Agro Homeopathy Homeopathy Papers

Ask the Plant Doctor

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Ask the Plant Doctor

Each month V.D. Kaviraj will answer selected questions about plants and plant problems. Kaviraj is one of the foremost pioneers of Agro-homeopathy and author of the book, Homeopathy for Farm and Garden.

Send your questions with sufficient detail and pictures when possible (JPG or GIF format) to [email protected] with the subject “Plant Doctor”.

Dear Kaviraj,

The leaves on my rose bush have been getting brown spots (see picture).  After a while, the leaves turn yellow and fall off. The bush now has few leaves but continues to flower. Any suggestions?    Janice Zalewski – U.S.

Dear Janice,

From the pictures it appears that the yellow spots may be blisters. If that is the case I suggest Cantharis. If they are fungal in origin Aconite is most probably the remedy.

Dear Kaviraj,

I have a row of young Thuja trees.  During the summer there were many very hot, sunny days and I didn’t water the trees often enough. One tree went mostly brown (see picture).  Is there any way to save it?    Judith Dalton – UK

Dear Judith,

You may try Carbo.veg. This is the remedy for the effects of loss of vital fluids. Do not expect the brown and yellow parts to become green again, but you might find many new shoots that restore some of the green features.

Dear Kaviraj,

Since bees are essential for plant pollination, and the bee population has been threatened by mites, pesticides, etc., I’d like to know if there are any ideas/suggestions for strengthening the bees’ overall immunity in order to support the pollinating work.     David Johnson – U.S.

Dear David,

Such is indeed possible. Enclosed is a file that contains all the measures you could take to strengthen the bee’s immunity.

BEES

Diseases and pests

During the last two decades there has been a tremendous increase in the spread of bee disease around the world. This has been brought about by the movement of honeybee colonies and used beekeeping equipment by people. There are few remaining regions without introduced honeybee diseases, and as a rule used beekeeping equipment should not be imported.

Honeybee colonies, or even single queen bees, must never be moved from one area to another without expert consideration of the consequences.

There are numerous pests that will disrupt a beehive and prey on your bees. Wax moths are almost universal, ants a very common and persistent hazard, and honey badgers a serious nuisance in Africa. It is best to talk to other local beekeepers about what the most common problems are and take their advice about appropriate defences.

Honeybee Disease

The identification of honeybee disease such as Nosema is an essential part of apiculture, as is pollen identification. Brunel Microscopes offer a range of low budget stereomicroscopes and high power compound microscopes ideal for all applications.

There are numerous pests that will disrupt a beehive and prey on your bees. Wax moths are almost universal, ants a very common and persistent hazard, and honey badgers a serious nuisance in Africa. It is best to talk to other local beekeepers about what the most common problems are and take their advice about appropriate defences.

Varroa Mite

Also know as the Vampire Mite, Varroa Mite, Varroa Destructor and often mislabeled as Varroa Jacobsoni.

imagesThe Varroa Mite is a parasitic mite that can cause serious trouble to the beekeeper and their bees alike. This tick- like mite, around the size of a pinhead, does its damage by feeding on the bee’s hemolymph fluid (akin to bee blood). Mites attach themselves to foraging workers in order to spread themselves from one hive to another. This mite can severely weaken a hive through vampirism like action and through the spread of disease and bacteria. An unchecked mite population will almost certainly lead to the premature death of a honeybee colony.

Within the United States, Varroa Mites have the most pronounced impact when compared to other pests within the beekeeping industry. The Varroa Mite is also nearly completely responsible for the decimation and loss of feral honeybee colonies. Some beekeepers have resorted to reverting to small cell beekeeping and many hobbyist are moving towards top bar hives in an effort to fight against this aggressive foe. Others are attempting to use mite resistant races of bee with some success.

Origin

The Varroa mite was discovered in Southeast Asia in 1904, but now unfortunately spread mostly worldwide. More recently Varroa was discovered in 1987 within the US and in 2000 in New Zealand.

Anatomy

:BEES IMAGES:120px-Smoker.jpg

Varroa is approximately 1.00 to 1.77 mm in length and 1.50 to 1.99 mm. Its body closely resembles that of a tick, it has eight legs and the apparatus to both pierce the epidermal layer of adult and larval bees in order to feed. The mite is red-brown in colour and wide and plainly visible to the naked eye when on brood, and can be more difficulty spotted, on some occasions, on the adult bee.

