by Mark Bielski, Nutiva Customer Service
Large Honey Farm in Fillmore CA pioneers a non- chemical “soft” method to treat Colony Collapse Disorder
What do kiwis, watermelons, and coconuts have in common? Yes, they are all excellent foods, no doubt about it. They are also three plants among a multitude in nature that are dependent on bees to pollinate them. The coconut plant in addition may now have something to give back to the bees.
Colony Collapse Disorder has been in the news for years now, and there are many theories about what is causing the demise of the precious honey bee in our world. Everything from cell phone transmissions to GMO crops and pesticides have been talked about. We do know that a lot of bees have become infested with two different types of mites in the US since 1984 and that these mites are causing havoc to the worker bees and the hives; often resulting in high bee mortality and total collapse of the hives. In 2007 some beekeepers reported losses of their hives as high as 80%.
While there are lots of ways to strengthen the overall health of the hives, identifying and controlling mite infestations has become crucial to maintaining vibrant healthy hives.
Unfortunately, most of the conventional methods to kill the mites involve an application to the hives of chemical pesticides that leave a residue in the honey of the bees. In addition to the residue problem, the mites have become resistant to many of these pesticides.
Many beekeepers have been experimenting with other non conventional methods to control the mites in a gentler, safer way. One method some beekeepers have tried is to introduce organic coconut oil into the brood chamber so that it would be picked up by the worker bees. getting it on their bodies and killing the mites. A Midwestern beekeeper wrote a letter to a national beekeeping magazine in 2007 talking about the success he was having using coconut oil against mites in his hives. Other beekeepers started to hear of this method and began experimenting with its use.
Red Bennett, who is owner of Bennett Honey Farm in Fillmore California, was experiencing CCD in his hives and it seemed to be due in large part to bee mites. Red makes this statement concerning CCD and his experiment to treat the problem:
“After learning that coconut oil has been used for centuries in the tropics for the treatment of body lice, we started using Organic Coconut Oil to treat for mites in our beehives. We have been using this treatment for 6-9 months with excellent results.” You can read Red’s complete statement on Bennett’s Honey Farm’s experiment with Nutiva organic coconut oil to treat CCD here:
I recently asked Red to write a statement for us on the use of Nutiva coconut oil at his farm in Fillmore and what they are doing to get the word out. Here is his reply:
“We have provided coconut oil (at our cost) to beekeepers in Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, California, Arizona and Colorado. In addition, I have provided information on our observations at two national beekeeping conventions in the last 9 months. We are receiving very positive feedback from the beekeeper. However, none of the beekeepers is willing to bank their bee health exclusively on coconut oil. In other words, they are still using other chemical treatments as well. I am the only beekeeper willing to use coconut oil exclusively for the treatment of mites.
We started this treatment method about 9 months ago and plan to continue until late fall when bee colonies often collapse. This has been occurring even when approved conventional treatments are used. At the end of our one-year testing period we plan to announce our results in a manner that will hold up to peer review. It is our expectation that the results will be very positive and we will have a non-chemical “soft” treatment for the mites.
As to method of treatment, we place a 4X4 inch cotton cosmetic pad soaked in coconut oil over the brood chamber in the beehive and replace or refresh at about one month intervals.”
Red informed me that it’s important not to drench the pads with oil. If too much oil is used, and the bees get too much coconut oil on them, the other bees will kill them. First soak the pads and then wring out the excess oil so the pad doesn’t drip.
Nutiva would like to salute Red Bennett for his willingness to experiment in using a non conventional, organic treatment, of this world-wide problem. We will be keeping you posted on their upcoming findings in the fall. Nutiva would also like to extend special pricing to any beekeeper that wishes to use organic coconut oil as part of a solution to control bee mites.