Like it or not, the varroa mite is here to stay and if your honey bees don’t have mites now, it’s only a matter of time before they become infested. This is not an exaggeration created by beekeeping supply companies to scare you into buying mite treatments—varroa mites are a sad reality facing every beekeeper today.
There are numerous mite treatments to choose from, each with their own pros and cons. One of the most controversial (yet effective) mite treatments is oxalic acid, which is a natural organic compound that is best known for its use as a wood bleach. The use of oxalic acid to treat honey bees for varroa mites is relatively new, with the EPA approving its use in 2015. Currently there are three ways to administer oxalic acid in your hives to treat for mites: spray, vapor and dribble. Since Oxalic is considered “toxic” to humans and can be dangerous if inhaled or comes in contact with skin, there are numerous debates over which method is “the best”.
Introducing the Oxalic Shop Towel Mite Treatment Method
Before reading any further, please note the following mite treatment method has not been approved by the EPA and is considered illegal in the USA. This is for informational purposes only. For a complete explanation regarding the oxalic shop towel method, please read the scientific research by Randy Oliver on his website: http://scientificbeekeeping.com/
How is it supposed to work?
Bee Biologist, Randy Oliver, found that when oxalic acid is dissolved in glycerin (a non-toxic liquid used in foods as a thickener), it causes the oxalic acid to slowly be released over time. When a disposable shop towel is soaked in the oxalic/glycerin mixture and put into a bee hive, it creates a slow oxalic acid release that lasts about a month, killing those unwanted mites as they emerge from brood cells without the need for multiple treatment applications.
The technical stuff
Randy Oliver’s formula for Oxalic acid/Glycerin Towels – For formula mixtures for larger batches visit Randy Oliver’s website
|Oxalic Acid Dihydrate (99.6% purity)
|Vegetable Glycerin (food grade)
(Randy used Scott Shop Towels- he does not supply data for other towel brands, so the mixture may have to be adjusted if one were to use this method with a different shop towel.)
Oxalic Acid is considered toxic and if one were to experiment with this non-EPA approved method of treating mites, it would be beneficial to wear Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)- In this case chemical resistant gloves and protective goggles. In addition, one would need to create the oxalic acid/glycerin mixture in a well-ventilated space, as the fumes of oxalic are considered harmful to humans (Interesting note- Oxalic fumes do not seem to bother the honey bees at all, yet it is extremely effective in killing varroa mites.)
We recommend you treat for mites several times a year. Most beekeepers agree it is best to rotate methods of treatment so the mites in your area don’t build up an immunity to a particular type of treatment. Remember that Randy Oliver’s Oxilac Shop Towel Mite Treatment Method is still in its experimental phases and it is illegal to use this method to treat for mites until it becomes officially approved by the EPA. We hope more research is done so that we could potentially have another tool in our arsenal against the varroa mite.