Once a year an opportunity comes along for the beekeeper to treat all of his or her hives for varroa for less than ten dollars and about five minutes per hive. That’s ten bucks to treat all of your hives. But this opportunity only comes once a year and is only available for a short period of time. In South Carolina, that time is now, or very soon, during the period of the least brood, using the oxalic acid dribble method.
I’m reading more and more about hive losses or what appears to be late season absconding. It’s interesting that most posts relating these events place the blame on yellow jackets, or robbing pressure. I suggest these are the second-string teams coming in after the true villain has struck a weakening or fatal blow. From reports, one week the bees are there, the next week gone. The jury is out on how this sudden change in colony status happens. We do know that in a colony overrun with varroa the bees start to lose the ability to find their way back to their hive and frequently drift into neighboring hives. I also have a hunch that perhaps they simply grow tired of the pest infestation and abscond. Either way, the bees are gone leaving an empty hive that soon gets robbed out.
Varroa levels increase in the fall and with a smaller colony bee population, the mite:bee ratio in the hive increases. While we know that the true culprit are the viruses, there is also a negative, synergistic relationship with the presence of high mite levels and the viruses. This increase may be what tips the scales and causes the bees to suddenly disappear.
Why treat now? Simply, with minimal capped brood this time of year the mites are the most vulnerable to oxalic acid. The mites have nowhere to hide. A single treatment now will have a high rate of effectiveness if done during this time of minimal brood. And, of course, oxalic acid is the least expensive recognized mite treatment available.
We have some nice days coming up later this week. Consider doing an oxalic acid dribble treatment on your colonies.
For more information on how to perform an oxalic acid dribble, Rusty lays it all out here on HoneyBeeSuite: https://honeybeesuite.com/how-to-apply-an-oxalic-acid-dribble/
And here’s some information on mixing oxalic acid from BetterBee: How to Use the Oxalic Acid Dribble Method
And finally, here’s a “how to” YouTube video:
I’ll close this post with some words from Randy Oliver of Scientific Beekeeping:
“Three strategies I’ve found that always fail when battling varroa are:
1. Denial—“I haven’t seen any mites, so my mite levels must be low.”
2. Wishful thinking—“I haven’t seen very many mites, so I’m hoping and praying that my bees will be OK.”
3. Blind faith—“I used the latest snake oil mite cure, and it’s gotta work!”
Every time I’ve been “blindsided” by the mite, I was in actuality simply being blind.”