When you are a beekeeper, one of the toughest challenges you may face is discovering mites inside your hive. The good news is that it doesn’t already mean the end. You can now try different ways of getting rid of mites in your beehives.
But as you may know, one of the common means is using pesticides that may be dangerous to your beers. However, there is one effective and safe method of killing mites without posing harm to your bees. This is with the use of an oxalic acid vaporizer.
What is Oxalic Acid?
Also called oxalate, oxalic acid is a natural compound found in many vegetables and nuts, including cocoa, beets, and rhubarb.
The human body also can produce its own oxalic acid. But although it is good that your body contains some amount of oxalic acid, consuming it in excess amounts is not recommended.
Once the oxalic acid reaches the human body, it will bind to the minerals present there. This will then form compounds including calcium oxalate and iron oxalate. It often occurs in the colon and there, the compounds will be disposed of in the form of urine or stool.
Oxalic acid also forms compounds in the different parts of the kidneys or urinary tract. It often results in the formation of kidney stones that may become more difficult for the body to get rid of.
Is Oxalic Acid Effective?
Varroa mites are one of the most serious concerns for many beekeepers all over the world. These mites are small and red but are notorious bloodsuckers. Some bee professionals even call them the bedbugs of beehives.
These mites bite bees and hang on to them while feeding on their fat. It makes the bee as it loses blood and vital fat.
When checking your hive, you might notice red, brown, or black spots on the body or thorax of the bees. These mites feed on the blood of the bees. If left untreated, these mites may cause fatal damage to an entire colony.
Beekeepers have been using oxalic acid for years. Varroa mites are found to be sensitive to various types of acids like citric and lactic. Oxalate is the organic acid they are most sensitive to. But while no one knows how it kills off the mites, everyone knows that it is effective.
A theory here is that oxalic acid makes it impossible for mites to feed. One more theory is that it makes them difficult to move around.
How to Use Oxalic Acid Vaporizer
It is quite simple and easy to use an oxalic acid vaporizer although it may take some time. But first, you need to prepare a few things, such as:
- A good quality oxalic acid vaporizer
- A car battery
- A hive tool or crowbar
- Oxalic acid
- Protective gear, preferably glasses, a mask, and gloves
- Cloth or towel
1. Prepare the Vaporizer
Lay out everything you need on a surface or table to ensure you got them all. Open the oxalic acid and make sure it is in powder form since the liquid doesn’t work in vaporizers. The vaporizer must have a long metal shaft with a tiny scoop following it called the acid pan.
Take around a quarter of a teaspoonful of oxalic acid for every brood box then pack this into the pan. Half a teaspoonful is recommended if you got two brood boxes. The amount of acid used must be accurate since too much of it may cause problems for your bees.
2. Prepare Your Hive
Don’t start vaporizing until your hive is ready. Remove all the honey supers before the treatment if you haven’t harvested the honey yet. It will make your bees go further down the hive. The oxalic acid needs to reach as many bees as possible so you can eliminate all the mites.
Use the hive tool or crowbar to lift the hive enough to fit in the oxalic acid vaporizer. Slip a wooden piece between the first super and bottom board. Watch out for bees that might be crushed during the process.
You can also try slipping a sticky board at the bottom as it will help you check the infestation after the treatment. A sticky board is a type of insert that can be used in a Langstroth hive. It is a rectangular cardboard piece with a sticky part.
This is inserted at the bottom of your hive below the screened bottom. The dead mites will fall to the screen and then stick to the insert.
3. Keep Yourself Protected
Don’t forget to wear the necessary protective gear every time you work with an oxalic acid vaporizer. If possible, wear a respirator mask and protective gloves, with the mask limiting the fumes you may inhale during the process. It is essential that you also wear protective eyewear since direct contact may result in corneal damage.
Other beekeepers also suggest wearing protective gear to prevent stings although it might not be necessary. This is because you won’t handle the bees themselves and all you have to do is fit in the vaporizer by opening the hive just enough.
4. Start the Treatment
- Every vaporizer must feature two cords, one red and one black.
- Connect these two to the battery: black to black and red to red. The vaporizer must then start heating up.
- You can then insert the vaporizer into the entrance of the hive.
- To guarantee the effectiveness of the treatment, use a cloth or towel to seal the opening.
- Pack this in the spot around the vaporizers to prevent the fumes from escaping.