Flying Bees, 3,200 Varroa & Beesuits

Flying Bees, 3,200 Varroa & Beesuits

Flying Bees

“Hello, it’s me”.  It’s been 4 months since my last actual beekeeping post.  I’ve missed you all  Let’s start with the good news.

On some of the warmer, sunny days in February I have seen up to 20 bees at any one time flying into and out of one of my hives (middle hive) and even though the other hive does not appear to be releasing flying bees, I can see a cosy cluster when I peer through the narrow entrance.

The varroa boards also showed some decent activity in the hive, though more debris on the middle hive board, suggests more activity inside the hive.

Varroa mite board - 25 Feb 16

Varroa mite board – 26 Feb 16 – Near Hive

Varroa mite board - 25Feb16

Varroa mite board – 26 Feb 16 – Middle Hive

3,200 Varroa & How To Manage?

I’m looking for advice and thoughts on this part of my blog post, so please comment.

I treated my hives with Apiguard in August and then due to a high varroa count (calculator estimated I had up to 600), strong colonies and warm temperatures, I treated with MAQs in mid-October. All the details can be found in My Apiary Notes.

I did not treat with oxalic acid this winter for two reasons:

  1. Very mild winter and hence, higher levels of brood and oxalic acid less effective
  2. Scientific article on 5th January 2016 in which Professor Francis Ratnieks, Head of Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects (LASI), University of Sussex, said “… beekeepers should cease using the other two methods (“trickling” and “spraying”, in which a solution of oxalic acid is used) as they are harmful to the bees and less effective at killing Varroa”. Article: Scientists determine how to control parasite without harming bees

The sublimation technique, which is effective, requires expensive equipment and has to be used carefully, so as not to be hazardous to health.  I am not planning to use oxalic acid at all from now.

Counting the mite drop on the varroa board, the National Bee Unit varroa calculator is giving me a very broad estimate of varroa numbers from 400-3,900 and that I need to treat now or within 2 months.

My plan to reduce varroa ASAP, but I need to wait for warmer temperatures:

  1. If temperatures consistently above 15C and there is not a honey flow: Apiguard
  2. If temperatures consistently above 10C, colonies strong and honey flow: MAQs
  3. If colonies weak and temperatures low … I guess I’ll use Apiguard or perhaps just 1 MAQs strip.

I have Bee Cosies on my hives, so this increases the temperature in the hive, so perhaps this will help with the efficacy and early use of Apiguard or MAQs?

Thoughts on the strategy above much appreciated.

Bee Suits

It’s something I have been meaning to do but not got round to … but have finally put my bee suit through the washing machine.  It has a detachable hood, which is the only way to put a bee suit through a machine wash.  Any new beekeepers wondering what bee suits to buy I highly recommend Sherriff Bee Suits. These are hand-stitched in Cornwall, probably the best quality suits and the company has a really interesting story.  They are one of the sponsors of this blog and I have previously written about my experiences in finding a bee suit.


Flying Bees, 3,200 Varroa & Beesuits — 10 Comments

  1. Hi Roger, Yes too late for oxalic now as most hives will have brood, and those counts would worry me. I used MAQs stripes in the Autumn and was in two minds whether to treat with oxalic, but was glad I did as one hive dropped over 800 mites following that treatment. I’m less than convinced MAQs are reliable now.

    • I too left it late due to the warm weather. I shelled out on a vaporiser – you can get a well-made German one on ebay for about £50 which isn’t much to spend in the battle against the mites. I decided that since my queens had been laying reasonably well through winter I would risk damaging a bit of brood very early in the season just to get on top of the mites. I vaporised 3 times with 5 day intervals using basic oxalic and the mite count decreased each time until virtually nothing after the third treatment. A week later on a warmish day I very quickly opened one hive and removed one central brood frame and found brood at all stages with no apparent damage or empty cells as if damaged brood had been removed.

      My mite count was high so I needed to do something oxalic based soon, or wait to use MAQS ir Apiguard when it was warmer. I’ve had bad experiences with MAQS so oxalic vapour seemed the best thing to do rather than waiting to use MAQS. In your case I would wait and use Apiguard once warm enough. Most of my friends say they will use MAQS but personally I don’t like it.