Life Cycle

images-2Within a hive mites can reproduce on a 10-day cycle. The female mite, after detaching from an adult bee, will enter the cell of an uncapped brood. The mite shows preference for the drone brood, but will select what is available. Once the cell is sealed, the female will begin to lay eggs and then expire. As the young bee develops, so will the mites. As soon as the new bee is able to leave its berthing cell, the mites attach themselves and start the cycle anew. The life cycle of the Varroa mite is dependent on the existence of brood within a colony.

Symptoms & Detection

images-1Possible signs that a mite infection is underway may include, but is not limited, to the following:

* Mites obvious on brood, emerging bees, or foragers

* Deformed bees

* Discarded larva

* Spotty brood pattern

* Apparently sudden death of colony

* Dead mites found near the entrance of the hive

If Varroa infestation is suspected, there is often nothing major lost by examining. However, a colony may be doomed if left unchecked. Checking for Varroa should be part of a beekeepers regular regiment. The following methods are some common ways to detect a possible mite infestation.

Ether Roll

The ether roll test is the grandfather of the sugar roll test, though effective it is not always the best method, as tested bees will die as a result.

1. Using a wide mouthed jar, such as a mason or pickle jar, collect a sample of bees (not the queen) and fill the jar about 1/3 full.

2. Using ether, such as that from a can of carburetor starter fluid, apply a small amount to the bees (approximately a tablespoon worth). The inside of jar should be slightly moist with all bees at the bottom.

3. Place the lid on the jar and roll bees for about 20-30 seconds.

4. If done quickly, the jar may be opened and some of the bees may escape alive, though this is doubtful and the ones that do survive will be ready to sting.

5. Examine the sides and bottom of the ether filled jar. If you count one or more mites, it is advised that you begin some sort of treatment. If you count around a dozen mites, it means you have a significant infestation, and should immediately begin treatment. If you find more mites than you can easily count, your hive is in serious trouble

6. Dump remaining dead bees and clean the jar before next use.

1. If you can do the either roll, there is little reason not to do the sugar roll instead, as it is not lethal to the bees and is just as time consuming

2. Soapy water or 70 percent isopropyl (rubbing alcohol) can be used with varying success instead of ether

Drone Culling

Unfortunately, the drone culling method kills drones to determine if there is a mite infestation. Despite this fact, culling drones is a quick and reliable method to check levels.

1. Select a frame (or comb) with a large patch of capped drone brood. Gently remove adult bees from the frame and locate it to an easy to work area.

2. Using a capping scratcher to remove the cappings from the selected brood cells. The drone brood within unfortunately must be impaled during this step.

3. Mites will be plainly visible on the pupae as they are removed from their cells. Two to three mites on single pupae indicate a serious problem. Two to three mites per 50 pupae indicate a low to moderate infestation.

4. Remove the culled brood, especially if heavily infected, or allow the bees to clean up after returning the frame to its original hive.

* Caped drone brood can be differentiate from capped worker brood as it has larger cells with slightly domed shaped capping.

* When returning the frame be sure to return it to its original hive, unless you are absolutely sure it does not carry any disease or mites.

* The sugar roll method for detection is a little more time consuming, but no bees must die for it to succeed.

Sugar Roll

The sugar roll method, also called the sugar shake method, is a technique that can be used to fairly reliable determine if bees have an infestation. Unlike the ether roll or drone culling however, when done properly there is no bee mortality.

1. Using a wide mouthed jar, such as a mason or pickle jar, cut a large hole in the lid and affix a rigid mesh in which bees can’t escape, size 8 hardware cloth serves this purpose well.

2. With the jar open add 2 to 3 tablespoons (approximately) of confectioner’s sugar to the bottom of the jar.

3. Scoop the jar about 1/3 of the way full with bees (or 100 to 200 bees), being sure that you have not captured the queen quickly seal the jar with the lid you made.

4. Covering the lid, so as not to lose the sugar, vigorously gives the jar a several shakes. The more the better, to a point, this will surely aggravate the bees but should not cause them any serious harm.

5. Shake the sugar (and mites) out of the jar on to a piece of what paper or something with a similar white background. Set the jar of bees aside in the shade.

6. If you count one or more mites, it is advised that you begin some sort of treatment. If you count around a dozen mites, it means you have a significant infestation, and should immediately begin treatment. If you find more mites than you can easily count, your hive is in serious trouble.

7. Allow your recently jarred and jarred bees then to fifteen minutes rest before returning them to the hive. This is mainly for the sake of the beekeeper, as the bees for obvious reasons may be ready to sting. Although, some of your bees are now covered in sugar and appear to be little ghosts, don’t worry, their sisters are more than up to enjoying the task of cleaning the sugar off of them.

