First and second year beekeepers! You may be pulling honey supers, extracting, and have empty drawn comb. Or maybe a hive failed leaving you with drawn comb. Drawn comb is gold! You can always buy more bees, catch a swarm, make a split, or otherwise replace bees. But drawn comb can not be purchased. Having drawn comb exponentially increases a colony’s productivity versus starting on foundation. A spring package on drawn comb typically makes honey the same year.
Beekeepers must protect their drawn comb from wax moths which will take every opportunity to destroy your bee’s legacy.
Here are a few excerpts from an email I sent discussing protecting drawn comb:
Be thankful they are on plastic foundation. Otherwise you often have to replace the foundation. And if they are in wooden frames wax moths will actually bore holes in the wood as well. On plastic you can scrape it off and re-coat with wax for next year.
As for the freezer: You can Google wax moth, life cycle, etc and find some research. It’s like anything else, dependent on temperature and length of time of exposure. Two days may be sufficient IF your freezer is at 0 degrees F. If your freezer is kept at 10 degrees F it may take 6 days. And if at 20 degrees F it may take 14 days. (These are guesses but you get the idea.)
There is a temperature range for wax moth reproduction. When the temperatures get cool enough outside they are no longer a threat. I guess there are some people with a limited number of frames who can store them in the freezer until the weather cools enough.
Every year we get posts on the local discussion board with pictures saying they froze the comb for X number of days and then placed in in a Tupperware or other container and under the house or some similar dark place only to find the comb destroyed by spring. Last year in bee school a member of the class asked me about this specifically and said if he placed them in the freezer for days and then immediately placed it in lawn trash bags and sealed them completely and absolutely shouldn’t that work? I told him that “in theory” his plan would work but my experience is some eggs will hatch and if conditions are right they will destroy his comb.
On Para-moth (paradichlorobenzene) crystals: They do work but it is not a one and done application. Use them generously. Periodically check them through the storage period and replenish them as needed. They do “melt” as they release their gas into the supers. I’ve seen some people tape the edges of the supers to make a gas seal. Unfortunately this dark, sealed environment is also ideal for the moths when the para-moth dissolves and no longer provides protection.
Using open air and light: I did this one year with good success. I simply have too many supers now. Also, anything I place outside now is subject to squirrels who seem to like the comb, pollen, honey residuals.
BT (bacillus thuringiensis aizawa): Reports are, this works well. As you know it used to be a recognized method of wax moth control in bee hives but the company decided to not renew it’s license for use as such. Data used to be on the Clemson site. BT for use on crops is recognized as non chemical, organic bio control method and approved for use on organic crops. While an approved organic pest control method, it is no longer legal for use in bee hives.
I have a friend that uses BT and sprays the comb coming out of the extractor.
If you do not protect your comb from wax moths don’t despair, I understand the larvae are great as fishing bait.
Here are some recent pictures. I’ve been negligent posting here while making last minute preparations for the nectar flow.
Pictured above are new hive stands built for queen mating boxes, a Varroa mite alcohol wash jar, Varroa Mite Assessment Vehicle with treatment gear, a shaker box for separating queen from nurse bees, an Oxalic acid treatment sublimator, and a swarm bait hive I hung a few days ago. Not pictured is a nice swarm capture bucket I have mounted on a 23 foot painter’s extension pole.
It’s been busy but through the years I have learned that one either prepares before the nectar flow begins or one stays behind the entire spring. Nature does not wait for the procrastinator.
Every year I hope to have extra wax for candles and such. However I end up using all of it adding extra wax to the foundation for the benefit of the bees. The extra wax entices the bees to build their comb as well as encourages them to build it uniformly within the confines of the frame.
On the right are 15 sheets of unwaxed plastic foundation. In the middle, 15 sheets factory waxed. On the left , 15 home waxed using a minimal amount of wax but covering all cells. But regardless of the amount of wax, the aroma difference of the home waxed far exceeds the factory wax. So fragrant the bees were landing on me to investigate while I coated the foundation today.
For Varroa mite control, I sprung for a ProVap110 this year. I put it through the paces this week and thought I’d report on it here.
View Video Here:
Disclaimer first: Yes, Larry of OxaVap is a friend of mine. We met at a South Carolina Beekeepers Association conference several years ago and hit it off talking bees non stop for the duration of the conference. This was all before oxalic acid was approved for use in the United States. Larry told me then it would be the next big deal in Varroa mite control and apparently he was right as it was approved a couple years later. (Larry also told me where U.S. beekeepers were already ordering vaporizers from across the border in Canada.) Anyway, Larry and I always look forward to conferences and hanging out, telling bee stories when we can.
Before getting the ProVap110 I was using two Varrox, pan type ,vaporizers. Using two really sped up my mite treatments. Duh, twice as fast, right? No, don’t ask me how but everything moved faster and down time between hives was less so I really think I was doing the job in less than half the time than with one.
Recently, Larry suggested I needed to try the ProVap110 but I was resistant due to the issue of needing AC current. He said that most inexpensive car/truck inverters would do the job as it only used 250 watts and 2.2 amps. I checked and Harbor Freight had an inexpensive inverter. But I really wanted to be able to treat without having to drive my truck into sometimes muddy out yards. Larry assured me that a long extension cord run would not be a problem but I resisted and bought a small WEN 1800watt generator. I do plan on buying that inverter as well but the WEN1800w is under 50 pounds and, so far, I really like it and don’t have to worry about getting my truck stuck in a muddy out yard field while vaporizing mites.
One morning this week I oxalic acid vaporized 32 hives in about an hour and 15 minutes. As with the old Varrox, you still have the setup time of placing IPM boards under screened bottom boards to help seal the hive as well as a damp dishcloth across the entrance. I left the WEN1800w generator in the back of my truck and used a 50 ft extension cord. The extension cord had no noticeable effect on the operation as the ProVap performed exactly as the enclosed paperwork stated it would. I will use a 100 ft extension next time to see if that has any effect. The ProVap110 took about 2 to 3 minutes to reach its operating temperature of 230C. The unit adjusts to maintain that temperature throughout its use. I’ll place a link to a video in this post for those who have not seen how it operates. Basically, after it reaches its operating temperature a measured amount of OA is placed in a cup and attached to the ProVap110 while inverted. The nozzle is inserted into a 1/4″ predrilled hole in the hive body and the unit is spun around to its upright position causing the OA to drop into the 230C pan. The temperature readout dropped to approximately 208C when the OA came in contact with the heating unit and immediately began its rise back to 230C. Within about 20 seconds the temperature had returned to 230C and I removed the unit from the hive. An additional “cup” is provided so the user can prepare the dose for the next hive during the 20 second wait. And so it goes hopscotching down the row of hives.
Some things I learned are: 1) Hole placement is more critical than I first expected. I had used a homemade template based on the instruction sheet and some of the holes were drilled into handholds which caused me to have to hold the unit in place instead of leaving it to prep the next dose. The instructions say drill the hole 3 to 4 inches up from the bottom . I will drill future holes below the handholds in the lower box – if you use cleats drill well below. You want the vapors to circulate readily once inside the hive so make the hole in that area where the frames are narrow (lower half) to allow for the bees to move around the frame. 2) The tube that sends the vapor into the hive is copper and about 3/4″ in length. That makes sense since it is going into a hive body with a thickness of 3/4″. Longer and it could bottom out on a frame inside. Unrelated to the tube length but I’d like the tube to be made of a harder metal than copper if possible – I am uncomfortable with the possibility of bending the copper tubing. 3) You will need an acid/vapor PPE mask as you will be in close proximity of the OA vapor. There is no getting around this. I currently use a 3M 7502 mask with organic vapor/ acid gas filters – $13.99 on Ebay, and non vented safety goggles – $7.99 Ebay. The mask worked great and I never even got a whiff while standing behind the hive administering the OA vapor. (more on this later)
Some of the nice things about the unit are: 1) Its speed. I usually just stood there behind the hive for 20 seconds and let it do its thing. 2) The plume of vapor into the hive is thick and sudden. The bees don’t have the “warning time” they did with pan type vaporizers to start fanning. Bang, it’s in there and done. Most of the hives didn’t object any more than they did with the pan vaporizer but a couple did. All hives settled down soon afterwards. 3) The almost constant 230C temperature ensures the OA is properly sublimated. I always suspected the gradual warming of the OA with the pan vaporizers may have wasted some of the OA as it was evaporated, boiled off, or was otherwise consumed instead of sublimated thus diminishing the dose. The ProVap110 ensures the OA always hits the pan at exactly 230C. 4) I often lose my biggest and strongest hives over the winter. I’ve always suspected it might be related to inadequate OA treatment reaching the upper boxes. Now I can treat the hive via a 1/4″ hole placed anywhere, in any box, instead of just underneath the hive. And don’t worry about drilling 1/4″ holes in your woodenware, the bees will propolize it soon enough or you can use a golf tee or dowel rod to plug. 5) It would be nice to have a half dozen of the “caps.” to prepare in advance. It’s not essential; that’s just my OCD speaking.
