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How to keep varroa at comfortable levels w/no chemicals????????

3535 Views 17 Replies 16 Participants Last post by  Riverderwent
Can anyone how to keep varroa at safe levels without the use of chemicals?
I will hopefully go into winter with 4 hives and I can see mites when I inspect the hive but I don't really want to treat with chemicals. What are my options??????????
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Replace your losses next spring. Good luck.
You can cross your fingers and hope for the best but if your seeing VARROA when your in your hive you are heading down a very disappointing road. I'd do a alcohol wash if I was you but if you don't want to treat just let them go I guess there not even a enough time for a brood break left in the season.
You can buy more in the spring.
Can anyone how to keep varroa at safe levels without the use of chemicals?
I will hopefully go into winter with 4 hives and I can see mites when I inspect the hive but I don't really want to treat with chemicals. What are my options??????????
kkauf, You will find many people on this site that say they don't treat for mites and have success. I can't recall any from your area (Ohio). It just may be my memory, but I'd ask local beekeepers if they are having luck without treating for mites. I don't enjoy doing the work treating, or its expense, but if you can SEE mites you have a lot more that you didn't see. Do a sugar shake, or alcohol roll, and see what you have. If it was me, I'd do the testing right away, and if I found what I thought I'd find I'd be treating with MAQS, or Apiguard. MAQS for me since I still have some supers on. You need to get moving soon, if you don't want to just hope for the best.
From what I understand treatment free needs to include a few steps to be effective. But if you've got enough to SEE them, treat them. Even if you use a "soft" treatment.

You can install screened bottom boards for the remainder of the warm season. If you don't like them during cold seasons, swap them back.

You can set sticky traps under your SBB or just leave them open. Sticky traps are good for counts, but don't reduce the population by much. But every adult either trapped or fallen through the SBB is a good thing.

You can start dusting with powdered sugar. Be prepared to do this OFTEN. Once a week? You need as many adults to fall out as possible - and if you're dusting, you probably want a SBB for the excess sugar and the adult mites to fall through. It's labor intensive, but it's treatment free.

Install some drone brood frames. It's not really the right time of year to raise a lot of drones if I'm not mistaken. But if you get a couple of drone foundation frames in and the bees draw them out you'll get most of your adult female mites trapped in those drone cells. Take them out before they emerge and feed them to chickens (if you have them, which we do!) or freeze them and scrape them clean before putting them back in the hives.

For some "soft" chemical treatments read the blog entires here:
Seriously...consider getting your numbers down to something your bees can winter with.

I have to emphasize the SBB, dusting, and brood frames should all be done together in combination with a soft treatment.
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Most treatments free methods require time to work In Aug your bees will start to raise the bees that will carry them through the winter.If you have a heavy mite load now they will not build up enought to make it through the winter.
Roland!! Tell him/her how.
Practically everyone sees mites or the presence of mites in their hives. How well are the hives doing? How many hives do YOU want to end up with in the spring? You can split each one in half and hope to end up with 5 or 6 in the spring. You can treat like crazy and hope to end up with 2. You can do nothing and maybe end up with 3. Bees are a gamble.
The principles here in conjunction with overwintering those colonies using 5 frame boxes stacked two high have worked reliably for me for the last few years. The inspiration to overwinter smaller colonies started as nucs come from Michael Palmer. This is an excellent video. and shows how nucs can be a basis for getting off the package treadmill.
Re-queen with VSH queens. Sugar dust. Drone traps. Brood breaks. And read . The first step to dealing with an enemy is by KNOWING that enemy.

Much depends on the genetics of the stock you started with. If, and pay attention to this if, you started with stock that has been receiving chemical treatment for mites, there is low probability that you will have any alive come spring. All that Rusty said was true and good ideas - but starting now when you are seeing mites doesn't seem promising to me. If you are planning to go the chemical free route, you need to be studying on the methods Rusty described above and be ready to implement them right off in the spring.

