What to Look for When Buying an Oxalic Acid Vaporizer
Mites can have dire effects on a honeybee colony—they meddle with how the hive operates, eventually causing less productivity. Oxalic acid is, therefore, a valuable weapon a beekeeper can and should use to prevent any unfortunate outcomes.
Today, beekeepers are offered a large variety of different oxalic acid vaporizers ranging from simple models to high-tech. These tools, however, are not something that most buy on a daily basis. This, of course, means that you want one that can stay with you for years. Here are some things to look for:
The durability of the material is something to weigh in on. Some manufacturers may offer two models: a heavy-duty version and an eco option which is much lighter. If you have several beehives, it’s probably best to go with a heavy-duty vaporizer that’s either made from aluminum or stainless steel.
Color-Coded Crocodile Clips
This is a pretty uniform feature, but there are still those that don’t have it. Crocodile clips are at the ends of the electrical wires that you connect to the battery. It’s crucial that you connect them correctly, otherwise, it won’t work—color-coding avoids such mistakes.
Because you’re using electricity to heat the oxalic acid, you want a handle that won’t give you a nasty burn or shock. Wood is generally what you’ll see on most vaporizers—most are ergonomically shaped to fit comfortably in your hand.
Using a vaporizer requires you to insert it into the beehive. You want to make sure that the acid pan can fit into the small entrance. Most vaporizers have a uniform size, but it’s worth double-checking before buying.
Best Oxalic Acid Vaporizers
Now that we’ve gotten an idea of what to look for, it’s time for our top four. Below we’ve gathered some of the most popular oxalic acid vaporizers available online. Let’s take a look.
Let’s start off with an American-made vaporizer. Here we have the oxalic acid vaporizer from Scott Bee Farm.
This acid vaporizer is highly effective when it comes to controlling the mite infestation in a beehive. This model is built simply and is very easy to use, even for beginner beekeepers.
It uses a type of glow plug that heats up the oxalic acid after you connect it to a battery. You simply attach it with the included battery clips. It also has an included 12-foot long electrical wire that’s insulated and safe to use.
This vaporizer is quite reliable—meaning that it won’t decrease in its performance capacity, even after repeated use. It’s made with high-quality materials that are durable for years to come if you treat it right.
One awesome feature is the long handle made from wood. It has a rectangular shape with a flat surface and provides ample room to get a good grip.
Now let’s focus on the acid pan. This component on the vaporizer has been CNC machined so it has the exact dimensions needed. It’s both wide and deep so you can fill it with as much or as little oxalic acid as you need. It’s compatible with a range of different beehives—even those with more brood boxes.
You will, however, need a beehive entrance with half an inch of clearance in order to insert it so it can work properly. You can connect it to different types of batteries, both from cars or motorcycles. The heavy-duty wiring can easily handle both stronger and weaker currents without breaking or suffering significant damage.
The only drawback is that there’s no on/off button, which means that you’ll have to disconnect it from the electrical source.
- High-quality, durable material
- Easy to use
- Heavy-duty wiring that can carry both strong and weak currents
- Compatible with different batteries
- CNC-machined acid pan
- Long wooden handle, comfortable in the hand
- No on/off switch
The oxalic acid vaporizer from Varomorus is both easy to use and fast working. This model is actually an improved version of their previous vaporizers, and it’s craftsmanship at its best.
The vaporizer is durable being made from aircraft-quality aluminum—in other words, it’s rock solid. If you’re looking for a product that will stay with you for a long time, this is it.
It comes with a wooden handle, not as long as the one above, but still sufficient. The whole vaporizer weighs approximately 14.4 ounces.
The electrical cords stretch about 55 inches (or 4.6 feet) and have the usual crocodile clips by the ends. The vaporizer works best when you connect it to a fully charged car battery.
When you connect it to a fully charged battery, it will only take two to three minutes to reach an adequate temperature of 482 degrees Fahrenheit. This is an ideal temperature for properly vaporizing the oxalic acid and killing any mites present inside the beehive.
The surface surrounding the acid pan is quite wide which may be a problem for some hives. Fortunately, you can get around this issue by removing the entrance reducer or finding other openings, perhaps at the bottom. It has a thickness of 0.47 inches, which serves as plenty of room for the oxalic acid.
