We’ve all heard about how honey bees are an endangered species. This is mostly due to human activity.
Because of that, many beekeepers took it upon themselves to start apiaries.
Although, the little critters aren’t completely safe in captivity either. There are a few pests that can invade the colony and lead to sick bees.
A great example of that is Varroa mites. These are parasitic insects that feed on honey bee colonies.
Luckily, there are many products on the market that can help get rid of this infestation. So, if you’re trying to choose between Apistan vs. Apivar, you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, we’ll walk you through how each one of these chemicals works. We’ll also talk about the major distinctions and similarities between the two.
Varroa Mite Infestation Overview
Varroa mites are tiny red-brown parasitic insects. That means they need a host to survive. They attach themselves to bees and start feeding on them.
To help you understand this, let’s take a look at how Varroa mite infestations occur.
At first, a single mite will enter a honey bee colony looking for nourishment. Their main food source is larvae and pupae in developing broods.
As soon as the queen lays an egg, a female mite, or foundress, will enter the colony cell. Then, within six hours of the cell being sealed, it’ll begin feeding.
The foundress will pierce the larvae cuticle, which will allow it to sustain itself. From there, the mite can start reproducing.
On average, a female mite can lay between two to three eggs while a baby bee is in development.
This feeding process will have a major negative impact on the brood. When they emerge from the cell, they’ll be physically weaker.
On top of that, Varroa mites can transmit a few viruses while feeding. Because of this, the overall health of the colony will take a hit.
Finally, the mites will attach themselves to the bees as they exit their cells. That will allow them to circulate around the colony and find new baby broods to feed on.
When left untreated, a Varroa infestation can lead to colony collapse.
Since these mites are microscopic, you can hardly see them with the naked eye. That means a manual removal process is out of the question.
The only other way to get rid of the infestation is through acaricides or miticides. Two excellent examples of this are Apistan and Apivar.
Identifying a Varroa Infestation
Before you break open the pesticides, it’s crucial that you ensure there’s a mite infestation in the hive. Otherwise, you may end up hurting your precious bees instead.
So, the first thing you have to do is examine the colony. Take out the brood box and spend some time looking over each cell.
Ideally, they should all be one solid color. If you notice any white or red spots, it’s probably a foundress.
Other than that, you can inspect the insects. With a Varroa infestation, you’ll likely see many deformed bees.
They’ll have misshapen wings and possibly missing limbs.
Finally, if you’re still not sure whether there are mites in your hive or not, there are a few simple tests.
Sugar Roll Test
The Sugar Roll experiment is a surefire way of finding any mites that are hiding in your colony. Start by scooping a few handfuls of bees into a jar.
Then, you want to seal this container with a fine-mesh sieve. Next, grab a few tablespoons of powdered sugar and sprinkle it on top.
You don’t have to worry about the sugar falling on the bees. They can easily clean it off later on.
After that, shake the jar for about a minute or two. This will coat any mites in the container in sugar. That way, they won’t be able to stay attached to the bees.
Once that’s done, tip over the container and shake it vigorously. The Varroa mites should fall through the sieve and leave the bees behind.
Lastly, open up the jar and release the bees.
Apistan is one of the most popular miticides on the market. It’s a broad-spectrum acaricide that can eradicate a Varroa infestation.
To do that, it uses a pyrethroid called fluvalinate. This can be either synthetic or natural.
The chemical will enter a parasite’s body and wreak havoc. It’ll start off by blocking the activity of voltage-gated sodium channels (VGSC).
That’ll prevent sensory communication between the airways and the brainstem. This, in turn, will disrupt the nervous system and cause paralysis in the Varroa mites.
So, slowly, but surely, you’ll get rid of the infestation. Yet, there are a few problems with Apistan.
For starters, fluvalinate is toxic to bees. That means a high concentration may harm the colony. Because of that, you must be careful of how much of the chemical you use.
On top of that, after a while of use, Varroa mites can develop resistance to Apistan. For that reason, continuous use isn’t recommended.
Instead, it’s best to skip the use of Apistan altogether over some seasons. If mites infest your beehive during this time, you’ll need to find another acaricide.
- Comes with step-by-step instructions that are easy to follow
- Chemical residue is undetectable in honey
- Doesn’t cause harm to beekeepers or bees if used correctly
- Slowly releases fluvalinate to ensure bees are safe
- Effects can last for up to a few months
- Mites can develop a resistance to this drug
- High concentrations can be toxic to bees
- Requires that you skip a few seasons for continued use
Apivar is another miticide that beekeepers like to use. The main ingredient in this product is amitraz.
It’s a non-systemic acaricide, which means it can get rid of pests like mites, beetles, and ticks.
This chemical attacks the insects’ nervous systems and forces them to shut down. It’ll stimulate specific centers and inhibit enzyme activity.
