Beyond Taktic

Scientific Beekeeping    By Randy Oliver    First published in: American Bee Journal, January 2017

The miticide Taktic has been the savior of the commercial bee industry since the early 2000s. But it may be time to move on. I’ve been experimenting with a promising potential replacement.

Our Situation

As I recently pointed out, there are signs that mites in areas of the U.S. are exhibiting some degree of resistance to Taktic’s active ingredient–amitraz. And since Taktic has been pulled from the U.S. market, some beekeepers are justifiably concerned that the EPA may stop looking the other way about them illegally using the product (Canada’s already hit one beekeeper with a hefty fine; no telling when some State enforcement branch will make an example of a U.S. beekeeper).

I’m freshly returned from the California State Beekeepers Assoc. conference, where Dr. Juliana Rangel presented the findings of her student Liz Walsh (who previously found negative effects on queens from residues of miticides in the comb). Liz recently found that field-realistic residues of amitraz in queen cell wax appeared to reduce the egg laying rate of queens reared in those cells. I’ve suspected something like this, since queen problems appear to have increased since the widespread adoption of amitraz as a miticide. Of further concern is that amitraz residues are increasingly being detected in U.S. honey. In any case, commercial beekeepers are (or I suspect will soon be) looking for alternatives to Taktic.

The Ideal Treatment

In this same issue of ABJ, I’m pushing our industry to get serious about shifting to mite-resistant stocks so that we can give up treatments altogether. But I know that my own operation would collapse if I were to attempt an abrupt transition, and have no doubt that most others would too. So although I don’t use amitraz in my own operation, I have a common interest with my professional brethren to find mite treatments that are cheap, don’t harm the bees, queen, or brood, and don’t get into the honey.

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