Varrox: A cautionary tale
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    mantorville, mn usa
    Posts
    88

    Default Varrox: A cautionary tale

    My presumed qeenless hive is getting a new queen in a few days. No brood nor eggs visible in a 3 deep hive, I thought, "this would be a good time to do an OAV treatment". There was a little rain shower off to the west, but it was expected to be at my location in about an hour, I figured I could knock that out in no time. I drove over to the hive, about 2 miles from my house, got my suit on and realized I had forgotten my gloves. It's not a particularly friendly hive, hence the bee armor. Went back home, grabbed the gloves, and made it back to the location. Rain was getting closer and coming sooner than expected. I loaded up my Varrox wand, placed it in the bottom, hooked it up to the truck's battery, and waited the 3 minutes. Unhooked and waited another 3 minutes. While sitting in the truck playing on my phone, I looked up and noticed smoke coming out the top of the hive...

    I was out of the truck and ripping apart the hive, noticing the piles of dead bees piled on the bars. The flame had started on the bottom two frames, it had just started raining, so I stuffed wet grass in to extinguish the fire. A small part of the foundation had melted. There were a few survivors initially. So I put things back together as the rain was coming down and noticed the bees were slowly moving around. I piled them inside and outside the front entrance and figured there wasn't anymore that I could do.

    I drove back home, and realized I thought I had forgotten to put the lid back on. Back I go and found that I had indeed put the lid on. The dead bees I dumped in front were now making their way back inside. There were a few piles of bees nearby, so with my gloves I scooped a couple handfuls and dumped them too. I had a handful of stingers in the gloves as they were properly pissed at me. Figuring that I was killing more by scooping them up, I left them alone.

    That's the first time I've had that problem with the vaporizer. I shall have to check for wax hangy thingys in the future, maybe fold a hardware cloth over the top of the pan as a heat sink...But I am sick about it as it is...

    So be careful with those hot things in the hive.

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2019
    Location
    Newtown, ct
    Posts
    27

    Default Re: Varrox: A cautionary tale

    I am sorry to hear about it, I am sure it is very frustrating. Keep your chin up!

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2019
    Location
    Northeast PA
    Posts
    296

    Default Re: Varrox: A cautionary tale

    Quote Originally Posted by cviuc1972 View Post
    My presumed qeenless hive is getting a new queen in a few days. No brood nor eggs visible in a 3 deep hive, I thought, "this would be a good time to do an OAV treatment". There was a little rain shower off to the west, but it was expected to be at my location in about an hour, I figured I could knock that out in no time. I drove over to the hive, about 2 miles from my house, got my suit on and realized I had forgotten my gloves. It's not a particularly friendly hive, hence the bee armor. Went back home, grabbed the gloves, and made it back to the location. Rain was getting closer and coming sooner than expected. I loaded up my Varrox wand, placed it in the bottom, hooked it up to the truck's battery, and waited the 3 minutes. Unhooked and waited another 3 minutes. While sitting in the truck playing on my phone, I looked up and noticed smoke coming out the top of the hive...

    I was out of the truck and ripping apart the hive, noticing the piles of dead bees piled on the bars. The flame had started on the bottom two frames, it had just started raining, so I stuffed wet grass in to extinguish the fire. A small part of the foundation had melted. There were a few survivors initially. So I put things back together as the rain was coming down and noticed the bees were slowly moving around. I piled them inside and outside the front entrance and figured there wasn't anymore that I could do.

    I drove back home, and realized I thought I had forgotten to put the lid back on. Back I go and found that I had indeed put the lid on. The dead bees I dumped in front were now making their way back inside. There were a few piles of bees nearby, so with my gloves I scooped a couple handfuls and dumped them too. I had a handful of stingers in the gloves as they were properly pissed at me. Figuring that I was killing more by scooping them up, I left them alone.

    That's the first time I've had that problem with the vaporizer. I shall have to check for wax hangy thingys in the future, maybe fold a hardware cloth over the top of the pan as a heat sink...But I am sick about it as it is...

    So be careful with those hot things in the hive.

    Johno's easy vap doesn't get hot enough to cause fires. Same price as the Varrox, and it takes about 30 seconds per hive, maybe 45 seconds.

    Highly recommended.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Algoma District Northern Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    4,842

    Default Re: Varrox: A cautionary tale

    You definitely should knock down any ladder comb. Have you timed how long it takes to do a boil off? You can usually unhook 30 seconds or so and let it coast to completion. The ignition temperature of bees wax is much higher than the needed sublimation temperature so I would guess you somehow exceeded that point.

