Sunday, May 16, 2010

oxalic trials for varroa control

 All things considered, I will say it again, keeping the mite count very low is number one in keeping bees healthy.

While examining our hives in Florida during this last spring, we discovered one yard of 80 hives that went without any mite treatments and had a high varroa mite load. An ether roll of 16 mites was common.  

I took the yard of 80 hives from a 16 mite ether roll to almost zero with 3 treatments with oxalic. Both deeps (doubles)were treated each time with 25 ml, more or less, for a total of 50 ml per hive. I would generally be able to treat 80 hives per gallon. This is a spring treatment with lots of new hatch.

On the last treatment, I gave each deep (doubles)50 ml of 3.5%. That is about 100 ml per hive.  NO damage. That's 40 hives to one gallon on the last treatment. I must point out that there was a constant hatch of new bees coming in and also nectar coming in daily. 

After hearing so many stories of beekeepers hurting their bees with too much formic, thymol, oxalic, fuji mite, etc., I would like to make a recommendation to all beeks. Trial every new treatment on a few hives before treating all your hives. Test each treatment according to conditions like temp, nectar flow, population, etc. Put a sticky board on the bottom on the trials. You may need more or less treatment. Conditions can vary greatly. 

Then roll roll roll. 
Or shake shake shake.  ;-)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

oxalic drip trials

There was some discussion on the Bee-L about drizzling bees with syrup. Some beeks and researchers reported bee losses when they were covered with syrup. The discussion segued into potential problems with oxalic dribble.

I agree with Randy Oliver in that I find no problems with oxalic dribble. It must be pointed out that the sugar concentration probably plays a role in any detrimental effects on the bees. The dribble is very light on sugar in our mix.

Disclaimer: Our oxalic trials are just for research. Oxalic is evidently not approved by the Govt. for honeybee mite treatment.

Oxalic acid is available at hardware stores in small amounts as wood bleach and can be obtained in big bags from Wintersun Chemical.

We take a gallon of distilled, dump half out into another empty gallon jug.
Measure 140 grams of oxalic acid on a paper plate on an Ohaus electronic gram postal scale.
Fold the plate to pour the oxalic into the jug.
Top off the jug with HFCS (already cut with 20 % water (bleach always added))
Pour into garden sprayer
Screw tip tight enough to curtail the spray into a dribble.
Lightly smoke the top bars.
Run the tip in the groove between the bars.
If you counted, it may take a count of two seconds to treat one seam. I don't think 3 seconds would harm the bees if the tip is set right to drizzle.

Randy and I have compared some notes on repeated treatments in spring conditions with fresh bee hatches.
NO problems with treatments every 10 days.

I would highly recommend to any beek to always trial any treatment on a limited number of hives before jumping in whole hog. I heard first hand of beeks burning bees with oxalic, killing hives with thymol in high heat conditions, and similar problems with formic.

After using sticky boards and monitoring mite drops in one particular yard with high mite loads (16 in ether roll which would be about 25 in a wash) I can say with confidence that it does drop the mites. 300 in two days on one hive.

I'm off to give the third treatment this weekend to the one particular (forgotten) yard. I'm down to 6 to 7 mites per ether roll now in this one.

I expect to reach less than 2 mites per roll like our regular production hives this year.

I also think most of beekeepers problems can be mostly eliminated if the beekeeper can keep mite loads very low. That's just an opinion.
The proof is in the pudding.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Interesting research on Thymol in syrup for mite control

I have a previous post in regards to trials we have made in dissolving thymol crystals in alcohol at concentrations of .25 grams per gallon of syrup and feeding to bees during the course of supplemental feeding to maintain sufficient stores to prevent starvation and to stimulate the hive/queen.

Here is a research paper that shows promise that small concentrations of thymol in the larvae can prevent tracheal and varroa mites from damage.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Introducing virgin queens into hives

I recall that while recently reading Doolittle's treatise on queen raising (during the late 1800's, he stated that it was easy to release a virgin into shook bees in a broodless hive. I think that releases into smaller colonies would boost success rates, too, even with brood. It may be even better with no eggs and a very fresh virgin. They don't seem to store very well in an incubator or hive nursery.

