We have an organic farm, since 1990, and had to get bees for our 100+ fruit trees when most of the bees died in our area in 1997 due to Varroa mites. I was looking for a more organic way to remove mites than using Apistan, the miticide of choice back than. Because of the demise of bees, the health food store that we sold to was very understanding about using miticides to save bees, but I was pretty determined.
I discovered that smoke from tobacco and citrus leaves dropped a lot of mites onto sticky boards on our very early versions of our screened bottom boards. A friend of mine was growing organic tobacco and family down south had citrus leaves that I dried.
This worked well until suddenly, Spring 2005, I was overcome with mites and knew I had to use some type of miticide. I am very lucky to have Randy Oliver as my bee teacher and at a club meeting he told me he read about someone using powdered sugar to dislodge bees. He didn’t have a lot of information, had read a blurb about it in the American Bee Journal. Something about sifting it over the top of the frames.
I went right to the store after the meeting and bought powdered sugar and used it the next day. OMGosh, this is my first picture. We stopped counting mites at 1000.
My husband is a carpenter contractor kind of guy who can make anything. He has made about 10 or 12 different SBB’s for me, but none of them would work with the powdered sugar, hard to get out of the bottom board and the sugar mess was everywhere.
So, in 2005, I asked him to make me one more with all the things I wanted. Front and back openings, wide spaces so the powdered sugar doesn’t scrape off and so mites cannot climb back into the hive……
And I wanted a smoke hole that I can put the smoker in and really fill the hive chamber with smoke. I was thinking that I might still use the tobacco and dried citrus. It turns out the smoke hole had several advantages that I didn’t even think about. The best one was from our beekeeping friends down south who were battling Africanized bees. Those bees if they saw you coming with a smoker from the front got so agitated, that the smoke did nothing to calm them down. But if you approached them from the back and smoked them, they were much easier to handle. Still crazy, but better. That’s another story about how they requeen those Africanized hives.
I asked him for 10 of these new SBBs he produced and promised him I wouldn’t ask for anymore, but he suggested I bring some to our club meeting and see if anyone was interested. I think he thought that it would be like the guy making birdhouses down the street, that he would sell a few here and there.
Well, I presold 60 that night and Randy said I should weatherproof them at his house in his heated tank of paraffin and tree rosin. Then Randy sent me to the Sacramento Bee Store and Nancy Stewart ordered a bunch of them and that started the Country Rubes Combo Screened Bottom Boards.