Why I'm Going To Start Treating This Year

In the March edition of the American Bee Journal appeared an article by Randy Oliver, a well respected Biologist who's a regular contributor to ABJ. The article was titled "Queens For Pennies".

It was a very interesting article on raising queens, but what caught my attention were the first few paragraphs on Randy's views of treatment/medication against varroa mites for commercially bought bees. 

In the past 4 years I've tried to go chemical free with regards to mite treatment. I've tried to raise survivor stock by buying Varroa Resistant Genetic bees, and making splits in the spring from my overwintered colonies.

I have come to find out, however, what Randy already knew. Go figure.

I have discovered that trying to go chemical free and "neglecting the domesticated bees" was indeed not producing hardy survivor stock. It's also been a very expensive journey I've been on the last couple of years as I've had to buy more bees each year when mine would die off, or those that did survive weren't quite strong enough to make splits.

"Most commercial bee stocks should be considered as domesticated animals.  Do not disillusion yourself. Allowing domesticated package colonies to die year after year is not in any way, shape, or form a contribution to the breeding of mite-resistant stocks.

By introducing commercial bees year after year into an area, and then allowing those package colonies to first produce drones and then to later die from varroa, these well-meaning but misguided beekeepers screw up any evolutionary progress that the local feral populations might be making towards developing natural resistance to varroa.  " (Oliver, website)

After reading Randy's article, I felt a lot better about the decision I've made to start treating for varroa this year. 

In the fall I'm planning to use MAQS (Mite Away Quick Strips) to knock down the mite population and allow the colony to go into the winter as strong and healthy as possible. 

I know there's a whole "backwards" beekeeping community out there who advocate not using any treatment techniques against varroa. I've given it a try several years in a row, and now I'm ready for a change. To try something new until major breakthroughs are found against varroa.

I'd like to see more of my hives emerge from fall/winter strong and healthy instead of weak or dead from varroa.

Comments For This Post: (7) | Post Your Comments! Hide The Comment Form
Tim says...
Date:   April 16, 2014, 2:30 am

A hard decision I am sure, both ways have their benefits and problems. What may be right for one beekeeper is not going to be right for another. I hope that your decision works well so I can have more good posts to read.

Holly says...
Date:   April 26, 2014, 1:00 pm

Good Post!  What has your survival rate been in the past?  The only product I have used is Honey-B-Healthy.  Last year my hives were healthy in summer but not strong enough to fend off the yellow jackets in the fall.   

Susanne says...
Date:   April 30, 2014, 1:52 am

Thank You for your post.  I am a returning beekeeper.  I had bees before in 1978-1985.  My only problem was bees hanging on my back as I mowed the vineyard nest to their hives.  No stings, just free loaders as I pushed the mower.   I would like to go without chemicals, but I also cannot afford to replace bees each year.  I will be starting with 2 nucs of Russian bees in a couple of weeks.  The cold winter has delayed their delivery.

Chris (Show Me The Honey) says...
Date:   April 30, 2014, 3:18 pm

My survival rate has been 50-60% loss, except last year it was closer to 80%.
I sprayed Honey-B-Healthy on the colony every inspection last year, only to realize that made their "gut" healthy, but didn't do anything for knocking down mite levels. :(

Welcome back to beekeeping! I'd be curious to know what your thoughts are after getting back into the hobby, specifically how it compared to the 70's and 80's, and if it is really "harder now than it used to be" as people tell me it is?

Jack Straw says...
Date:   June 4, 2014, 10:51 am

That's really interesting. Over here in UK the best advice coming out from the British BK Assoc is to have a multi-pronged attack on the mites. MAQS is reserved for significant outbreaks - most especially when a swarm has been collected or a cut out taken which has heavy infestation. Otherwise it is a variety of treatments including using a mesh floor and icing sugar (powdered sugar) applied each visit - the mites find it difficult to stay attached when the sugar gets under their suckers and once through the mesh floor cannot hitch a ride on the next passing bee, oxalic acid dribbled on the colony mid winter when there is no brood, and lost drone - encouraging drone cell production and then destroying it - varroa mites are particularly partial to drone brood and if the brood is destroyed the varroa population is significantly reduced.
In UK varroa is accepted as always present and if the natural daily drop - found out by counting mites which have fallen through the mesh floor is under 10 then only basic treatments are considered necessary, only when the drop is over 30 per day is MAQS applied

Wayne says...
Date:   January 4, 2016, 8:46 am

Now that you have treated varroa for nearly two years, what are your oppinions? Any decrease in hive losses?

I started monitoring mite levels and treating more often in 2015, so I will know in March if it helped. I have been averaging 36% over-winter losses. I use mainly OAV with some Apiguard and a little Apivar. 

Chris (Show Me The Honey) says...
Date:   January 5, 2016, 10:22 am

Before treating, my annual hive loss was around 50%. The final year before I started treating I lost 80%. In two years of treating, I have a 0% loss due to mites.

Your own results may vary, but I'm personally sold on using MAQs once a year in the early fall. Would be nice to find a more permanent solution to mites other than treatments someday though. :)

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