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Varroa mites are a very significant threat in beekeeping. They lead to bees having lethal deformities including poor wing formation. Beekeepers have to be on their constant guard against Varroa mites for the best results in beekeeping. Infestations of mites on honey bee colonies always lead to decline of colony health and the eventual death of the entire colony. In other cases, bees leave the beehive and seek new locations where mites are not present. Varroa mites are transmitted through bee to bee contact. This happens within the hive in bees of the same colony, and in the field between bees of different honey bee colonies. Beekeepers should also be aware that robber bees may introduce Varroa mites into a previously mite-free beehive.
Varroa mite control in beekeeping is important to prevent losses and colony collapse. The Varroa mite attacks both adult bees and brood, though they tend to prefer the brood of drone bees. Left unchecked, Varroa mites will prey on worker bee brood as well. Beekeepers have a number of options to use in controlling honey bee mites. This article compares two popular mite control methods – Apivar vs Apiguard. There are various companies manufacturing and selling Apivar and Apiguard under varying trade names.
Apiguard is a non-medicinal substance that promises to safeguard the well being of your honey bee colony. It is sold in trays that beekeepers place in beehives. The tray may be sold in a single unit or as 10 units. Each tray contains an average of 50 grams of Apiguard substance. The active ingredient in Apiguard is thymol. This is an essential oil extracted from the thyme plant. It has shown high effectiveness in mite control. It blocks the pores of mites leading to their death. Two trays of Apiguard are required for successful treatment of each hive. A single tray of Apiguard has 25% thymol in it. The rest is a gel matrix specially designed to slowly release the thymol.
In addition to controlling Varroa mites, Apiguard has shown effectiveness against tracheal mites in honey bees. Apiguard is a registered trademark of Vita Limited.
Application of Apiguard requires beekeepers to open their hives. You should then peel back the lid on the Apiguard. This lid id made of foil and should be left attached to one corner of the Apiguard tray. Beekeepers treating their hive with Apiguard for mite control should place the open Apiguard tray in a central location on top of their beehive’s brood frames. The gel side should be facing up. Free space of not less than 5 millimeters should be allowed between the hive cover and the open Apiguard tray. An empty super box is a great way to make sure there is enough room for bees to get onto the Apiguard tray. The beehive should be closed upon successful placement of the Apiguard tray.
The Apiguard tray placed in your beehive should be left in place for not less than 2 weeks, after which a second tray is added beside the first one. The procedure for tray placement is followed during addition of the second Apiguard tray. The two trays are then left in the beehive for 4 more weeks after which they are removed. Do not leave Apiguard in your hive for more than 6 weeks. A single Apiguard tray can be used for wintering and small weakened honey bee colonies. In this case, the tray is left in place for 4 weeks only.
Apiguard performs best when used in late summer. This is after beekeepers have harvested honey from their beehives. At this time, the numbers of bee brood are low.In dire circumstances where it is very necessary to treat hives due to heavy mite infestations, you may use Apiguard in spring. The temperatures in the hive should be 590 F (150 C) or higher.
Caution When Using Apiguard
Beekeepers should wear gloves when handling Apiguard. They should also wash hands after handling Apiguard. Take note not to smoke, eat or drink while actively making contact with Apiguard. Apiguard is best not used with honey supers present on the beehive, or during honey harvest.
Honey bee colonies should not be fed before the application of Apiguard. You may install Apiguard in your beehives immediately after removal of honey super boxes. A maximum daily temperature that is lower than 590 F (150 C) reduces the effectiveness of Apiguard. Low colony activity is also not good for Apiguard dispersal throughout the beehive. Weak colonies may be combined before Apiguard is applied to control honey bee colony Varroa mites.
Beekeepers using Apiguard to control Varroa mites in their honey bee colonies should not apply a dose more than the recommended 2 trays for 6 weeks. With overdose, honey bee colonies get agitated and may abscond. Removal of excess Apiguard form the hive on time prevents absconding and reduces agitation. There is no withdrawal period required after use of Apiguard to control Varroa mites in a hive. Apiguard should be kept out of reach of pets and children. It is advisable to keep the product in its original unopened package until it is ready for use.
Direct sunlight and change of packaging reduces the effectiveness of Apiguard. It is also not recommendable to keep Apiguard close to other chemical substances that may contaminate the Apiguard. Food stuffs too should be kept at a safe distance from Apiguard. Storage of Apiguard requires a temperature of below 860 F (300 C) and above 320 F (00 C).
Apivar is an Amitraz based mite control product for beekeepers. It is safe and effective in reduction of mite populations. Apivar does not leave economically significant residues in honey or beeswax. It is however recommended that beekeepers remove honey super boxes from their beehives. Apivar has a 99% efficiency rate against honey bee colony mites. It is released continuously in the hive at a constant rate for 6 weeks. Apivar comes in form of strips that you place in your brood boxes. The strips are best used at a rate of 1 strip for every 5 brood frames in your beehive.
