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Organic Beekeeping Journal

Organic Beekeeping with Essential Oils

Essential Oil Syrup Emulsion

Although our experience has been with essential oils, the oils used may vary widely. Experiments have reportedly been done with both essential oils and mineral oil emulsions. The nature of the oil itself appears to be most significant. The application of these oil emulsions suffocates the mites.
Mites and bees both breathe through spiracles which are air passages on the exterior of the body. Due to the relative size of the mite, the same oil emulsion which suffocates the mite, does not clog the honeybees' spiracles. The essential and mineral oils, which have proven successful in suffocating the mites, are very light, thin-textured oils. Other similar oils are grapeseed and coconut oils.

As Keepers of Bees, our resources may vary considerably due to environmental, geographic and economic conditions. With this in mind, we will discuss several possible options for feeding the bees supplemental syrup/oil emulsions.

Honey is, of course, the best possible food for your bees. Along with success in keeping your own bees, the availability of honey increases. As this availability is awaited, the options for syrup/oil emulsions may include natural enzyme-produced grain syrups such as barley malt syrup, rice syrups or corn syrups; sugar syrups which may include unrefined sugars or white sugar. These are then combined with essential oils and if emulsion is not natural to the syrup the essential oil should be emulsified with lecithin into a small amount of water and then added to the mixture. (See Below)

Whether or not the choice is Organic will be determined by the origin of the foods used. At the same time, if a Keeper wishes to be free of chemicals and pesticides and cannot afford any form other than white sugar, we do not frown on this. The transition is viewed as a process and we encourage the change by whatever ability you possess.

Syrup/Oil Emulsion example:

  • 5 quarts water
  • 10 lbs sugar of your choice
  • 1 teaspoon- Wintergreen essential oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon lecithin (we use granules)
Makes approximately 2 gallons
  1. Heat water to near boil and add lecithin
  2. Stir in lecithin until dissolved
  3. Take water off burner and add sugar. Stir well until dissolved.
  4. Add the Wintergreen oil and stir until well mixed.
Note: Make certain the heat is not on the pan before the sugar is added.
Syrup Option:
1/2 cup of black strap molasses may be added to restore the minerals of the cane sugar
A pinch of salt should be added to unrefined (or brown) sugars
5-10% apple cider vinegar to syrups is healthful to the bees
When Honey or natural syrups are used, 5-10% water (or vinegar or a mixture of the two) should be added before feeding.

Improved Wintergreen syrup (as 1:1 Water:Sugar ratio) proportions for Spring Feeding

Our thanks to Bob Noel for his research on the use of essential oils !

Spring Feeding

Syrup ratio is a 1:1 sugar/water mixture.

Brood Spraying

Syrup ratio is 1:1 as above and the Wintergreen essential oil may be doubled. Discover for yourself, the benefits of spraying the bees in the brood chambers during the swarm season. When drones are being reared, the mite population will suddenly increase. Delivering the essential oil/syrup directly to the brood area offers significant inhibition of mite propagation.

Fall/Winter Feeding

Syrup ratio is a 2:1 sugar/water mixture. (i.e. 2 parts sugar to 1 part water)

Essential oils need not be limited to wintergreen, but may include many mints and other aromatics.

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