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Essential Oils for Mite Control

 
Cara Hagar
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I'm a 2nd year beekeeper with two hives and I have been told that I need to use Apivar or some other chemical in my hives to treat mites right away - even though I've not yet confirmed that I even have a mite problem. Many beekeepers in my area are finding heavy mite infestations this spring, so the advice is to treat prophylactically with a chemical treatment - which I really don't want to use! I've heard about using essential oils (thyme, peppermint, lemongrass, etc) to keep a hive healthy, but I don't know specifically how to treat a hive with mites with oils. Anybody know?
 
cc vasilj
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It doesnt make sense to me to treat a hive for mites without confirming a high concentration. An I P M (integrated pest management) is necessary for al beekeepers in my opinion.

Also in my opinion by using these chemical treatments we are selectively breeding stronger more resilient mites. That is one reason new chemicals come out every year, last years is less effective.
Fatbeeman on youtube promoted tea tree oil and the like for colony health.
Many beekeepers are requeening to breakup the reproductive cycle of the mite. Swarming colonies have shown to be more resistant to catastrophic infestations. So artificially swarming your colony gives you an average of 30 days with no mite reproduction.
Also powdered sugar applied regularly has been a method beekeepers have used to induce a hygienic beehavior that can reduce mite population s.
Good luck get yourself an ipm and use your own observations!
 
tel jetson
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cc vasilj wrote:
Also in my opinion by using these chemical treatments we are selectively breeding stronger more resilient mites. That is one reason new chemicals come out every year, last years is less effective.


agreed, and I'll take it one step further: tea tree oil is a chemical. other essential oils are chemicals. powdered sugar is a chemical.

if the idea is to end up with resilient bees and benign mites, don't treat. at all.
 
Jay Angler
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Tel Jetson wrote:
agreed, and I'll take it one step further: tea tree oil is a chemical. other essential oils are chemicals. powdered sugar is a chemical.


I agree, but.....
1. I've heard that there are certain plants you can grow near your hive that will discourage mites. I remember that lavender was one of them, (the other may have been Thyme or Rosemary). Do you have an oppinion on that?
2. I've read about the powdered sugar treatment. If it's being used to promote a grooming behavior, do you feel that the more suscessful, resilient bees will figure that out on their own, or is there a place for a one-time sugar treatment with new bees as a teaching tool?
3. Do you feel that grooming behavior actually controls mites? Are there other characterists of resilient bees that a human can recognise as relates to mite defence?
 
Cara Hagar
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Great thoughtful replies - thanks! The idea to grow herbs near the hives is a new one - especially thyme from which thymol (mite treatment) is derived! We did learn about drenching the bees with powdered sugar. In our class this treatment was presented as a "will likely help some", but not a definitive treatment for troublesome levels. I sent a sample of bees to our local university for testing last fall and had zero mites, which is partly why I'm hesitating to treat now.

Think I'd best put some 1" graph paper on my bottom board for a week to see if there are any mites and then decide. I'm also interested in working with a frame of drone comb in each hive - drone cells are larger and so the mites prefer those as they can lay more eggs in them. When the cells are capped you remove the drone comb and put in freezer, killing the mites. Have to be vigilant about timing though - if you let those cells hatch you REALLY have a mess!

And while I agree that no treatment may lead to mite resistant bees, in our area mite infested hives get so weakened that they almost always die out over winter.

Am still hoping someone with experience with essential oils can tell us about that too...
 
Andrew Schreiber
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Location: Zone 6a, Wahkiacus, WA
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Howdy, I have a few thoughts to share, and I am hoping that someone else can chime in who has more specific knowledge about this stuff.

I have been enthralled with the idea of planting oil-producing pest-reducing plants around our hives. That way, the bees are constantly visiting these plants and they will "fumigate" themselves regularly. Thus not requiring us to do anything to them.

I am thinking about several large hugelkulturs encircling a bee hut to help sheltered them from wind, and provide a non-irrigated context to grow these plants.

We live in a dry cold temperate area, so the plants also need to be fairly hardy and able to survive without our help. Both in terms of drought tolerance, but also in terms of being perennial or self-seeding annuals.

These plants would also likely provide a great deal of nector for the bees throughout the season. Couples with a handful of highly productive nectar plants (black locust and maple is what I am thinking of specifically) they could likely support a colony in and of themselves.

My bee pest guild at the moment is:

Mint Family (Lamiaceae)
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
Lavendar (Lavandula angustifolia)
Common Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
Wild Thyme (Thymus praecox )
Creeping Thyme (Thymus serpyllum)
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Sage (Salvia officinalis)
Winter Savory (Satureja montana)
Oregano (Origanum vulgare)
Spear mint (Mentha spicata)
Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)

Carrot/Parsley Family (APPIACEAE)
Caraway (Carum carvi)
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
Lovage (Lovisticum officianalis)
Wild Angelica (Angelica sylvestris)
Lomatiums (L. macrocarpum, L. geyeri, L. Dissectum, L. columbianum) - we have these native's on property

Buckwheat Family (Polygonaceae)
Curly Dock (Rumex crispus)
Sheep Sorrel (Rumex acetosella )
Wild Buckwheats (Eriogonum spp.) - we have many native species on property

Asters (Asteraceae)
Common Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)
Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare)

Legumes (Fabaceae)
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
Cicer milkvetch (Astragalus cicer)
Lupines (Lupinus arbustus, L. angustifolia, L. argenteus) - we have these native
Alfalfa (Medicago Sativa var Ladak) - dryland alfalfa
Dutch White Clover (Trifolium Repens)

Perhaps Christy has something more to add?
 
tel jetson
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Andrew Schreiber wrote:
I have been enthralled with the idea of planting oil-producing pest-reducing plants around our hives. That way, the bees are constantly visiting these plants and they will "fumigate" themselves regularly. Thus not requiring us to do anything to them.


you're on the right track, Andrew. I think planting forage definitely qualifies as an intervention into the lives of bees, but it's one that I find acceptable (I posted a sort of intervention Richter scale here). a wide variety of forage will allow the bees to choose just what they want and get a good mix of nectar and pollen and stay healthy. as far as "fumigating" with them, though, I'm not sure that would occur. most, and maybe all, of the essential oils in those plants are contained in the foliage, which bees aren't wont to bother about.

as difficult as it seems, just leaving the bees to their business (and even letting them perish) is the most reliable way to save them in the long term that I can think of. if a colony has a serious enough mite load to cause problems, any treatment at all is going to spread weak bee genes and virulent mite genes. that causes more problems for the beekeeper doing the treating, and more problems for other beekeepers in the region. leaving them to either solve the problem on their own or perish does the opposite: any survivors, either bee or mite, will have more desirable traits.
 
tel jetson
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I should add that having a lot of beekeepers who treat for mites close enough to interact with your bees makes the whole thing more difficult. but would you rather be part of the problem or part of the solution?
 
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