Today I decided to have a go at treating my hive for varroa destructor, which is a nasty little mite causing a lot of damage to the honey bee today. I saw my first mite a few days ago, attached to a bee. The bee was part of the clean up brigade for the extracting equipment, and was stationary for some time, so I was able to spot the mite. The mite was about 1.5 mm across, and a dark red colour. It looked a little like a crimson pinhead.
My choice of treatment is an organic one – Formic acid – Which is a nasty smelling, somewhat toxic chemical, which kills mites, but is not overly harmful to the bees. Bees produce formic acid themselves, and have the means to metabolise the substance. In fact, to all Australians (pronounced ‘straarlyns), if you have ever been bitten by an ant, you know all about formic acid.
I put a cloth on a queen excluder board, and on top of the cloth I placed two absorbent pads, upon which I poured 100ml of 45% formic acid. The instructions on the absorbent pads said nothing about formic acid, but apparently are also suitable for LBL, so they should do the trick. Don’t ask. The whole device was placed on top of the hive, under the top board, and the hive entrance closed down to about 3″ or less. I will remove it tomorrow.
The idea is that the bees will get really hacked off with the smell (I know my chemicals – I don’t blame the bees one bit). The formic acid vaporises due to the heat of the hive (over 30˚ I believe). The bees will then set up fanning the stuff through the hive, to get rid of it. It even penetrates the cappings, and kills mites attached to pupae. And best of all, it is less dangerous than bathroom cleaners. Just.
We will see how it goes.