Notes

* Some keepers choose to use a modified sugar roll technique on entire packages of bees, but be sure not to do so to the queen. This technique is only useful when there is no brood, so it may similarly be stretched to include recently captured swarms.

* Although it is not often recommended to use powdered sugar in conjunction with bees, due to anti caking agents that may be present, it should not be a problem with this technique to the little exposure actually obtained.

Screened Bottom Board

Simply installing a screened bottom board allows you to keep mite levels in check without having to actively monitor.

* It is advisable to apply a sticky board, adhesive glue, or a thin layer of Vaseline to the catch tray of the bottom board so that live mites cannot return to the hive.

* As with any passive technique, results are not instantaneous and thereby may not be dependable or arrive at too late of a time

Observation of Bees

If you are easily able to observe mites on foraging bees, the colony is in trouble. Begin to remedy the situation as soon as possible.

Methods of Control

There exist many methods of controlling levels of Varroa mites, each with varying success. Unfortunately most methods are for control only, there may always bee a level of mites in a once a colony has been infected only extremely drastic measure, such as culling the hive, can assure a zero mite population.

Any controls using any sort of chemical device should not be used for up to 30 days prior to a honey flow that will be used for collection of honey for human consumption, unless otherwise noted.

Chemotherapy

Apistain

Apistain is a readily available plastic strip that is treated with a form of miticide. Users should follow the instructions present on the packaging.

Notes

bees3

* Understand the instructions fully before applying

* Do not apply when honey supers on the hive

* Most commonly, 1 strip per 5 frames should be used, do not over medicate

* Do not use strips for longer than the time stated on the packaging, this will and has caused mite resistance to the poison.

* Wear protective gloves when applying and removing strips

* Once used, do not reuse strips

* Treatment timing is extremely important for success, do not use more than once in the fall and once in the spring.

* Do not use in conjunction with CheckMite+

CheckMite+

CheckMite+ is similar to the product Apistain in the fact that it is miticide on a plastic strip. CheckMite+ however uses a different miticide that that which is present on Apistain strips. CheckMite+ should only be used if you Varroa mite infestation has proven to be resistant to Apistain. Users should follow the instructions present on the packaging.

* Understand the instructions fully before applying

* CheckMite+ should only be used if you Varroa mite infestation has proven to be resistant to Apistain

* Do not apply when honey supers on the hive

* Most commonly, 1 strip per 5 frames should be used, do not over medicate

* Do not use strips for longer than the time stated on the packaging, this will and has caused mite resistance to the poison.

* Wear protective gloves when applying and removing strips

* Once used, do not reuse strips

* Treatment timing is extremely important for success, do not use more than once in the fall and once in the spring.

* Do not use in conjunction with Apistain

Dusting

A dusting of powdered sugar or wheat flower in conjunction with a screened bottom board or a sticky board can cause mites to fall and be captured. Though this method can be used during honey collection, it should only be used as a last ditch effort. This must be repeated once a week for two to three weeks to make any kind of lasting effect.

Notes

* Only dust the adult bees, as open brood may perish due to dusting. However it may be said that Dr Fakhimzadeh of Helsinki University has suggested that sugar DOES NOT have a negative effect on open brood and eggs damage only seems to occur when dusting with sugar and Oxy-Tertra-Cycline (OTC) indicating that it is the OTC that is doing the damage. Nevertheless Jim Fischer of WSBA points out that we should avoid open cells ready for laying as the queen will only lay in clean cells

* This process must be repeated as it will not affect mites that are sealed in cells with brood or affect mites that are piggybacking on absent foragers

Drone Culling

Similar to the method of detection of the same name, drone culling can be used to reduce the number of mites infesting a hive. This process can be done as hone supers are on the hive.

1. When starting a colony, use a sheet of drone brood foundation, per hive body.

2. Occasionally when the brood comb is full simply cull the drones by placing the entire frame in the freezer.

3. Once frozen comb has defrosted replace it in the hive to allow the bees to clean it and refill the comb.

4. Repeat as necessary.

* If drone foundation is not available, take about an inch tall piece of normal foundation and simply used this as a starter strip by installing it on the top of a frame. This method allows the bees to create their own comb, though it may not always be successful in creating drone comb.

* Instead of freezing, uncapped drone brood can be hung in order to feed local birds, but do not replace the frame in this instance as it will be more than likely destroyed by the appreciative birds.

