful backyard gardens. The nearby river pathway also allows A.B.C to mange these hives primarily by bicycle and offer fun summer Home2Hive bike tours, supported by the Bees4Communities program, to share urban beekeeping with the public .

   2_rouge     20140623_133229

The Calgary Food Tours hives are located in the picturesque kitchen garden at Rouge Restaurant. CFT owner, Karen Anderson, has included Rouge on the company’s tours of Inglewood for many years and has some tasty plans for this year’s Inglewood Tour:

“…in addition to the already sumptuous treats and wine my guests enjoy at Rouge – I’ll be treating my guests to honey tastings and garden tour when they visit this important historic property. Karen will also share the honey from their two hives with Executive Chef Jamie Harling at Rouge restaurant and he will feature it in a variety of ways on their truly local and seasonal menus. Calgary Food Tours has a very sweet friendship with Rouge because after all you get more friends with honey!”


PEL Recycling’s hives are located on a rooftop near the confluence of the Bow and Elbow Rivers. This is their first year with the Bees4Communities and it has been great having them on board to help out with events like Sustainability For Breakfast, hosted by A.B.C in April. Both hives have been doing well and A.B.C expects a harvest in early September. PEL will be giving a portion of this lovely wildflower honey as thank you gifts for their fabulous, hard-working employees. Always community minded, PEL is planning to donate the remainder of their honey to a local charity. I imagine that tasty treat will be much appreciated!

DISCOUNT BOOKINGS- Lunch and Learns and Private Field Days

If you have ever wanted to have a GREAT team building activity, lunch and learn, or party? Look no further!

A.B.C offers Beekeeping Field Days, Bike Tours, and Beekeeping 101 Training and if booked before August 1, receive up to a 25% discount on the booking!


“A wealth of information – also lots of scientific facts that made the course really interesting.  I don’t think there was one question that she couldn’t answer.  I’m looking forward to attending some of the hive inspection opportunities and I hope to go to the Bee Swarming class.” -Daphne, attended A.B.C’s Level One Beekeeping Course

“I highly recommend Eliese Watson as an accomplished and enthusiastic speaker.”- Kate, Queensland Garden Club, Calgary

“I was so scared of bees, but when we got in to the beehive, I was surprised at how my attitude changed. I am in love with bees now and want to do it again! No one will believe that I actually held live bees in my hands!” -Jocelyn, Beekeeping Field Day Student

Private Field Days!


Organize a Private Hive inspection. We have it all covered: the bees, the suits, and the most beautiful locations in the city! You bring up to 10 people, and we will organize the rest: 2 hours of BEES


NOW $300

Private Bee Yard Bike Tours!


Organize a Private Hive inspection via bicycle. Take an easy and meandering bike tour of beehives along the city’s river valley. We have it all covered: the bees, the suits, and the most beautiful locations in the city! You bring up to 10 people, and we will organize the rest: 3 hours of BEES, light snacks, and mead tastings


NOW $450

Staff Lunch and LearnIMG_8260

We will come to your workplace and offer a 40 minute orientation about honey bees, bumble bees, and solitary bees. Share information about how you can encourage bee health in your yards, and answer to issues in conservation. We will offer honey tastings and bees to have a look at. All from the comfort of YOUR office.


NOW $450


Please contact us by emailing Eliese Watson (tour guide and educator) at eliese @

Beekeeping News and Anti-Spam Law

As many of you are likely aware, on July 1, 2014 the Government of Canada introduced the Canadian Anti-Spam Law (CASL). Its aim is to ensure that you only receive emails from companies that have your expressed consent to send them to you. It protects your privacy.

CASL is a great opportunity to be sure that Apiaries and Bees for Communities is reaching the people who truly want to hear from us. If you are receiving this email, it is because you signed up to receive A.B.C newsletters online or at one of our events. During the CASL transition period, consent obtain in this way is implied however, we now need your express consent to continue sending A.B.C newsletter.

By staying connected with A.B.C you can continue to hear about our beekeeping courses, receiving beekeeping tips, learning about pollinator issues and staying current on exciting upcoming events.