Apiaries stand to benefit a lot from Apivar use. It kills mites by affecting their nervous system. Over-excitation and eventual paralysis of mites by Apivar causes them to fall of the backs of honey bees. The mites then die of starvation since they cannot manage to climb back onto bees. Apivar is a contact mite control solution. It is spread by bees into the hive when they interact with the Apivar strips. The ambient temperature in a beehive does not affect the spread of Apivar in the hive. As a consequence, the effectiveness of Apivar is not affected by beehive temperatures. This makes Apivar suitable for use in any season of the year when you note your honey bee colony is under attack by Varroa mites.
Strips of Apivar are made of a rigid plastic polymer to give a slow continuous release of the active agent over many weeks. In treating your hive against mites using Apivar, 6 weeks is the recommended time of application. Once 6 weeks have lapsed, you should remove the strips. After removal of Apivar strips from the hive, Amitraz is quickly hydrolyzed and clears from your beehive. If you have many beehives in an apiary, treat them all at the same time using Apivar. The strips are not biodegradable, and do not disappear by themselves from your hive. Once the recommended 6-weeks treatment period has lapsed make sure to remove Apivar strips from your beehive(s). Dispose of the strips in a safe manner depending on your local waste and chemical disposal regulations. Do not reuse Apivar strips.
Caution When Using Apivar
Beekeepers using Apivar to control Varroa mite infestations in their honey bee colonies should make sure to apply the correct dosage of Apivar. 2 strips per 10 frames of brood is the standard rate, and should be observed religiously. Exposing Varroa mites to low dosages of Apivar can lead to development of resistance. You will cause problems for yourself and fellow beekeepers near you. You also run the risk of colony collapse if the mites do not die in your beehive or apiary. If a beekeeper notes that mites are resistant to Apivar, they should quickly change to another mite control product that is not Amitraz based.
Similarities – Apivar vs Apiguard
- Both mite control products are effective against Varroa mites. They are released slowly into the hive, at the right concentrations to kill mites. Apiguard and Apivar clear mites from your beehive within 6 weeks.
- Apivar and Apiguard are easy to use and very convenient for beekeepers. They are safe for use in beehives from which honey will be harvested. It is however important to note that the safety of honey from beehives treated with Apiguard or Apivar is only guaranteed if beekeepers apply the mite control solutions properly, in the right dosage and for the right periods of time.
- There is low risk of bees dying due to exposure to Apivar or Apiguard. The two products have insignificant toxicity to bees when used properly in accordance with their respective recommendations.
- It is legal for beekeepers to use Apivar and Apiguard in their honey bee colonies to control Varroa mite infestations. The two mite control products are approved safe and legal for use in apiaries in most jurisdictions around the globe.
- Both Apiguard and Apivar require beekeepers to wear safety gloves and be cautious while handling them. The two products are not very safe for human consumption or contact with the skin in their concentrated form. They may irritate mucous membranes of beekeepers during their application including the eyes. They are however not known to cause loss of human life due to poisoning.
Differences – Apivar vs Apiguard
- Apivar contains Amitraz as its active ingredient. In Apiguard, the active ingredient is Thymol essential oil. This difference in the active ingredient in each of these mite control products gives them different modes of action as well.
- Apiguard is largely affected by ambient temperatures. In low temperatures, Apiguard is not effective while in high temperatures it is over-released in the hive. Apivar is not affected by temperature variations in the hive.
- The activity of bees in your beehive affects how effective Apivar will be. With less bee activity in the hive, Apivar is spread at a lowered rate in the hive. Apiguard is not affected by bee activity and movement in the hive since it does not rely on contact with honey bees to be spread in the hive.
- Apiguard is effective against Varroa mites and tracheal mites while Apivar is only effective against Varroa mites. This makes Apiguard a more economical product for beekeepers to use in controlling honey bee colony mite infestations since it solves two problems at a time.
- It is not recommended to feed bees while using Apiguard to control honey bee colony mites. Bees may associate the smell of thymol essential oil with feeding over time. Apivar on the other hand has no effect on feeding. The effectiveness of Apivar is increased by feeding bees due to increased activity in the hive when bees are being fed.
- Varroa mites rarely show any resistance to thymol essential oil found in Apiguard mite control products. There is however some resistance to the Amitraz used in Apivar seen in some mite populations. This can lead to heavy losses in honey bee colony strength if not identified and addressed quickly.
A Final Word
Strong colonies are able to fight Varroa infestations more readily than weak or small honey bee colonies. The various methods used in beekeeping to control Varroa mite infestations have different effectiveness levels. They also each have their advantages and disadvantages. It is up to each beekeeper to review the ups and downs of each available Varroa mite control method such as Apivar vs Apiguard, and decide in its suitability for use in their apiary.
Among the biggest factors to consider in Varroa mite control are effectiveness and development of resistance. Beekeepers should go for highly effective honey bee mite control methods to which mites are not resistant. Rotation between two or more mite treatments helps beekeepers lower the likelihood of mites developing resistance to any one control product. Integrated pest and disease control plans used in beekeeping put to use a number of practices to keep mites in check. These practices may rightly include use of miticides such as Apivar and Apiguard.
What do you think of Apivar and Apiguard? Leave a comment below and let us know.