A New Varroa Manual- Review.

Apiary News.

The hot dry spell broke a few days ago. Desiccated pale blonde lawns are greening up and the air is fresher with a definite hint of the autumn ahead. The first geese flew south yesterday. I was clearing ground elder when thunder announced the first storm and Susan arrived in the apiary shouting that the bees were swarming. It did indeed look the bees in the double storey poly nuc were swarming, but in reverse. I looked at the sky as purple grey clouds darkened it. The birds stopped singing like they do when we have an eclipse of the sun. The bees knew what was coming too and were frantically flying back from the newly found Himalayan balsam by the river Nairn to beat the heavy rain. They poured in over the hedge colliding at the hive entrance as they jostled and pushed to get safely inside the small round entrance. Luckily, there was a sheltered space under the hive stand for those who didn’t make it inside before the heavy downpour.


Instead of going for the prolific clumps of heather in the fairly recently planted woodlands, the home apiary bees are up on fields of white clover further away at the edge of the woods. I had noticed a different smell in the apiary and brown pollen, indicative of clover, coming in. I’ve never had a mono-floral crop of clover before but a beekeeping friend let me taste clover honey from a bucket of delectable newly harvested supers which was really useful. I also learned on that visit that the dry weather has prevented the grass from growing as high as usual so clover is dominant and secreting lots of nectar this year.

In the garden, the bees are getting great value from the Tasmanian leatherwood tree, Eucryphia spp., and are working the pretty rose-like flowers alongside the many other pollinators that keep the tree humming from dawn till dusk. The pollen is pale pink. The perfume is delicate but noticeable from a few feet away when I sit in the rocker watching little garden dramas unfold.

A bold Great Tit, Parus major, pushes his way inside the flap covering the squirrel feeder. He disappears from view for a few seconds then reappears with a peanut in his beak. Quite a feat really getting out of the box without losing the nut which he takes away to enjoy privately in some hidden corner.

I watch a stand-off between little red squirrel and a Great Spotted Woodpecker, Dendrocopus major, the other day. My attention is caught by a cross looking squirrel sitting on a branch near the bird nut feeder. His tail is swishing backwards and forwards in annoyance as the woodpecker hogs the nuts. I hear the cross, chittering, sound as squirrel advances towards the woodpecker. I expect the woodpecker to feel threatened and fly off but not so. He stretches his neck out pointing his dagger-sharp beak at squirrel who retreats and makes for the other nut feeder a few yards away. However, much to my surprise, the woodpecker flies off and lands on this nut feeder ahead of squirrel who leaves the garden in a huff and makes for home across the road, and into the stand of Scots pines.

It’s the time of year when the winter bees are produced. Pollen sources change and reduce which stimulates the physiological change in worker bees enabling them to live for up to 6 months. Our attention must turn to varroa treatments but what should we use? Northern Bee Books invited me to review a new book on varroa management and I’m really pleased to read such a useful manual that every beekeeper can understand. In fact, every beekeeper should read this book, if not own their own copy.

Book Review.

Varroa Management: A practical guide on how to manage Varroa mites in honey bee colonies by Kirsty Stainton

Published 2022 by Northern Bee Books

ISBN: 978-1-914934-41-4

Paperback, 138 pages including contents and acknowledgements

Cost £16.95

Available at booksellers including Nothern Bee Books.

Varroa Management: A practical guide on how to manage Varroa mites in honey bee colonies by scientist and beekeeper Dr Kirsty Stainton is exactly as the title suggests: a step-by-step illustrated manual for beekeepers dealing with varroa. Each of the 26 short chapters is full of important information for every beekeeper in easy-to-understand language.

The chapters follow a logical sequence starting with the history and biology of varroa and an account of the damage caused to honey bees. We learn about the various ways to test for the presence of varroa in a colony, the treatments available, and the method of testing for varroa resistance to some chemical treatments. The information is based on sound research, and references to the scientific papers can be found at the bottom of the pages within each chapter which is particularly useful.

The illustrations and diagrams have been thoughtfully organised and excellently executed and reproduced to give the reader very clear visual instructions on how to apply the different varroa treatments. There are even instructions on how to make an eke which is required to accommodate a tin of Thymol above the brood box.

This book is intended for all beekeepers in the UK and Europe and contains a useful table of all registered products available in each country. This is important because certain products such as Coumaphos are not registered for use in the UK so anyone using them here is breaking the law. The author tells us that Formic Pro can be used when honey supers are in place but has since issued a disclaimer to the effect that this product is only authorised in North America for use with honey supers destined for human consumption. Despite being the same product, the regulations are different in the UK and Europe. MAQS must be used instead of Formic Pro with supers to be extracted for human consumption. This confusing situation appears to be due to product licencing rules at NOD Apiary Ireland Ltd.  The next edition of this book will be amended accordingly.

Not only can we learn how to correctly apply each product but we discover the efficacy of each, read for ourselves the research behind each one, and decide which to use. Stainton has covered the biotechnical methods of varroa control including detailed instructions on drone brood removal and queen caging. For people wishing to explore treatment-free beekeeping there is a chapter of considerations for them.

Everyone who has a responsibility for keeping and managing honey bees should own this book.


Hopefully, the problem over not using Formic Pro when honey supers are in place, and having instead to use Mite Away Quick Strips (essentially the same product) will be ironed out by the UK Veterinary Medicines Directorate soon. But, as Randy Oliver frequently says, “The label is the law”.

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