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Newsletter of the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association

July 7, 2014 Volume XIV, Issue 7

Mt. Olive Lutheran Church, 3561 Foothill Boulevard, La Crescenta, CA  91214

Next Meeting: August 4, 2014 Doors open 6:45 pm, Start 7:00

Topic for August Meeting: 

Hive Beetles!

Minutes from the June Meeting: 

Attendance:53, 48 members, 5 guests

Contents in Brief:


Old Business

New Business




  • Beekeeping 101 classes July’s class is scheduled for July 20, 9am (next is August 17)

  • Bee questions – if you have one, write it on a card at the back of the room when you get to meeting, and we’ll do our best to answer them all during our meeting.

  • American Bee Journal –subscription discount – grab a voucher from Stacy or contact them at 1-888-922-1293 and tell them you’re a LACBA member to get 25% off

  • Buzzings – if you’re not getting a copy, let Stacy McKenna know (stacymckenna1@gmail.com) so we can update your information

  • Don’t forget to grab your nametag and keep it in your glove compartment or such so you have it handy for meetings.

  • If you want to be listed on our website for honey sales or bee removals, contact Eva Andrews at evaandrews2@gmail.com


  • Our website continues to be a rich source of news and information as Eva posts links to articles about the federal strategy for pollinators, petitions, honey bee health information, and information on plants to plant for your bees. Check in regularly to keep up to date!.


  • Los Angeles County Fair – Clyde Steese and Cyndi Caldera are our fearless leaders! Clyde is working on coordinating a move into the Farm Bureau building but need Farm Bureau and County Ag Commissioner approval first. The unofficial feeling is “no problem” but there is no official approval yet.

Russ Levine is coordinating the schedule for volunteers again. He hopes to have a VolunteerSpot event up and running by next month. We’re also coordinating with Rich Heryford of BASC to get as many volunteers as possible.

The ABF Honey Queen for 2014, 

Susannah Austin

, will be joining us for one week to help with education. She’ll be staying with Clyde Steese.

  • CSBA convention – we need volunteers! We’ll keep you posted closer to the date with times and tasks, but please keep some time open before and during the convention to help make this event a success!

The volunteers working with Bill Lewis would like to propose that LACBA authorize $1,000 to host coffee at the registration desk for the first two days of the convention so that LACBA is one of the first welcoming sights at the convention. The motion is seconded, and passes a vote easily.

  • Vitamin Bee TV is a recent venture to help teach kids about healthy eating and nutrition. It engages kids in a way they can understand via free interactive materials online – videos, games, etc. They’d love more input from beekeepers – suggestions, recommendations, maybe even apiary tours. It’s a not-for-profit endeavour right now, and they’re looking for corporate partners for additional funding. Their testing in Mexico has been successful but dubbing the animations into Spanish is an expense they haven’t afforded yet.

An extensive discussion about the (in)appropriateness of the spokesbee being male ensued…


Varroa Mite Treatments

This subject is where beekeepers become divided. Treat or don’t treat? Use chemicals or “natural” methods? The best recommendation is to always find a second (and third) opinion, learn all you can about your options. For reference, the mite on a bee is comparable to a human having a fist-sized parasite on them. They have a 10 day reproductive cycle – they hatch out in brood cells with the bee larvae, and they preferential inhabit the larger drone cells. They interfere with the immune system, invite additional viral infection, and suck up resources in the hive. So let’s find out how some of our more experienced members handle it:

El Rey Ensch

 – Acaricides (anti-arachnid pesticides) were introduced to fight the tracheal mite. The bees adapted in about 10 years. With the introduction of varroa destructor, the bees have not yet adapted. In order to help keep the bees ahead of the curve, most commercial beekeepers have to resort to miticides because of the sheer numbers involved. They need to be used at least through a fall brood cycle of 21 to 42 days. The trick is you’re killing a little bug on a slightly bigger bug. The bees will be affected regardless – will it be die-off due to varroa impact or wobbles due to miticide impact?

When you treat bees with miticides always use gloves to keep chemicals off your skin. Nitrile gloves work fine with mild-mannered bees, heavier rubber gloves are better with more tempermental bees.

            Apistan – hang 2 strips in the brood nest (most of the mites adapted to this option after about 5 years)

            Check Mite – hang 2 strips in the brood area. Dr. Mussen says it’s “nasty stuff” but it helped beekeepers keep ahead of the curve during heavy mite-caused losses. Sadly, the mites also adapted to this miticide after about 5 years.

            Apiguard – a thymol paste, use after the honey flow and not while your honey supers are on. 50g/dose (2 scoops with a little cookie baller) on a waxed 3x5 card on the top center of the brood area, with spacers at the top of the box to help allow vaporizing space. Mussen says warmer weather can cause rapid vaporization driving bees out of the hive, so try to use only in weather <90 degrees. If it gets too cold, it won’t vaporize. Some people prefer to use a 25g dose 3 times at 1 week intervals

            Apivar (brand name for Amitraz) – hang 2 strips in the brood area NOT during honey flow. I used it last year to good effect

            MAQS (Mite-Away Quick Strips) – formic acid – it’s the only thing you can use during the honey flow, and many beekeepers use it during the spring

Anything applied in large quantities will need an applicator’s license from the County Agriculture Department, but smaller, hobbyist-scale quantities can be purchased from the major beekeeping supply houses. All treatments get applied at the top of the brood area and are designed to disperse well throughout the hive. My current regimen is Apiguard and Apivar (Amitraz). Don’t use the same treatment all the time – rotate your chemical or technique. Sadly Check Mite and Apistan were synergistic – you can’t alternate them without causing adverse effects in the hive. Read your labels to make sure you get the application right. After you treat, use about 300 (1C) bees in an 

alcohol wash

 – if you see more than 5 mites, treat again.

