A Little Tough Love at the Hive

Formic acid strips


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?

Formic acid strip placement on bottom brood chamber


“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.

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About Bob Vivant

I'm a writer, recipe developer, and photographer. I write about food and human nature and the curious intersection of the two. After collecting a few degrees and nurturing an unsatisfying, 15-year love affair with corporate America, I chose a new path, one that would allow my passions for writing and all things food to flourish. My cooking focuses on whole grains and fresh (local!) ingredients with a few naughty bites thrown in for good measure. Chocolate truffle cake anyone? I believe that recipes are mere guidelines, and food rules are made to be broken. I strive to make cooking more approachable for those who say, “I don’t have time,” “I don’t know how,” or “I just didn’t eat those things as a kid.” Anyone can make pizza from scratch and fast and easy doesn’t have to mean processed. I'm committed to changing the way people think about the food they eat – one bite at a time.
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3 Responses to A Little Tough Love at the Hive

  1. karcuri13 says:

    Are you using sticky pads to count mite drop? Did you notice a higher number of mites after the treatment?

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    breakfast coming again to read further news.

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    and thought I might check things out. I like what I see so i am just following you.
    Look forward to looking at your web page repeatedly.

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