A person considering becoming a beekeeper wrote me and asked, “Are mites, moths, and Nosema common, and is it necessary to treat as a precaution?” I replied that each of these pests and pathogens is quite common, but we can keep bees in their presence. I recommend always trying to find a solution that limits the use of chemicals in the hive. One may want to develop an integrated pest management approach that doesn't rely on regular use of chemicals, as they often result in chemical-resistant pests. Using chemical treatments as a precaution can lead to problems. For example, the American foulbrood recently detected in Tennessee proved to be resistant to Terramycin, the approved treatment. Chemicals can be a part of an integrated pest management plan; they just need to be at the end of the list of management tools.
Mites are a major killer of honey bees, and mites exist in all colonies. One should approach them from several integrated pest management angles: Install screened bottom boards on hives; purchase queen bees bred for resistance to mites; dust the bees with powdered sugar; and learn techniques for measuring the hive's mite population. At the end of the honey producing season, apply one of the softer mite treatments if necessary. Wax moths, though plentiful, are not a problem in the hive. Wax moths are hive scavengers that eat the honeycomb and hive residue after the bee colony dies. As long as one keeps the colony queen-right and populated with bees, the workers will remove the wax moth eggs and larvae from the hive. Nosema exists in almost all colonies. Fumagillin is an approved treatment for Nosema that can be added to the bees’ feed. It appears that some of the viruses and Nosema combine to contribute to colony collapses and losses. As we learn more about pests and pathogens, we are able to keep our colonies strong, healthy, and productive.” Today’s picture: fireweed, a great honey plant of the American North-West.