Thursday, August 13, 2015

See You Next Spring!

-Posted by Isaac

What have we been doing lately?
Growing up on a grain farm, August was a time for twiddling thumbs and fishing. Not so with bees. We've been busy, and I wish I could say it was with honey extracting. But we're not quite there. Our busyness involves the varroa mite.

If you're at all involved with beekeeping you know what a scourge this little pest is. Or maybe you don't? Or maybe you're in denial...  "My hive inspection said, 'No Mites'!"

This is a quick informative post for some of you beekeepers who may want to know how we deal with varroa. (Especially for those of you who bought nucs from us in April.)

Please don't deny the hard facts of keeping bees... You have mites! Maybe a few, maybe a lot, but mites are there and they are not going away. August is the time to do something about it.

Here's what we do:

This time of year, we knock the mites down with formic acid.

There are a variety of tools at your disposal when combating the mites. Soft treatments, hard treatments, brood cycle disruption, you name it. The important thing is that you do something.

It is possible to fight varroa with no treatment at all. We've done it for years.. removing the queen, cutting cells... basically breaking the brood cycle. As you can imagine, this becomes quite tedious as your hive count increases.

Formic acid, the Mite Away strips, are a nice fast alternative to hunting for that queen. This is an organic treatment. A soft treatment... you can have honey supers on. Plus it works for mites hidden under the capped brood.

Get things ready before opening the hive.

Formic acid is naturally present in the hive already. You're just raising the level to a point where the mites can't take it, but bees can. 
But there are always parameters aren't there? With this stuff you've got to watch the temperature. Too hot (over 85F), and it's too volatile. You're going to kill some bees, maybe even the queen. Too cold (under 60F) and it just doesn't work well. You're wasting your money. And time.

Money and time... Yes, treating for mites require both. 
With the Mite Away strips, at four dollars a treatment, the expenses can quickly escalate. The pails run about a hundred bucks a pop.

About half the year's mite treatment.
But it's cheaper than buying new bees next spring!

Also time: the treatment needs to be placed in the middle of the brood. So in August, this involves a lot of removing of honey supers. It can wear you out.

On a good day I can treat about 100 hives.
But that rarely happens. Basically we make our way around and try to finish by mid-August. I've learned the hard way, if you wait, if you're still trying to treat with acid in September, it's almost too late. This was a hard and expensive lesson.

So get out there!

I say "we." Mostly I mean "me," but Seth too has been doing some mite killing of late. He's our licensed commercial applicator, having gone through the rigorous testing and training. 
For those of you who may be intimidated about the prospect of a mite treatment (actually doing something), Seth is going to demonstrate his knowledge and skill:

1. Open Beehive

2. Place Treatment

It's complicated, I know. But you'll catch on eventually. Even a dummy like me can learn these things.

When you're done, especially if it's around 80F, the hives look like this.

Take your medicine!

No, bees don't like it all that much. But it's good for them. If you check the following week, you'll notice an increase in activity. They just seem healthier... happier?
Or maybe I'm just seeing things.

Having said all this, I realize, for some, my preaching still falls on deaf ears. It's not natural to put something in a hive. Something as invasive as a mite treatment. It's not exactly biodynamic. Working holistically with nature... Building a stronger bee through natural selection.

And I can sympathize with this view. Hey, I'm as much a fan of Darwin as anyone. Hands off! Let nature take it's course! 
The thing is, for us, it's just not good for business. Dead bees, I mean.

And speaking of business, I'd be remiss if I didn't make at least one small sales pitch. (Especially for you holistic folks.) In the unlikely event that disaster should befall... In the improbable scenario of tragic results... If the hands-off approach (gasp!) doesn't fare well...     We can help you out!
We will have strong healthy nucs for sale next spring! That's right! New beginnings! For a scant $986 each, come to Honeyrun and buy yourself some new bees!

I'll even make you a deal. For you, gentle reader, mention this add and we'll skip the red tape. We'll bypass the middleman. Let's just make it an even $900. What a deal! Whaddya say? You're saving BIG BUCKS! Think about it!

(Plus 7% sales tax.)

(Cash only please.) 


  1. Have you tried oxaclic acid? I have seen it done with or without a vaporizer. I think it works a lot better than the formic acid and I feel better about using it on my hives when there are honey supers.

  2. Hello,
    Yes we use oxaclic acid. The dribble method from about mid November through mid January. On warm enough days. It works well, judging by the mite counts taken later in the year.
    The thing is, it doesn't do anything about the mites underneath the capped brood, so unless you're going back to the hive week after week, its hard to get the majority of the mites during the warmer months when the hives are brooding.
    Thanks for following this.