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Author Topic: Rhubarb and varroa  (Read 3117 times)
Kris^
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« on: May 14, 2006, 05:16:53 PM »

After looking for a long time for rhubarb plants, a customer dropped off a small stash of starts yesterday for me to plant at home.  Not knowing where the best place would be to plant them, I researched on the internet.  What I also found out is that the leaves are poisonous -- they contain high concentrations of oxalic acid.  The little gears in my head started turning.  Has anyone ever tried putting pieces of rhubarb leaves in the hive to control varroa?  Or does the oxalic have to be distributed more evenly throughout the hive?

-- Kris
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amymcg
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« Reply #1 on: May 14, 2006, 08:52:01 PM »

I don't know about the varroa aspect, but once you get rhubarb started, it will grow and thrive in just about any kind of soil and light conditions.
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Zoot
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« Reply #2 on: May 14, 2006, 10:09:48 PM »

That's pretty much true on the soil though they tend to do best in well drained soil. One thing that many varieties don't stand up to though is heat and humidity. Here in MD our plants (Victoria's - the all green kind) start to droop and wane by mid June. Alas, I've never heard of any associations with beekeeping.
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Shizzell
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« Reply #3 on: May 14, 2006, 10:16:03 PM »

Well, my Rhubarb is blooming. Its 8 ft wide and 5 feet tall. You wouldn't believe how crazy it loves it in this soil - sand.

I might look into that though.
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Michael Bush
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« Reply #4 on: May 14, 2006, 11:00:21 PM »

You need to disperse the oxalic through the hive more than that.
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Michael Bush
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Brian D. Bray
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« Reply #5 on: May 15, 2006, 01:40:46 AM »

I think the idea of experimenting with rhubard leaves has merit.  Since I have rhubard as well as grapes (see posting on pest control page) I think a little organic gardening is in order.
The Indian Tribes of the PNW (Pacific Northwest) use to teach that the antidote for a poisonous plant grew in close proximity to it.  I.E. the cure for stinging nettle burns is bracken fern juice.  (Yes, I've been doing this since a wee lad and it works.)
I believe too many people have become too enamored with science and have forgotten that a lot of those old "wives tales" actually worked and were, in fact, the start of the pharmacutical business.
To wit: extract the juice from the rhubard leaves and place in shallow container and treat via vapor such as one would with Menthol for trachea mites (Menthol is a natural occuring medication)
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Dick Allen
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« Reply #6 on: May 15, 2006, 02:10:47 AM »

maybe the leaves could be dried and used as smoker fuel wink
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Brian D. Bray
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« Reply #7 on: May 15, 2006, 02:35:12 AM »

Why dry it? I use grass clippings or leaves to cool and filter the smoke.  Dumb to Dumber, "I should have thought of that."  Thanks Dick.
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rickomatic
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« Reply #8 on: May 16, 2009, 01:00:31 PM »

Has anyone done any rhubarb experiments for varroa control since this old thread ended?
I found this thread through the search function after my wife was asking about the safety of composting rhubarb leaves and subsequently seeing that the rhubarb poison was oxalic acid, and my brain started hooking things up. One of those things that make you go....hmmmmmm..  rolleyes Thus my search here and finding this old thread.
So, again. Anyone ever go forward with any experiments?
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gaucho10
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« Reply #9 on: May 16, 2009, 06:39:18 PM »

Wow...here I go again.  As I started reading this thread I was sipping on some freshly made cool rhubarb compot.  I was really interested on this subject but then I read rickomatic's pot and realised the old posting date.   Yeah!!!!! What's the scoop on this?  ANy experiments.  ANyone die from inhaling the smoker fumes?
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rickomatic
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« Reply #10 on: May 16, 2009, 07:33:16 PM »

Quote
I read rickomatic's pot and realised the old posting date.   Yeah!!!!! What's the scoop on this?  ANy experiments.  ANyone die from inhaling the smoker fumes?