I am interested in working with virgins, as we have extra cells quite often and I'm still trying to find a technique with Jz's Bz's cups to let the queen hatch out into a vessel.  I had considered Vera-Yordy virgin queen introduction system.  They are a bit expensive, but I will give them a go.

When we do release virgins, we generally like to spray the bees with a hand sprayer with a light syrup. I think an addition of scent helps, like lemongrass. It's better than smoke.

We get so busy that it is difficult to find the time to do any real research.

Yesterday we did our first prep on the gulf coast for our first graft today. Now it's 7 days a week for quite a while, and then it's two days a week after that.

The weather is about 10 to 15 degrees below normal and rainy. We had snow a couple days ago. The locals stopped their cars and took pictures. Lot's of weather in the 50's F for highs. Usually about 62 F for highs.

Nonetheless, the bees look good, and neither rain nor snow will prevent us from raising good cells and strong hives with a good feeding program. Lots of drones hatching out right now (perfect). I predict perfect weather with light wind below 5 mph in the mid 60's or higher( in my dreams).

The rest of our crew arrives in a week to split in advance of the cells hatching.

Monday, February 1, 2010

pollen substitute patties

Every fall we send some loads of our bees to Florida to begin our new season. Most arrive in singles and we add a second deep box as we begin our feeding program in mid December. This year we sent one load of double deeps that didn't make the grade to go to California for almond pollination.

We have been adding pollen substitute patties to our hives in Florida this winter and have observed the quick growth of hives from the added protein from the patties and the sugars from HFCS feeding. Most of the hives we brought down to Florida arrived in Nov. and received the first pollen sub and fructose syrup in mid December around the winter solstice. As the days get longer the bees respond well to stimulative feeding and the queen increases her egg laying.

Our goal is to have very strong hives to split in late February for increase, stock additional 5 frame nucs and stock some queen mating nucs. 

I had a chance to observe the marked difference in yards of bees that have been on our feeding program and compare these yards to a few yards that didn't get the attention because my son didn't get to them yet. As of late January the bees on our program of non-stop feeding have up to 9+ frames of brood and have been drawing fresh wax all winter. The bees that have had some syrup to maintain the food supplies, but no pollen sub patties and therefore no additional protein are faring well, but only have about 3 frames of brood. If increased brood rearing is your goal, I would highly recommend feeding pollen sub patties.

We have used Mann Lakes patties and Dadant's patties too. A new one that we tried was the "Florida Patty" from Dadant that does not contain soy protein, but brewers yeast and mostly sugar, to avoid hive beetle larvae infestations. They all seem to work well. I'll be running some trials in our cell builders this spring.

Some beekeepers report that hives fed pollen patties during pollination on some crops did much better than hives left to forage for pollen. It is possible that some pollen collected by the bees gets contaminated by fungicides and pesticides and pollen sub provided by the beekeeper dilutes the contaminated pollen and lessens the impact of the contaminated pollen. Another scenario is the pollen collected by bees in a monoculture planting of crops to be pollinated has low protein or is lacking some vital component.

It is possible that some pollen collected by bees is too low in protein at certain times of the year for the bees to maintain sufficient body fat to produce royal jelly. Protein provides the necessary nutrients for the honeybees to put on body fat that can be converted into royal jelly for feeding brood.

When pollen is stored by the bees in times of great supply, they pack it into cells and cover it with honey and the pollen goes through a lactic acid fermentation which predigests the pollen and acidifies it, likely extending its keeping qualities . It may be more nutritious and digestible for the bees. I have wondered if fungicides picked up by foraging bees would curtail or prevent lactic acid fermentation.

When stores of pollen are low, I believe the bees eat it as needed and it may not be as nutritious as bee bread (lactic acid fermented stored pollen) or pollen sub. It is likely that this would be an excellent time to provide supplemental feeding of pollen substitutes. 

Many beeks and bee scientists have stated that honeybees that were fed a protein rich  balanced diet when young (fat bees), have the necessary body fats to produce copious quantities of royal jelly to feed the next cycle of young larvae to produce more "fat bees".  My friend Lawrence Cutts in Chipley, Florida states that "skinny bees make skinny bees" , meaning that bees that did not receive a protein rich diet did not have the body fats to produce enough royal jelly to feed the young larvae, which in turn were skinny.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Thymol in syrup for nosema ceranae control

I ran across some studies on the use of Thymol fed to bees in syrup while perusing the web and thought it may of interest to some beekeepers. Thymol is the main active ingredient in Vicks Vapor Rub, to my knowledge.

