Organic Varroa Management - Beekeeper Education in Hawaii

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2010: $15,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: Western
State: Hawaii
Principal Investigator:
Richard Spiegel
Volcano Island Honey Co.

Annual Reports


  • Animals: bees


  • Education and Training: mentoring, on-farm/ranch research, workshop
  • Pest Management: biorational pesticides, economic threshold, field monitoring/scouting, integrated pest management, physical control, traps
  • Production Systems: holistic management, organic agriculture
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, new business opportunities


    The purpose of the grant was to:

    • Evaluate various IPM (Integrated Pest Management) methodologies to combat the varroa mite, and to evaluate which treatments were cost effective, practical and effective for an organic commercial apiary.
    • Share the practical varroa management experience with other commercial, backyard and agriculturalist beekeepers.
    • Train more beekeepers and encourage the placement of organically managed hives in agricultural operations and backyards, and to teach beekeepers how to organically manage hives with varroa.

    At the time the grant was submitted, Volcano Island Honey Company (VIHC) did not have the varroa mite in its hives. At the beginning of the grant period the apiary was afflicted with the varroa mite, which created a crisis condition for the apiary. VIHC proceeded with testing IPM strategies on a smaller scale than originally proposed, while simultaneously fighting not to lose too many hives.


    The experiments were useful as they dispelled a lot of ideas about what organic methods of varroa management were possible in a commercial setting. The public appetite for knowledge about beekeeping was huge. In offering the course it became very clear that many small farmers with orchards and backyard gardeners were experiencing significant losses due to a lack of pollination. Most people in the class were interested in pollination, as opposed to beekeeping for honey production.

    Project objectives:

    1) Field test varroa management strategies (note: the hive numbers were adjusted down to five for each treatment at the beginning of the grant period in consultation with the grant administrator.)

    • Drone comb management: 65 hives with farm made organic drone foundation/65 hives with plastic foundation
    • Powdered Sugar Dusting: delivery of organic powdered sugar with backpack sprayer and hand sprayer
    • Mite Away Quick Strips: 60 hives to learn how to use it, observe how it impacts bees and test honey for formic acid residue
    • Screened bottom boards and sticky boards: how to manage and use

    April, 2010: Purchase drone comb roller, plastic foundation, backpack sprayer, hand sprayer, organic sugar, Miteaway quick strips, screened bottom boards, sticky boards. Hire research and teaching assistant.

    April/May, 2010: Make drone comb foundation. Place organic wax foundation in 65 hives and plastic drone foundation in 65 hives. Monitor hives. Test and Remove every 20 - 23 days. Install sticky boards in all hives. Ongoing monitoring.

    April- Sept, 2010: Ongoing monitoring/management of drone comb every 20 - 23 days.

    April - Oct, 2010: Powdered Sugar treatments.

    Nov, 2010: Treat 30 hives with Mite Away Quick Strips. Monitor hives.

    Jan, 2011: Treat 30 hives with Mite Away Quick Strips. Monitor hives.

    2) Educate commercial, backyard and agriculturalist beekeepers about organic beekeeping and organic varroa management in Hawaii and increase number of managed hives, through:

    • Beginning and intermediate beekeeping workshops.
    • Sharing of information learned through: PowerPoint presentations, YouTube videos, Blog and Twitter posts.

    Aug 2010: Class curriculum and teaching tools: PowerPoint, handouts. Order class equipment.

    Oct - Nov 2010: Beginning & Intermediate Beekeeping Classes.

    Jan 2011: Post videos to YouTube. Create and boost informational webpage(s). Blog & Twitter posts.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.