Hehe...you said pot and inhaling. What's on your mind?   Wink
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Natalie
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« Reply #11 on: May 16, 2009, 08:16:37 PM »

I grow rhubarb but I have no idea if it has any effect at all on varroa. Due to the fact that its poisonous I keep it in a raised bed in a fenced in garden to keep it away from my chickens.
I see it growing wild all the time, I actually saw some today at my son's soccer game, its on the edge of the woods and when I walked through the path I noticed all this wild rhubarb.

Something that I have heard to keep ants out of the hive is to put queen anne's lace on the inner cover.

Now, that is to keep ants away and not kill them so the rhubarb leaves just being in or around the hives probably would not do anything to kill varroa but I have no idea if it could be considered a repellant.
Could you scrape the leaves and expose some natural plant oils and have it do anything? I don't know, maybe to some small degree if the varroa had to crawl over it or if the bees transmitted it through the hive on their bodies but I still find it improbable.
I don't think it will have as big as an effect as we would want or hope for.

Maybe as someone said, you could use it in your smoker as a more effective mode.
I would wonder if it would affect the bees though in that form.
Its all guesswork until someone will spend the time and money on real research for more alternative methods for varroa control.

Wouldn't it be nice if all you had to do is plant some rhubarb in front of your hives? Too easy...
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Brian D. Bray
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« Reply #12 on: May 16, 2009, 10:43:49 PM »

I tried it last year.  Spring to Mid-summer.  I didn't notice the presence of varroa mites (none on mited boards) until September.  This year I'm going to try leaving a leaf on the top of each hive until October. 
The hives didn't build up real strong but I don't know if that was because of the rhubarb leaves or the fact that I had Carnies that I had to steal brood frames from to nurse my Russian hive back to health after losing 3 to mid-spring starvation due to snow as late as May.
I'm going to give it a go again this year on 2 hives out of the 5 I have and see what happens.
Experiment in Progress.
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rickomatic
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« Reply #13 on: May 17, 2009, 01:46:30 AM »

Brian,
Are you going to just put the leaf on top of the frames in your top box?
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Brian D. Bray
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« Reply #14 on: May 18, 2009, 10:10:11 PM »

Brian,
Are you going to just put the leaf on top of the frames in your top box?

Exactly.  I figure the Oxlic acid will get spread around as they chew up the leaf and remove it.  I'll be paying more attention to bee mortality this year as nursing the hives I saved last year kind of set my experiment back a bit.
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blainenay
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« Reply #15 on: April 28, 2012, 11:02:24 PM »

Well, my Rhubarb is blooming....

Are the bees attracted to the rhubarb blossoms? Any idea what rhubarb honey tastes like?
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Finski
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« Reply #16 on: April 28, 2012, 11:20:49 PM »

.  Has anyone ever tried putting pieces of rhubarb leaves in the hive to control varroa?  Or does the oxalic have to be distributed more evenly throughout the hive?

-- Kris

and you are going to put into your beehive what ever what comes into your mind?
No wonder that bees disapear.

.European varroa group made vain work when they selectd and tested 10 years best varroa control systems. grin

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AndrewT
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« Reply #17 on: April 29, 2012, 09:52:13 AM »

Long ago, a friend gave my wife a rhubarb start and said "Just plant it anywhere in a sunny place and it'll grow like crazy".  I planted it on the south-facing side of a building.  After several years, it was still there, just about the same size, and not big enough to harvest more than a couple of stems each season.  Then I moved it to a raised bed last summer, and this spring it's way bigger and we've taken lots of stems.  Turns out, rhubarb will grow just about anywhere, except in a poorly drained clay soil.

And about all that "wild rhubarb" that Natalie saw at her son's soccer game; There's a plant called Burdock (google it) that looks very much like rhubarb, and it's commonly found on forest edges and over-grown, neglected areas.  Later in the season, stalks of thistle-like flowers appear, that later turn into round, acorn-sized burrs.  If you have a shaggy dog who runs loose very much, you've probably pulled burdock burrs out of his fur.

As far as treatment for varroa mites, I think MB is right, there's probably not enough oxalic acid in the leaves to do the job, and if there was, you'd have to do something like put a bunch of leaves in juicer and then spray the resulting stuff all over the bees and the inside of the hive.  I'm sure it would be every bit as effective as putting dog-hair clippings around the lettuce patch to keep rabbits away.
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