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Plagued by ticks? Or Varroa mites?
Börje Svensson, Forsand Kommune, Rogaland, Norway
Svein Atle Jacobsen is a veterinary-surgeon from Hidrasund in Norway. During his long life in veterinary work he has collected different examples of how to use natural herbs for various treatments. He had noted that according to folklore medicine, mites on pigs, or ticks on humans can be treated with leaves of aspen trees Populus tremula. He decided to test it by using sticky tape to put a couple of aspen leaves on top of a tick attached to him. Immediately he realised that the cure worked: the tick let go and disappeared!
A neighbouring beekeeper, Turid Laupstad, complained to Svein Atle about the Varroa problem in her bees. She was frustrated over this new invasion and had little hope for her future beekeeping because in Norway it is forbidden to use pesticides like Apistan. Together they decided to combine their experiences in a mini experiment using aspen leaves for treatment against Varroa.
In 2007 six hives were arranged: four with treatment, and two as the control without treatment. Bags with fresh aspen wood shavings were placed above and below the colony. The idea was for gas from the shavings to be circulated through the colony by the bees' ventilation. The results were promising from the start. The dropping of dead Varroa mites on the floor board was higher in the control colonies in 2008, and the tendency is the same in 2009. This indicates that the infestation with Varroa mites in non treated colonies is higher. The mites do not thrive in colonies with aspen gas. Svein Atle is keen to not draw any early conclusions. He wants to continue observation of Varroa downfall for a few more years. This maybe not the ultimate cure for Varroa, however it could be a vital contribution to the advancement of science for the solution of this big global problem.
Another step for Svein Atle is to try to produce frame bars and hive bodies from aspen timber. Aspen is a fast growing tree that gives a light timber that is very straight and easy to cut.