* Instead of freezing drone can be culled by heating, though this often readily becomes a waxy mess is not kept under control.

Breaking Brood Cycle

The act of breaking the brood cycle, by culling the queen, and allowing the bees to raise their own queen will prevent Varroa mites from laying eggs and thereby end their life cycle.

* Instead of culling a healthy and productive queen, she can be used to requeen a separate hive or begin a Nuc.

* Instead of using a self produced queen, you can replace with a store bought queen, but you must allow for a natural broodless cycle

* This method could be used during a honey flow, but a lack of new workers will cause it to be poor honey season.

Natural Methods

Grease Patties

Using grease patties with or without essential oil will cause a decrease in tracheal mites. They are sometimes used as a varroa mite control method. Though it is preferred to use patties with essential oils, it should not be done during a honey flow. To be effective, grease patties must remain on the hive year round.

Essential Oil Treatment

Using essential oil in a sugar syrup feed as been shown to reduce mite levels. Syrup feed should not be supplied when honey suppers are on the hive.

Tobacco Smoke

A heavy tobacco smoking in conjunction with a screened bottom board or a sticky board can cause mites to fall and be captured. Though this method can be used during honey collection, it should only be used as a last ditch effort. This must be repeated once a week for two to three weeks to make any kind of lasting effect.

* When smoking, be sure that the smoke is not too hot, use cool smoke only

* This process must be repeated, as it will not affect mites that are sealed in cells with brood or affect mites that are piggybacking on absent foragers

Formic Acid

Formic acid is very caustic, and toxic to both bees and humans if not used properly. The liquid form of formic acid is too dangerous to use, and should be avoided all together. Beekeeper supply houses may sell a time-release gel form that is easier to use and less toxic.

The homoeopathic potency is even less toxic than that and can be used safely for bees, while still getting rid of the varroa mite.

* Follow directions before using

* Take caution in use as it is toxic to bees and beekeeper alike

* When used, formic acid will also treat tracheal mites

Food Grade Mineral Oil

Some beekeepers use an electric or propane insect fogger to apply a mist of food grade mineral oil to their bees. This has been shown to induce a grooming behaviour in the bees which can reduce mite levels when combined with a screened bottom board.

Wax Moth

GalleriaMellionellaPHTraditionally, damage by wax moths (generally the greater wax moth, Galleria mellonela) has accounted for large losses of stored comb. This is especially in the south-eastern and south-western United States, where warm temperatures ensure a viable wax moth population year around. The larval stage of the wax moth does damage by boring into and leaving silk-lined tunnels or galleries in the combs, in extreme cases, the comb is reduced to nothing more than a mass of web. Larvae will also bore holes in the wooden parts of the hive.

It is emphasized that the wax moth is generally not responsible for the death of a colony. Rather this insect is a “garbage man” of sorts; moves into areas unprotected by worker bees, and can be an early warning signal that everything is not well with a colony. Strongly populated honeybee colonies always have wax moths, but are unaffected because the moth larvae are being continually sought out and then cast out of the hive. Only when a colony becomes weak in numbers because of disease, starvation or some other occurrence, does the wax moth move in to “clean up” the colony by consuming the comb.

Wax moth is a consistent and vexing problem in stored comb; the rate of moth development in a stack of stored supers rivals the imagination! Traditionally, stored comb has either been heated, cooled, or fumigated with chemicals to deter wax moth infestation.

A bacterial disease spore, which attacks only wax moth larvae, is now marketed under the name Certan for control. This material represents a breakthrough because the disease is so specific it cannot harm either bees or people and can be used with little concern around bees or equipment. However, its application is labour intensive and not favoured by large-scale operators. Several chemical fumigants that have been used in the past were methyl bromide, aluminum phosphide, ethylene dibromide (EDB) and paradichlorobenzene (PDB). At present, only aluminum phosphide and PDB are approved in Florida.

Of these, paradichlorobenzene is less dangerous to the applicator and easier to apply. Unfortunately, it does not kill all stages of wax moth and so remains more of a preventative; it will not clean up a severe case.

Again, it is advisable to buy any chemicals for beekeeping use from bee supply houses; this way full information on use of the substance in beekeeping is available. All pesticides must be labeled for use on stored comb; the label is the law, under no circumstances should a pesticide be used, if that use is not specified on the label. Beeswax is similar in structure to many insecticides and often has an affinity for these substances. As a consequence extreme caution should be excercised when using pesticides anywhere near a beekeeping operation.

