The interaction between the effects of varroa, Varroa destructor Anderson & Trueman, and formic acid treatments on colonies of honey bees, Apis mellifera L., were examined in two field experiments. In experiment 1, colonies with low varroa levels were exposed to two different slow-release formulations and compared with untreated colonies. In experiment 2, colonies inoculated with varroa and uninoculated colonies were exposed to a slow-release formulation, a pour-on formulation, or were left untreated. The effects of treatments, hive temperature, and hive relative humidity on formic acid concentration in hive air also were examined. Slow-release formic acid application improved colony development in colonies that had been inoculated with varroa. However, in uninoculated colonies where the mean abundance of varroa was low, slow-release formic acid application suppressed colony development. The pour-on application did not have a negative impact on worker population growth in uninoculated colonies, but also it was not as effective as the slow-release treatment in improving population growth in varroa-inoculated colonies. Equivalent volumes of acid applied in pour-on and slow-release formulations provided the same cumulative dose in hive air but differed in the daily pattern of formic acid release. Colonies that were not inoculated with varroa had higher concentrations of formic acid in hive air than colonies that were inoculated with varroa on three of the five pour-on application dates. The data suggest that reductions in worker population and/or activity caused by varroa can interact with ambient conditions to affect the volatilization or sorption of formic acid in the hive.
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Vol. 97 • No. 5