Time to treat for Varroa Mites

After you have harvested honey or determined that you will not be harvesting honey – it is now time (July) to treat your bees for Varroa mites.  If you have not yet obtained your treatments you need to order them right away.

For what it is worth I personally plan to use Apiguard at this time of year – because it is hot, and Apivar works better in hot weather while some other treatments become harmful at high temps.  But any of these will work if used correctly.

One word of caution – Stinky treatments like Apiguard, and Mite-away-quick-strips produce smelly fumes.  Hives need proper amounts of ventilation and must have a strong enough population to fan and ventilate the hives.  Not enough ventilation or not enough bees to fan can result in absconding (apiguard) or queen death (Miteaway) – an interuption in brood production or some brood death is not unusual or cause for alarm.

The main thing is to do something – don’t let confusion or inability to choose keep you from acting.  If you want to go the simplest/easiest route then Apivar – synthetic amatraz – is definitely the silver bullet at this time.  If you want to use naturally occuring treatments then any of the others.

Treatment free – failing to make a choice and then not applying any treatments is not the same as treatment free beekeeping.  Being a treatment free beekeeper requires proactive action, and if anything more knowledge than treating.  If you don’t know what I am referring to then you probably need to treat.

If you don’t do anything about mites there is an excellent chance that your bees will be dead by next spring.  Mites spread viruses – viruses make your hives sick – sick bees can’t feed and care for offspring in good numbers – compromised fall buildup results in weak hives with  health issues because of malnutrition and disease – weakened hives are more subject to robbing which weakens them even more while spreading mites to other hives – normal winter/late spring stress is too much for weakened hives – dead colonies are incorrectly  blamed on winter weather.

There is a fairly extensive article on all of the options for varroa mite treatments available at this link – but at this time (mid summer) the mainstream options for mite treatment are limited to…

EPA regulated naturally occurring mite treatments

  • Miteaway Quick Strips / formic acid ***– can kill mites inside of capped brood as well as phoretic mites – Only 1 treatment required.  Requires careful application with attention to temp and hive strength to avoid bee and brood mortality – can result in queen loss if miss used. Daytime Temp of 50 – 90 F specified on day of treatment, but bee/brood mortality increases with temp. $4.70 per treatment. Miteaway Instructions
  • Apilife Var / Thymol and other EO – Very safe time release delivery.  Requires 3 treatments to be effective if brood is present – Use when average daytime temps are between 59 and 69 F.  About $3.65 per treatment. Apilife Instructions
  • Apiguard / thymol ***– Safe, low bee or brood mortality – but does cause bearding and interruption of brood rearing for a few days.  Requires 2 applications at warm to high temperatures – 60 /100° F.  Requires a spacer – About $3.60 per treatment. Apiguard Instructions
  • Hop Guard / add HopGuard® II to hives at the rate of 2 insert strips per 10 frames.  Strips should be hung between frames. HopGuard® II is most effective when used during the pre-pollination period (before sealed brood), mid-summer, and at the onset of winter brood development. HopGuard® II may be applied up to 3 times per year,

 EPA regulated Synthetic mite treatments 

  • Apivar/amitraz – currently reported to be extremely effective.  One application of 2 strips required. About $6.00 per treatment. No evidence of resistance after more than 15 years – no application temp recommended (that I know of)  Apivar Instructions and Info

Please read and educate yourself to make a choice.

Summer Beekeeping in TN

What you do (or don’t do) over the next 3 months will mostly determine if you are still a beekeeper next spring.

Honey harvest time is upon us – your beekeeping hobby could produce enough honey to not only be self supporting, but also make a profit. But it is a year-round task to keep your bees healthy and productive.

The fun is (mostly) over and the Hard work begins – Summer separates the beekeepers from the wannabeekeepers,  It’s hot, and many recreational options are much more appealing than putting on a bee suit, but what you do (or don’t do) over the next 3 months will mostly determine if you are still a beekeeper next spring.

If your hives  have honey that you plan to harvest then you need to do so ASAP so that you can proceed with other summertime beekeeping tasks – especially mite treatments.

Your bees almost certainly have some mites, but if you have brood that looks like this:

Then you almost certainly have a high mite load which requires immediate action if you want to save your hives.

