Varroa destruction

Late last year I did apply varroa treatment in the form of Apilife var as is my usual choice, erring on the natural side of ‘remedies’ with thymol (thyme oil). Earlier in the year I had tried predator mites, with unknown success  or otherwise given I could not get a mite drop from which to start measuring.

This year I’ve started with a slightly stronger tack, following methods discussed by LASI, using oxalic acid vapourised with heat into the hive. I’ve kept away from oxalic before, as while it is ‘relatively natural’, existing in rhubarb leaves for one, dribbling it over the brood has some rumors of being far from effective and more of being damaging to bee mouth parts; right at the time when they are in low numbers, they need to use their mouth parts with most urgency and also not being in a position to being readily replaced.

The process is relatively easily facilitated with a varrox vapouriser, the process being to put oxalic acid powder, put in the hive entrance, seal up the hive relatively well and then stand well back and connect the battery. The bees will be somewhat aggravated and will try to fan the vapour out so leaving open the varroa floor is a bad idea. The  vapour being a white misty gas can be seen after 20 seconds or so escaping from cracks and joints. DON’T BREATHE THE FUMES, they cause irreparable lung damage. A face mask and keeping up-wind of the hive is strongly suggested.

Varroxing bees

After two and a half minutes the oxalic will all of have been vapourised, disconnect the battery and wait a further 2 mins. On taking the vapouriser out be aware it will be hot – oh and watch out for upset bees when you are unblocking the hole.

Remember I said it was hot, well that means letting it cool before putting more oxalic in the heating dish – from personal experience – stop adding more and back away.

Oh and also when it is inserted be careful not no having it touching any handing wax or the whole hive could set on fire… One way to avoid this, and something you will likely have to do on a WBC (as they have floors that slope up to the frames) is to put an empty super under the brood to give enough height clearance.


So at the start of the year I planned an experiment. Trialing mites that are supposed to kill varroa mites, strateolaelaps scimitus ( try saying that after a drink or two ). Anyway the plan was establish a varroa drop rate, then use the above mites then see how that changes things vs a control group of no treatment and another group using api life var treatment.
Well the best laid plans got scrapped when in all my hives I got no mite drop. Does that mean I have no mites, well no, because later in a hive I spotted deformed wing virus and went hunting and found mites on the comb; and still there was no drop. So they are clinging on ehh !! Well we will have to do something about that.

Unfortunately my hives are in ‘flux’, ie artifical swarm, swarm, mysteriously queenless, etc. So there is no controlled or fair experiment I can carry out given such variety and a small sample size in the first place.

I need to do something really about the varroa (or maybe not, but I’m going to anyway), so I bought my tube of varroa munching mites and I am going to put them in about 4 hives asap.

I won’t get anything but a gut feeling as to if it has worked, but I will at least have tried, and normally I only treat in autumn so the bees are getting more than they would otherwise.

Wish them luck.

More on biological Varroa control

So, as I haver been telling everyone who will listen, I am planning to trial biological control of varroa on my bees this coming year.

‘Hypoaspis miles’, also known as ‘Stratiolaelaps scimitus’, are a mite found in leaf litter naturally. They have been readily used for a number of years in controlling parasites on other ‘pets’ including rats, tarantulas, snakes and snails (and recently red mite control with chickens), also in controlling pests on crops such as strawberries.

Their use has been recognised in conjunction with controlling varroa since at least 2008 that I have found. They have also be successfully tested at Buckfast abbey and in conjunction with Devon BKA.

They do not predate on bees, larvae or eggs, and their numbers die out naturally when they run out of food (aka the varroa mites).

Anyway enough of me, here is a link to a video all about them, including more details and real world trials on bee hives. Enjoy…

Bio control for the Varroa Mite

Winter Antics

Well it has been a while since I posted, highlighted by me wiping out my site but managing to get most of it back by the wonders of google cache. So what have I been up to in the bee world, well I have :

– been reading Snelgrove
– bought far too much bee woodwork from Thorne‘s sales, given I don’t want to increase from 10-12 hives
– bought an electric staple / nail gun and put plywood trim on plastic excluders to give them bee space
– found that said nail gun made putting together super frames very quick and easy
– put together lots of supers and dremel’d my initials into the side (hives do get stolen)
– fed my bees lots of sugar syrup and treated them with Api life var
– insulated inside the cover with hessian sacking
– insulated outside the hive by cutting up sheets of solid insulation board (20mm celotex) to make a cube shape that fits over the side, with correx on top with an overhang to keep the rain off.
– last but not least bought myself a 9 frame radial manual honey extractor. Finally, using my “honey money” to pay for it.

And next?

– Well, more woodwork assembly, coating with linseed.
– I am going to try to get hold of some acetic acid to protect the supers and other foundation from disease and wax moth.
– The big experiment next year is to try hypoaspis mites, a biological control for varroa mites. A naturally occurring mite that usually lives in leaf litter, which feeds on varroa mites.

Wish the bees and me luck.