And it will be a major plus if you are starting with bees that are known to be able to survive without chemical treatments! In my opinion swarms in their first year can't be said to be survivor bees - as the source of the swarm most times can not be told. And if they are from one of your neighbor's hives who treats - well, that is the way swarms go.

Your best bet will be to get bees next spring from someone local to you who keeps and raises bees for sale w/o chemicals. Don't believe all the claims you read in advertisements. Bees that are able to survive in one location without chemicals may not be able to do so in your area. As an example I tried a number of Russian colonies a few years ago and they eventually succumbed to mites. They may have required fewer treatments but that was not what I was testing for. Likewise I have tried some of the B Weaver bees from Texas. They may be able to live with the mites in Texas but with the addition of the climactic changes in making the move to Maine, they didn't do so well.

So to attempt to wrap things up - expect all your hives to perish over winter and be delighted if any make it through. You will have drawn comb to start replacements and that should help them build quickly. In the meantime study up on mites (do look at and learn everything you can about them and their life cycle. Find a reliable source for local chemical treatment free bees in your area and get them ordered early - like December or January. And study up on the chemicals you are avoiding too - know your enemy (sound familiar?), esp. if that is how you are choosing to view the chemicals.

Good luck and know that you are not alone.

I need to add that I do use chemical treatments for mites - I use Mite Away Quick Strips, a/k/a MAQS and formic acid. This is a synthetic recreation of a naturally occurring substance (chemical) used in concentrations not found in nature.
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naturally occurring substance (chemical) used in concentrations not found in nature.[/I]
I pulled a hive body away from an ant nest the other day, and the formic smell made me cough and set me back... id be interested to know what concentration that was!
Whatever you decide to do, track your varroa loads using a reliable test such as a powdered sugar roll or alcohol wash.

I'm no big fan of chemical treatments either, but if I find that a combination of powdered sugar dusting and freezing green drone frames is not getting the job done, I'll resort to an accepted treatment before I'll let the load get dangerously high.

One "hygenic Carniolan" hive seems to be doing OK ... sugar dusting is not producing mite drops. The other hive is "hygenic Carniolans" recently combined with a VSH queen's nuc. They dropped 8 mites last night after a quick sugar dusting. And that's after a brood break when the original queen quit laying.
Can anyone how to keep varroa at safe levels without the use of chemicals?
I will hopefully go into winter with 4 hives and I can see mites when I inspect the hive but I don't really want to treat with chemicals. What are my options??????????
If you have a small number of hives you could treat the bees with hot air. 46-48°C for about 15 minutes.
It is a labor intensive process because the bees must be shaked off the combs. It is your only option.
David Burns of Long Lane Honey Bee Farm has a great website with over 100 free lessons. He has some detailed lessons about chemical free treatments. Also, Fat Bee Man on Youtube can offer you some advice on chemical free beekeeping. Of course, these may be considered more "soft" treatments using less harmful chemicals than chemical free. Look up Michael Bush for some truly chemical free beekeeping advice. I am currently trying to launch a small online resource for natural beekeeping in Langstroth style hives. This is an effort to gather information concerning natural beekeeping from those who believe natural beekeeping is a better approach. You can check out the link to Natural Beekeeping Board below in my signature.
Check this out.... It may help....

Michael Bush Presentation at Palm Beach
Stop treating ... who would of thunk.
"Can anyone how to keep varroa at safe levels without the use of chemicals?"
We do not have nearby migratory bees. We have gathered most of our stock from old feral colonies, introduced a couple of VSH queens, made walkaway splits and allowed natural swarming to interrupt brood cycles, raised our own queens from sound stock, and in theory use the Bond method, although we have had no actual loss from Varroa and the state inspector this summer found no Varroa spot checking our hives. (Maybe small hive beetles are killing them.) We use almost all 8 frame mediums. (I can't see how that could make a difference, but who knows -- it does seem to correlate anecdotally with successful treatment free beekeepers.) We will be migrating to more foundationless frames and experimenting with small cell I suspect. The goal is to have 12 hives, but we seem to keep ending up with 20 or more. Maybe that's the key. That and not treating. I hope it goes well for you.
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