By Phil Craft, Veto-pharma’s U.S. technical adviser
One of my tasks at Veto-pharma is to reply to questions from beekeepers about the company’s products. Since Apivar is perhaps the most used miticide in the United States, a majority of the questions pertain to this product. Many of the questions are forwarded to me from Veto-pharma’s webpage contact page, and others to me directly at email@example.com. While the questions concerning Apivar will vary, and are addressed within our Apivar’s Frequently Asked Questions, I do receive many of the same questions more frequently.
Here is a top ten of the most frequently asked questions sent to me about Apivar:
- I plan to leave a honey super filled with honey on the hive through the winter, just in case the bees need it. If there is honey remaining in that super come spring, may I harvest, and consume it?
Residue studies have demonstrated that when Apivar is used per the label instructions, no residues of Apivar’s active ingredient amitraz were detected within comb or honey samples, and the treatment has no negative effects on honey bees. However, we must remember that we keep bees to produce honey, which is a food product. And the Apivar label clearly states “Remove honey supers before application of Apivar”. The label instructions are approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), one of whose duties is to protect the foods that we consume. And virtually all miticides carry this prohibition. So, you may not harvest honey for human consumption that was stored by the bees while Apivar was present in the hive.
- I plan to use Apivar in my hive. The hive consists of two deep hive bodies. The top deep is full of honey for the bees, but there is no brood. Since there is no brood in that box, I do not need to put Apivar into that box. Right?
Apivar must be applied in all boxes that contain frames with bees. Apivar is a contact miticide, which kills varroa mites by bringing the mites into contact with the Apivar strips and its active ingredient amitraz. An important factor is ensuring that the bees make contact with the strips, hence we use 1 Apivar strip for every 5 frames of bees. While we use Apivar in the hive’s brood boxes (honey supers must be removed prior to Apivar application) we must use Apivar in all boxes containing bees. If a box contains honey bees, the mites will be on the bees, and we must place Apivar in that box. Apivar does not target the varroa mites within the brood. Those mites die from exposure to amitraz only after they emerge from the brood cells.
- I keep bees and live in Texas. It gets very warm down here, and we are seeing high temperatures of over 100°F. Is it too hot to use Apivar?
As a contact miticide, temperature is not a factor in Apivar’s use. Apivar works regardless of the ambient temperature. It is used in locations like Saudi Arabia, where temperatures exceed 100°F on a regular basis. Summer temperatures in Texas are not a problem.
- I have a package of Apivar that expired last month. Will it still work in my hives?
Apivar’s shelf life is 24 months after the manufacturing date. This manufacturing date is stamped on the bottom of the Apivar package. Apivar strips are made of a polymer material, which is blended with Apivar’s active ingredient, amitraz. Upon manufacture, the strips are vacuum-sealed, and the release of amitraz is activated when the package is opened. As the activated strip makes contact with honey bees, amitraz is transferred from the strips’ surface, and additional amitraz then migrates from the center to the surface of the strip. However, the amitraz contained in strips in an unopened package will degrade over time which is why an expiration date has been determined for Apivar. The stability of the strip cannot be guaranteed past the expiration date.
- I only have one hive. And I will need only 4 Apivar strips to treat for mites. If I purchase a package of 10 strips, I will have 6 left over. Is there any way to store the leftover strips long-term (sealable plastic bag, and/or freeze them)? Why doesn’t Veto-pharma make a smaller package, with less strips?
When an Apivar package is opened, and the vacuum seal is broken, the strip is activated, and the release of the active ingredient begins. All of the strips within the package should be used as soon as possible after opening. Once the package is opened, and this activation of the strip commences it cannot be stopped. Long term storage of open packages of Apivar is not possible.
To answer this common problem, Veto-pharma is working on providing new pack sizes for Apivar, that will give beekeepers more flexibility to purchase the exact number of strips required for each treatment. Stay tuned; you will learn more about this improvement in the next few months.
- I am ready to pull my honey supers. I have two hives with 4 and 5 honey supers on each hive. It is very warm here in Georgia, with temperatures in the 90s. When removing these supers, the hives will have a large bee population, and I plan to insert Apivar. Can I place an empty super on the hive for space? Just to allow the bees a place to go. Otherwise, I know from experience they will really beard up at the hive entrance.
You could place an empty super on top to give the bees space. However, if the bees deposit any nectar into the super, you should not harvest it later for human consumption. You may allow the bees to consume these food stores
- Can frames with drawn comb that were previously treated with Apivar be used as honey frames later?
As long as all honey is removed from the comb after the Apivar application, frames containing drawn comb that were present in the hive during an Apivar treatment, may be used to collect honey again at a later time. It is not uncommon for beekeepers to sometimes leave a honey super on the hive over the winter as a food source for the bees. If the bees completely remove (consume) all honey and nectar from these frames before spring, they can be reused for honey collection (for human consumption) in the future.
- I use medium frames and boxes (which are about two thirds the size of deep frames and boxes). How many Apivar strips should I use in each medium box?
Apivar is a contact miticide, and an important factor in its use is that varroa mites must make contact with the Apivar strip. If using medium size boxes and frames, beekeepers should still use 2 strips per box or 1 strip per 5 frames of bees.
- I use Apivar in the fall. Can I keep it in the hive over the winter and remove it in the following spring?
As the packaging label indicates, Apivar’s treatment period is a minimum of 42 days, with a maximum of 56 days. If Apivar is used for longer than 56 days, this is a violation of the label.
- Do I really need to do a mite count before and after I use Apivar?
You do not have to do a mite count to effectively use Apivar. However, a mite count obtained by performing either an alcohol wash, a powdered sugar roll, or a CO2 injection, can contribute valuable information that will make your varroa treatment more effective – regardless of which miticide you use. Performing regularly scheduled mite counts can help you to determine when your mite infestation has increased above threshold. Performing a post treatment count, and comparing it to the pre-treatment count, can assure you that your treatment was effective. More information about varroa monitoring can be found at the Veto-pharma webpage.