- Made from strong aluminum material that will last
- Comfortable wooden handle
- Deep acid pan
- Works fast and is highly effective
- Long electrical cords
- Reaches a high temperature of 482 degrees Fahrenheit
- The acid pan has a wide surrounding surface which could be a problem for some beehives
Here we have another example from Scott Bee Farm and it’s the heavy-duty version of the one we saw earlier. It has all the great features of the previous one—this includes the CNC-machined acid pan, wooden handle, and glow plug.
The wooden handle is where we’ll see the first difference. On this model, it’s a bit shorter and has a different, more rounded shape.
The whole vaporizer is mainly made from aluminum, so it’s strong and durable. Along the aluminum rod, you’ll see that the electrical wires run from the power source to the glow plug. The rod is actually hollow, so the wires run inside away from your hands and out through an opening in the handle.
All the electrical parts are joined together so there aren’t any hanging wires or other potential hazards. It works fast and efficiently, heating up in less than two minutes. After two minutes, disconnect it from the battery and let it do its job in the hive.
Similar to the earlier version, the electrical wires measure about 12 feet long. This allows you to place the power source further away from the hive. It works quite well with pretty much any battery, be it from a motorcycle or car, even your lawnmower.
What’s so great about this one is that Scott Bee Farm included two gifts. Along with the vaporizer, you’ll get a digital timer and an oxalic acid measuring scoop. This is so convenient when you’re standing by the beehive and don’t want to bring your phone or a teaspoon from the house.
- Heavy-duty aluminum material
- All electrical wires are joined and placed within the aluminum tube for safe handling
- Long electrical wires, measuring 12 feet
- Very comfortable wooden handle
- Reaches the required temperature within two minutes
- Can connect with any battery ranging from car batteries to lawnmower batteries
- Included in the package are a digital timer and a measuring scoop
- No on/off switch
- Not as durable as hoped
Blue Ridge Bee Company offers an amazing oxalic acid vaporizer. This model is a simple 12V DC vaporizer that comes with a glow plug by the acid pan. This vaporizer is also made from aircraft-grade aluminum, so it’s quite durable.
The aluminum rod is sufficiently long so you won’t have to stand too close to the vaporized oxalic acid. The leads that carry power to the glow plug are well insulated and won’t cause a hazard. They measure roughly 10 feet which isn’t as long as the one above, but it still provides you enough room to move around.
This vaporizer is also very easy to use. The crocodile clips at the ends of the electrical wires are color-coded and well labeled. This makes it very difficult to connect them incorrectly.
What we love is the long wooden handle. It’s made from oak wood and fits perfectly in the hand. The length allows you to get a good grip with less chance of accidentally touching any hot components.
- Made from aircraft-grade aluminum
- A long metal rod that keeps you away from the vapor
- The electrical cables are long, measuring roughly 10 feet and are well insulated
- Everything is labeled and color-coded, so it’s easy to use even for newbies
- Long wooden handle, made from oak
- Needs more time to work
Why Would You Need an Oxalic Acid Vaporizer?
Oxalic acid has proven to be a safe and successful way of getting rid of mites from a honeybee hive. Before we get into why you may need one, let’s have a look at what oxalic acid really is.
What Is Oxalic Acid?
Oxalic acid is a colorless crystalline solid—it’s an organic composite also known as oxalate. It’s a powerful acid when on its own. You can dilute it in water where it simply becomes a colorless solution, but we usually see it as a dihydrate.
Dihydrate basically means that each acid molecule is bound with two water molecules. The oxalic acid crystals will feel sort of damp as opposed to powdery, which also prevents them from flying all over the place.
When you heat oxalic acid in its dihydrate form, it goes through two stages. At 215 degrees Fahrenheit, the water boils and evaporates and the oxalic acid becomes water-free. Then as you continue to heat it above 315 degrees Fahrenheit, it readily transforms from a solid into a gas.
Although you can’t eat the oxalic acid straight from its dihydrate form, you’ve probably already consumed quite a bit. You see, oxalic acid is actually present in a lot of our foods—it’s what creates that bitter taste. This includes peanuts, wheat bran, spinach, pecans, rhubarb, beets and beet greens, and even chocolate, among many others.
Our bodies can actually produce oxalic acid—sometimes it also happens that vitamin C is converted into oxalic acid as it’s metabolized.
After oxalic acid enters our bodies, it binds to minerals such as calcium and iron, thus forming new compounds. These are usually known as iron oxalate or calcium oxalate and their meeting generally occurs in the colon.
