When we picked up our new bees in late May, Bob the Beeman from Kress Apiary handed us a clear plastic packet containing something that resembled refrigerated pie dough. In fact it contained two formic acid strips. On an earlier visit this spring, Bob had told us about the positive results beekeepers had using formic acid to control mites in the hive. We thanked him for the strips even though we weren’t yet convinced to use them.
After a lot of research and discussion, we agreed with Bob. He had suggested we use one strip in the hive, but we followed the Dadant instructions and used two. The first application was recommended for mid-July with a second in late August. In the video below Greg is placing the strips between the two brood chambers.
We applied the strips in the evening on July 11th. The following morning we watched as weakened bees crawled from the hive, died, and were carried away by a survivor bee. Many of our references said that some bees would die as a result of the formic acid application. Still, we wondered, had we done the right thing?
“I finally understand what is meant by tough love,” Greg said as he watched another dead bee get carried away. The loss of our first colony in the spring has been like a wound that’s slow to heal–this morbid ritual wasn’t easy to witness. We knew that losing a few bees was worth it, if it ultimately meant the entire hive would survive. “I just hope this is hurting us more than it’s hurting our bees.”
Eleven days have passed since we applied the strips, and we’re happy to report that the hive is buzzing wildly again with no visible after effects from the treatment. The bees are pulling pieces of the strips from the hive and scattering them on the roof, which our research had prepared us for too. The second application of formic acid is tentatively scheduled for the last week of August, but we haven’t decided whether or not we’re going through with it. Maybe a little tough love can go a long way.