    There have been a few examples where some brands have burnt through and caused damage to frames. Usually though, fires are operator error.
    Frank

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    Powhatan, Virginia, USA
    Posts
    370

    Default Re: Varrox: A cautionary tale

    Have to agree with crofter.
    Instructions for varrox say two and a half minutes - not three.
    Burr comb on the bottom of frames in the middle of the bottom box should be removed periodically just for this reason better safe than sorry.
    The wings on the Varrox are designed to hold the pan clear of the bottom board so it does not touch anything flammable.
    Some entrance reducers bend them flat if they fit tight..
    The residual heat in the pan is enough to vaporize OA left after 2 1/2 minutes of connected time.
    Mine does a single dose in 2 min 10 seconds.

  7. #6
    Join Date
    May 2017
    Location
    Spokane, Washington, USA
    Posts
    237

    Default Re: Varrox: A cautionary tale

    I like slatted racks, for many reasons, but also to help ensure this does not happen.

    Good catching the problem in a timely manner, it sounds like you did all you could.

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    mantorville, mn usa
    Posts
    88

    Default Re: Varrox: A cautionary tale

    I had done a 3/4 tsp load (1 gr= 1/4 tsp). It took right at 2 1/2 min to vaporize it. My fault, it just got too hot.

    I've read about some folks using a mosquito fogger with OA with ethyl or water in the recent past. Has there been any data regarding the efficacy of that delivery method?

  9. #8
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Algoma District Northern Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    4,842

    Default Re: Varrox: A cautionary tale

    Quote Originally Posted by cviuc1972 View Post
    I've read about some folks using a mosquito fogger with OA with ethyl or water in the recent past. Has there been any data regarding the efficacy of that delivery method?
    Good for Youtube hits! For varroa not so much. Apparently the resulting fog does not deliver the microcrystalline structure that dry sublimation does.
    Frank

  10. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Location
    Lumpkin County, GA
    Posts
    861

    Default Re: Varrox: A cautionary tale

    This is one advantage that screen bottom boards have over solid bottoms. I put my vaporizer under the screen eliminating a fire hazard. I add about half a scoop more to make up for the OA having to go through the screen.

  11. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2018
    Location
    Northern Colorado, USA
    Posts
    587

    Default Re: Varrox: A cautionary tale

    When I am doing OAV in the bottom of a hive I smoke the bees up then look in with a flashlight to make sure there is no comb hanging off the bottom of a frame that is going to cause problems. I have also put a chunk of metal (roof flashing) under the OAV want on occasion when there was a lot of junk on the floor of the hive to keep a gap between the wand and the floor that is fire proof.

    I have started placing a 3/4" shim between my bottom boards and the first box with the entrance side cut to 1/2" thick. One of the local suppliers makes bottom boards that only have a 1/2" opening so it is difficult to get the wand in without this shim. The shim also has the added benefit of a bit more space between the frames and the bottom of the hive if you remove the burr comb. The bees do like to fill this extra 1/2" with burr comb, but I also have a hive on a standard 3/4" gap bottom board that is filling the 3/4" with burr comb, so the shim may not be contributing to the burr comb.

  12. #11
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
    Location
    Fargo, North Dakota
    Posts
    242

    Default Re: Varrox: A cautionary tale

    Vaporization from the top precludes the fire hazard posed by hanging comb.

  13. #12
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    mantorville, mn usa
    Posts
    88

    Default Re: Varrox: A cautionary tale

    I went back late afternoon yesterday to check for any potential queen activity, as well to check if the hive survived/It looks as though they have recovered from the fire incident. Still a lot of bees. I gave them a small frame of brood to see what they do with that.

  14. #13
    Join Date
    Jun 2019
    Location
    ToweringOakFarm - Cleveland- Southern East Texas
    Posts
    58

    Default Re: Varrox: A cautionary tale

    I just finished going through my hives and i noticed scorch marks on the bottom of 2 frames. I did not have any hanging comb. Next time I'm going to peek under the sbb and make sure the wand is centered in the space between frames. The new scorch mark has OA covering it.

  15. #14
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    mantorville, mn usa
    Posts
    88

    Default Re: Varrox: A cautionary tale

    Well, they're definitely queenless. I put the new queenbox amongst them and they seemed to be taking a shine to her, trying to stick their tongues in and all. So, yay!

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