BeeSpeakSTL: Diana Sammataro (Part 1 of 2)

BeeSpeakSTL hosted Diana Sammataro, author of The Beekeeper’s Handbook, at the University of Missouri – St. Louis on March 1st.  Once again, they did a wonderful job of organizing this!

Topics included:

  • Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Mites
  • Honey Plants
  • Microbes &Fungicides

My notes were not up to my usual obsessive standards.  I found her mite talk so fascinating that I found myself just sitting and letting it wash over me, soaking it in, rather than taking endless notes.  (BeeSpeakSTL has promised a copy of her slideshows.  I will post a link here when that gets put up.)  So, with that in mind, here are a few highlights:


The Carl Hayden Bee Research Center, located in Tucson, is Diana’s current hangout.

Acarology is the study of mites.  The University of Ohio offers acarology programs that Diana highly recommends should you wish to delve further into the itch-inducing world of mites.  (I dare you to sit through a slideshow of mites without scratching endlessly for the rest of the day.)

Young mites have six legs while adult mites have only four.

Within Acari, there are two (or three — see the wiki article) superorders:  Acariformes and Parasitiformes.  Combined, there are over a million of different species.  Only one of those are human mites — the hair follicle mite.  (Although, wiki states that there are two.)

(Are you starting to scratch yet?)

Most (all?) mites are symbiotic but we are not yet aware of the “hows” and “whys” for most of them.

Bee mites — many are benign.  Three of them are parasitic (varroa — size of a flea, tracheal — 400x smaller than varroa, and tropilaelaps).

Ticks and varroa mites are very similar, both are Parasitiformes.

There are four species of varroa (wiki states five) but we are mainly concerned with Varroa destructor which was first discovered in the USA in 1987.

Effects of varroa mites:

  • Hemolymph consumption
  • Changes in bees’ immune systems
  • Introduction of viruses (18 now identified)

Tropilaelaps spp. is the third bee mite about which we must worry.  It is not yet in the USA but it is coming.  Its life cycle is similar to varroa.  It outcompetes varroa but it must have brood.  It cannot use adult hosts, therefore, cannot easily survive our winters.

Tracheal mites:  Diana uses “grease patties” to defeat tracheal mites.  1:2 shortening:sugar ration.  Use only white sugar and do not use lard — must use hydrogenated shortening of some sort.  Place a hand-sized patty on top of the cluster in late summer/early fall.  Or you can choose to not treat and raise resistant queens.  Or requeen in the fall (disrupts the breeding cycle, I believe?).

Fall colonies must have:

  • A large population of young bees
  • Be free of varroa
  • Ample food stores

Miscellaneous links for further reading:

The sunshine is calling me.  Part 2 coming later…



  1. BeeSpeakSTL: Diana Sammataro (Part 2 of 2) | Mississippi Valley Beekeepers Association - 03/11/2014

    […] See Part 1 here. […]

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