After December 31, if you do NOT renew you subscription, your email address will NOT be added to our ongoing email newsletters and we will miss you. If you have decided to continue receiving emails, thank you! We appreciate your interest and support!

We will be sending express consent forms out in September. Otherwise,  you can officially sign up to receive our newsletter on our homepage!

Thank you for helping us move forward with staying compliant with government regulations and ensuring that you are getting what you want out of your favorite local bee-news!

Indiegogo Campaign- We raised $770, 25% of our goal!

As the campaign concludes for our Community Hive Fundraiser, we would like to thank all of you for supporting, sharing and aiding in our fundraising to keep the Community Hive up and running. The money raised will pay for the highlighted goals of our fundraising.

Our 2014 Budget

Community Hive Bee Meeting Venue    $150

Swarm Catchers Meeting Venue     $150

Lilac Festival  Booth $300

Day of the Honeybee Event  $170 of $250



Discussion Board@ $53.50/mo    $642 (A.B.C pays monthly)

Home and Garden Show Info Booth  $800 (A.B.C paid for it)

Yellow Tie Affair $500 (Now Cancelled)

Community Hive Website/ Swarm Form  $275 (A.B.C paid for it)

TOTAL  $2217.00

The Impact

Because we only made 25% of our goal, we may have to close down the COMMUNITY HIVE DISCUSSION BOARD. A.B.C is struggling to pay for all of the FREE educational programs that we offer. We are hoping that we can keep the page afloat until swarm season is complete, but unless we are able to raise the funds, we may have to shut it down.

Please contact us directly if you are able to help us out. We are a Social-Entrepreneurial Business in Canada, with the same values as B-Corp businesses in the US. We are trying to innovate the beekeeping industry, inspire repossible social partnerships in business, and build dividends that reflect a better life for everyone, including the bees. If you are interested in funding any of these programs that are likely to be closed down this fall without your support, please email us at info@backyardbees . ca



Urban Beekeeping Good Neighbour Policy

@YEGBees Crew, neighbours keeping bees together!

@YEGBees Crew, neighbours keeping bees together!

Bee a Good Neighbour

In rural areas honeybees can happily roam for kilometres without encountering neighbours or other animals. Not so in the city. Unexpected close encounters and

misunderstandings about honeybee behavior are a recipe for fear-based reactions and negative impressions about urban beekeeping. While public education can help alleviate some honeybee anxiety, it is the responsibility of beekeepers to ensure that their neighbours are comfortable with their bees and that they are keeping bees in a manor that minimizes unwanted encounters.

Speak to Your Neighbours Before Getting Bees

-  Most people are curious and open to the idea of a neighbour with honeybees, especially if a little honey sweetens the deal. However, serious allergies, children and pets may be cause for concern. Talk to your neighbours about what they can expect, answer their questions and, if possible, offer to take them to see a friend’s hives. If your neighbours are adamantly against having bees next door try to find a more suitable location for your hives.

Ensure Your Bees Have a Source of Water

Bees drinking water at Rouge Restaurant Calgary

Bees drinking water at Rouge Restaurant Calgary

-  Honeybees will search out convenient sources of water to drink and to help cool their hive. It is up to the beekeeper to ensure that this source is not their neighbour’s kiddie pool. Provide a fresh, consistent source of water near their hive. There should also be rocks or wood

in the water for the bees to rest on.

Prevent Swarms

-  Though swarming is natural it can be a nuisance to neighbours and can be misinterpreted and sensationalized to the detriment of beekeeping. Close monitoring in spring is necessary to ensure that the bees do not feel cramped and that the queen has enough room to expand the brood nest. Additional information about swarm prevention can be found here: 

July Swarm

July Swarm

Beekeeping in an urban area can be an incredibly rewarding experience and often has advantages such as lower pesticide exposure and greater and more varied forage. Good beekeeping and good relationships with neighbours can ensure that beekeeping remains legal and that beekeepers are welcomed in urban environments.


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