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Date:         Tue, 28 Sep 1999 18:34:01 -0600
Reply-To:     Informed Discussion of Beekeeping Issues and Bee Biology
Sender:       Informed Discussion of Beekeeping Issues and Bee Biology
From:         Allen Dick
Subject:      Re: Formic Pads
Comments: To: Paul S LeRoy <>
In-Reply-To:  <>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1"

> In one of your recent posts to BEE-L you mentioned installing formic pads. > WHERE DID YOU GET THEM? I have contacted BetterBee and they advised that > it would be October before they would be available and I personally doubt > they will be then.

Okay. I started to write this earlier, but a power bump knocked out about a half hour's hard work, and the automatic backup somehow did not get written, and darn it, I had to do some work, so, belatedly, here I go again. Wish me luck and a continuous AC supply.

I'll get to your question shortly.

I think what BetterBee has been working on is approval for a gel based proprietary formic acid pad that will be legal in the USA. Out in the free world, people already use formic in many different concoctions and take advantage of having an alternate treatment that also hits the tracheal mite -- along with any fluvalinate resistant varroa that happen to be within range. The Germans in particular have been using formic for a long time and have some nifty devices for applying it, but most appear impractical to me for large scale commercial use.

One in particular, the Nassenheider Device I dissed rather thoroughly in previous posts. (I recommend you search the posts out, since there is a lot of talk about formic in the logs). Anyhow, since then I have moderated my stance a bit after meeting the nice and very committed people at their stand at Apimondia and was shown their latest improvement. I had previously met them at the BetterBee booth at the ABF convention in Virginia (I believe Betterbee has some of their devices).

My main two complaints were that the device is too unhandy for a commercial guy like me, and that it is too costly. Added to that I had heard of some preliminary research that showed a drop in honey production from hives treated long term with formic vs. the ones treated with 3 to 5 - 3 ml pads 5 or so days apart. Since then the research has never been published, so I guess it was not convincing, and I have been looking at things like the Homesote board idea. The big plus for the Nassenheider for the small operator is that it dispenses (theoretically at least) a measured amount of formic daily -- unlike many of the other methods.

Anyhow, in Canada, many things have been tried, from squirting raw acid onto bottom boards, to pot holders (or even feminine napkins) soaked in acid, to various proprietary devices. One proprietary system that came out was the so-called Mite-Wipe (R) pad that was a pad with 30ml of 65% acid already soaked into it. This product was based on research done in Ontario, Canada. The pad is placed onto the top bars of the hive and is supposed to give off the magical 7 ml per day for 4 days, at which time it is to be replaced: twice for TM, and four times for varroa.

No sooner did it hit the market, than some observant beekeeepers noticed that it resembled almost exactly the Dri-loc 50 poultry, meat and fish pad that is found in virtually every package of retail meat sold. A little sleuthing, and beekeepers were making their own 'Mite-Wipes (R)'. That brings us the job of work that interrupted my writing today, and an answer to your question...

I was interrupted by my courier arriving with some supplies: 204 litres of 85% formic acid and 10,000 Driloc-50 pads which are available at one of the local paper supply places in Calgary. (For a small number of pads , I think any meat cutter could oblige, and for smaller amounts of acid, a local pharmacist or high school chemistry teacher would be helpful). The formic I received is shipped in a beautiful 55 gallon (US) plastic drum (suitable for making mead, I think) and the Dri-loc pads are 2,000 to a box which is about 18" x 20" x 22". The acid is somewhere around $600 CAD ($400 US) and the pads are about $50 CAD per box.

We set the drum on a pallet and raised it with the forklift a bit. Our mission: to make 85% formic into 65%. I had done a little math previously, and I found that 6 litres of the Real Thing would make 8 litres of the dilute stuff. A litre is about the same as US quart. I hope my math today was better than my math yesterday.

I took a 60 pound honey pail and measured 2 litres into the pail and marked the level with a marker (Pails are translucent and you can see a mark on the outside when you look inside). I then marked the 6 litre and the 8 litre levels and started siphoning Acid with my trusting clear nylon mead siphon.

I soon verified that 2 litres water plus 6 litre 85% acid give 8 litres of 65% solution. (This could not be taken for granted, but happened to be true. Sometimes the resulting volume of mixing compounds is significantly less than the simple sum of volumes).

I also discovered that in this case, it did not matter whether we added water to acid or acid to water; the reaction was not particularly exothermic or violent. Actually it was pretty boring. It looked like adding water to water, and we had to watch which bucket was which, because they were so similar. (I wonder if I can find a dye which formic will not bleach).

Having learned this, we were off and running. We put 250 (exactly one stack from the box) of the pads into a 2-1/2 gallon honey pail and added 8 litres of the 65% acid and put on the lid. It was ready to use -- after the acid had a chance to equalise through the pads. We repeated this a few times and in half an hour, we had enough to treat 1500 hives once.

Hope this helps.

allen ----- See if your questions have been answered in over a decade of discussions. BEE-L archives & more: Search sci.agriculture.beekeeping at or visit to access both on the same page.

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