For further information on toxicity of pesticides, see Florida Cooperative Extension Circular 534, Protecting Honeybees From Pesticides.

There is a range of temperatures required to kill all stages of wax moth using cold or heat treatment as published in Farmers’ Bulletin Number 2217 “Controlling the Greater Wax Moth. A Pest of Honeycombs,” USDA Science and Education Administration, 1981.

Care should be taken when treating with cold because beeswax becomes brittle and breaks easily. Even more caution, however, is advised when heat-treating combs. They should only have very little honey to avoid distorting the wax comb, must be placed vertically in supers and the heat must be circulated to avoid creating hot spots which could melt the comb. Consult referenced works for more information on wax moth control.

images-49The wax moth is a mixed blessing for beekeepers. The moths recycle combs of colonies that die in the wild as well as the beeswax combs of the beekeeper. They are also raised for use as fish bait, animal feed, scientific research and they are a good representative insect to use in Biology and Entomology classes. Beekeepers see the wax moth as a pest.

The beekeeper is more likely to see the adult moth but it is the larval or caterpillar (worm) stage that causes damage to wax comb. The larva is most destructive to beeswax combs in storage, especially in areas that are dark, warm and poorly ventilated. Annually it is estimated that the wax moth causes more than 5 million dollars in losses to beekeepers in the U.S.

The wax moth is regionally called the bee moth, the wax (or bee) miller or a webworm. There are both a greater wax moth, the most destructive comb pest, and a lesser wax moth, which, due to its smaller size, is less serious. There are three related moth pests of stored products that may also be found on combs or in bee hives. These are the Mediterranean flour moth, the Indian meal moth and the dried fruit moth. These last 3 feed mainly on pollen and are less destructive as they do not make extensive webs in the wax combs.

Most beekeepers know the damage wax moths cause. The moth life cycle consists of 4 stages. The first life stage, the egg, is tiny. Eggs are not noticeable unless we specifically look for them. Usually the female adult lays her eggs in batches. The eggs are laid in cracks between hive parts in dark out of the way places. Females produce up to 300 eggs each.

Wax moth eggs hatch to the larval stage in 5 to 8 days. New larvae burrow into beeswax comb attempting to reach the comb midrib. They are specialists to eat and grow and feed for 1 to 5 months, depending on the temperature. When fully grown, they are 3/4ths of an inch long and look like your typical caterpillar. They have a dark, hard head capsule, 3 pairs of small, segmented legs and several body segments, some of which have caterpillar prolegs. They are white initially, turning dark grey as they age.

In contrast to its name, the wax moth does not digest beeswax. It lives on impurities in comb and for this reason prefers to infest beeswax comb that has been used for brood rearing. Foundation is seldom bothered and only by small larvae that often die before reaching the adult stage. In capped honey, young larvae tunnel just below the cappings. This causes harvested honey to leak from packages and makes comb honey less attractive and saleable.

The third life stage, or cocoon, is a transformation life stage from caterpillar to adult. Fully-grown larvae spin a silk cocoon that is dense and tough. It does this in comb or in debris at the bottom of the hive but more frequently it is firmly attached to the frame or hive body. The cocoon is cemented into a boat-shaped cavity the larvae chew in the wood. This damage persists in equipment long after the wax moth emerges. Once the cocoon is spun, larvae change to the pupal stage.

Wax moth pupae may hatch rapidly or take 2 months to change to the adult stage depending upon temperature. Adults are 3/4ths of an inch with longer wing span (1 1/4 to 1 ½ inches). Males are slightly smaller and can be distinguished by a scalloped front wing margin compared to a smooth one in females. The wings fold roof-like over the body; wing scales and body are a non-descript grayish-brown. Adults often run before they take flight when disturbed.

About the author

V.D. Kaviraj

V.D. Kaviraj

V.D. Kaviraj is a Dutch homeopath, author, researcher and pioneer in Agrohomeopathy. He is also Vice President, World Homoeopathic Association UK Chapter. He has written textbooks on various aspects of homeopathy including "Homeopathy for Farm and Garden", which is now available in seven languages. The revised and enlarged edition with 376 pages has just been published : http://www.narayana-publishers.com/Homeopathy-for-Farm-and-Garden/Vaikunthanath-Das-Kaviraj/b8241

2 Comments

  • I have a ponytail palm that has white spots on the leaves I would like to find out if it will harm my palm and what to do to get rid of it. Thanks Bev.

  • I have a large beauganvillea that I would like to remove. I’ve cut it to a foot and the roots grow under the house. Any thoughts? Thank you

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