Sunday, April 25, 2010

Formic Acid Mite treatments

At our April meeting of SCHBA, we invited Earl Villecco to speak on treating for mites with formic acid. Earl is a member of the Southern Tier Honey Bee Association, Empire State Honey Producer's Association and the at least temporarily defunct AIAC, or Apicultural Industry Association Commission.
That last group advises NY state on beekeeping issues. According to Earl, it sounds pretty official—the NYS inspection program has been de-funded for this year. I guess I won't have to put my apiary number under my hive cover after all (I was going to wait till the inspector actually came, then slip it in when he wasn't looking.
Earl talked about how he uses formic acid.
The advantages:
It's inexpensive, around $1/hive
It's quick, 24 hours and it's done
Thorough, killing mites outside cells and up to 90% of mites inside cells.
Formic acid occurs naturally in colonies.

You have to buy wholesale quantities of formic acid
It's not approved in NYS
It's corrosive and dangerous in the wrong hands

Several club members expressed an interest in buying formic acid and distributing it to others. If you are one of them, here are two links you should check:

This site provides results from a test using an applicator that is more complicated than Earl described at the last meeting but the other numbers and quantities look the same.

youtube video lecture on pros and cons of formic acid and different application methods.

I'm going to continue not treating bees with anything. Earl commented on non-treatment, saying that some people do that and after several years, appear to have colonies that tolerate mites. He didn't feel he could afford that. On the other hand, I couldn't afford the time to treat and monitor mite levels (lazy and cheap might be a better description), so I did lose bees for a few years. I'm waiting for the colony loss numbers to appear so I'll know if I'm still above average.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

First Bee Removal Job

It took about 4 hours to gather all the equipment from the outbuildings. The woman who called said there were thousands of bees everywhere, probably several colonies. They had started to remove the siding in the winter and the comb went from the ground to the rafters.
I drove sixty-five miles. The woman showed me the colony on the back of the barn.
No bees. Not even one.
No comb.
No $$ for removing bees. She grudgingly gave a little gas money when I asked.
Three things happened since three days ago when she saw all the bees and honeycomb. 1. The colony died in the winter when they removed the siding and exposed the colony to the weather(actual colony size was about 2'x3'x 6"). 2. Neighbor bees came to harvest the rest of the honey by the thousands until a 3. bear or other large mammal consumed the rest of the hive contents, leaving nothing but a pleasant beeswax smell and wax residue.
On the good side, none of my potential assistants could accompany me to the job, so I didn't have to share the money.
Next removal job is next week. This time I'll charge $1.00/mile to get there, which ends up being included in the removal job if there are bees to remove.

Important note to beekeepers talking to non-beekeepers:
Don't forget the principle called the "coefficient of exaggeration". Non-beekeepers usually don't look directly at a colony or swarm so they have only a vague impression of what they saw. It's nearly always smaller than a non-beekeeper's estimate. The coefficient varies by individual, but a good rule of thumb is to divide their estimate by 2—10 depending on the degree of panic in their voice.