How to use Solar Ventilation against the Varroa Mite!
We are often asked, "What are those radar dish-things on top of your hives?" As funny as this question is, I'm glad folks ask. This gives me an opportunity to teach them WHY we go to such lengths. There are a great number of reasons why we use this tool. But primarily, to keep the colony healthier. They're very effective in sucking out damp, moist air and sucking IN fresh air up through the bottom boards. All of our colonies have OPEN SCREENED bottom boards, 24/7/365, all year around. Less moisture, means less Varroa Mite issues. V-mites thrive on moisture! This extra airflow also allows for more mature Workers to leave the house to forage more often, versus staying inside to simply "fan". Therefore, they make more honey and grow to become a much healthier colony. There will always be enough mature bees left inside to take care of business, etc. The issue here is, manipulating their environment inside, in order to produce various positive benefits. You can refer to http://www.beecoolventilators.com/ for more detailed info. Of which, I will personally attest to their findings!
(see our Final Thoughts at the very bottom of this page)
In the mean time, here are some great pics of our colonies with the Solar Ventilators in use, with my notes and details.
Two colonies of Honey Bees at Little Creek Bee Ranch with Solar Ventilators on top.
Currently, we use 22 Solar Vents.
We also run all single brood box set ups. Queen excluders are left on all year round in order to keep the Queen down in her brood box. This is what a pair of our colonies looks like with the Solar Vents installed. When temps outside get up to 110 degrees or higher, we'll tip these solar panels backwards, or simply unplug the fan inside. The air is then TOO HOT to move across the colony. We'll let the girls go get water and make wax cups on top of the brood frames and circulate their air; natural sump cooling system.
Full sun is our best choice! In 2008, we set this colony against a line of trees. Again, single brood box set up. These ladies produced 5 boxes of honey for us that year. Our issue here is, the shade fell quickly across this colony in the evenings. This colony faces South. Currently, we have no colonies against this tree line. All of our colonies are now set up in full sun!! The Bees will work well past 8pm. This colony tended to shut down earlier in the day, since they got less light, vs being placed in full sun. But they still produced 5 boxes of honey!! We'll put our Solar Vents on about late April. Remove them about mid September.
Essential Oil management and Solar Ventilators are very powerful together, to keep Honey Bees healthy.
Hill Top Apiary at Little Creek Bee Ranch. Solar Ventilation on top of 3 Honey Bee colonies.
Our Hill top Apiary, with 3 Solar Vents running. Notice our Moth Trap bottles on the back fence post. They need to be topped off with water. These hives are in full sun and did great!
This is My office view! Sweet uh? Facing South, against the infamous Inola Hill, where Bell Star used to hide out so long ago. Notice all the Blackberry blooms behind me! Lots of Blackberries too! 2 more colonies with the solar vents.
Hill Top Apiary at Little Creek Bee Ranch, Inola, Ok. Some great Honey Bees!
Solar Ventilator sets on top of a 1.5 inch spacer with a screen on the bottom of spacer. Some great Honey Bees!
See the thin spacer just under the Solar Vent? This is a 1 1/2 inch spacer, with screen mesh hardware cloth stapled on the bottom side of the spacer. Why? To keep the Bees off the bottom of the Case Fan screen. The bees tend to want to propolize little bits over the screen on the case fan, in order to control the amount of air flow that they desire. They are VERY smart indeed!
Varroa mite can be very destructive.
Here is a great pic of the entire issue! A Varroa mite! This little critter will bite into the larva and suck out fluids. Not good! Anything you can do to remove moisture from the colony is very helpful for the Bees and makes it harder for these tiny pests to do much damage. It's all about moisture!
Solar Powered Ventilator that is unpainted.
This is what a Solar Ventilator looks like, before it's painted. Comes pre-built as entire unit. See the small computer case fan on the bottom of the box? This little fan sucks up just enough air to make a big difference. It's not so strong that it makes the Bees go goofy! If you decide to "make your own" solar vent, be careful here. This size of fan was tested many times and provides just the right amount of airflow for the Bees. So not just any fan will work. It needs to meet the same airflow rates as this little fan, or pretty darn close.
The Varroa Mite isn't simply a U.S. issue. All around the globe, with the exception of Australia, we can find these pests in Bee Hives. Here's an excellent video on just this issue.
Univ. of Florida puts out some great Bee video lessons, taught by Jamie Ellis. Learn all you can.
Varroa Mite History, Distribution, and Biology
Jamie Ellis from the University of Florida discusses the history, distribution, and biology of varroa mites in honey bee colonies. This is a segment from a more detailed video about varroa mites which...
My final thoughts....
I think you get the idea now. Also, another point to make. We feel that what makes us so successful in keeping colonies healthier, is this COMBINATION of Solar Vents AND our Essential Oil management techniques. These 2 strategies together, seem to make a colony pop!! To learn more about how to use Essential Oils on your Bees, to knock out Pests, check out our Events page. We'll usually run an Essential Oils class in Inola, Ok, ever other month. Check for dates and times.