It does, however, happen that the minerals meet the oxalic acid in the kidney or urinary tract. This is generally not a problem for most people since it’s quickly removed through the urine or stool. There are people who are more sensitive where high levels of oxalic acid can lead to kidney stones or other problems.
Why You Should Use an Oxalic Acid Vaporizer
For beekeepers fighting to keep mites out of their precious beehives, oxalic acid has probably become a default method of miticide. It wasn’t up until recently that the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) recognized oxalic acid as a safe miticide.
There are actually three methods of applying oxalic acid in your beehive—these are drizzling, spraying, and vaporizing. Although the quarrel about which method is best, it’s been proven that oxalic acid works wonders. Vaporizing, nonetheless, is by far the most popular and perhaps also the safest way of getting rid of mites since the bees ingest less of the acid.
Varroa mites are the most common culprit in the infestation of honeybee hives. These mites are incredibly sneaky and it can take up to three years before they become noticeable in a beehive. They begin rather small in number, feeding on the larvae, which is generally drone brood.
Varroa mites’ hungry bellies can lead to crippled, crawling bees who are unable to fly. Female mites will also infest adult worker bees where they feed on the bee’s blood and fat. In these cases, the bee will likely have a hard time returning to the hive after a foraging trip and will die soon after.
Eventually, the beehive will stop functioning and all the bees will die. It’s still not exactly clear how oxalic acid works on the mites. There are actually two theories.
Some believe that when you release the oxalic acid vapor into the beehive, the acid destroys the mites’ feet. This essentially renders them footless and they’re now unable to terrorize the bees.
The other theory points toward the mites’ mouths. Some believe that the vapor disables some of their mouthparts, inhibiting them from feeding. Either way, oxalic acid vapor is highly effective at getting rid of these deadly parasites.
Oxalic acid vapor doesn’t harm any of the bees or brood present in the hive as long as you use it as directed. Unlike poison used for pesticides, this acid is not a foreign substance and won’t contaminate the bees. There are already some levels of naturally occurring oxalic acid in a beehive, just not enough to kill the mites.
How to Detect Mites in Your Beehive
Varroa mites, or mites in general, are masters at hiding (thanks to their tiny size). This is also why it isn’t easy guessing whether or not mites are present in your beehive. Beekeepers have several methods of detecting whether or not mites are an issue.
The simplest method is probably the sticky board. You can easily buy these from a bee supply company. You can also make them yourself from pieces of stiff paper sprayed with cooking oil or petroleum jelly.
Here’s what you do—place the sticky board at the bottom under the mesh screen in your hive. This prevents any bee from falling onto the sticky surface and getting stuck.
Leave it there for 24 hours—the mites will fall onto it and you can count them the next day.
This does depend on how big your bee colony is. In larger colonies, look for a bigger number whereas in smaller colonies you should be more cautious. Experts usually say that if there are more than 60 to 190 mites, then it’s time to vaporize.
Larger colonies have a better chance of surviving since they can still function while missing some bees. If you have smaller colonies, perhaps a newly released package or nuc, pay close attention. Regular inspections are key to keeping your colony safe.
When Is the Best Time to Use an Oxalic Acid Vaporizer?
Vaporizing your honeybees with oxalic acid several times a year just as a precaution isn’t a good idea. Although it’s relatively safe for the bees when used as directed, your bees can suffer from too much.
You can always schedule your treatments depending on how many mites you detect, but you can also go with the season. Believe it or not, but the oxalic acid vapor treatment is a process requiring accurate timing.
The best time for you to use oxalic acid vapor is around April and June. These are the months when the honey flow period has finished and just before the bees produce large amounts of brood.
Honeybees generally spend September to November building up their brood line. So it’s ideal that you help the bees enter this period with as few mites as possible. If you do detect a large number of mites just before winter, you can do a treatment.
Honeybee colonies infested by mites during the winter have a very low chance of making it into spring. You should, however, only carry out the treatment if it’s needed—treating brood isn’t ideal and should be avoided if possible.
Another good time for treatment is from late November to early December. By this time the brood line has likely evolved and most of your bees are adults. Timing is everything and keeping a check on the number of mites is crucial for the survival of your beehive.
