Geek Beekeeping 8.2 – System Debugging

Honeybee colonies are constantly under attack. Whether it’s the varroa mite, small hive beetle, wax moth, or tracheal mites. So what do you do?

Well, you do the best you can to help them survive by using a combination of the least damaging and most effective treatments to knock down pest populations to economically sustainable levels. This is the idea behind Integrated Pest Management or IPM.

There are No Silver Bullets

Eradication is out of the question so “control” is the best we can do for our honeybee colonies. Each pest and disease needs a specific type of treatment, usually in the spring or fall to prevent possible contamination of honey or comb during the peak honey flows.

The Varroa Mite is the most destructive parasite and can devastate a colony if populations are not kept in check each season. IPM can involve a combination of genetic, biological, mechanical, & biotechnical strategies – with pesticides as a last resort for some beekeepers and not an option at all for others.

The main point is to monitor the mite levels in the hive to keep them below the economic threshold. Screened bottom boards are one of the first lines of defence.

To keep the mites under control during the summer season, non-chemical treatments like drone trapping and sugar dusting can be used to knock the levels down. Harder treatments such as formic acid may be used in the the spring or fall but relies on minimum temperatures through the treatment period to be effective. Oxalic acid can be effective in the fall once all the brood has hatched out.

The Small Hive Beetle and the Wax Moth can cause significant damage to honey comb. The most effective treatments for both of these pests is to maintain a strong colony and minimze the amount of empty comb. There are several different traps that use a non-toxic oil available to control the small hive beetle as well.

There are no approved in-hive chemical treatments for the wax moth but putting supers or frames in a freezer for two days will kill the larvae and prevent any eggs from hatching. In the US, supers can be fumigated with Paradichlorobenzene (PDB). NOTE: this chemical is not approved for use in Canada.

The main thing to remember with IPM is that you’re fighting a “long war” to help your bees fend off these enemies. Monitor your hives regularly for “known bugs” to determine when you need to take the appropriate action.

Keep up the good fight!