First Powdered Sugar Varroa Treatment a Great Success!


I opened up my hives today and was chagrined to see that Hive 1 had some bees with wing and abdomen abnormalities due to varroa mite infestation. My other two hives also have mites but seem to be chugging along for now. I finally saw the queen of Hive 1 as well, which was excellent, but it was obvious that something needed to be done.


Deformed bee


Hive 1 queen

I’ve done scads of research online on the efficacy of the powdered sugar treatment. Some people say it works, some people say it’s a waste of time. The theory is that the sugar is just the right size to get under the mites’ feet and unstick them from the bees as they groom it off each other. It won’t do anything for the mites inside the cells, but you can treat multiple times to get them once they emerge. For instance, once a week for three weeks. I decided I had nothing to lose, so I installed my new DIY screened bottom board and got out a cup of icing sugar.


At least this treatment is easy to apply! I dumped the cup of sugar on the top brood box and brushed it in between all the frames. I soon had a bunch of very white, very pissed off bees.


Then I closed it up and waited. But not for long… Less than an hour later I had to check and see the results, if any. I pulled out the tray and my jaw absolutely dropped.


It was totally loaded with mites! I counted probably around 600 mites and after I waited another couple of hours there were easily 1000 mites on the tray, struggling in the sugar. That is a LOT of phoretic varroa.

I am SO glad that I decided to do this treatment. I immediately got to work making two more screened bottom boards for my other hives and they will be getting treated as soon as possible. I plan to give them all a weekly treatment for at least three weeks or until the mite drop is significantly lowered. I’m so glad that I didn’t have to resort to any harsh chemicals and I’m incredibly impressed with how this simple trick has worked.

Naturally Treating Coccidiosis in Rabbits


I’ve had this very contagious disease pop up a couple of times in my meat herd, usually as a result of pasturing my young rabbits. You can very easily tell if you have sick bunnies: they lose their appetites, their backbones become visible and noticeably palpable, they act listless and they develop chronic diarrhea. Don’t lose hope though, you can almost always bring sick rabbits back to perfect health without resorting to pharmaceuticals if you catch it early enough.

I was given a bottle of some foul brown liquid from a breeder when I acquired my first rabbit pair, and was instructed to add it to the water for five days on, five days off and five days on again as a coccidia preventative. I dutifully did so at first, and my bunnies hated it. I didn’t know any better. The bottle still sits half full on the shelf almost four years later and I will likely never use it again. Instead I’ve developed a natural method for treating this often deadly disease. Of course now my main focus is prevention and it hasn’t been an issue since then.

Coccidia is a parasite that is found pretty much everywhere in the soil. Young rabbits are more susceptible to it than adults. If you have rabbits on pasture or feed fresh greens there is always the possibility of infestation. It’s passed on through rabbit feces via cysts. If one young bunny in a colony has it, they probably all do. The best prevention is to keep rabbit environments clean, raise rabbits on wire-bottomed cages, move pastured rabbits to fresh ground frequently, dry or thoroughly wash fresh greens and keep bunnies away from soil that has recently been occupied by other types of livestock or pets, especially chickens and dogs.

All right, so the worst has happened, your bunnies are sick. If they have the symptoms listed above and have been exposed to pasture/greens, they probably have coccidiosis. Here are the immediate steps to take:

Clean. You must disinfect the environment or get your rabbits to fresh pasture immediately. I recommend getting them off the ground completely if they become sick and putting them into a wire-bottomed cage where feces can drop away and not recontaminate them. You can either use bleach or white vinegar to thoroughly clean all cages, water vessels and toys. Be sure to rinse well in fresh water after disinfection. Wire-bottomed cages with appropriately-sized spacing (1/2″ by 1″) are not cruel. Rabbits have well-furred feet that are adapted to rough surfaces and their nails hang down naturally through the wire adding to their comfort.

Water. If you don’t already do this, begin adding apple cider vinegar to the water. One tablespoon per 32 oz. water bottle is sufficient, but you may add as much as you want as long as your rabbits will still drink. This acidifies the gut, adds trace minerals and is excellent for overall gastrointestinal health. I use small amounts of ACV in my rabbit water all year round. It helps prevent algae growth, promotes good health and if you take your rabbits to a show in a different town, the drinking water there will still taste familiar to them. I’ve also noticed increased vigor in all my bunnies once I made this permanent addition.


