Which is Better for a Layens Hive: Fumigation or Vaporization of Oxalic Acid?
Ask the Expert
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Douglas Jones asks —
I am a new beekeeper and want to know what your thoughts are on using the fumigation method vs the vapor method? I am using Layens Horizontal Hives configuration and really don’t see a good way to use vapor equipment and see the fumigation method (fogging) as a better method for my application.
The biggest reason I am interested in using a smoke gun (fogger) is because of the design of my Layens Horizontal hive. It’s restrictions of access to use a vapor wand or heater and how I was going to get the treatment into the hive. The fogging method seems to be the easiest because once the solution is properly mixed, the treatment only requires 2-3 short bursts of smoke/ vapor for the treatment to be completed. The 1-1/4″ bee open entrance is slanted up to just meet the bottom front edge of the frames. The access is my concern with the standard heater to create the vapor. I fully understand accurately mixing the solution is key to good results.
Rusty Burlew replies:
Both fumigation (fogging) and vaporization can be effective for varroa control, but they both have pros and cons. For those with many hives, fogging can go more quickly because you don’t have to cool the equipment between hives and there is less chance of starting a hive fire. On the other hand, many beekeepers believe they have better control over the dosage with vaporization, and they don’t have the problem of getting the OA to dissolve properly. In addition, many say that human safety is a larger issue with fogging because the applicator must stand closer to the hive during administration.
For all those reasons and more, I think it comes down to personal choice. Once you become proficient with either system, you will become comfortable with it and learn the strength and weakness of your individual setup. As with every other aspect of beekeeping, your hives, your location, and your ability are different from all others, so what is best for you may not be best for someone else.
For your safety, oxalic acid should be used following all suggested precautions and for your bees’ safety, measurement must be exact. Those two things are more important than the equipment you use.
People who use non-Langstroth hives such as the Valkyrie and various top-bar hives often need to get creative. Some modify the wands and some modify the hives. If you don’t want to go that route, just go ahead and use a fogger. You can make it work with diligent planning and before-and-after mite monitoring.
You mentioned careful measurement, which is important. You also mentioned that you simply need to use 2-3 short bursts of vapor for the treatment. All that is true, but just remember that three short bursts deliver 50% more acid than two. So be careful.
Just my two cents, but I believe OA fogging or vaporization is best for beekeepers who have many hives and little time to spend on each one. For beginners, I would recommend some other mite treatment such as formic acid or thymol simply because the equipment cost is excessive for a small backyard operation, and equally good results can be achieved for far less.
In addition, I think it makes sense for a beekeeper to be completely comfortable manipulating bees before they add the complication of either fogging or vaporization treatment.