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Use of essential oils to fight mites and disease

Posts: 103
Location: 39.720014, -74.875139 - Waterford Works, NJ
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Hi David and Matt!

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?
Posts: 363
Location: NW Pennsylvania Zone 5B bordering on Zone 6
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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.
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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%.

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