I am having to deal with Verroa Mites and thought I would outline my varroa mites strategy. its simple but with some rather big risks attached! If anyone has any other “natural strategies” – I’d love to hear them!
As a new beekeeper, I am full of enthusiasm and a little short on beekeeping experience. But I do bring a long term interest in nature and holistic health. One of the reasons I took up beekeeping is because I was keen to do my bit in understanding and helping to resolve some of the serious problems faced by bees. In the same way that I believe western society has become irrationally “hooked” on drugs and medications, beekeepers have become locked into a deadly cycle, one where bees are treated as “stock” that need to be managed, rather than wildlife. A kind of industrial approach rather than a holistic symbiotic approach. Bees REALLY don’t need us and if mankind were to disappear from the planet tommorrow, I have no doubt the bees would thrive.
I of course knew all about Varroa before embarking on my beekeeping and had a varroa mites strategy ready. The approach that I believe in is a genetic one. Bees need to be able to develop a genetic response to the pests and diseases that they face, that is how nature does it. Interfering in this process by trying to kill the mites for them will not work long term. In the words of Michael Bush “it creates weaker bees and stronger mites”. They need to be left to develop natural strategies to deal with mites. And in many places where the mites are not treated – this is exactly what is happenning. Bees are developing “hygenic” behaviour, where they become more sensitive to the mites and actively remove them from the hive. Some beekeepers are actively breeding for hygenic behaviour. The approach I prefer is breeding for survival. By not treating bees – some will survive and some will perish. The survivors will be stronger. The good news is that there are beekeepers today, who never treat for varroa mites and who have thriving hives, so it can be done!
Today my varroa mites strategy is being put to the test. I face that “crunch” decision. Its early September and the mite count in my one and only hive is 30-50. I have decided not to treat but am well aware that the above strategy is only really effective when you have several well established hives. Only then can “natural selection” choose Varroa resistant bees. Regressing bees ( allowing natural reduction in bee & cell size ) is only really possible on established hives and takes time, but I have made a start there by going foundationless. So I feel I must hold fast to my strategy – the risk is of course that the bees will not survive. But if they do, they will be stronger and next year I will have more hives and thus reduce the risk of being left without any bees.
Varroa Mites Strategy – Summary
My current varroa mites strategy is summarised below:
- Screened Bottom Board – this allows fallen mites to drop out of the hive. They are unable to return.
- Regress Bees – By allowing bees to build natural comb and slowly circulating out the largest cell sized comb – the size of the bees and comb cells reduces over time. These smaller bees devleop quicker and this substantially reduces the ability of the mites to breed. The reason mites prefer drone cells is because the drones take so long to develop – thus giving them far more scope to breed.
- Genetic Resistance – Allowing Bees that cannot resist Varroa Mites to perish and using the stronger surviving bees as your genetic breeding stock.