Sunday, March 28, 2021

All A'Buzz- pt. 4 Pest Management

Gardeners may know there is a PMG (Pest Management Guide) for many pests in the garden. Working with bees ones also needs to be aware of sound pest management. There are both pests and diseases that a beekeeper needs to manage to keep a healthy hive. This post will address a few of the pests. 

One pest we have not had in our hives, for which I am quite thankful, is wax moths. Visual assessment of the hive boxes will let you know if you have these moths. Good hygiene is critical. As with any pest, letting it go for too long makes it that much more difficult to get rid of. If you have wax moths/larvae a good clean of all frames and boxes is needed.  

Hive beetles are an ongoing pest in the hive. These beetles are small black beetles, a little larger than a Sesame seed. The bees do a good job of 'cornering' the beetles in the upper parts of the hive. To assist with the corralling of said beetles, we use beetle traps. It is a long narrow reservoir with a perforated top. You fill the reservoir with mineral oil and nestle it in between two frames, in an upper box and at the outside region of the frames.  


These beetle traps remain in the hives year round, replaced when full of dead beetles. The bees don't mind these traps and from the looks of it, they move the beetles to the trap. 



The next pest I want to tell you about are Varroa mites. These mites are tiny, about the size of a poppy seed, but flat. The mites lay their eggs in with the bee larvae and once the cell of the bee larvae is capped, the mites grow along with the bee. The mites continue laying eggs inside the capped cell. Once the bee emerges from its cell, there is a large brood of mites as well. The mites weaken the bees. To test for Varroa mites you need to sacrifice about 100 bees per hive. We have a special jar contraption. It is two jars, one on top of the other, that share a lid. This lid is mesh top with a threaded screw on top and bottom. One hundred bees are gathered into the jar and the other side is filled with rubbing alcohol.  You close the jar and shake it so the alcohol is mixed with the bees. This kills both the bees and the mites. You then check the rubbing alcohol to count the number of mites per one hundred bees. You don't want more than three per hundred. 

If you have more than three per hundred, treatment is needed. We first used Apivar strips for treatment. It is a chemically treated piece of plastic that the bees walk on. The bees pick up the chemical and spread it around the hive to each other. These strips remain in the hive for 42 days. While the claim is that there is no significant residue in the wax, honey, pollen or propolis, we chose to keep the honey supers off the hives during this time. Click on the link to learn more. https://www.dadant.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/2011/09/Apivar-leaflet-EDITED-010413.pdf



You are to place one strip per 6- 10 frames, so about one per box. They hang from the top of the frame. I think this delayed our honey for harvesting.  We learned about another method for treating Varroa mites last year.  


We are in the bee club in our area and one of the members shared how he treats the mites. We liked his method, so it is our method as well. It is a Vaporization of Oxalic Acid. We do three treatments, one week apart, twice a year. The Oxalic Acid is a natural element, doesn't harm the bees. We can remove the honey boxes (supers), treat the hives, then replace the honey supers.

The powdered oxalic acid gets measured out, into the heating element. Specific directions can be found here. The heating element has jumper cable type clamps on the other end.  We remove the honey supers and replace the covers to the hive. Measure out the correct amount of powder, 1/4 tsp. per box. The wand end of the heating element goes in the front door of the hive and a cloth gets stuffed in around to block the hole.


Here's Charlie, suited up measuring out the powder, the jumper cable ends will get hooked to the riding lawn mower tractor battery.


Timing the application - hook the cables up for 2 1/2 minutes, disconnect the power and allow the heating element to remain in the hive for 2 more minutes. You should see smoke coming out through the seams at the top of the hive. After the allotted time, remove the heating element and seal the opening again for ten minutes to allow the smoke to permeate the entire hive. Place the heating element in a water bath to cool it before moving it on to the next hive. In the photo above you can see the honey super behind the hive. 


After the ten minutes, remove the cloth at the front door of the hive. You can see the foragers want back in! When the front door is open you can remove the top lid and inner lid, replace the honey super and you are done with that hive. Like I said above, this is done three consecutive weeks, that way getting all foragers, all newly emerged brood and all the nurse maid bees exposed to the vapor of the oxalic acid. We do this in the spring and then again in the fall.  

Will we have to continue to do Varroa mite treatments every year? I don't know, we will do the rubbing alcohol test and count the infestation. Some beekeepers don't treat for these mites, but you can risk losing a hive if they get overrun with the mites.



©Copyright 2021 Janet. All rights reserved. Content created by Janet for The Queen of Seaford. words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.

2 comments:

  1. I knew that honeybees were a lot of work but wow! I think I'll need to be retired before I can consider having hives. Really great information Janet. I really appreciated reading your posts and experience with honeybees.

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  2. Fascinating stuff. The maintenance must be overwhelming at times, but obviously well worth the effort. I'm sure it's like gardening, in that if you love it, the time and effort pass in a very pleasant way. Thanks for sharing behind-the-scenes info about the process.

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