Sunday, October 21, 2007

Take Ten, and Smoke Them if You Have Them

The last few days have been somewhat overcast with light on and off rain sprinkles, and it appears the fall honey flow is over. Therefore the hive appears to be business as usual at a lower pace. I decided today would be a good day to start my four step Varroa treatment because there should be a lot of bees staying home.

I have not seen any signs of Varroa in the hive, but all the beekeepers recommend a yearly treatment. It seems that they all assume that there will always be some level of Varroa infestation.

My organic treatments consist of smoking the bees with tobacco smoke on three separate occasions (once a week), followed by dusting confectioner’s powder sugar all over the hive. This is most likely an impossible treatment method for a beekeeper with hundreds of hives, but perfect for the casual organic beekeeping hobbyist. Here are a few picture of my now storage/honey house/tobacco drying shed located in my bee yard. On the left my second hive for next spring, and spare suppers. In the middle a new trash can holding my frames. 10 deep plastic frames, 10 medium plastic, and 10 wooden with starter strip frames. Next weeks tobacco leaves drying in the rafter. Why smoke it with tobacco? The nicotine in the smoke should make the mites dizzy, like a teenager smoking his fist cigarette, and hopefully loosen their grip and they fall off.

Why three times?? To allow any mites in capped cells to emerge and get at least one treatment

Why the powder sugar?? Is the equivalent of the mites trying to walk on marbles, slipping and falling out of the hive via the bottom screen. The mess it creates should trigger a thorough house cleaning from the bees, and trigger self grooming for the bees. Either one should help reduce the mite population if any. The sugar also feeds the bees.

The video below is while I smoked the bees. I had a hard time keeping the tobacco leaves lit, so the hissing sound you hear in the video is me stepping back and blasting the smoker with the blow torch. The smoker sounds out of the picture is while I'm blowing smoke in the top entrance. I’m not sure there is an easy way to be 100% positive that this, or any treatment works. I mean if the hive never succumbs to a mite infestation, there is no way to be positive that my treatments are the reason. Could be there are no mites in my area; the bees may be a good Varroa resistant breed; or just pure luck. One thing is for sure, if Varroa symptoms appear, my treatments didn’t work.

Is the idea of using tobacco solid??? I think so. Notice the bees at minute -1:15 come out to groom each other, and they fall off the landing board as if they were drunk. Oh let me just say it, I’ve been dying to. It’s as if they are STONED. BUT trust me; it is simple home grown tobacco. No worries, the bees flew back in. Also, I’m feeling the effects of the tobacco. I feel like the kid that gets caught smoking by his Dad, and Dad makes him smoke the whole pack to teach him a lesson. If the tobacco smoke affected the bees and me, most likely it did the mites too. OK, let’s just hope their symptoms went away faster than mine did, and there are no permanent effects.

During dinner my wife commented it was like sitting next to an old cheap cigar. I felt like one too, so a shower followed.


Central FLA Gardener said...

this is all just so very cool. i grew up in tobacco country (n kentucky/s indiana), my grandpa was a tobacco farmer. my childhood is redolent with the memory of that thick, rich, herbaceous smell of tobacco curing high in the rafters of the drying barn. and i am a total apiphile (bee lover) -- i relate to them, to their love of work, their single-mindedness, their love of things ordered and clean.

love the blog. it's fascinating.

Bee Anonymous: said...

Thanks, and thanks for the bee plant feedback. I'll drop you a line if I'm ever that way, do the same if you come this way and you would like some tobacco seeds. Heck, I could snail mail you some if you want. I do love the plant, and the smell in my shed from the leaves is a pleasant pipe smoke smell (love pipe smoke). The burning leaves, that is some powerful effect that I felt.

Gaby said...

Hi, Beekeeper! I am also in central Florida, just west of Ocala. I am not ready to try bees yet, but I wanted to grow tobacco. Can you recommend a variety? If it works for you, maybe it will for me also! I am just trying to grow some heritage plants and tobacco is one of several I am having difficulty finding. Thanks for your help!

BeeAnonymous said...

I got my Tobacco kit from
I like the book, a lot of stuff on how to process it for chew or smoke.
All the varieties they send me grew well, but as an ornamental plant I liked the most the VA509and the Havanna varieties. Big broad leaf plants. I have some fresh seeds.
If you let me have your email, I can contact you via email, you can let me have your address, and I can mail you a few hundred sees. Or get the kit, they will send you a few thousand seeds along with the book.

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