Bees and NHR Organic Oils essential oils use

Kolinka has invited one of our NHR Organic Oil customers, Jim Turnball to share some of this thoughts on his natural beekeeping philosophy and the ways that he utilises NHR Organic essenital oils in his bee hives. All around the world, honey bees are struggling to stay healthy and maintain their hives. Chemical treatments and the use of imported bees from afar show us that our modern ways of beekeeping are unsustainable. The Natural Beekeeping Trust believes that we must understand, respect and support the essential biological needs of the bee in a holistic way – it’s called bee-centred beekeeping. We provide links below for further information.

Jim Turnbull has been collecting swarms for some time now, Jim gives the queen plenty of room to move around and keeps inspections to a minimum which he believes are stressful to the bees.

Full inspections are very stressful to bees and I try to keep these to the absolute minimum. Before you tear their home apart ask yourself if or why it is necessary for you to invade their home.

When you must invade, plan ahead and work gently and methodically.

I use the essential oil spray during inspections rather than smoke whenever possible although there are a few occasions when I do still use a smoker (or both in tandem) t is apparent how calm the bees are during and after an inspection when using essential oil syrup spray rather than smoke, but who can blame them? Would you rather have a visitor blowing smoke through your windows and doors causing fire panic, or a visitor who brings gifts of your favourite food to feast on while they take a look around?

Below are some of the oils that Jim has found beneficial to his bees:

Organic Thyme: Used widely in beekeeping to combat varroa mites although it is absolutely critical to follow recommended doses.

Organic Wintergreen: Used for the control of tracheal mites and small hive beetles.

Organic Lemongrass: The smell of lemongrass is believed to mimic pheromones produced by worker bees. Lemongrass is used in a variety of ways, for example as a food supplement as an anti-fungal and anti-viral. It also is useful in a spray bottle to calm bees and also when introducing a
new queen.

Organic Spearmint: Used in conjunction with lemongrass during feeding to improve hive health and is also useful against varroa mites.

Organic Tea Tree: Used to control mites and can be interchanged with wintergreen.

Please note that although essential oils are natural, they are not natural to bees necessarily. Always use the best quality, food grade oils and it is critical to follow recommended doses.

Essential oil and beekeeping by Jim Turnbull
These notes have been produced with the presumption that the reader has some previous practical experience in beekeeping. I use these mixes exclusively and NOT in addition to any other propriety beekeeping treatments available.
First make stock syrup of appropriate essential oil mix and keep in a screw top bottle for use as required.
Use the stock syrup as two teaspoons (10ml) per 1ltr (ratio = 1/100) of 1:1 sugar water Syrup spring and summer or similarly add two teaspoons per litre to 2:1 autumn feeding syrup.
Stock syrup recipe for spring and summer
IMPORTANT; Use only FOOD GRADE pure ORGANIC essential oils
(I use NHR Organic essential oils)
Water 18 fl oz or (½ litre) note* 20 fl oz = 1 UK pint
1 ¼ lbs / 567g of sugar
1/4 teaspoon lecithin granules (used as an emulsifier) dissolved in a little warm water
8 drops spearmint oil (Mentha spicata)
8 drops lemongrass oil (Cymbopogon citratus) (makes 900 ml)
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
WARNING; this stock solution will have a strong scent when added to feed and should not be left open around bees, they simply can’t resist it!
Stock syrup recipe for autumn feed
Recipe as above but substitute the essential oils for;
Wintergreen 7 drops (Gaultheria procumbens)

Thyme 7 drops (Thymus vulgaris ct Linalol)

