One of my beekeeping friends uses a lemongrass concoction ("Bee-well", or some such name) to calm the bees down while he works in the hive (he prefers it over a smoker), and it got me thinking about using essential oils to fight mites and disease in colonies. EOs like tea tree, peppermint, oregano, sandalwood, cedarwood, and lemongrass have antiviral/antibacterial properties, and most "pests" don't care for them. So is any research being done on this front to have better natural health options for colonies?
Location: NW Pennsylvania Zone 5B bordering on Zone 6
posted 7 years ago
Plants with essential oils are what Sepp Holzer recommends using. Plant them at your entrance and out a bit to force the bees to fly through them. Put some in a cheescloth type bag and put in the top of the hive. He says the heat of the bees will encourage the essential oils in the plants to disperse over them.
"Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you." ~Maori Proverb
Essential oils have been researched for about two decades as a means of controlling Varroa mites. The one most effective and most commonly used in the commercially available preparations is thymol, which is a prime component of essential oil of thyme. However, we cannot escape from the fact it is an insecticide and a disinfectant. Why otherwise would thyme plants go to the trouble of synthesising it at some considerable metabolic cost?
As an insecticide it harms bees and brood. As a disinfectant it upsets the colony's natural microbiota. It works only through the tolerable differential between the harm it does to bees and the harm it does to mites.
I do not treat any of my colonies for Varroa. I stopped treating my frame colonies after 1 January 2009. I never treated my Warré colonies, the oldest of which has seen 6 winters without artificial requeening.
By not treating, I accept higher losses. My average year-on-year losses are 24%.