Thursday, October 15, 2015

Loving Your Bees to Death

At a recent bee club meeting the idea was presented that it was ok to treat you bees with a miticide even when a varroa mite test showed only low levels of mites. The general response to this was if your bees are alive in after winter there is no problem with that. When I tried to explain why I disagreed, I was quickly shushed.

While I firmly believe that there are many good ways to keep bees, there are very good reasons to not treat unless you have to. And these are not just opinions or personal methods, they are based on science and a wide variety of experience in different fields. Let's take a look at why this may harm your bees:

  • The most common miticides are toxic to your bees. Yes, it might seem ok if your bees survive to spring, but pesticides do damage even when they are not killing outright. This is especially true of the queen. 
  • Many miticides have a cumulative effect. This means that the poison you used last year might still be hanging around in the bees and in the hive, bringing the dose you added this year up to honeybee toxic levels.
  • Miticides do not kill all the mites. Those it does not kill usually have some resistance. They will then breed together to make even more resistant mites. With time, the miticide will become useless. While it is easy to say that technology will provide new chemicals, they may not and they will likely take long enough to produce that you will loose a lot of bees before they are available.

Now, even though I am not a fan of a lot of poisons in my bees or my garden, I am not telling you to stop treating altogether. What I am asking you to do is to test before you treat and only treat if your levels are high enough that the bees cannot handle it themselves.

This is the basic idea behind Integrated Pesticide Management (IPM) that has emerged in a number of fields to keep our pesticides from causing more problems than they solve. If you want to know more about IPM please follow this link: or check with your local agriculture university or state extension.

The IPM approach will give your honeybee colonies a better chance of life and keep a lot of problems from happening around them.


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