If your proactive plan to manage varroa mites includes mite treatments – which I reccomend – then you need to plan now to complete those treatments no later than August 15 so that you can have relatively healthy bees to execute the fall build up which starts around the first of September.

There are several Varroa Mite Management Options which you should read about at that link, but if you want to skip all that I reccomend Apiguard for summer treatments.  Apiguard requires multiple treatments which span 4-6 weeks – which is why you need to act soon.  You will need to use a spacer to make room for apiguard treatments between the boxes as per the instructions – the spacer could be just 4 strips of thin wood or plywood laid around the perimeter between the boxes or it could be one of these shims from Mann lake.  Or if you have woodworking tools you can make a shim – I use 1 1/2″ shims that I also use as feeder shims for winter feeding of sugar and pollen sub candy.   Just so you know – Your bees will probably build some burr comb in the space created by the shim – which you will have to scrape off when the treatments are over.

Whenever beekeepers says “honey supers” what they are usually talking about are supers from which you plan to harvest honey during the current season.   If you don’t plan to harvest honey this year then you don’t have to worry about it with apiguard, if you were planning to harvest honey this year you should do so before applying your mite treatments.  If you ever do need to remove supers which contain stores for any period longer than overnight the only way to store them safely is in a freezer – otherwise they are almost certain to become infested with hive beetle larva.

If your hives are not well established yet you may need to continue feeding through summer and fall – you can only tell for sure by doing your inspections.  If you have more than one hive in the same area you will probably need to take action to prevent robbing – robber screens work better than anything else which I have tried.

Do your inspections – keep them queenright, and feed any hives that do not contain at least 15 pounds of stores consisting of significant amounts of BOTH open nectar and capped honey, plan NOW to treat for mites  –  If you only do those things your bees a much more likely to survive and thrive.

Remember that there will not be a regular Meeting in July, but don’t slack off on your beekeeping.  Summer beekeeping may not be all that fun, but it will make a huge difference in the long run.

Resources:

 

When Good Bees go Bad

This article was originally posted in June 2011, but contains seasonally relevant information.

Whenever there isn’t a good flow on (like now and throughout the rest of the summer) strong honey bee hives will often rob weak hives – if it gets bad enough they will completely decimate the hive that is being robbed.

This is the best video that I could find that actually showed robbing going on. Notice 2 things 1) The robber bees are climbing up the hive to get some extra elevation before they take off – this is typical in a robbing frenzy. 2) Groups of bees wrestling on the landing board, and falling off the front in clumps – those distinguish a robbing frenzy from orientation or swarming.

To Prevent Robbing:

  • Don’t let it get started! Much easier to prevent than to correct.
  • Don’t spill syrup or nectar.
  • Don’t drop burr comb and leave it laying.
  • Don’t use entrance feeders.
  • If you feed one hive, feed them all.  A big strong hive that is hungry is highly motivated to rob – and they don’t want to break into next winters stored honey if they don’t have to.
  • Feed late in the evening – an amount small enough to be gone by morning.
  • Restrict all entrances to very small – if there is a traffic jam at the strong hive the robber bees can’t get in to unload and make another run.  If the entrance to the weak hive is small it can be effectively defended be just a few bees.  Think of one Marine blocking a doorway compared to trying to block a whole street.  Very large natural bee hives often go in and out through very small openings.
  • When you need to open hives do what you need to do and close it back up as quickly as possible.
  • Very important – make sure there is only one entrance – including that little hole in the front of the inner cover – block that off.  A hive that is being robbed has a very hard time defending the back door.
  • Don’t open feed close to your hives!  Some people have had success shutting down a robbing frenzy by open feeding 100 yards or so away – thus drawing the robbers off to easier pickings.

 

There will be some robbing.  It’s just what they do.  When it gets out of hand you won’t have to ask anyone if it is robbing or not – it looks violent, and chaotic.  If that happens  what has worked for me  is to suit up and thoroughly smoke  all hives that might be involved – both the criminals and the victims, and completely block up the entrances until about one half hour before dark – don’t suffocate them though. Then apply corrective actions.

Robber screens are my #1 way of preventing robbing – and I have many little bitty weak hives right next to big strong hives.

I would like to encourage anyone with tips, insights, or nasty remarks to leave a comment.