No Antibiotics or Scary Pesticides in the Hive

Although we can't control where our bees forage, we can keep their home clean by not using "prophylactic" antibiotics in the hive and using only very mild pesticides for mites.

To control mites, we use formic acid. If you've ever squished an ant and notice a slightly sweet smell, that's formic acid. (The latin name for the ant species is Formica Rufa.) Formic acid is a common food additive, and is not dangerous to humans in small quantities. In fact, formic acid is one of the components already found in naturally produced honey. What we use is a strip of paper impregnated with formic acid that is placed in the brood area (where young bees are raised.) The fumes kill varroa and tracheal mites without hurting the bees. The treatment is not constant- we just do it when the mites are getting out of hand, which is typically late summer.

There's not a good way to deal with Foulbrood and similar diseases without antibiotics, so we expect that we'll end up losing a hive if one gets infected... but so far, we haven't had a problem with diseases of that sort.