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Discussion Starter #1
Hi all!
Sorry for the long post!

So, I’m not a beekeeper myself, but my uncle asked me if I could build him a device to treat bees without pesticides. He has a couple hives and has had bees die a few times already.

From what I understand, he’s worried most about something called varroa. He doesn’t want to use commercial pesticides since he’s afraid of them developing resistance. And he doesn’t want to use formic acid because he’s afraid (maybe paranoid) about how dangerous concentrated formic acid is. And he says oxalic acid doesn’t work well for him.

I’m an engineer, so I don’t want to just build something without understanding the problem.
Is this something you all experience as well?
What do you do to deal with varroa (and other pests)?
Are there other concerns he or I may be missing?

Thanks!

PS, the reason he asked me in particular is that I work with temperature control systems, and he read about using heat to treat varroa. I found some stuff online that claims to do that, but no research that verifies that it actually works.
 

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reading about varroa control on beekeeping sites you will find an endless litany of hocus pocus

I've used oxalic and formic for years, mostly good success. I've also read a lot of the literature as researchers are trying different things. After a while I started to realize something. Every professionally done trial that is a proper double blind compares against 'no treatment' for the negative control, and against apivar for the positive control. Invariably the apivar tends to do as good or better to whatever is being tested. typically better.

Over this winter reading yet another study, it finally made my big light bulb go on. The solution has been obvious forever, I just chose not to see it.

This year, our bees will see apivar strips...
 

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You can find pretty much anything you need to know about varroa on Randy Oliver's website scientificbeekeeping.com
 

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Question: how does 'your uncle' know he wants a device rather than, say, a procedure (such as brood-breaks, drone-culling etc) ?

High temperature certainly will work (the information's out there if you search for it), but it's a VERY slow technique and the temperature needs to be VERY precisely controlled. There is a difficulty in that the heat source and the target are some distance apart and so you'll need to deal with significant thermal lag - I suggest using a cascade-PID setup. Also, the bees themselves will be trying their level best to lower the elevated temperature at the same time as you're trying to hold it steady.

It's much easier/quicker/cheaper to use Vapourised Oxalic Acid (rather than OA dribble). It's a proven technique, with no evidence of any resistance having built up over 20 years. It's hard to see how resistance could ever build up, as it's non-systemic.
Many people's favoured regime is a single treatment in December when the colony is more-or-less broodless, with a course of 4 treatments, 5 days apart in mid to late August.
If that doesn't hold the problem at bay, then there's probably something wrong with the technique being employed rather than with the VOA itself.
'best
LJ
 

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Discussion Starter #7
@little_john
It was just a quick phone call on the weekend. I don't think he knows what it is he needs, or if he's even using things properly. He's the kind of guy that doesn't read instruction manuals, so it wouldn't surprise me if he's just not doing it right.
I'm honestly not even looking at making the thing yet. Not until I understand what the problem really is.
I'll probably have to give him a call again next weekend, try to figure out what he's actually doing. If it weren't for the shelter in place, I'd just drive over to see his set up.
But thanks for the input tho
 

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@ CoopedUp there are several thermal treatment systems currently on the market. Least expensive is the Victor which uses hot air. Next is the Mighty Mite Killer, a heater sandwiched between aluminum plates which slides in the bottom of the hive. Also a European one (forgot the name) I ruled it out immediately due to shipping costs alone.

Even more expensive is the Thermosolar since it built in to a hive and can not be moved from hive to hive like the others.

The MMK seems to have the largest following and likely the most units in the field being used. Its creator, Lynn Williams, has posted here on Beesource but is more active on some silly forum called Facebook:rolleyes:

As little_john points out, they are very slow! Three hours per treatment for the 8 and 10 frame units. 5 frame nuc size is faster. Wish I could vouch for their effectiveness (or lack there of...) but have not used mine yet. And likely will not before fall.
 

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Well Coopedup - keep in touch. If you should decide to go for the high temperature method, then if you do a Google for "Harbo Heating Adult Honey Bees.pdf" that will produce several links, both to Harbo's paper and several other papers which refer to it.
As Harbo points out, the mite-killing temperature is only a couple of degrees below bee-killing temperature, so your control system needs to be really spot on, and in particular with no initial overshoot. Myself, I'd be tempted to create a temporary Set-Point (quasi-Approach Band ?) - say, 5 or 6 degrees below final Set-Point and then nudge the temperature upwards from there until you reach your target temperature over the space of a few minutes. A crude method, sure, but some of us are rubbish at tuning 3-term controllers. :)
There is one device which has been mentioned on this forum (by Live Oak, perhaps ? - the ol' memory isn't what it once was ...) which takes 2-3 hrs per treatment, so a few minutes becomes insignificant.

If your uncle would be prepared to re-consider Oxalic Acid, then a Band-Heater Vapouriser is probably favourite (it is mine), although many folks remain happy with Varrox-style devices.
There's an excellent (if rather long) thread at: https://www.beesource.com/forums/332394-Band-heater-vaporizer in which the band-heater design was carefully thrashed-out by Johno, and in considerable detail.

But - for just a couple of hives a Varrox-style 'wand' would probably suffice.
'best
LJ
 

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Live oak swears by the Mighty Mite Killer and has several of them. He also uses OAV when warranted. The MMK is reported to kill SHB if they are a problem for your dad too. You may want to consider making a knock off, just like johno made his EasyVap to function like the much more expensive Provap110.
 

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I would just like to add that the Easy Vap was not a knock off of the Provap 110, My concept was taken from the Sublimox and you will find the postings and some pictures on this forum pre dated the arrival of the Provap.
 

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Sorry, got the chicken/egg thing backwards. I guess the ProVap is also a knock off of the Sublimox too?
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Yeah, I looked at the victor, mighty mite killer, and vatorex last night. I do like the idea of the vatorrex, but it's significantly more expensive and has a service fee. I wish there was some side-by-side review, but alas.
The temperature cutoff between killing just the mites and killing the bees was something I was concerned about. Good to know someone else has looked into it.
And 3 hours is a long time for one treatment. That's a long time for precise temperature control on the cheap.

I'll find out what vaporizer he's using and what his doing with it.
 
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