Hi Everyone, the winter is almost over, and Iím wondering how to get ahead of varroa mites this year. The question is, what solution to use this time? Iíve been doing my research, and found a few treatments. I understand that they use different chemicals in various increments, but all claim that they are at least 90% effective. So whatís the difference then? For example, ApiVar, ApiLifeVar, and ApiGuard. The ingredients or their increments are different, but which one is better? And why do each manufacturer make two treatments for the same problem? In which cases should I apply one or another? Hope my question is not very confusing.
Your question is not confusing. The current state of mite management and advice surrounding mite management is very confusing.
The easiest of your questions is the one about why each manufacturer makes a host of products that seem to do the same thing.
The primary answer is, because they can sell it. I have learned that just because I find it in a bee supply catalog does not mean that it is effective or even helpful at all to beekeeping. Perhaps one could find that cynical. They would not be mistaken.
The secondary reason, if you are trying to push some positive in here, is that there is a strong belief in the beekeeping community that treatments should be rotated and not used back-to-back in order to avoid mites becoming resistant to the products.
Now to the difficult question, what is the best product to use? Well, that is largely dependent on the season and your climate, but I will give it a shot. Others can join in and take issue with anything I say:
Apivar: The best. Bar none. Not temperature dependent. Does not seem to cause brood or queen loss. Negative: Cannot use with supers in place. Synthetic miticide. Long treatment period. (7 to 8 weeks).
ApiLifeVar and ApiGuard: Both Thymol products made by separate companies. While this is a derivative of an essential oil (Thyme), it can cause brood loss, queen loss and even absconding in higher temperatures. But when successfully used, very effective. There is a minimum and maximum temperature for use. Do not believe the Maximum temp shown on the package!!!! It is over estimated by at least 25 degrees Fahrenheit. Can't be used when supers in place.
MAQS & Formic Acid: REALLY can't be used in higher temperatures. Can cause brood loss and queen loss and potential absconding when used in higher temps. It CAN be used with honey supers on. Effective when used in appropriate temps and according to direction.
Oxalic Acid Vaporization: I would say this one is the new darling on the block. At least for the US (approved in 2015). I use it and like it, but I do not fully trust it. I monitor before and after. Really need a broodless hive or a hive with very little capped brood to be effective. Still a lot to learn on OAV in my opinion.
There are others, but I do not have direct experience with any of them. I have used all of the above. Because I live in an incredibly hot climate, I am pretty much relegated to Apivar and OAV. Formic and Thymol are just too caustic in my temps.