Bill Lewis

 -  MAQS are one of the least toxic options, as the chemical is also naturally occurring in the hive. It can also kill mites within the capped cells.

Following the label directions (2 strips/brood deep) killed the mites but it also drove off the bees. Within a week the strips had dried out, but within 2 weeks we had queenless hives. It takes another 14 days for supercedures to release virgin queens, so make sure you check at least every 10 days and eliminate queen cells to prevent supercedures that mate with local drones.

Treating and leaving a slight offset between the boxes allows for better ventilation and less absconding. Be careful with gap space, it can invite robbing – close it up after about a week. Alternately, we use only one strip cut in half per brood box to minimize queen loss. They are still your only option with honey supers on.

We started treating with Apivar strips (it only kills adult mites) in June. We’re not pulling any more honey this year, we’re leaving it all for the bees as feed. Some beekeepers will pull honey after treating with Apivar and packers won’t detect it because the active ingredient breaks down pretty quickly. As long as you’ve taken the treatment strips out you can put new supers on, but don’t pull any frames that were in the hive when the treatment was on.

If you have larvae dying in the cells from the mite load, you’re already on a steep downhill as far as colony population.

Hop Guard – it’s a gooey, slimey stuff on strips. It didn’t work at all – we saw no decline in the mite populations. You can use it during a honey flow, though. The stuff kills on contact, adults only. [Ed: manufacturer recommends it for applications like package transports ad queenless situations]

When we tested our hives in June they had 5 mites. By July’s test, they were up to 30. We’ve treated and July 20 we’re testing again.

Brood breaks can be very helpful in helping control mite numbers, but they’re rather labor intensive catching and releasing queens. Oxalic acid has also shown good results in places like England where it’s legal to use.

Klaus Koepfli

 – you’re going to have mites no matter what. You’re going to lose bees to mites no matter what. When we treated we lost 20%. Without treating we’re losing 22%. I treat with hard chemicals once a year. I also cut out the drone comb monthly.

I’ve found oil applications help with mites. I put a bonch of 4”-5” shop towels in a 5 gallon bucket and soak them with oil (vegetable or oil (though oil can crystallize)). Hang one between the frames in the brood area – if they chuck the towel out they’re healthy, if they leave it, they need the oil to help slip the mites off. Grease patties (Crisco + sugar) also result in greater mite drops.

Apiguard at half dose resulted in losing 70% of my queens.

Boxing your queen and breaking the brood cycle can work.

Africanized queens/colonies are often better at dealing with the mites.

Alternative to using extra spacers – just turn your lid upside down and tape over the gaps.

All of our frames get chucked when the wax is black. We use no meds/treatments when the supers are on for honey customer health. We treat in late summer after making splits, usually September.

We’ve tried the Fat Beeman fogger – use a mask (it’s vaporized oil) and coat all the bees/hive. WARN YOUR FIRE DEPARTMENT – it generates a think white smoke that will attract attention. You can also try essential oils like tea tree, wintergreen, eucalyptus, or even Vicks Vapo Rub on the entrance. Some Europeans are having good luck with heating the hive to drive off mites. Remember anything you vaporize into the hive will soak into the wax.

Like Bill mentioned, oxalic acid is legal in Europe and successful, but not permitted here.

All of our hives are Africanized. We’ve found sumac flowers or tobacco in the smoker calms them down. We don’t use the sumac more than twice a month, though.

Propane fogger – we have an example on hand – it uses mineral oil that it disperses in 15 micron particles. It suffocates the varroa mite. It generates a VERy thick white smoke. It is propane powered – be very careful in dry areas. It takes about 10-15 seconds/hive. Adding about 5% thyhymol to the mineral oil seemed to be effective. Keep in mind that cheap and easy alternatives for treating bees are unlikely to be registered as official alternatives because there’s no profit in them.

An oxalic acid drip into the hive – we’ve never tried it, but many swear by it. Oxalic acid vaporization with a heating element to fumigate the hive using liquid forms of the acid are popular in Germany and Canada. They treat twice a year, in spring and fall. The method requires a gas mask – stand upwind from the toxic fumes. But it’s a (not legally registered) cheap alternative (the heating element costs about $100, + a 12V battery).


Thanks to everyone for their donations and the purchase of raffle tickets! Proceeds go to help fund our club in its education efforts!

Vase – Jeremy Jensen

Rain gauge – Jon Reese

Uncapper – Gay Crusius

[Submitted by Stacy McKenna, LACBA Secretary.]