This will stop the Varroa mites from moving their jaws or limbs. Because of that, the microscopic critters are unable to feed and reproduce.
Besides that, amitraz is typically safe for bees. For the most part, the flying insects will steer clear of the chemical.
For that reason, there shouldn’t be any detectable residue in the honey or beeswax.
Sadly, there are a few drawbacks to using Apivar. Because it’s a harsh chemical, it can have negative effects on the environment.
It may hurt harmless insects while it’s getting rid of the mites.
To top it all off, you can’t use Apivar with honey supers. Otherwise, you may risk tainting the honey with chemical residue.
- Safe to use for both bees and beekeepers
- Strips are easy to place and remove when you’re done
- Doesn’t require much manual work
- It works well in both Langstroth beehive designs and flow hives
- Comes in a variety of shapes and sizes to fit into any beehive
- Isn’t the best option for the environment
- Not compatible with honey supers
- It’s a prescription drug, so you have to ask your vet before you can use it
Apistan vs. Apivar
Now that you know how each miticide works, we can take a look at the comparison. In this section, we’ll cover some of the most notable features of each chemical.
We’ll also discuss the major similarities and differences between the two acaricides.
1. How to Use
Both Apistan and Apivar are incredibly easy to use. All you have to do is remove the strips from the packaging and insert them into the hive.
Yet, that’s where the similarities end. With Apistan, you need to place two strips in the brood box for a minimum of six weeks.
Once that’s over, you can remove the strips and check for any signs of mites.
If the infection is still present, you can place more strips for an additional two weeks. After that, you may need to switch to another pesticide.
It’s important to note that you can’t use Apistan during a honey flow. That way, you’ll ensure none of the residue makes its way to the sticky treat.
Moving on, there are a few minor differences when you use Apivar. For starters, you’ll need to remove honey supers before you start the process.
Then, you can place about one strip per five frames of bees. With that out of the way, you can wait about six to eight weeks.
This should be more than enough time to eradicate the Varroa mites.
You need to be careful when using pesticides around bees. If the dosage is even a little off, you risk harming your little flying critters.
So, before you use any chemical, it’s best to read the instructions.
For Apistan, you only need about two strips in each brood box. This should be able to deal with the Varroa infestation.
Adding more than two strips can impact the health of your bees.
As for Apivar, you may be a little more lax with the dosage. Generally, you need about two strips per brood box.
If you only add one, then the effectiveness of the pesticide will decrease. It’ll get rid of the mites, but the process will take a bit longer.
You can also choose to place more than two strips. However, you should know that this may affect the quality of your honey.
With a high dosage of Apivar, there’s a chance some of the residue may make its way into the honey.
Apistan and Apivar are both exceptionally potent pesticides. Yet, there’s a slight difference in effectiveness.
As soon as you insert Apistan strips, the fluvalinate will begin working. The bees will walk over the chemical and spread it around the colony in no time.
That means, within a few days, the Varroa population will take a major hit. Although, it’s best to wait the full six weeks before you remove the strips.
This way, you ensure that there are no mites hiding in brood cells.
Moving on, Apivar is a bit slower. It’ll take a few days for the concentration of amitraz to build up. Because of that, you may need to wait a week before the mites start dying off.
So, if you’re looking for speedy pest removal, Apistan is the way to go.
4. Operating Temperature
The internal temperature of a beehive is typically between 94℉ and 96℉. This is the ideal condition for both Apistan and Apivar.
Although the heat levels inside the colony will fluctuate. This will depend on the number of bees in the hive and the ambient temperature.
For that reason, you should be aware of the operating conditions for the two pesticides.
Apistan will only work if the temperature of the hive is above 59℉. Anything lower than that, and the chemical will lose its effectiveness.
Yet, Apivar is much more resilient. This acaricide isn’t affected by temperature changes. It can function normally in warm and chilly climates.
So, if you live in a particularly cold area, Apivar is the better option.
5. Shelf life
When buying miticides, you never know how much you’ll end up using. Because of that, most beekeepers will purchase the chemicals in bulk.
That means the shelf life of each pesticide may affect your decision.
A sealed box of Apistan strips can last for about two or three years on a shelf. Yet, once you open the packaging, you need to put it in cold storage.
Wrap the box in aluminum foil, then place it in an air-tight container. After that, pop the Apistan into your freezer.
Make sure that the chemical isn’t in contact with any food.
Apistan will last for about a year in the freezer. During that time, you can pull out the strips and use them normally.
As for Apivar, it doesn’t last as long. Its shelf life is usually between one and two years. Plus, long-term storage isn’t an option.
Once you open an Apivar box, you need to use it before the expiration date.
6. Mite Resistance
Over time, the effectiveness of any pesticide will decrease. To help you understand this, let’s take a look at how mites develop resistance to acaricides.
When a Varroa mite comes in contact with Apistan, it’ll stop being able to move. Because of that, most of the pests will fade away due to starvation.
