Testing For Tracheal Mites
Recently I posted some information about testing for Nosema. Another pest that the Apiculture branch of the BCMAL performs tests for is tracheal mites.
Unlike varroa mites, which are easy to identify and test for right at the hive, tracheal mites cannot be seen by the naked eye. This makes it more difficult to determine if they are infesting a colony. You’ll be able to see the symptoms and the effect they are having on your bees but likely be left wondering what the cause is. Apiculture Factsheet #219 provides a good primer on tracheal mites, along with instructions for treatment and submitting samples for testing.
After conversing with our local bee inspector about the tracheal mite testing procedure, I have a a few notes to add:
If you already combat varroa mites in your hives using formic acid treatments at least once a year, then it is quite likely that tracheal mites levels will be very low. This is because formic acid is also used to treat for tracheal mites. However, if you do not use formic acid, then it is a good idea to send in a sample of bees to be tested for tracheal mites every couple of years.
The recommended method of preparing a sample is to put 150 bees, which can be randomly gathered from as many as 4 colonies, in a small plastic bottle with a 70% solution of isopropyl alcohol and water. Be sure to include your contact information with the sample so that the results can be sent to you.
Contact your local bee inspector to find out where to mail the samples. Our inspector performs the testing in her home office, but inspectors in other regions may do things differently so an email or phone call to verify is a good idea before mailing the sample.