Saturday, March 27, 2010

I found my first cases of DWV or Deformed Wing Virus!

So for the first time in two years, I found my first bee with deformed wings. Not just one bee, I actually found a couple. Its just one more thing I'm seeing for the first time in the beekeeping world.

I found them during an inspection Friday morning to see how they fared after last week's hive box rotation. I just happened to catch something out of the corner of my eye that didn't seem right, and when I looked at the frame I was holding, I saw something slowly crawling across it. Unlike the other bees who were busy scurrying around, this one bee was moving at a snails pace. She wasn't like the other bees -- she had two small stumps for wings and was obviously having problems walking. I took my hive tool and flicked her into the hive top, which was laying upside down, because I wanted to take a really good look at her. Then I found a second one, she obviously fell off one of the frames and into the hive top too -- so I had both of them isolated. Sure enough, both had stumps for wings, and they were both very slow moving. I knew then that my colony has the beginning signs of DWV or deformed wing virus. It really was a pitiful sight to see and being the soft hearted soul I am, I felt sorry for them.

I knew that DWV comes from varroa, but that's about all I really knew. So I went online and also read some of my beekeeping books to learn more about it. To be honest, I always thought that a colony suffering from deformed wings was because the hive was slammed packed with varroa. Not so. Experts say that hives with low varroa counts (like mine have been) can still have problems with DWV. And in many cases, the colony will expel bees with deformities like those with DWV in order to keep the hive hygienic. Obviously they missed these two -- and I'm kind of glad they did. Otherwise I would have never known about the problem. 

Knowing I have to do something, but keeping it natural and not putting chemicals in my hive, I read up on a remedy for varroa called ApiLife-Var. You can find a lot of material about ApiLife online and in Ross Conrad's book on natural beekeeping too. ApiLife is a remedy that studies show to be 95% effective..and it contains all natural ingredients like thymol, menthol, and eucalyptus oil. Three treatments (7 days apart) are all that's needed. Ross Conrad recommends that ApiLife be used in the fall instead of the spring, but the product literature says it's okay to use it during the spring and fall -- and i'm not waiting until the fall to treat this colony.

In the meantime, I did a really heavy powdered sugar dusting, and I called Brushy Mountain Bee Farm and ordered a package of ApiLife. It should arrive this coming week or week after. I plan to put it in the hive as soon as the daytime temperature stabilizes in the 60s. I'll also treat the second hive once the new queen is placed there and she settles in...and now that time frame looks like early May.

Just a reminder to check your hives and make sure you examine your bees carefully. Just because your mite numbers are low doesn't mean you can't have bees with deformed wing virus. Hopefully things will be back to normal very soon and all of my bee creatures will be healthy and whole again.


  1. Hi Mark. Sorry to see the DWV in your hive. My Walter colony also had some afflicted bees, but I still don't think that's what killed it. They seemed to be tolerating the virus and expelling the affected bees. Varroa count in that hive was low, also. I've not seen any deformed bees in the Ora hive, so far, but I'm also considering treating with AL-V.

    We are getting reports of huge losses of bees in the mountains this year. Folks are losing up to 60% of their hives and for reasons that are varied and unclear. I hope to be able to get swarms from friends, but so many beekeepers are having to replace lost colonies so it may be a problem. Keep us posted on the health of your hive.

  2. Oh I missed this one for some reason. I've not seen that yet, so I appreciate you posting it so I can know what to look for. Hope it works it's way out for you this year.

  3. Mark,
    I am a new bee keeper. I have had only one hive for 2 years. Today, 2/3/11 when checking my hive I found the Deformed wing on a couple of my bees. I am trying to raise the bees as naturally as possible, so I am going to follow your recommendation and start with the powdered sugar. I will order the ApiLife and add it immediately. It seems to be the best way without doing chemicals. Thanks so much for posting your records so I could learn a good natural step to take for this problem. I love my honey and I love the bees. They are family now, and I hope they will get well! Tere Daane, Las Vegas, NV



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