Archive for the ‘Practical Beekeeping’ Category

This treatment and the below mixture is 90+ effective at removing varroa mites from your honey bee colonies. However this should be applied during a period where there is no capped/sealed brood within the colony. This generally happens two times a year: During the process of requeening or swarming and secondly in the winter, typically December-January.


  • Disolve 1kg sugar in 1 litre of water. (This produces 1.67ltr of 1:1 syrup).
  • mix in 75grm of Oxalic Acid Dihydrate powder. This gives a 3.2% Oxalic Acid (weight/volume) solution


  • 5ml of this mixture is trickled between the frame tops  that contain a seem of bees sitting between them.

This mixture should keep for a good 4-6 months in a cool and dark place. Once it starts becoming cloudy it should be disposed of and a fresh batch mixed up.

Health & Safety Caution:

It is recommended to always use the correct safety clothing and safety glasses are the most important.


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Having tried to make some fondant for the bees I have managed to find a good method to make the perfect feed. No weighing necessary…


 5:1 (sugar : water) ratio

little acid  (vinegar) catalyst which inverts the sugar.


  1. Take 5 cups of sugar and mix with 1 cup full of water in a saucepan. To this add 1-2 teaspoons (grape) Vinegar and 1  teaspoon (optional) olive oil.
  2. Heat for approx. 30 mins. until a temperature of 117-119 degrees C. is reached. (Stirring occasionally) The lower temperature creates a softer mix – trial and error with your thermometer.
  3. Turn off the heat and leave to cool down to around 96 degrees C, without stirring
  4. Place the saucepan into a bowl of warm water and start stirring.
  5. The mixture will start to cloud over and thicken
  6. As soon as the mixture becomes a soft creamy paste I shovel this into a plastic ice cream container. Once cool, this mixture can also be kneaded.


Before giving this to the bees, loosen the mixture and place the up-turned container over the crown board’s clearer/feed hole so that the fondant settles on the crown board leaving no spaces.  Try to make sure the bees are under the feed-hole. Turn the board if necessary. The fondant can also be kneaded to a flat patty which can be placed directly over the frames under the crown board however this will become hard if not consumed quickly.


The recipe above can be made using less sugar e.g. 4:1 ratio however the heating time doubles, increasing to approx. 1 hour. I used a digital thermometer and compared it with a traditional jam making thermometer. There was a delayed offset between them and if the thermometer is not accurate will change the final outcome of your fondant. My past attempts always ended up making hard candy not fondant. I did some research on the internet and found a good formula used for cake decorating. Trials found the recipe above is great for feeding bees and can also be adapted for thymol patties.

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Thanks everyone for your comments.

It’s a very involved subject. We know agricultural pesticides and herbicides can contribute to bee deaths although of late there is no physical evidence in the UK. Unfortunately these chemicals can be found in beeswax, in organic products and most foods we eat. Lettuce is supposed to be one of the worst. (If you like lettuce, buy the enclosed varieties as chemicals are less likely to penetrate the inner leaves.) As some beeswax is recycled there could be a build-up of residues over time. I am helping to run an organic trial for a PHD student where an organic frame of wax has been inserted into one of my untreated colonies. Next year this frame will be sent off for analysis.

If farmers did not use any chemicals there will be only one alternative “GM” in the UK. Open Field trials were running on wheat at a UK Research station last year so this is already controversial in itself.

Before signing up to all these campaigns (we have to tread very carefully) we have to make government bodies aware but not so that we jeopardize this delicate situation and make matters worse. We could end up with even a greater problem if some of these chemicals are banned.

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Many beekeepers still have (myself included) solid floors with extended built in flight boards. These seem to have more Cons than Pros especially if the flight board is not angled down and away from the hive.

A flight board isn’t really needed. Their only real use is to allow tired or older bees to land by dropping down on the board and running into the entrance. In nature bees rarely will find anything like this. How wonderful you might think!

If the flight board is not angled down and away from the entrance, especially with solid floors, rainwater can run into the hives. As recently seen, even with a light snow fall, entrances become blocked limiting or stopping airflow. Certainly more beekeepers are using OMF’s (open mesh floors) but I have started using solid floors again. No real reason, except these are more sturdy and seem to last longer than some of the bargain OMF’s on the market and can work out cheaper. There are advantages and disadvantages alike. When treating bees with thymol/vapour based products with an OMF in place you can overdose with little harm as the vapours fall through the mesh. Since using OMF’s I have had no bees clustering outside hives when being treated with thymol. However, if using a solid floor, far less thymol is needed to be effective and certainly an overdose is likely to kill the bees, or failing this, they may abscond with or without the queen. Another advantage using OMF’s; entrances can be kept quite small over the whole season as plenty of ventilation comes in from below.

I would suggest beginners forget using landing boards unless it is short, angled and possibly a removable one. If you are not convinced and planning to make one do not let it touch the ground. Any ill or dying bees that can nolonger fly, are unlikely to get back into the hive to spread disease. Bees landing on the ground could also pick up varroa mites that have fallen through an OMF.

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