Conversation with Martin James

Information Gained From a Conversation with the Box Elder / Cache counties bee inspector.
Feb 11, 2016

I’ve taken the opportunity to visit at length with our county bee inspector Martin James. I wanted to ask him about bee colonies that have not survived the winter. Mostly MINE. To make a long story as short as possible,,,, varroa mites,,,, varroa mites,,, varroa mites….

For some reason last season was a real bad year for varroa mites, he was not sure if it is due to the early spring and summer, giving the mites a longer season, or if they are just getting harder to control, maybe both. The problem is not just a local one. He mentioned that this year the problem is nation wide. Martin explained that one bee supplier in California that produces bee packages and queens had a 80 % loss this year. That made my 75 % loss seem somewhat, and as oddly as it seems ,,,,acceptable. As for me it is not acceptable,,, only that I am not doing worse than at least one commercial beekeeper. My goal is to do better this year.

If one of the large bee suppliers has had 80% losses,,, it may be hard to get bees this year. Better order early. Once Martin has restocked his bee yards,, he has a contract to sell all the rest of the splits he has available to IFA. There is another option for you to consider when looking to buy bees.

I asked about Varroa treatment, specifically Oxalic acid. He told me of a 60 colony study.
20. colonies as a base line
20. colonies had oxalic acid dribble
20. colonies had oxalic acid vaporized.

If I understood correctly the vaporized treatment and the dribbled treatments were very similar in effect. With the dribble being far easier to apply and without the possibility of harming the beekeeper with the vapors. They did three treatments at 7 day intervals. One very large hive had mite drop counts in the thousands. With each subsequent treatment the counts were less. At the end of the treatments they wanted to see if the oxalic acid had worked as well as they hoped. They put in one apivar strip in each of the two brood chambers. That would be 1/2 the dose as per the label. Apavar strips are a 41 day treatment. With the apavar strips the accelerated mite count was still in the hundreds and tapered down to 12. 12 still being a bit high,,, They put in a second strip in each brood chamber, the count went up initially then down to 1 and 2. This is beekeeping according to Boyd,,, there is no magic bullet,,,, we need to keep diligent in trying to keep the mites under control. If one treatment is not working,,, try something else.. if you don’t you will buy more bees in the spring. Don’t just assume the treatment worked,,, count the mites.

I’ve tried to reduce Martins Oxalic Acid Dribble recipe down to something we can deal with. Check my math.

Martins recipe:
3/4 pound of oxalic acid
1 gal water
1 gal high fructose corn syrup.
treat each colony with 2 oz.

the math
3/4 pounds of oxalic acid is 340 grams. each gallon is 128 fluid ounces. or 256 ounces in the mix, divided by 2 ounces per colony,,,, 3/4 pounds of oxalic acid will treat 128 colonies. 340 grams divided by 128 colonies equals out to be 2.65 grams per colony. Use this on only a good strong colony, do not apply to packages or nucs.

Note   for home measuring,,,   one gram of oxalic acid powder equals ,,,or maybe  better stated,,, is really close to  1/4 teaspoon.   So for each colony dissolve 2 1/2  ( 1/4 tsp)  {just over a half tsp} oxalic acid powder in 1 fluid  oz of hot water.  when dissolved add in one fluid oz of hfcs   ( in a pinch substitute hfcs with 2 to 1 sugar water mix…

apply 2 fluid oz per colony by spreading/ spraying/ dribbling.   one tsp between frames that are covered in bees. one tsp equals 5 cc,, or 5 milliliters.   2 oz = 60 cc.

If I have done the math incorrectly or missed on my volume comparisons, leave a message.

If you vaporize the oxalic acid,, the instructions say for the initial application use 1 gram per deep box. or 2 grams in a 2 deep brood chamber. Additional treatments only require 1 gram per colony.

If we all, me included, keep our varoa mites under control we will have a better chance of overwintering our bees.

One more important note, once our bees get stressed, it takes 2 to 3 generations to get our bees unstressed. When bees are stressed, there are some chemicals released into their system, and because the chemicals don’t come out easily,,, they have to be fat and happy for a couple generations before they really do well, that includes the queen as well.

While dealing with bees for years, Martin has fed them gallons and gallons of sugar water. Even with all the feed the bees don’t seem to put on much weight in their combs. He has switched to ( hfcs ) High Fructose Corn Syrup which he buys by the tanker full. Because Sugar is sucrose, it has to be converted to Fructose and glucose by the bees before it can be stored. The hfcs is already fructose so it can go into the comb without all the work. Much more efficient. Remember don’t feed with honey supers on. The time to feed is in the fall if the bees need more weight in the brood boxes in order to get through winter, or in the spring when starting a package, nuc, or split. The quicker you can get the brood boxes full, the quicker you can get a honey super on. Martin has bought a great number of 1 and 5 gallon bottles and will sell the hfcs to IFA where anyone can purchase it.  The HFCS is treated with white oak bark tea which eliminates noseama,  Also included is a mixture of pro biotics, for general bee health.
He is thinking the price will be in the $10.oo per gallon.
The other thing Martin stressed, is to feed pollen patties. the bees will go through 100 pounds of pollen in a year. A single pound of pollen patty wont really cut it. Its the second week of Feb. and he has all ready fed 8 pounds. To be clear, Martins bees are in southern Nevada and he has been getting them ready for the Almonds. If keeping your bees here it may be a bit early to start.