Applying medicines with a TBH

Most of us using this blogsite are low intervention beekeepers, and avoid applying chemicals to our colonies whenever possible. I’m not as strict, and when varroa numbers seem to have got out of control, I resort to Apilife Var, which  thus far I have applied once a year, in early Autumn.

Another member mentioned Apilife Var is a devil to use because it is so crumbly, so here’s the application technique I use. Apilife Var is intended for use in a conventional hive where there is a gap above the combs, but a TBH user can’t just “rest it above the brood comb”.

Mesh sack, with toothpick through open end

I had some nylon mesh lying around so I folded it and glued two sides thus (click on image for more detail):

The dark rectangle is the Apilife Var. Four of these sacks are hung around the brood comb, by removing spacers, dropping the sack down, and replacing the spacer. The toothpick is used to stop the whole thing sliding down into the hive.

The next picture shows the whole arrangement, you can see the tops of three sacks poking out between bars. This particular treatment is done over a period of 4 weeks, with the tablets being replaced every week. So I pop the sacks into slightly different positions each week. This way, I hope to fumigate the whole brood area. It certainly knocks the varroa levels down.

Applying Apilife Var to a TBH

The process is moderately straightforward, though the sacks get quite propolised and sticky after a week or two. I originally found that pulling one of these out of the bee space between combs could be slightly fiddly, until I hit on the idea of the toothpick support, which means I never lose any inside the nest now! It is best to make twice as many sacks as you need, and assume half will be so gummed up by the end that you will throw them away.

The glue used on the nylon was Bostick. This slightly melts the nylon, but the final bond is a good one. Assume you will get it all over your fingers.

About Apilife Var and varroa

This is a pungent, thymol based treatment which is supplied in brown tablets. It knocks the mite levels right down and gives the bees a chance to recover. Downsides are that it makes honey smell awful, and the colony has less incentive to develop natural resistance such as improved grooming behaviour which, because mites can breed much faster than bees, is actually much more effective than this one-off reset to “just a few mites”.

Some more experienced beekeepers, such as Gareth, prefer the longer term strategy of developing varroa resistant strains of bees, and let colonies with varroa problems die out (though Gareth makes a point that though varroa undoubtedly weaken colonies, he’s never actually lost a colony to varroa itself and he feels its dangers are overstated). But such colonies are, as yet, rare and with just one or two hives I feel this makes me too vulnerable to chance. Gareth’s colonies are now varroa-tolerant enough that he doesn’t even use icing sugar to dust them.

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2 Responses to Applying medicines with a TBH

  1. simplebees says:

    I would not go as far as to say that my colonies are varroa tolerant to the point where they will never succumb to varroa, or the viruses it carries. What is true, however, is that over 3 full seasons of low treatment followed by a further 2 full seasons of no treatment (5 complete seasons in all since I started on my current regime), I have not lost a single colony to varroa. During that time I have lost plenty of colonies, to robbing by wasps and bees, queen failure and general dwindling (not caused by varroa). I have had in my possession, and lost to one or other of these causes, colonies that have had no varroa treatment (and that includes no icing sugar) for 4 or even 5 years and yet had very low varroa levels. I know of other natural beekeepers who have experienced the same. So the point I make, that Paul refers to above, is that varroa needs to be kept in context as just one of the things that can trouble bees. Of course, it is nice and simple to paint varroa as the big bugbear, but life is not simple and sometimes we need to accept that reality is complex if we are to make real progress.


  2. hunneybun says:

    My immediate thought is that glue is quite fume-y (smelly!) and that a needle and thread could be a better way to make little bags…?! Otherwise a very clever way of getting stuff in to the bees.


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