      You have to be careful with the Oxalic vapour, but as long as you stay upwind and wear a mask when you are near the hive or likely to get a whiff of the vapor then it is a pretty straight forward system and I would recommend using it next year.

  2. What about Apivar? You’d need to get it via a vet I think. Temperature independent other than if the colony is tightly clustered and they don’t contact the strip, no resistance etc.

    I’d be worried about those counts as well … mine were treated solely with OA in late summer and midwinter (vaporisation both times and the counts – by the notoriously inaccurate mite drop calculator – are very low, perhaps 1-2/month since the last treatment. The quote you’ve chosen to use from the Ratnieks study (and also look at Charriere and Imdorf in 2002 who came to the came conclusions) is a little misleading. Vaporisation is less harmful that dribbling – in terms of colony strength weeks after treatment – but dribbling is a whole lot better than doing nothing. It’s the relative harm that’s important. Do nothing and the mites probably take over, dribble and you’re controlling the mites and doing a bit of harm, vaporise and you’re controlling the mites but still probably doing some harm … just not as much as if you dribble. The key graph in that paper is the mite knockdown between treated (dribble/vaporise) and doing nothing.

    I wouldn’t bother with Apiguard if the temperature is low, it’s much less effective.

    I’m biased, but I’d treat with OA vapour. Three treatments 5 days apart are needed with brood present – determined empirically by Hivemaker/Pete Little. It’s well tolerated. Safety isn’t an issue if you use the correct personal protection equipment. An alternative might be to wait until it warms up and do a shook swarm (if the colony is strong enough – and it might not be if Varroa have been transmitting viruses around for the last few weeks) and then treat with something that hammers the phoretic mites.

    I’ve posted a number of articles on the timing of effective Varroa control over the last couple of months … in particular I’ve shown modelling data that emphasises how important a midwinter treatment is (

    Good luck

  3. Hi Rodger,
    Thought I would throw my half dozen eggs in to the mix, I have tried different varroa treatments and have never been completely satisfied. In November I bought a vapouriser on e-bay from Germany, a well made, nice piece of kit for £60 and some oxalic crystals from Maismore. It didn’t get cold where I live until January but when it did I treated the bees three times at 5 day intervals.
    This was a simple operation (use a chemical grade face mask) I haven’t open them up yet but all hives are flying strongly.Hope this gives you something to consider!
    Best wishes,

  4. Would you ever consider requeening with treatment-free, mite resistant stock? Propping up weak genetics with the various treatments year after year seems much less fun and just seems to prolong the inevitable.

  5. Thanks for comments.

    I would love mite resistant stock, but not sure they exist yet?

    There seems to be a common theme to the comments: buy vapouriser on e-bay, buy some oxalic crystals and treat the bees three times at 5 day intervals. Is this the best treatment at any time of the year? Or just winter? I will have to look into this in more detail.

  6. Roger, I have been using the vaporizer now for two years. This year I treated all swarms 3 days after I got them, as they were then of course broodless. This winter I had planned on a single treatment in a broodless period, but the latest research shows that even in a broodless period you need to treat twice, 3 – 5 days apart to increase the drop form circa 97% to 99%.

    This year though the weather was against us and I have ended up treating three times over a 21 day period. A colleague has done the same and the colonies with high drop rates have continued to get high drop rates right through to after the third treatment. No one is saying this will be as effective as a broodless double treatment, but it has certainly had a major effect.

    PS: I also use the German unit, well made but i have added an additional stablizer flat plate onto the end as I found it could twist slightly when in the hive as the cable is attached to one side of the handle, if you want a picture just email me at davidparker @

  7. In years past, I have failed to feed my bees when a cold snap or other weather events has stopped the food supply abruptly. Feeding is an intervention that I do think is sometimes worth doing, because the weather is just plain impossible some years. This is the one intervention I m still willing to do and I don t feel any pangs of guilt about it.

  8. Late response ! Like you I have some pretty horrendous varroa numbers. I have held tight and am imminently going to shook swarm to clean out the hive. I may also MAQ treat if numbers remain high a couple of weeks after that

  9. Just made a vaporiser for £10.50 works a treat!!! I think vaporising is by far the best option, loads of info on YouTube on this. All the best!!

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