Although, some mites are tougher than others. Their immune systems will be able to counteract the chemical.
As a result, they’ll manage to get up and keep feeding. These mites will be able to pass on a sort of resistance from the pesticide to their offspring.
For that reason, after a few generations of mites hatch, the pesticide will have no effect on them.
Sadly, this can also happen with Apivar. Although, Varroa mites will develop a resistance to Apistan much faster.
So, you may have to use both miticides together to avoid this eventuality.
Lastly, neither Apistan nor Apivar will have any effect on tracheal mites. These are pests that live inside the airways of bees.
7. Exposure and Residue
Apivar is one of the safest pesticides on the market. It poses no threat to humans, even with continued exposure.
On top of that, it’s unlikely that you’ll detect any residue in the honey your bees produce. That’s because amitraz is a volatile chemical. This means it’ll easily dissipate.
So, when you place it in an acidic environment like honey, it’ll break down rapidly.
Moving on, Apistan also doesn’t leave much residue. That’s because fluvalinate isn’t soluble in water.
For that reason, it won’t be able to dissolve in the honey.
Yet, it’s soluble in oils, so it can be present in the wax. Because of that, if you’re planning to use the wax for future projects, it’s best to opt for Apivar.
As we mentioned, Apivar contains an incredibly volatile chemical. That means the pesticide can lose its effectiveness over a short period of time.
Even in cold storage, Apivar won’t last long.
Luckily, this isn’t the case for Apistan. This miticide is much more stable and can last for an extended time.
9. When to Use
When deciding on a time to use pesticides, it’s a good idea to wait until after the main honey harvest. So, the best period for miticides is the beginning of fall.
That way, you ensure that the golden liquid will come out pure. Other than that, the bees will gather in the hive as the weather gets a little colder.
This means there will be more movement inside the colony. For that reason, the pesticide will reach the far corners of the hive much faster.
10. Environmental Impact
Any pesticide can negatively impact the environment if misused. It’ll affect the insects and animals around the hive.
For instance, with prolonged exposure, Apistan can cause skin irritations and legions. Although, these side effects are quite rare.
That’s because the pesticide is stable. This means the chances of it evaporating out of the hive are quite minimal.
On the other hand, Apivar can cause a fair bit of damage. Since it’s volatile, it can disperse out of the bee colony.
When that happens, it’ll cause diseases and affect the reproduction of small animals.
So, it’s crucial that you keep an eye on how much pesticide you’re using.
11. Effect on Bees
Apivar is a go-to for many apiarists because it has no effect on bees. Even if some residue manages to make it into the honey, the flying critters should be safe.
Unfortunately, Apistan isn’t as gentle on the bees. This pesticide may cause weight loss in the queen of the hive.
That’ll directly impact her ability to lay more eggs. Over time, this can lead to colony collapse.
On top of that, Apistan may result in higher mortality rates in drone bees. That’s because it can affect the shape of their wings.
Apistan and Apivar come in sealed plastic bags to ensure the potency of the chemicals inside.
These packages are sleek and easy to open. Plus, they come with detailed instructions on the outside.
This will make using the pesticides much easier for beginner beekeepers.
Moving on, Apistan and Apivar provide additional pins and staples in the packaging. These will help you secure the strips to the bee frames.
Finally, the plastic containers should be easy to reseal. That way, you can save any excess miticide for later use.
When it comes to cost, Apistan and Apivar are on a similar footing.
Apistan will usually retail for about $20 to $60.
On the other hand, Apivar is slightly more affordable. The price range for this product is around $15 to $50.
Although, depending on where you are and the manufacturer of the pesticide, the price can vary.
Tips on Keeping Your Beehive Free of Varroa Mites
While there are many solutions for mite infestations, most of the time the process is messy. You have to disassemble the hive and spend time placing the pesticide strips.
So, the best course of action is to prevent parasitic mites from entering the colony. There are a few ways you can go about doing that.
First up, you may try planting thyme around your hive. It contains thymol, which is a natural repellent.
You can also opt for winter greens or tea trees. Other than that, an oxalic acid treatment can do the trick. This will keep mites away for weeks.
Lastly, it’s crucial that you keep your bee frames and equipment clean at all times. This will greatly reduce the chances of any unwanted visitors to the hive.
If you’re trying to choose between Apistan vs. Apivar, there are a few factors to consider. These include the environmental impact, shelf life, and stability of each product.
For starters, you need to learn how to identify a Varroa mite infestation. Once you confirm the critters are in your hive, you can begin treatment.
Typically, Apistan is more stable and has a longer shelf life. Plus, it’s incredibly fast acting.
However, mites can develop a resistance to this pesticide quite rapidly. On top of that, Apistan is slightly more expensive and can impact the health of the queen.
As for Apivar, it won’t harm the bees inside your hive. In addition, it isn’t affected by temperature fluctuations.