Veto-pharma recently partnered with the Mite Check Program to promote varroa monitoring of honeybee colonies as a means of managing the losses resulting from mite infestations. Mite Check is a US-based multi-state partnership funded through the United States Department of Agriculture’s Critical Agriculture Research and Extension (CARE) grants, which support critical extension and research in agriculture. The partners include Michigan State University, the Bee Informed Partnership, Grand Valley State University, Appalachian State University, the University of Maryland, and the University of Minnesota’s Bee Squad, and most recently, Veto-pharma.
Dr. Meghan Milbrath, of the Michigan State University’s Department of Entomology, is an academic specialist and coordinates the Michigan Pollinator initiative. She is also one of Mite Check’s principals and works to guide and coordinate the program’s research and extension activities.
“There are many small-scale beekeepers, collectively representing many thousands of bee colonies, struggling to keep mite infestations under control,” says Dr. Milbrath. “Varroa mites constitute the equivalent of a public health emergency. Many beekeepers are unaware of how bad the Varroa problem is, don’t know how to deal with it, or don’t have the tools necessary to address it. Mite Check works to promote mite monitoring as a means of reducing the devastating impact of mites on honey bee colonies.”
Each partner in the Mite Check group performs different roles. For example, Michigan State University and the University of Minnesota’s Bee Squad do most of the extension work, while other partners perform research or execute special projects, like developing the Mite Check application and maintaining the database and risk map. There are about 10 scientists who are directly involved in guiding and administering Mite Check, but there are some 30 to 40 other people at various institutions and organizations who conduct research, collect and aggregate data, perform outreach and education activities, and perform many other tasks.
The Mite Check App
Mite Check recently introduced a mobile phone application that serves as both a data collection tool and a teaching tool. Beekeepers using the application are ablo to report information about mite infestations in their colonies. This data is aggregated to create infestation maps that illustrate peak infestations around the country.
The application provides critical information about the health of bees across the country, enabling participants to see seasonal and gerographic trends in mite populations. The Mite Check app also includes some video tutorials and step-by-step guides to explain how beekeepers can use the sugar shake roll method to monitor varroa. In addition, it will soon include a video on the EasyCheck video and step-by-step explanation of the alcohol wash method. This information helps beekeepers implement effective mite management strategies.
“We know that thousands of beekeepers are benefiting from the Mite Check partnership,” says Dr. Milbrath. “Various videos posted on YouTube have logged some 8,500 views, we’ve orchestrated more than 20 training session in 10 states, and the Mite Check survey has been completed by 200 beekeepers.
Since January 2019 alone, 200 beekeepers have downloaded the Mite Check online tool. All of these activities raise awareness and understanding of the varroa mite problem and motivate beekeepers to control infestations.”
Veto-pharma first explored the possibility of joining the Mite Check partnership in January 2019, and its participation in the partnership was formalized in March.
“Veto-pharma does a lot in the way of education, and the fact that they produce the Varroa EasyCheck monitoring tool makes it easier for beekeepers to monitor infestations,” says Dr. Milbrath. “Our partnership with Veto-pharma gives us access to an important monitoring tool and a library of excellent educational videos and literature.”
Varroa EasyCheck is the result of intensive development and field testing by Véto-pharma and can be used to monitor Varroa infestations throughout the year to determine whether a treatment is required, or to confirm that a previous treatment was successful. Varroa EasyCheck a standardized tool for monitoring using the alcohol wash method. That method is considered as the most reliable because it separates the mites from the bees more effectively, and thus gives a more accurate result, which, in turn, leads to a better resolution.
“The Mite Check program is a great initiative that we are very happy to support,” said Veto-pharma CEO, Raphaèle Massard. “We share a common goal of helping beekeepers monitor their hives more easily and more frequently. Monitoring is important today, as Varroa infestation fluctuates so much from one year to another and from one hive to another, as well. Is it important to adapt the treatment schedule depending on the current environment, rather than follow the same routine year after year. We should think of monitoring like a check-up with you doctor; you need to know where you stand so that you can take the right action for your health.”
“The rapid increase in the threat posed by Varroa mites, together with a large increase in the number of small-scale and hobbyist beekeepers, has focused attention on the scale of the problem and built beekeepers’ interest in being part of the solution,” says Dr. Milbrath. “Partnerships like the one between Mite Check and Veto-pharma are important tools in the fight to control this epidemic-scale problem.”