Blackberry. This is the most vital element to combating the parasite. Blackberry leaves and vines are one of the most important medicinal plants for rabbits and luckily they grow as invasive weeds in most places in the world. You’ll likely never have to drive far to find some, even in the dead of winter. Provide your rabbit with as much fresh or dried leaves and vines as they can eat. Don’t worry about the thorns, your rabbit will likely eat them first. Avoid giving the blackberry drupes (fruit) themselves if possible, although a few here or there will not hurt. Blackberry is a powerful anti-diarrhea herb for rabbits and in many cases, prolonged loose stools are the real reason your rabbit will lose the battle with coccidia. Also be sure to provide plentiful dry grass hay and clean pelleted food. Stop feeding any other vegetable or fruit treats. Promptly remove any food that becomes soiled or contaminated with feces.

With this regimen initiated at the very first signs of sickness, I have rarely lost a bun to the disease. Your rabbit may sustain some level of liver or intestinal damage from the parasite, but in most cases they go on to live perfectly normal and healthy lives. If you butcher meat rabbits that have been infected, you may notice yellow or white spots on the liver as a result. Affected livers like these should not be consumed by humans. To see photos of an infected liver, you can check out my previous post on hepatic coccidiosis here.

Keep those bunnies healthy! 🙂

Fred is Sick Again – Naturally Treating Cystitis in Cats

DSC_0029After just one time sneaking into the kibble, Fred is sick again. I first noticed while I was in the bathroom a few mornings ago and he got into the bathtub, squatted over the drain and had a little pee. Trying to tell me something Fred? Then he was back to doing the litterbox shuffle, going back and forth from box to box, voiding just a few drops of urine each time.

I wasn’t looking forward to another $200 vet treatment, which last time basically consisted of a shot of antibiotics and a prescription for snake oil special cat food. I decided to do a little more research into natural treatments to see if I could manage his condition myself. A few hours of research later and I decided to try cranberry and goldenseal.

I know from personal experience that pure unsweetened cranberry juice will knock out a urinary tract infection in short order. Fred might not have a UTI, but he is having bladder issues and does have struvite crystals. I was hoping cranberry would help acidify his urine and hopefully dissolve them. Goldenseal was recommended as an antibiotic that helps alleviate infection and inflammatory conditions. Both had been okayed as safe for cats by multiple sources.

DSC_0032I gave Fred a full capsule of cranberry extract in the morning, then a full capsule of goldenseal in the evening, just so his body could process the supplements properly without overloading him with both at once. He is such a good boy and lets me pill him easily. The next morning, he still seemed to be having difficulties passing urine, but was showing no signs of pain or discomfort. He got his cranberry pill in the morning and goldenseal pill in the evening once more. He was in good spirits all day and raced all over the house with the kittens, playing up a storm.

Since he still seemed blocked, I decided to try something new. I had also read many positive reports of people treating cystitis in cats with apple cider vinegar. I know that at any sign of sickness in my rabbits or birds, the first thing I do is put ACV in their water. So far, in two years, this along with good hygiene has cured everything from baby bunnies with no appetite, to quail with bumblefoot.

I chose to mix a tablespoon of ACV with a tablespoon of water, and administer about 2ml by mouth using a small plastic syringe designed for medicating cats. I did this about 3-4 times a day for the next three days and also stopped the herbal pills. Guess what, today Fred is peeing normally!

So I’m hoping we have a natural solution here. Fred must stay on a strictly canned/raw diet. No more kibble for Fred, ever. If he develops problems peeing, I can give him apple cider vinegar and water orally. He doesn’t seem to mind the flavor too much.

I feel if I put ACV in the communal water dish that it will prevent all the cats from wanting to drink, so I may start mixing small amounts into their food and seeing how they tolerate that. I believe I’ll put all the boy cats on ACV since cystitis is more prevalent in males.


Freshly ground bone-in chicken and necks

During my research I was also interested to learn that male cats with long hair and high stress levels are more prone to cystitis. (Not to mention kibble diets of course.) Fred is far from stressed right now, but he was probably the most stressed cat ever while he was fending for himself as a stray. I know he was panic-stricken when he first showed up. I’ve been keeping him away from the girls so no more fighting has occurred. Here’s to getting things a little more calm and normal around here!