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.