Powdered Sugar Dusting for Varroa Control
This blurb is intended to share my initial experience using Powdered Sugar Dusting (PSD) to control Varroa mites. It is not intended to recommend PSD over other treatments, but may introduce you to an alternative method of protecting your bees.
PSD apparently causes large scale mite drop for two reasons. First, it makes the bees slippery, which makes it hard for the mites to find and cling to the bees. Second, it turns every bee in the hive into a temporary nurse bee, all intent on cleaning up the sugar – which includes grooming each other.
Mid August I found mites in drone cells on several of my hives. I decided to try dusting two of my hives to learn how it works. First, I closed the SBB with the plastic board so I could determine mite drop (MD). I separated the deeps, and then dusted the lower deep with one cup of PS using a flour sifter. I carefully brushed the sugar off the top bars down between the frames. After replacing the top deep I repeated the procedure. The entire process took me 15 minutes per hive (and I’m slow).
Not knowing what to expect, I carefully removed the plastic board from the SBB after 15 minutes and replaced it with a new one. NOTE: No need for a sticky board. The mites are not going anywhere in only 10-15 minutes. The MD after 15 minutes for the two hives was 716 and 1008. After 30 minutes it was only 34 and 24. Both hives continued to drop 100-200 over the next 24 hours.
So what did I learn? Mites can explode in August! But also that PSD can knock down a huge number of mites without using chemicals in the hives. In my test, PSD dropped as many mites in 10 minutes as MAQS did in 12 hours. The drawback is that to be effective, (depending on your count) you would have to repeat the PSD about 3-4 times, spaced 5 to 7 days apart. If the count is extremely high, you may want to use another, faster method and then control with PSD. It is also quite disruptive for the hive (but nowhere as disruptive as MAQS). Tests have not shown brood loss, but that has not been confirmed yet.
I believe this can be an important tool for good hive management. The hive that dropped 1000 mites is replacing their queen and there is no brood in the hive. That may be why the drop was so high, all the mites were on the bees. So a couple applications of PSD should remove virtually all of the mites in this hive.
PSD may be a valuable tool to control mites in any hive that is requeening and about to go through a broodless period. It may also be the best way to control mites in nucs since chemical controls such as MAQS are extremely hard on such small hives. I am going to try dusting my nucs this week to see how they are doing with the mites.
Finally, I have two more hives with smaller counts to treat. Will do one with PSD and one with ONE MAQS strip (be careful using two, read the reviews first), and then compare how effective. I’ll update this if effective.
2011 April - New Products for Varroa Mite Treatment
Mite Away Quick Strips (MAQS)
Many beekeepers use formic acid to treat their hives for Varroa Mites. Mite Away has a new product, Quick Strips (MAQS), that makes application much easier and safer to use. The strips are placed between the brood deeps, two strips per hive. The main action takes place in the first 3 days, and it is recommended that they be left undisturbed for seven days to allow recovery time for the bees. Temperature needs to be 50 to 90 degrees. After seven days the strips can be removed or left for the bees to remove. MAQS can be used during honey flow since there is already some formic acid in honey.
MAQS kill exposed Varroa mites on the bees AND those in sealed brood. While safe to use, there may be some loss of bees and/or brood. Tests show they are back to normal activity after seven days. MAQS is approved in Ohio and sells as a package of 20 strips for around $44-48. Treats 10 hives. Most dealers offer MAQS, including Blue Sky Bee Supply of Hiram, and Queen Right Colonies in Spencer.
More information is available at http://www.miteaway.com/.
Hopguard, the Varroa treatment from Mann Lake is now approved for use in Ohio (August). According to the manufacturer, HopGuard is a natural, food safe product made from hop compounds. On cardboard strips, it is placed between frames, two strips per deep. HopGuard kills exposed mites on the bees, but does not kill mites in sealed brood. So it may take a second application, unlike MAQS. The best time to use is early before lots of sealed brood, mid summer, and fall (all times with less sealed brood). HopGuard is very effective and is not as harsh on the bees or brood as MAQS (according to manufacturer). The strips can be removed or left for the bees to remove. HopGuard can be used during honey flow.
HopGuard sells for about $30 for a case of 50 strips (treats 25 deeps, need 4 per hive).
For more information go to http://www.betatechopproducts.com/products/varroa-mite-control