HopGuard: first impressions
It’s been over a year since I last treated for mites. However, due to a recent increase in deformed wing virus, I decided to treat for mites before winter sets in. I prefer winter bees (those that live many months cooped up in the hive) that have not been directly exposed to any mite treatment. Consequently, I strive to have mite treatments completed by the end of August.
Although the directions say that honey supers do not have to be removed during treatment, I received a note from a reader saying that he could detect the odor of HopGuard in his honey supers. I decided it wasn’t worth the risk, so I pulled the supers before doing the treatment.
As a point of comparison, the only mite treatments I have used in the past have been ApiLife Var (a biscuit-like thymol product), ApiGuard (a gelatinous thymol product), and Mite-Away II (pads soaked with formic acid). Like HopGuard, these products are considered “soft” chemicals, meaning they are naturally-occurring substances that kill mites rather than synthetically manufactured molecules.
I found the previous products to be extremely effective but really unpleasant. The worst part is having to make the hive into a “fumigation chamber” and locking down all the natural ventilation. Also, I hated the smell of those products, so I was ready to give HopGuard a try. So here are my reactions, divided into positive and negative.
- I was pleasantly surprised by the odor. I was expecting the worst after that one reader comment, but I found very little in the way of offensive odor, even when opening the new package. To me it smelled faintly of hops—not strong like when I’m brewing beer—but just slightly hoppy.
- Quantities were easy to figure for each hive. One strip per five frames of bees seemed a little more tailored than the quantities recommended by the other products. I used anywhere from one to six strips, depending on the colony size.
- The bees seemed unperturbed when I placed the strips in the hive. My bees usually go ballistic when I apply the other products, but they seemed not to be offended by the odor of HopGuard any more than I was.
- In the past when I had to lock down the ventilation, mite treatments were followed by much bearding and general unrest. With the HopGuard everything seemed normal after the application.
- HopGuard lists no temperature restrictions the way the other products do. The thymol products are ineffective when it’s too cold, formic products are dangerous when it’s too hot. HopGuard is just plain easier.
- The price: this stuff is a whole lot cheaper than other soft treatments. It is actually affordable.
- OMG! HopGuard gives new meaning to the word “messy.” I was ready for this, having watched the video, and even brought rags and extra nitrile gloves with me. Still, after the first three or four hives, HopGuard was everywhere. By the time I was done, I had to wash my hive tools, the smoker, the propane torch (used for lighting the smoker), the bucket I used to carry things, my bee suit, rags . . . even my shoes. Beekeepers are used to things sticky, but even so . . .
- The directions for use are glued to the outside of the foil package. They became completely saturated and unreadable after a few hives. I would prefer to have the directions separate from the package. Although some general directions are found online along with the video, I haven’t found the actual package insert. It would be a nice thing to have.
- I don’t like the idea that I need to distribute the strips among the brood boxes. For the most part, I can’t move my brood boxes this time of year. Some weigh 80 or 90 pounds, and I weigh like 115, so moving them just ain’t gonna happen. I ended up carrying an extra brood box with me, removing enough frames from the top box so I could reach down into the lower box and insert the strips. Then I had to replace the frames in the top box and add those strips. Meanwhile HopGuard is smeared over every conceivable surface and it’s about 200 degrees in my bee suit. This problem was even worse in my triple deep hives.
- Related to the above is the fact that I don’t like to tear my hives apart this time of year. Honey cells inevitably break open and attract robbers and predators. In addition, I run the risk of killing the queen in a season when the drones are gone and the colony can’t replace her. Is it really necessary to put the strips in each brood box or could they all be put in the top box?
- When I opened the foil package, I knew I would not use the entire package in one day. In light of that, I opened the package as carefully as possible, conserving ever millimeter of the bag length. Still, at the end of the day, there was not enough bag left to wrap and store the contents. The directions say you can store the extra strips in the foil bag, but there’s no way. I folded the foil over as well as I could, then wrapped the foil bag in plastic wrap, and put the whole thing in a plastic bag, and put the bag in a bucket. Next time I went to use it, HopGuard had leaked everywhere. I hope BetaTec is reading this because we need a longer bag!
If the HopGuard works, I would use it again in spite of the inconvenience. I liked the way the bees responded to it, I like the price, I like the smell, and I like the fact it is made from all food-grade products. These are all big advantages. Still, if some of the other issues were addressed I think the product would be a lot easier to use.