Monday, February 18, 2013

Essential Oils For My Bees

This year I had planned to explore organic beekeeping practices. The recent discovery that one of my hives was infected with Nosema has made me realize how important it is to ensure our bees are healthy. For the past 2 summers I was content to leave the bees to their own devices. Last summer I was more focused on splitting the bees into 2 hives. All seemed well when I tucked them in for the winter. Still, for some reason the Italian hive fell ill. The good news is that they seem to be rebounding. Many more bees are out flying and I don't see as many dead bees on the front of the hive, outside the entrance. It is still too early to be opening the hives but I have noticed the bees out flying more and more. I have begun to feed them at a community feeding station in my yard. Between the 2 hives they are taking about 3 cups of syrup per day. Today I decided to try adding some essential oils to their syrup.

I especially want to get the thyme oil into them. Thymol is reported to repel the dreaded varroa mites. It is also effective against tracheal mites. How does it work? The bees ingest the syrup containing the EO's (essential oils). They also feed it to the larva.The mites go to feed on the larva and are repulsed because they taste like thyme. The key is to feed the bees enough EO's to dissuade the mites but not enough to harm the bees. After some Googling I determined that I would need 5 drops of thmye oil and 10 drops of sweet orange, peppermint and lemon grass oils per quart of 1:1 sugar syrup. I need to get a calibrated syringe but for now shaking out the drops will have to do. I dosed up a fresh quart of syrup and set it out for the bees this morning. It smells very fragrant and I was wondering how the bees would react to it. No worries, they love it.

This morning.

Just before dark this evening.

Having the EO's in there didn't slow them down a bit. They ignored the pollen patty, though. I noticed it had moved. I think a bird must've sampled it while I was out running errands.

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