Natural Pest Control for Beekeepers

Reader Contribution by Lindsay Williamson
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I’ve had a terrible time with mites in my beehives this year and not just varroa but tracheal mites as well. I do not use medications or chemicals in my beehives at all so I searched far and wide for a more natural way to help them out.

I know many beekeepers who use and swear by grease patties so that seemed like a good place to start but I’ve always been turned off by the use of hydrogenated oils in these. I won’t consume hydrogenated oils nor will I let my kids, so why would I give it to my bees? True, it’s probably a lot less harmful than some of the dangerous chemicals I’ve heard of being used but I still just can’t get on board with it. I Googled every phrase I could think of about grease patties without hydrogenated oils but came back with nothing. I had finally stumped Google … amazing.

So after thinking about it and looking at tons of different grease patty recipes this is what I came up with:

Natural Grease Patty Recipe (Without Hydrogenated Oils)

4.4 lbs. sugar
1.5 lbs. coconut or palm oil
1 lb. raw honey (from your bees or a trusted source)
½ lb. real sea salt
2 oz. tea tree oil or wintergreen oil

You just mix all these ingredients together and use it in your beehives as you would a regular grease patty. You should NOT use these in the spring or summer as the melting point of coconut oil is about 76 degrees Fahrenheit. For this reason you’ll do a few things differently:

1. Use these only in the cool autumn and winter months

2. Instead of using just a patty, put it in some type of shallow dish or container. I used plastic tops from take-out containers. This way if it gets warm it won’t melt in the hive causing what I can only imagine would be a huge mess.

3. Wear gloves when making the patties.

I also put a roll of grease patty at the entrance of the hive so that bees coming and going have to crawl through it making themselves too slippery for those nasty varroa to hang on.

This is the first year I’ve tried this but have seen encouraging results. When I went to check back a few days later, I found a good number of dead mites on the sticky board and overall, I’m seeing less mites on the bees coming and going from the entrance. 

Happy mite hunting and please share any other natural methods of bee pest control you have in the comments section!