Honey Bees

One of the things people know Camp Joy for is the honey. I’ve been keeping honey bees for many years and this one so far is extraordinary – largely because of the extraordinary weather we just had this winter/spring/summer. The bees made it to the fall of 1997 in decent strength, but fall rains came early, and the willow and eucalyptus bloom got them going, the queen laying, new bees being born and the populations of each hive increasing.

Just before this process begins, the bees are at minimum strength and they have the least “brood” (larvae and pupae) of the year. This is the time to treat for Varroa mite – a new and very serious parasite. Properly timed we have only been treating once a year with Apistan (fluvalinate – a synthetic pyrethroid) on a plastic strip that is put into the hive for 45-56 days. The bees crawl over the strip and spread the pyrethroid around. It kills the adult mites without hurting the bees, and because it is not water-soluble, it doesn’t get into the honey. In addition, it is applied at the time of the year when little or no honey is being made. Talking with two local entomologists, who are also teachers of sustainable agriculture, convinced me that this is a safe material – short-lived, leaves no residuals and has a very low toxicity – except to arthropods (mites). Nearly every beekeeper uses Apistan, it is very effective for now. We are also using essential oils – e.g. wintergreen and spearmint – and careful work is being done to learn how to control mites with this only.

Jim Nelson

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