Apidologie has a publication ahead of print in regards to studies which indicated the feeding of small amounts of Thymol extended the longevity of bees substantially (from 20 days to 24+). The levels of Nosema Ceranae spores were greatly reduced.

I have used thymol in small amounts in my high fructose corn syrup (when feeding was necessary) to prevent bacteria growth and to possibly limit Nosema infection. Randy Oliver has reported on this.

I have done this on a rather large scale, treating 4000 gallons at a time with no apparent negative effects.

Friday, January 8, 2010

new trials with oxalic drip in Florida panhandle

After our fall  treatments for mites, which consisted of thymol cream, formic meat pads, and one "hard" treatment plus lots of feeding of HFCS, we shipped our singles and some doubles to Florida in November. The bees look great. No Fumidil ever in 30 years.
The bees now shipping to Cal. look fabulous too, with very little drop on the bottoms. Much better than most years.

After some research, some email with Randy Oliver, we gave Oxalic treatments a go over the last two weeks in the Florida panhandle. I instructed(I'm still in Michigan for one more day) JJ and the crew to apply oxalic drip to one half of every yard. That's 40 hives out of 80 for every yard. We did some mite rolls 4 days later and are rolling(ether roll) 0 to 2 mites in the hives treated with the dribble of 5 ml per slot applied with a dosing gun we bought from Jeffers. We thinned out syrup with water in a 5 gallon bucket and added 700 grams of acid. Thinner syrup applies easier with a dosing gun.

The untreated side had about 3 to 8 mites per roll. They have been brooding since mid Nov., so they had about 6+ weeks of brooding. JJ reported some brood damage along the top bars, but was of the opinion that it was inconsequential.

My friend Steve Cantu reported that he tried oxalic some years ago and the help improperly mixed the acid in a very high concentration and burned the wings off the bees.

We will follow up and treat the other side of each yard.

Our next treatment will be Formic soaked meat pads.

Last year the mite population got a bit out of hand and it's hard to catch up once splitting and honey making starts.


Mix powdered oxalic acid (available as wood bleach in hardware stores or by the 50 # bag for about $300) with distilled water and sugar (a light syrup)to make solutions at 3.5% strength. We use a small digital scale to weigh the acid.

For small batches mix 140 grams oxalic with 1 gallon of distilled water and enough sugar or fructose to make a light syrup. 140 grams divided by 3785 grams of water (one gallon) = 0.036 or 3.6 % strength. The bees will lick it up.

It will keep for a bit in cooler weather. It's so cheap we just make up new batches.

You can get a doser from Jeffer's supply, but we use a small pump up sprayer and close the tip off until it dribbles. Pick up a small medicine cup from the drug store and practice dribbling off 5 ml. Apply 5ml per seam of bees by running the tip of the sprayer between the frames. Avoid putting much more than 50 ml total per hive.
We have done double deeps  and surpassed that amount with no apparent harm however.

It is reported that treatments done in the fall should be limited to only one or the bees health could be compromised.

success with Thymol treatments for mites

We have dabbled with Thymol treatments over the past 3 years in conjunction with Formic treatments, and lately, oxalic acid dribble. They all seem to work if applied at the right temperatures and intervals. Sometimes I don't get to dig into the hives after the treatments and inspect the bees thoroughly as I would like, as there is so much to do in so little time. We are treating so often with different treatments I often wondered how some beeks do sticking with just one treatment, such as Thymol.

