If the bees are good, and the mites are bad, it's safe to assume that the treatment decision I just made may be a bit ugly. But pretty is off the table.
In a move that seems at the same moral level as shoplifting or kissing in church, I have (ahem) changed my mind and decided to try fumigating my diseased bees with oxalic acid. The deal seems to have been sealed when I found a web page that advocated getting more of the stuff in your diet (Editor's note: don't), another selling it as a deck cleaning product that would not hurt the asphalt on roofs, and (finally) my neighborhood hardware store sells the stuff in a definite non-hazmat manner. I wanted to try the argument that oxalic acid is also a naturally occuring substance, but so is arsenic.
Basically, my girls are dying up there, and this stuff seems like it is relatively harmless, except perhaps to me and the mites. The treatments are short and effective, and nothing else gives me much hope at all.
I built two evaporator tools (one will be given to MaryEllen), and you can see better instructions and pictures than I can offer on Bwrangler's page at http://bwrangler.atspace.com/bee/goxa.htm. But I am now the proud owner, for the first time, of a blow torch!
As of this precise moment, I have tried to use the evaporators twice, and failed to successfully melt the oxalic acid powder, because wiser souls advised not to "boil" the substance, and I am no torch jock. The plus side of this is that the Carniolans of the Wilde colony poured onto the the entrance board when I placed the evaporator at around 11 AM, reassuring me of their continued liveliness and giving me the most unlikely of trophies: a January bee sting. I was actually in a "You go girls!" place with that.
I tried to fumigate the Italian bees in the Twain colony at 2:00 PM, but I was too much of a torch wuss. When I checked the evaporator after it cooled, almost all the oxalic was still in there. The Carnies were flying like crazy this afternoon, so I am going to wait until later to try them again.
Weather.com says the temperature will drop around 5 today, sending the Wilde girls home soon. So this evening, it will be another episode of "A Woman And Her Torch," playing for the third time today live on my roof.