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Beekeeping & Essential Oils FAQ

Beekeeping & Essential Oils FAQ

What are essential oils?

Essential oils are concentrated, volatile natural extracts from plants that are typically obtained through distillation or cold pressing and have the characteristic fragrance or “essence” of the plant from which they have been extracted.

What essential oils are popular with beekeepers?

Hundreds of essential oils can be used for beekeeping. The most popular essential oils used are Lemongrass, Cornmint, Thyme, Spearmint, Lavender, and Wintergreen.  Lemongrass Essential Oil is may be the most popular with beekeepers due to its multitude of uses.

Why use essential oils in beekeeping?

Essential oils can be used as a treatment or preventative measure for mites and other ailments. They can also be used as a diet supplement for overall colony health. Some essential oils can be used to lure bees, while others can be used to repel them. 

How do essential oils prevent or treat mites?

Adding specific essential oils to a grease patty can cause mites to die within a few minutes of coming in contact with it. This requires the infected bee to either walk across or feed on the patty. When a bee is fed a syrup mixture containing essential oils they pass it to other bees and larvae through trophallaxis. Varroa mites then feed on the larvae and are poisoned. Tracheal mites are commonly prevented using products containing thymol essential oil. This essential oil blocks the pores of tracheal mites, confusing them. The confused mites fall through the screen to the ground and are incapable of climbing back up to the hive.

How can essential oils be dispensed to bee colonies?

Essential oils can be added to sugar syrup or grease patties that the bees will eat for health and mite treatment. Oils may also be dabbed on the entrance to a swarm trap to be used for luring. Some beekeepers may also add essential oils to a sugar syrup spray that is used in place of smoking.

Why are essential oils used by beekeepers?

Some beekeepers are interested in using as many natural products as possible or simply want to know exactly what is in the products they use with their colonies. Natural products are used by beekeepers who wish to meet organic production standards. Using essential oils also gives beekeepers an alternative to applying manmade chemicals in their beehives if that is something they wish to avoid. Using natural products is also done to give the colony a break from effects caused by chemicals. Many beekeepers use essential oils in combination or transposition with commercially made products.

What are Grease Patties?

Grease patties are a mixture of sugar, grease, and other optional additives that help prevent and/or control common mites, such as Varroa, Tracheal, and foulbrood. Depending on what type of mite is being prevented, adding essential oils, honey, mineral salt, and other popular additives are combined into the grease patty recipe. Common grease used is Crisco, coconut oil, and canola oil. Grease patties also can provide nutrients to bees during wintertime. Keep the patty on your top bar all year round and replace the individual patties every month or so. It is important to research which recipe is right for your hive.

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