Spring feels like it’s finally around the corner as I’m writing this. From what I hear, this winter has been pretty rough. I’ve gotten very mixed reports of winter survivorship. This wasn’t an extreme winter by any measure, though we have had some serious cold from time to time. If the bees were of compromised condition last fall, they probably aren’t around anymore, and it’s time to try again. This seems to be truer each year. Maybe those who are having great winter successes are just afraid to speak about it out loud for fear of jinxing their strong live clusters!
I’ve been asked a few times already what I might recommend as a spring mite treatment. This is a common annual topic of conversation, and it’s a good subject to think about. Some of you have dosed your hives a time or two over winter with oxalic acid, either in syrup or by vaporization. If done while the bees were largely broodless, you ought to have had a great mite kill, and hopefully may be able to avoid coping with springtime mite treatment stress. If this is you … take a mite count in order to KNOW this, rather than assume anything. For the rest of us, what’s the “best” option?
Right now, I’m recommending Formic Pro. Have you seen this yet? It’s the new version of MiteAway Quick Strips. The biggest difference between Formic Pro and MAQS seems to be its shelf life. If you’ve used MAQS, expect pretty much the same. The fiber pad material has been “upgraded” while the formic acid active ingredient remains unchanged. The biggest issue over years with a variety of formic acid treatments is the delivery. Too “flashy” and brood is harmed, maybe queens too. Too slow / low of a dose and mites aren’t killed effectively. So, we’re aiming for that sweet middle ground. MAQS has been a good product, though not without problems – particularly if used in hotter weather, or if used beyond its short expiration date. Hopefully this new version fixes at least one of those shortcomings.
Formic acid might be a good choice considering our short list of approved options. I’m not convinced an oxalic treatment is effective in spring, since bee brood is its Achilles’ heel. I’m not a fan of Apivar in spring, since the treatment takes five weeks or so followed by a “cool down” period to avoid contaminating any honey for human consumption. Apiguard is far better as a fall treatment, given its minimum required daytime temperatures and its month-long treatment period. Hopguard 2 has been squirrelly, requiring multiple applications and struggling to control mites when colonies are significantly brooded up. Apilife Var is very similar to Apiguard, so I personally might save it as a late summer treatment option (and I wouldn’t consider it to be a “rotation” opposite Apiguard). I don’t really like Checkmite or Apistan due to both, resistance issues and chemistry. The list goes on … and basically brings me to a formic acid product, either MAQS or Formic Pro.
Whatever you choose, give yourself a pat on the back / buy yourself a beer, because without live bees coming through winter you wouldn’t get to make these fun decisions. Feed them! Get them treated! Build them up! Split them! And get ready for another awesome season.
See you. Andy