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Natural & Chemical Varroa Treatments

The method you use to treat and control Varroa mites is, and will probably always be, a bit on the controversial side. The bottom line is to control Varroa in the manner in which you are comfortable! Testing before treatment is always recommended; but once your test reveals you need to treat, what are your options?

Basically, you have 2 options:

1) Synthetic chemical and

2) Natural compounds. The chart indicates 4 methods, but with further study you’ll find the Mechanical and Cultural methods are to be used “in conjunction” with the other 2. Having said that, not all beekeepers are willing to use Hard or Soft chemicals in controlling Varroa mites and can find some success in the more passive approaches by using only Mechanical and Cultural methods.

The bottom line is efficacy. The efficacy of these products varies very little. Most all Synthetic Chemical and Natural compound Varroa treatments tout an efficacy rate of over 95% with some Natural compounds as high as 99%. The difference is mainly in the

overall colony losses per year. There is documented evidence the overall losses are significantly lower with the more aggressive treatments such as Apivar (upwards of 47% improvement over 31% with natural compounds). There is also evidence the likelihood of queen and colony degradation is lower with these chemicals as opposed to their Natural compound counterparts.

Not to shortchange the Natural compound benefits as they do rank in the higher efficacy rate of 95-99% when controlling Varroa mites and are considered “organic” by legal standards for the industry. Most of these products use a fumigant distribution system, therefore the bees aren’t very fond of them. Bearding and/or absconding has been documented as a real issue while using these products, but not so much as to outweigh the benefits to some. Queen and brood damage is also noted but again, not noted as beyond the scope of “benefit outweighing risk.”

It’s very, VERY important you read each and every detail about the product(s) you choose to use. The most important being the Population stage (Increase, Peak, Decrease, Dormant) and current temperatures. If a product allows the use in high population but has a temperature rating of 80o and it’s over that – you’ll likely run your bees out of the hive and risk them leaving altogether! Please pay close attention to these particulars!

It is highly recommended to use the Mechanical and Cultural methods in conjunction with your chosen treatment methods. Doing so will ensure you are doing everything you can for your bees and maintaining a healthy bee yard all while minimizing the amount of chemical (natural or other) you have to use if you chose to do so.

Checklist:

  • Population Stage
  • Temperature
  • Re-Queen every year
  • Create natural brood breaks by making splits when able.
  • ALWAYS test before your treat – then, test after treatment to verify it worked

                                                                                                     By: Chari Elam

Information derived from – Honey Bee Health Coalition,

Tool for Varroa Management

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