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Three primary essential oils are useful in beekeeping

Here at Tennessee's Honey Bees we have found that there are three primary essential oils that are very useful in beekeeping. These three essential oils are lemongrass, spearmint and thyme.
 

There are over 100 other essential oils, such as wintergreen, eucalyptus (eucalyptol), peppermint, menthol, and tea tree oil, that are also useful in some formulations for various other treatments in Honey Bees. At Tennessee's Honey Bees we feel It is critical to utilize food grade oils, when selecting an essential oil. Organic certification is a big plus. All three of the following essential oils are plant based, natural products safe for human consumption. Most food grade essential oils are readily available in your local health food stores.

Wintergreen oil can be toxic to humans when absorbed through the skin, so always wear protective gloves when mixing the patties.

Thyme Oil

Thymol is the active ingredient in thyme oil. Thymol assists in controlling the Varroa mite. It works by disorienting the mite and blocking it's pores. Used in combination with a screened bottom board the mites become confused, fall to the ground through the screen and are unable to climb back up into the hive or if used fall into an oil trap and drown.

Thymol is one of the alternative treatments in late Summer, or even in Spring according to the temperatures of the year or area. Like formic acid, thymol acts by its vapors. The bees distribute them in the hive by their activity, like ventilation or removal of the product. The ideal range for thymol treatments is 20-25°C (68-77°F).

When it is correctly used, thymol is a highly efficient and safe treatment against the Varroa mite. It is important to note that thymol does not reach reproducing Varroa mites in the brood and only kill the mites on the adult bees.

Spearmint Oil

The Spearmint Oil also assist in treating the varroa mite in the same manner as thyme oil. Spearmint Oils also mask other scents while not mimicking any of the honeybees own pheromones.

Spearmint Oil is often used together with lemongrass to improve hive health. It works well against Varroa mites by blocking mite pores and disorienting them. A blend of lemon grass and spearmint has been found to help honey bees resistant to the pathogens that may be transmitted by mites.

Lemongrass Oil

The most versatile of the essential oils used with honey bees is Lemongrass oil. It appears to be It is used as a treatment in the hive, a supplement for nutritional balance and as bait in swarm traps. Lemongrass oil has anti-fungal and anti-viral properties. Lemongrass oil also mimics the attractant pheromone of the honeybee. Lemongrass oil stimulates bees to eat food and is used to attract bees to hives and swarm traps. Because of this Lemongrass oil requires careful use with weak hives. The scent may lure robber bees to the hive and the weak colony is unable to defend itself. It also contains Citral and Geranic acid that are believed to kill honey bee mites.

Essential Oil uses

There are several ways to present to the honey bees. Essential Oils mixed with a base of 1:1 sugar syrup fed through the standard hive feeders for syrup is one way.
 

Semi-solid patties, spread between pieces of waxed paper, may be mixed and placed on the top of the brood frames. Honey bees will throw the waxed paper out the front door, as they consume the Essential oil patty mixture. You can make or purchase this type of patty as they are commercially sold as brood builder patties or winter patties.  The advantage to mixing your own is you are in total control of ingredients and will know 100% what is in them.
 

Essential oils mixed with a low sugar content mixture can be used as a spray when working in the hives and can be used in place of the smoker. If you are sensitive to smoke this mixture could be a great alternative for you.
 

You can also blend a sugar syrup concentrate with up to four times the normal amount of oils that can be drenched over the bees as a Varroa Mite treatment. Dribble approximately a cup of this mixture over the bees. The honey bees will stop all other activity to clean up the sugary mess. The Honey Bees will then ingest the mixture as they clean themselves and the hive.

They might otherwise ignore the essential oils at this concentration but this method encourages them to consume the treatment as they go about cleaning up. There are reports of this as an effective treatment for heavy varroa mite infestations, though the reports are unscientific and could be considered heresay. In the end it is up to you to decide if you should pour any liquid over your honey bees. Perhaps the better method is to keep infestations low if possible by keeping the hives strong.

Essential Oil Treatment

2 1/2 cups water
2 3/4 cups sugar
1/16 tsp lecithin granules (Liquid Lecithing is a great alternative)
8 drops food-grade spearmint oil
8 drops food-grade lemongrass oil
 

Bring water to a boil. Meanwhile thoroughly mix oils with lecithin granules until lecithin is dissolved. When water is boiling, add sugar and stir until dissolved. Add essential oil mixture and blend thoroughly. Return to boil, then remove from heat and allow to cool.

If Liquid Lecithin is being utilized you will find the temperatures do not need to be boiling and the main reason for higher temps is to aid in the disolving of the sugar crystal into the mixture
 

You can feed to your honey bees by adding two +/- teaspoons of the mixture to a quart of 1:1 sugar syrup.

Here at Tennessee's Honey Bees we feed this, along with other essential oil blends, to both existing hives and new package colonies when we are building Nucs and New colonies. Here at Tennessee's Honey Bees we begin feeding as soon as the weather is warm enough to fully inspect the hives until a strong nectar flow begins.

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Content

3lb Packages
include a
Caged & Mated
Queen Bee


Tennessee's Honey Bees