Varroa mites are the biggest threat to honey bees at this moment. The scientific name for these menaces is literally "Varroa destructor". They are a parasite that feed on bee larvae and pupae, resulting in deformation of their bodies and eventual death. They are a main cause of unsuccessful overwintering of colonies, because they weaken the colony so greatly. As a result, treating colonies and monitoring mite levels are the most important duties of a beekeeper.
Unfortunately, there is not much the public can do to combat this issue, other than reporting wild hives and swarms to local beekeepers. During the dearth season (time of year without nectar flow, typically starting in late July in northern NJ) strong colonies literally rob from weaker colonies to build up more honey stores. In this, mites are spread from infected weak colonies to strong.
There is still hope though! Beekeepers can organize a rigorous treatment plan that utilizes rotating treatments to lower mite levels. Beekeepers used a mites screening called an alcohol wash to count the number of mites before a treatment is applied. Once the treatment is completed another alcohol wash is performed to ensure the treatment worked correctly.
A beekeeper needs to learn how to safely use varroa mite treatments including Formic Pro, Apivar, Apiguard and Oxalic Acid. Some of these treatments require full protective equipment. Atmospheric temperature, the season, and whether or not there are honey supers on the hive will play into which method is used when.
Nothing gives a person more confidence…
than to be zipped snugly inside a bee suit.