Smoking Out Bee Mites
By Sean Adams
August 28, 1997
Calming bees with smoke is a long-established beekeeping practice. Now
scientists have found that smoke from burning certain plants contains natural
chemicals that control honey bee mites. It may have potential as an alternative
to using chemicals to control varroa mites, the domestic honey bees worst
Frank Eischen with USDAs
Agricultural Research Service in
Weslaco, Texas, has tested smoke from 40 different plants to control varroa
mites. The most promising are dried grapefruit leaves and creosote bush, a
woody perennial. Creosote bush smoke drove 90 to 100 percent of the mites off
bees after a one-minute cage test. Grapefruit leaf smoke drove off 90 to 95
percent of the mites in 30 seconds. The findings are preliminary: more research
is needed before scientists could recommend that beekeepers use these plant
smokes to control mites.
The ARS scientists, at the agencys
Honey Bee Research
Laboratory in Weslaco, havent yet analyzed the active chemicals in
the smoke. And they dont know how the smoke controls the mites, but
believe it either irritates or confuses them.
Varroa mites began infesting honey bee colonies in the United States in the
1980s. The mites attach to bees and feed on their blood. If the infestation is
severe and left untreated, the mites can kill the entire colony.
The standard treatment for the mites is fluvalinate, a synthetic pyrethroid
harmless to the bees. Beekeepers put fluvalinate-impregnated strips in their
hives to kill mites. But they can only use the strips when bees are not
collecting nectar and pollen. Otherwise, the chemical could contaminate the
honey. Also, European researchers have reported that mites are developing
resistance to fluvalinate.
A story on the bee mite research can be found on the World Wide Web at:
Scientific contact: Frank Eischen, ARS Honey Bee Research Lab,
Weslaco, Texas, phone (956) 969-5007, fax (956) 969-5033,