There were mites before Christmas
when all through the hives,
The honey bees struggled
in a fight for their lives.
The honey was capped by the workers with care
Planning for winter soon to be there.
The beekeeper was nestled all snug in his bed
While visions of honeycomb danced in his head.
Then one day he peeked at the screen bottom boards
To see varroa mites, dead by the scores.
With Mars and Jupiter both well infested
The beekeeper declared “I shall not be bested.”
Grabbing a rag, he cleaned boards in a flash;
The mite drop he’d monitor so as not to be rash.
Though he should really admit to the masses out there
That he went through the season with nary a care.
During summer, his wondering eyes did see,
A brood break for each hive as they made a new queen.
Russian bees are known for their hygienic ways.
He missed the signs; he let the mites stay.
So the beekeeper monitored the mites til December
He whistled, and shouted, and monitored the numbers:
First 20, and 44, then 39’s and 25’s,
Around 10 mites a day fell from the hives
From the top of the boxes! Down through the frames!
The mites, they would fall; this wasn’t a game
As leaves that before the winter storms dry,
When bees become cold they can shiver and die.
So the colony clustered as colder winds blew
With frames full of honey, and lots of mites too.
And then, in a twinkling, the sun it shone out;
A string of warms days, the bees were about.
The mites were still breeding, the weather too warm
For oxalic acid to quiet the storm.
So dressed in a loose shirt, the beekeeper pondered
Would the colonies make it? He often would wonder.
The monitored mites were flung on the ground
Until finally a solution just had to be found.
The sun – how it twinkled! The weather so warm,
In D.C. the cherry blossoms actually formed.
Oxalic acid worked best in the cold and the snow,
But solutions appear for those in the know.
Mite away quick strips could be used in warm weather,
as the fumes, they encircle the hive like a tether.
With a smiling face and 40-minute drive
Some MAQS were purchased for each little hive.
As the temperatures rose to the 60’s and 70’s,
Formic acid would work, it was all about chemistry.
A wink of his eye, nitrile gloves on both hands,
The beekeeper was ready, having laid out his plans.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
After removing the covers, his faced showed a smirk.
And laying a strip on top of each medium,
The stores were good, there could be no feeding.
He closed up the hives, to his tools gave a whistle,
And away they all went like the down of a thistle.
You could hear him exclaim, ere he walked out of sight
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all watch your mites!”
The Night Before Christmas appeared anonymously as the poem A Visit from St. Nicholas on December 23, 1823 in the New York Sentinel. The poem, later attributed to Clement Clarke Moore, popularized a number of traditions that at the time were not universally accepted, from the names of the reindeer to the general appearance of St. Nick.
Over the last month, I’ve counted over 520 mites from our two Langstroth hives. As I was thinking about how best to present the story, this poem came to mind and I just sort of ran with it. Hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did in writing it.
And of course, “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”