General comments: Most efficient use would necessitate a planned layout of the hives in the bee yard. If you scatter your hives around here and there you’ll waste time in transit. I have basically three different zones in my home yard. This meant driving the truck to three different positions and repositioning the drop cord each time. I think keeping your hives within a 100 foot radius and using a 100 foot drop cord might be ideal. Having plenty of IPM boards available is also a great time saver as transferring them hive to hive is a time waster. Luckily I have plenty to use in case of a severe winter but others may not. The hives with solid bottom boards were easiest to treat.
Now, here’s an interesting thing: The visible escaping particulate using the ProVap110 was noticeably less than when using pan type vaporizers. I can’t really account for why this is other than the bees don’t have the 2 – 4 minutes to start fanning before the deed is done. I actually used the ProVap110 in the first two hives and thought, “Did it work?” So I loaded the ProVap110, held it downwind, and flipped it to see if it was sublimating the OA. Yes, it was working and it’s done in about 20 seconds. If you look at the video, at the end the guy does exactly this and you can see how thick the plume is and how fast it comes out. Anyway, my point is, there appears to be less particulate escaping the hive than with pan vaporizers – and that’s a good thing!
Cleanup is a breeze. A little water to wash out the areas where the OA comes in contact was quick and easy. The unit itself cools off quickly when unplugged which is good and bad. Good for safety once you are done but moving into different bee yard zones meant having to wait the 2 – 3 minutes for the unit to return to operating temperature. I’m convinced I can shave 30 minutes off my first effort implementing some of the changes mentioned above.
I am satisfied with the unit over the pan type vaporizers for a few reasons: time efficiency, proper sublimation, flexibility in selecting placement of the area the OA is administered, and ease of use. I’d recommend it to anyone that starts to feel that pan-type vaporizing is taking too much of their bee management time that could be better spent more productively.
Addendum August 31st, 2017: After having used the ProVap100 for multiple yard treatments I thought I’d comment on a couple items I hedged on in my first review (above). First, use of multiple extension cords makes no noticeable difference in either warm up time or time to sublimate the oxalic acid. I am now using two fifty foot extensions cords and I get the same excellent performance as with one. Second, After having a problem with my gas powered generator I purchased an inexpensive 400 watt inverter at my local Harbor Freight store for ~ $23.00 USD. Using this as my power source the ProVap100 performed again without any degrading of performance. At $23.00 versus what I paid for the gas powered generator I’d opt for the inverter first unless there was an issue with access to the bee yard. Third, Thus far this year I have not lost my biggest hives post nectar flow and during the Varroa buildup as I have in previous years. I am unable to say that positive outcome is a result of the ProVap100 but I suspect it is a contributing factor. I remain very happy with the unit and from emails and messages I have received from people that have also purchased one they are likewise happy with the efficiency and ease of use of this unit.
I’m not at all convinced the warm climate we are seeing this winter is here to stay. But I’m not sure the bees agree with my weather predictions either. Watching the landing boards with foragers in full pollen collection mode and brief inspections tell me that some colonies are already in full tilt brood production.
What does this mean for the beekeeper?
Well, it means lots of excitment watching them grow at a rate that is phenomenal. By this time next month either you will have made roo…m for the extra bees and managed them for swarming or you may be looking up in the trees for half of your work force.
Or it could actually be more dire. Winter food stores up until this point may have been steadily declining at a gradual but predictable rate. So what happens when the queen starts her spring buildup, egg laying extravaganza? Well, between increased consumption of ever more house bees and foragers, plus trying to feed thousands of larvae, the food stores decline can no longer be graphed as a straight line. Now it is a sharp spike upward!
Beginning now is when the beekeeper needs to remember to lift the backs of their hives. And on those pretty days when you get into them to ooh-ahh at their numbers and beauty, look and assess for nectar stores. December and January saw a full pantry with slow, steady declines, but brood rearing brings on food demands that dwarf late fall and early winter.
And a final scare for you. It’s quite a curiosity that starved bees don’t slowly decline due to lack of food. No, for them it’s the Three Musketeers: “All for one and one for all,” meaning they’ll do down together if they run out of food. One day they are all fed, the next, well…not.