I was just talking to my friend Steve Cantu from Zolfo Springs, Florida and he mentioned that he has *only* used Thymol treatments with a recipe I gave him that another friend (Chris Werner from Indian Summer Honey Farms) gave me. The application consists of Thymol mixed in warmed Crisco with some additional essential oils added, such as Tea Tree, Eucalyptus and blended with powdered sugar with a geared down drill motor and a paddle until a frosting thickness is attained. We generally apply it in the back corners with a hive tool.  He has been successful and has not used any "hard" miticides for about 2 plus years. Steve runs a fair number of hives in Florida, sends quite a few to Cal. for almonds and then pollinates Cukes in Michigan.   

breeding for mite resistance

I was reading the Bee-l and a poster suggested that it would be hard to breed for mite resistance by selecting queen bees to graft from to head up new hives if the beekeeper treated his/her bees to reduce mite populations. The poster thought it would be best to let the bees that had no natural mite resistance die and pick from the survivors. This system is also called "live and let die".

It was my opinion that a beekeeper could keep mite levels reduced (applying natural or chemical miticides to remove mites from the bees) to maximize a monetary return on the investment and labor and still pick the best hives for larvae to raise new queens.

keeping bees healthy

Some of you may be interested in the problems beekeepers face to keep the bees healthy from Asian mites.

Beekeepers are very challenged to keep the bees healthy from the ravages of Varroa mites and the corresponding viral infections from mite punctures. It is very probable that CCD is partly caused by virus infections and may be a yet undiscovered virus.

At our honey farm, Sleeping Bear Farms, we are making inroads to controlling parasitic mites with organic plant extracts and weak acids that kill or weaken mites, but do not harm the honeybees significantly.

Lately we have treated with oxalic acid in a water solution at 3.5 % and dribble 5 ml between the combs right on the bees. We have found some minor brood damage, but very little. The mites were substantially reduced upon inspection after 4 days.

We have also used Thymol oil processed from Thyme plants placed on top of the combs in a mix of sugar, like a cake frosting. This had also worked well.

Also in our program is formic acid that we soak on meat pads in a 65% solution at 35 grams per meat pad. The pads have a light plastic coating which slows the release of gaseous formic acid which kills mites.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

making the queen bees in Florida

Here we are in Florida once again, breeding queen bees from the best genetic material we can find with stock we pick from the best survivors with robust egg laying capabilities, gentle nature, and varroa mite resistance. We think varroa mites, sometimes called vampire mites are at the root of the CCD (colony collapse disorder). The mites transfer virus and weaken the honeybees health overall.

Sharon, Niki, and JJ have been executing the day to day queen raising work, preparing the cell builders and grafting the larvae into small "cups" to place into well fed hives to which feed the larvae huge amounts of royal jelly and transform normal worker bee larvae into queens.

We do stock and mate about 600 mating nucs for producing our own queens, but we do not have any surplus to sell. We use all the queens we produce. Last year I was able to observe multiple mating flights within several feet of me. The mating flights look like small comets with a virgin queens followed by a plume of drones.

Many beekeepers from the surrounding area of our Florida panhandle winter farm come to us to purchase queen cells to place into new hives. The cells are shaped like small peanuts and are timed to hatch out within one day of placement.

We ordered some VHS breeder queens from Glenn Apiaries last fall and have found that the colonies headed up by these queens had less mites in the general population. I have reported this to the local beekeepers and we plan to order more of this stock for next year.


Sunday, February 8, 2009

honey used to heal open sores from staph

I have a first-hand story to share with you about the healing power of honey.

When our children were young, back about 22 years ago, we had an extremely stressful bout with infections on myself and our oldest daughter and middle son.

We were all drinking raw goats milk which came from a goat that had the beginning of an udder infection that eventually killed the goat. I got a sore on my knee, my daughter got one on her chest, and my middle son got one on his cheek. We all have scars to this day.

My son's sore was the worst. His open sore was on his cheek and antibiotics (two different ones) had no effect. It was horrible. Ironically we were beginning beekeepers and it didn't dawn on us immediately how effective honey was on bacteria. One day I read something on honey's effectiveness and mentioned it to my wife, Sharon, who was already interested in alternative medicine. We immediately spread honey on his cheek and it was a miracle. Within 48 hours we could see an obvious turn in the sore in the reduction of puss.

As it turns out, honey is quite acidic, with a pH of 3.4 or so and has natural hydrogen peroxide. The most interesting thing was that honey is hygroscopic, meaning it sucks water out of bacteria, making a very inhospitable enviroment for them to thrive.

I have heard that some honeys have extra healing properties. I think it is Manuka.