Beekeeper Newsletter – December 1, 2004

P.O. Box 2144
Bakersfield, CA 93303
Office Located at 1734 D Street, Suite #2
Bakersfield, California
24 Hr. Phone (661) 327-2631

Keeping Bees
The first wave of mites 10 to 15 years ago put some beekeepers out of business. With the current failure of both Apistan and Check-Mite, more beekeeers, including some of you, will be out of business by 2006. 10 years from now, beekeepers will look back at 2005 as the year when ”everything changed”.

Beekeepers that survive in 2005 will be those that are pro-active rather than re-active, those that: maintain healthy, well-fed bees, rotate combs every 3 to 5 years (esp. if you’ve used chemicals), monitor mites regularly and take appropriate action before it is too late.

Re mite control, you’ve likely heard about fungal spores (Weslaco lab) and new substances (Tucson lab). Be prepared to jump on these if (when) they become commercially available. Mite-resistant stock is available; ask around to find out what’s working and what’s not. Small-cell comb has eliminated the need for chemicals in some operations. Ed & Dee Lusby pioneered the use of small-cell comb and warned of the dangers of chemical contamination of wax years ago (be cautious when buying used comb). Entire hives must be converted to small-cell comb; adding a few frames doesn’t work.

Think About It
With honey prices sliding, some bee operations, possibly including yours, will be dependent on almond pollination as their sole source of income.

There has been some success with Thymol treatments at Weslaco. Some beekeepers are using Api Life Var (a thymol product) with good results (see Nov. ABJ, p.845). Thymol is relatively safe but can give an off-flavor to honey.

Formic Acid
3 of our beekeepers report that their bees are in excellent shape. All 3 use formic acid to control mites. Because of safety issues, beekeepers have shied away from formic acid, vowing to use it only as a last resort. ”Last resort” time has arrived for some bee operations.

Formic acid got a bad name when it was first used 10+ years ago – significant queen losses and erratic control. Since that time formic acid application methods have been refined. Mite-gone strips, developed by Canadian Bill Ruzicka, are giving good results for some, including Matt Beekman, Modesto, who is a distributor for Mitegone (209)988-2823.

65% strength formic acid works best (early failures used too high a concentration). Formic can be purchased from Dover Sales, Berkeley, CA (510)527-4780. A 55 gallon drum costs about $500 and can treat 500 to 1000 colonies (depending on whether 1 or 2 strips are used). Formic acid cannot be sold or ordered as a pest control treatment (requires a license) but can be ordered as a general clean-up solvent.

The strips used to apply formic can be purchased through Matt Beekman but 40 days notice is required for orders of any quantity. Temperature and humidity in a given area must be considered in order to fashion the strips for the proper evaporation rate. Matt has provided enough videos for me to send one (with this newsletter) to our So. Calif. beekeepers where Dec.-Jan. temperatures might be suitable for formic treatment (it is too cold in other areas until February or March).

Bill Ruzicka will be giving a 3 hour workshop at the AHPA meeting (Tucson) on Tuesday, Jan. 4 (starting 2:30 PM) and a follow-up discussion Saturday starting at 10:30 AM. Bill will also have a short session at the ABF meeting (Reno) on Saturday morning, Jan. 15. If enough So. CA beekeepers are interested, Bill can hold a workshop in the San Diego area on Monday, Jan. 10.

With proper training and proper safety measures formic gives about 70 to 80% control of varroa. A major advantage is that mites do not become resistant to formic. Formic also gives excellent tracheal control and some chalk brood control. See for more information.

In Praise of Solitude
More than one beekeeper has told me that they have gotten good mite control on apiaries that were isolated from other beekeepers, but lousy control when close to other bee operations. It appears that isolated bee locations are quite valuable when it comes to controlling mites.

Joe Traynor, Mgr.