Varroa mite is the pest causing the most damage to beekeeping all over the world. Mites may spread viruses and, by weakening the colony, can make bees susceptible to other pathogenic agents. Mites can be transmitted to other hives by disorientation of bees, robbery and removal of honeycomb. There are no colonies of bees in Hungary that are free from mites. In colonies without treatment, varroa mites multiply rapidly and cause collapse of the colony.
For sustainable production, the number of mites within the hive must be kept at the lowest possible level. In organic bee-keeping, only a few materials (volatile oils, organic acids) are permitted to be used for treatment of varroa outbreaks. During our apicultural on-farm studies in 2013, successful methods and materials that control mites are compared with co-operation of participant beekeepers from spring through autumn.
Our first workshop about organic beekeeping and control of varroa was held on 24th March 2013. Participant beekeepers discussed organic methods and could get acquainted with the anti-mite products offered by distributors and permitted in Hungarian organic apiculture. Main target of the meeting was to develop a joint treating and checking methodolgy for the whole year.
Each participant beekeeper treats twelve colonies with the same product against varroa in 2013 and checks their infection level regularly. During the treatment period, effectiveness of one particular product is studied or two comparable products are tested. In the latter case, six-six colonies are treated with each product.
Infection level of the colony is regularly checked by help of a screen bottom board and sampling of living bees. Samples are evaluated by the National Food Chain Safety Office Veterinary Diagnostic Directorate.
Previously 15 beekeepers undertook the experiment from several regions of the country. It is worth mentioning that on-farm testing of methods and products is adjusted to the daily routine of organic beekeepings; test colonies are not being separated from honey producing colonies. During the season, beekeepers record circumstances of the treatments, observations about mite infection and honey production of each colony.
After spring and summer work peaks, participants may want to visit each other, thus helping direct exchange of experiences. In the course of these meetings, we can get acquainted with the daily routines of several beekeepers, and hear experiences and observations of the treatments.
We plan to organize a workshop in autumn or winter to sum up and assess experiences and plan on-farm research for the following year. If products of tested colonies of bees can be handled separately, we analyse their nutrition value and organize taste trials. Apart from partiipant beekeepers, traders and consumers will be also invited to this meeting.
In winter, after the end of the study, experiences will be summarized and published as a printed publication, online and journal article and conference lecture. Publications about methodology and effectiveness of methods will be available to anyone. We hope that this will help all the Hungarian organic beekeepers to find an anti-varroa treatment most suitable for their conditions.
In parallel with our on-farm study, we published a professional manual on varroa control in organic beekeeping. The German language publication published by Swiss FiBL (downloadable from the Internet) is being translated with help from on-farm study participants to provide a practical booklet adapted to Hungarian conditions. This Hungarian handbook of beekeeping will be downloadable from website of ÖMKi or can be ordered in printed version.
Participant organizations in 2013:
Hungarian Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (ÖMKi)
National Hugarian Bee-keeping Association (OMME)
Beekeepers’ Bioculture Association
Tools and products tested in the research (with name and website of sponsors):
Screen bottom board – Tabi Kaptár Kft. (http://www.kaptaruzem.hu/)
Oxalic acid sublimating device – Mohai 2007 Bt. (http://www.mohai2007.hu/)
BeeVital HiveClean – Alpha-Vet Állatgyógyászati Kft. (http://www.ameheszet.hu/)
Dany’s BienenWohl – Euro-Vet Kft. (http://www.euro-vet.hu/)
Apistonic formic acid vaporizer – Euro-Vet Kft. (http://www.euro-vet.hu/)
Nassenheider formic acid vaporizer – Tolnagro Kft. (http://www.tolnagro.hu/mehesz-minisite/)
Formic acid vaporizer – Tam-Méz Kft. (http://www.meheszbolt-tamasi.hu/)
Api Ox – Erista Kft (http://www.erista.hu/)
Api Bioxal – Erista Kft (http://www.erista.hu/)
Publication about varroa control in organic beekeeping in German (FiBL 2009: Varroakontrolle in der Bioimkerei) can be downloaded here: