The above hive shows the hive body moved back about 2 inches to show the accumulative hive debris including dead Varroa behind the entrance reducer. For some reason, most hives accumulate a lot of droppings behind the entrance reducer on the left side when facing south.
(The red dots show dead Varroa Mites)
December 6, 1999
The above picture shows dead Varroa mites that accumulated behind the entrance reducer. The picture was taken on December 6, 1999 one week after the reducer was put in place, and three weeks after the second grease patty treatment was administered. Using the wintergreen grease patties up until Christmas seems to eliminate the need for spring chemical treatments, usually with no threatening mite infestation developing (in our area) until late August or early fall.
This hive was treated only with essential oils during 1999. In mid-October, with the fall nectar flow still on, I began to notice a rise in mite counts in the cells and about 5% of the bees hatching had deformed wings. With the bees rapidly reducing the brood area and the mites invading the few remaining brood cells I decided to use grease patties along with the essential oil feeding. The grease patties did their job by keeping the mites in check until the brood was gone. Wintergreen grease patties are an excellent year round treatment: they keep the mites in check during brood periods and kill possibly all Varroa mites during broodless periods in winter when the bees cluster around the patties. Also, we have not had any losses to tracheal mites for the past three years using the wintergreen grease patties. Occasionally, we check for tracheal mites and only find trace numbers.
It is difficult to regulate evaporation of volatile essential oils in a constantly changing temperate climate. Wintergreen grease patties are an excellent year round treatment, they work well above the brood nest during intense brood rearing times and work extremely well during broodless times when placed near winter clusters. The inert ingredients along with wintergreen oil is locked in the patty and is released as the bees consume the patties. The patties produce a dual effect by ingestion and contact. We have removed grease patty remnants in the spring that had been placed in the hives the previous fall which still had a noticeable wintergreen odor and flavor.
The essential oil feeding worked very well this August due to the extended drought we had during the summer. Last summer, we had a strong nectar flow from April until October, which caused the larval food to be diluted during times of treatment and gave us discouraging results. Next year we plan to use a new feeding approach during nectar flows.
Honey bees are a complex biological insect existing in an even more complex environment consisting of many variables which makes experimenting and testing difficult and at times practically impossible. To get consistent results there would have to be perfect environmental conditions, which is virtually impossible in our complex, unpredictable environment. Invitro lab tests and controlled environment tests work well to initially find the efficacy of certain compounds, but when used in field trials, disappointing results usually occur. Our mission is to find out which environmentally safe organic compounds will work best using various treatment regimes during certain environmental conditions. We cannot and do not make any claims of efficacy using essential oils.