The Beekeeper’s Companion Since 1861
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Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor – January 2022

- January 1, 2022 - (excerpt)

“Easier” OAV Method Not so Easy

I found the title of Mike Haney’s article (November 2021), “Making Oxalic Acid Vaporizing Easier,” rather ironic. While I know there are many ways to accomplish the same task, the rather lengthy process he described, complete with 7 photos, seems unnecessarily complex to me. The three main problems he addresses are:

1 A car battery is too heavy to carry very far;

2 A vaporizer that takes 3 minutes to “vape”;

3 The need to smoke a colony before treating.

He solved all of these issues by adding more layers of complexity to the problem, such as the long extension cord to run from the golf cart battery, when a change of equipment truly would make “Vaporizing Easier.”

1 Buy a small lawn tractor battery.  While I’ve not tried to keep track of how many hives it will treat on a charge, I do a lot of hive “vaping” and very seldom even think to put it on charge. When the vaporizer only takes 55-60 seconds, it doesn’t use a lot of battery power. I carry my vaping supplies in a 15” x 4” x 4” cardboard box. I carry that and the battery with one hand.

2 Your vaporizer should take no more than one minute. I’ve been using a Heilyser JB200
( for years now and disconnect when my phone timer says 60 seconds. The JB200 can also be run in a series of 3 vaporizers at once though I’ve not seen a need for that given how fast it is. I then leave it under the hive for a few minutes while moving the battery and checking for mites on the slide-out from under the screened bottom of the next hive. I was also intrigued by Mr. Haney’s use of water to cool the vaporizer. Since it’s recommended to leave the hive closed up for several minutes after treating, the vaporizer is usually cooled down sufficiently by the time I remove it and move on.

3 The easiest way to avoid conflict with testy bees is to vaporize from the back of the hive from under the screened bottom board. I simply place the vaporizer on the plastic insert that came with the bottom (I normally run ½” Styrofoam insulation in that space), push it closed, and connect to the battery. During the 60 seconds I stick a rag in the front opening. Even with my few hives that don’t have screened bottoms I’ve never found a need to smoke the bees before treating. True, sometimes some colonies, during certain weather conditions will be a little more defensive, but I just wear a veil or jacket for those, or, worst-case scenario, wait for better weather.

I hope these options will help someone out there.

Sam Shafer
Gillette, Wyoming


 The Dog Days (or Bee Days?) of Summer

I read with interest the November Classroom question “Odd Brood Nest.” The writer asks: “… I have noticed that my bees in the middle of summer (July and August) in North Florida split the brood nest …”. I have noticed the same with my hives in central Mississippi.

In the September article by Randy Oliver, “Observations on Pollen Subs, Part 2 — Why Didn’t My Test Hives Grow?” he states, “… it was just too danged hot for them to grow!” Like I said, I have noticed the same with my hives. I have tried ventilation and top screens but still get the same results.

Until 30 years ago in Mississippi we had a saying about the “dog days of summer.” Prior to 1980 very few people had air conditioning. In late July, August and early September the ambient temperature often reaches 90-plus by 10 a.m. and stays there until after 5 p.m. Combine the high temperature with a high humidity and one gets a very oppressive environment.

Until the advent of AC the best way to manage the situation was to drink plenty of cold water, stay out of the sun and limit your physical activity to only the bare essentials. For this creative ingenuity, Southerners often get criticized and belittled for being laid back at best, or lazy at worst. This is the time of year when the crops are made, and in an agrarian society most people were waiting for the crops to mature for harvest.

The term “dog days of summer” probably came from the resemblance of our behavior to the behavior of our canine friends. Livestock such as cattle and horses are smart enough to utilize the same measures as well. I have come to the conclusion that maybe honey bees do the same.

It is also quite possible that late July is just the natural turning point at which honey bees in a natural setting start to trim their ranks by means of limiting the brood in preparation for winter cluster. While I am speculating, I would suggest that the first trigger is the extreme temperature, the second is the maturation of a particular floral crop which ends in a dearth, and the third trigger is the change in elevation of the sun. I have noticed that in September when the ambient temperature drops back to 80 the activity of the hive picks up again.

Mother Nature is a marvelous mystery and a beautiful work of art if we just take the time to observe. All is well that ends well.

Forrest Clark, Jr.
Batesville, Mississippi….