How to Properly Use an Oxalic Acid Vaporizer
Using an oxalic acid vaporizer is simple and treating your hive doesn’t require an invasion of the colony. All you need are a few things to help you on your way, these include:
- Car battery
- A good oxalic acid vaporizer
- Oxalic acid dihydrate
- Protective gear such as goggles, gloves, and mask
- A tool such as a crowbar or a hive tool
- Small towel or cloth
Step One: Prep Your Vaporizer
Get everything you need ready on a table—I always recommend this so you’re sure you’ve got everything you need. Grab your oxalic acid—remember, this has to be in its dihydrate form. Liquid oxalic acid won’t have the same effect in your vaporizer.
Then place an adequate amount of oxalic acid in the acid pan—the recommended rate is a quarter teaspoon per brood box. Many beekeepers generally have at least two brood boxes so in that case, you should use half a teaspoonful.
Step Two: Prepare Your Beehive
Before you heat up your vaporizer, make sure that you’ve prepped your beehive. One of the first things you should do, if you haven’t done it already, is harvest your honey. If you were to leave it inside it would become unsuitable for human consumption.
Make sure you remove all your honey supers before you begin. Doing this will also tell your bees to move down into the hive where the vapor can better reach them. The vaporization treatment works best if the acid reaches as many bees as it possibly can.
Now it’s time to place your vaporizer into the hive. If the acid pan can fit through the entrance, great. If not, use a hive tool or crowbar to lift the box up a bit to fit the pan. Some beekeepers recommend slipping a piece of wood between the first super and the bottom board.
If you have a Langstroth hive, chances are that you’ve got a sticky board. You place it at the bottom under the screen, then as the mites die, they fall onto the board. This is very helpful both at detecting quantities but also to check if the treatment was successful.
Step Three: Ready for Treatment
Now that you’ve got everything ready and you’ve prepared the beehive, it’s time to start the treatment. Begin by connecting the electrical cords to the battery. As you can see above, some vaporizers do best with car batteries while others do fine with those meant for motorcycles or lawnmowers.
Correctly connect the vaporizer using the color-coded crocodile clips—black to black and red to red. Once connected, the acid pan should begin to heat up and you can place it in the hive.
You should insert it through the entrance, under the bees. Be sure that the oxalic acid is near the bees—some of the metal rod will likely also be inside the hive.
Once the oxalic acid is inside, start your timer and use a damp cloth or towel to seal up any openings. It doesn’t have to be completely sealed off, but try to close the bigger gaps. Some beekeepers even use foam.
Most vaporizers, like those on our list, require you to time the treatment manually. Read the manual for your specific vaporizer on how long it takes to heat up. Most will usually take about two minutes.
After your vaporizer has reached the right temperature, after two minutes or so disconnect the cables. Leave the vaporizer in the hive for an additional two minutes for the vapor to spread.
After the additional two minutes, take the vaporizer out and check the acid pan. If there’s still acid left, you can place it back into the hive. If it’s empty, take out the vaporizer, but leave the damp cloth for an extra 10 minutes to ensure no vapor escapes.
Repeat the process in your other beehives if you have more than one.
Risks and Precautions
Oxalic acid can be harmful to the skin and respiratory system if you get too close to the fumes. This is why it’s essential to protect yourself by wearing protective gear such as a respiratory mask, protective eyewear, and gloves.
Getting vapor into your eyes could lead to corneal damage. The fumes can also cause respiratory problems if you inhale them.
There are also beekeepers who wear their beekeeping suits. This, however, may not be necessary since you’re not handling the bees directly and you’ll close off the hive during the treatment. You should, nevertheless, bring your smoker and have it handy behind you just in case.
Some recommend bringing your smoker so you know which direction the wind is blowing. You should avoid standing in a place where the vapor comes directly toward you. The smoker can help you figure out where to stand safely.
You should wear your gloves whenever you handle the oxalic acid and you should always be outdoors. Small particles can run loose in the air and travel to your eyes, nose, or throat. When outside you’re sure that the area is well ventilated, thus minimizing the chance for exposure.
It’s best to wear gloves made from a chemically resistant material, a long-sleeved shirt, and pants, protective shoes, and socks. Essentially, you should cover as much of your skin as possible. Experts also recommend that you keep a bucket of water with you so you can quickly wash off any acid from your skin.
After the treatment, be sure to wash all your equipment and clothes. Avoid contact with food or drinking water and keep the stored oxalic acid away from kids and pets.
Investing in an oxalic acid vaporizer will only do you and your honeybee colony good. Countless beehives succumb to mites every year who feed on brood and adult bees until the colony eventually dies out. Oxalic acid vaporization is a safe way to get rid of these parasites, just make sure you take the necessary safety precautions.