Tea tree 2 drops (Melaleuca alternifolia)
To make the stock syrup
Stir the lecithin granules into 2 tablespoons of warm water, keep stirring until dissolved.
Heat the water and stir in the sugar until dissolved. Once the sugar has thoroughly dissolved, remove from the heat and allow to cool until warm to the touch (be cautious! syrup can scald badly)
Using a whisk or machine liquidiser, add the lecithin and the essential oils. Stir until everything is emulsified and thoroughly mixed.
Store stock syrup in well sealed screw top bottle and shake before using as required.
Use two teaspoon (10ml) per 1ltr (ratio = 1/100) of 1:1 sugar water Syrup spring & summer or add to 2:1 autumn feeding syrup.
Essential oil in beekeeping notes.
(Spring and summer)
Uses;
1, swarm lure (in stock syrup concentration) dampen a small piece of lint or cotton ball with stock solution and place inside your swarm bait hive.
2, Use in 1/1 ratio sugar water syrup as feed supplement described above.
3, As a spray, also in 1/1 ratio sugar water syrup instead of smoker (also as spray throughout inspection to encourage grooming)

(Autumn and winter)
1, Use in 2/1 ratio sugar water syrup as autumn feed supplement
2, Winter fondant; Add the same amount of essential oil drops as winter stock syrup recipe to 4kg of bakers fondant or (bee candy)

Note. If you are making your own fondant, add the essential oils when the fondant has cooled to body temperature.
Place in containers directly over the bee cluster.

Please note that quality pure essential oils are strong, please use sparingly and as suggested.
Both above mixes have the additional benefit of inhibiting fungal mould growth in feed syrup.

I have developed these mixtures and methods over c6years with positive results and no apparent ill effect to my bees. Indeed, I have found that varroa drop has always been well within accepted drop count and that colonies stay healthy and build strongly in springtime.

There are other considerations when using these syrups, especially as a spring summer mix feed;
1, I use the syrup feed as a supplement only, it’s important to note that bees should always have enough honey in store to last them through the severest winter. The syrup and fondant is a ‘Belt and bracers’ guard against starvation. I have witnessed colonies that have starved throughout winter, even with honey stores close by, simply because it has been too cold for them to break cluster and feed on nearby honey stores. My thoughts are that I’d rather the fondant be there above the cluster if needed, even if they don’t use it.
2, The spring summer mix is irresistible to bees. When used as a smoke substitute first spray a little on the entrance block before opening for inspection. The guard bees will be so busy mopping up this free ‘manna from heaven’ that they will simply ignore any normal activity from the beekeeper.
When the roof is removed and the cover-board cracked open to lift prior to removal, spray a little inside the top of the frames and the outer frames as you lift them to keep the house bees busy mopping up too, they will hardly notice you are there at all. Thereafter, use your spray lightly throughout inspection as necessary. It is important not to over spray or spill any feed outside the hive.
If you are unsure about this spray effectiveness, light your smoker and use as normal in conjunction with the spray until you are confident enough to use the spray alone.
3, Please be aware that the spring summer mix can encourage robbing and you should ensure that the colony is either strong enough to defend when used or that the entrance is reduced to one bee space throughout the feeding period.
4, when used as a feeding supplement, continue refilling the feeder until the bees stop or slow down in taking the syrup.

I’m sure if you ask 10 beekeepers for advice you would get an equal amount of different thoughts, briefly, here are some of mine.
Bees have been around for millennia and I’m fairly certain they will be around as long as the earth keeps spinning, irrespective of what their worst enemy, mankind, throws at them. Bees can tell you a lot if you only take time to watch, listen and interpret their signals
I have been collecting swarms for some time now and I’ve never found a swarm to be diseased or with bees suffering from a high varroa count, either from a feral swarm or otherwise
I use commercial hives on a double brood or brood and a half minimum and under normal circumstances do not use queen excluders, preferring to give the queen lots of room with freedom of the whole hive.
Full inspections are very stressful to bees and I try to keep these to the absolute minimum. Before you tear their home apart ask yourself if or why it is necessary for you to invade their home.
When you must invade, plan ahead and work gently and methodically.

I use the essential oil spray during inspections rather than smoke whenever possible although there are a few occasions when I do still use a smoker (or both in tandem)
It is apparent how calm the bees are during and after an inspection when using essential oil syrup spray rather than smoke, but who can blame them? Would you rather have a visitor blowing smoke through your windows and doors causing fire panic, or a visitor who brings gifts of your favourite food to feast on while they take a look around?

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