This is one of those areas that every beekeeper should be interested in, and working toward making better.
I have heard it asked, WHY hasn't someone developed a way to fix this problem?
As the old saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink!
MN Hygienic, and Varroa Sensative Hygienic were developed to combat the problem.
IF... every breeder worked, either toward developing similar genetics, or incorporated these genetics into their bees, a little each year, the problem would SLOWLY begin to go away.
Too many breeders ignore the possibilities. Too many beekeepers argue against what would only make their lives easier, because they don't like CHANGE...
What happened when the tracheal mite arrived? What happened when the Varroa mite arrived? Wasn't that change? Yes it was, and a lot of bees died. Bees are still dying.
The immediate action was to begin dumping whatever worked to kill the varroa into the hives, and THAT, is what is still happening.
I am guilty to a certain extent. I want to keep my bees alive, so I treat. BUT, at the same time, I order resistant queens every year. If the queens I get one year work WELL, then I may get more the next year from the same breeder. If they do not show much resistance, I order from a different breeder. Changing the genetic diversity with every purchase of five or ten resistant queens I buy.
What is the point? Any new queens will breed with local drones, and you have wasted your money!
I disagree. The queens I purchase are putting out drones. Those drones are mating with my new queens, and with the neighbors queens, and with the feral queens. With each year that passes, "I" am adding those genetics to the gene pool in my area. Those drones,a nd even the drones from the next generation of daughter queens are PURE.. They have nothing to do with the drones their mother mated with. So it is NOT difficult to increase the resistance in your apiary, if YOU SO CHOOSE TO DO SO.
I make queens from the best of MY queens, the queens I ordered, for more of my hives. They will overwinter, I will pay attention to how they do, how gentle they are, how productive they are, and how resistant they are. The best of those produce more queens. I will order VSH one year. MN Hygienic the next year. Maybe I will only order five because I like the ones I got the year before, but I am STILL adding to the diversity, AND the resistances.
Our feral bees are coming back. Nine or ten years ago, I knew of three feral hives. I did NO cut outs. This year I know of several feral hives, and I am getting called to do cut outs again.
Why is that?
Is it because of the resistances I added? Maybe, in a very small way. I think it is more appropriate to think that it is because the feral bees that DID survive, are adapting, and learning how to live with the mites.
That in itself is a good thing. My virgin queens mate with those drones, and the feral virgin queens mate with MY drones. As time passes, these things WILL begin to add up.
The problem comes in with beekeepers. They order bees to replace their losses, and they do NOT opt for resistant stock. This turns the entire process on its head, and reverses the good that is being done.
From Randy Oliver's site;
WARNING: it is unlikely that simply requeening with mite-resistant stock will end your mite problems at first! There are other factors involved. Keep in mind that your resistant bees will still have to deal with the onslaught of mites from collapsing colonies in your vicinity until other local beekeeping operations and the feral population shift toward mite resistant genetics. At some point we will reach a “tip point” where the majority of all colonies are mite resistant, and we won’t be picking up the fallout from the chemical-coddled collapsing colonies of our neighbors.
I have thought for quite some time that adding this stock might begin to make a difference, but I have also read too many arguments from other "professionals" that such a method is pointless.
In considering this, I have to agree with them. It is pointless, so long as so many beekeepers continue to ignore the development of mite resistance.
An added bonus, is that most of the strains of resistant bees are also resistant to Chalkbrood, AFB, and EFB..
So why wouldn't you consider adding these genetics to your apiary?
People struggle, all of their lives to see the results of their struggles IN their lifetime. For the older generation of beekeepers, this may not be possible, but for those fifty and younger, I believe that if every beekeeper WORKED toward resistant bees, that they WOULD see this come to fruition.
If the DEMAND from beekeepers, was resistant stock, the breeders would have to respond, or go out of business!
To me, it is a little like going to Wal-Mart. They have about every basic thing there, but most of it is crap quality. But they HAVE it! And it is CHEAP compared to other places! So rather than demand quality, we buy crap, use it till it breaks, throw it away, and go back to Wal-Mart to buy another one. You don't think they PLAN on this do you? Surely they wouldn't DESIGN something to fail after a certain amount of time so you had to buy another one?
In the town I live in, there used to be a theater, a lumber yard, grocery stores, hardware stores, car dealerships, tractor dealerships, several gas stations, grain and feed stores. I could go on and one for a while with the things I remember. ALL of those things are gone now. Why? Because they could not compete against the big chain store prices. Everyone started going to the big chain stores to save a dollar, and the mom and pop stores slowly died. Beekeeping is MUCH the same. WHY do I want to order a 30 dollar queen, when I can get one for 20 dollars?
How much do you spend on treatments every year? It is OK to save ten dollars on your queen, and then spend a hundred dollars on treatments?
We are in the middle of the NOW generation. I want it, and I want it NOW, and I want it CHEAP! So there are still a HUGE amount of breeders producing bees and queens that have no resistance at all. I have seen it stated that the big package producers select their queens and bees for the singular trait of MAKING more bees! In some cases I am sure this is not true, but I also would not be surprised to find out in other cases it is completely true!
Sometimes, it is a matter of availability.
I wanted to get resistant queens, but every breeder I contacted was booked up. So I settled for what I could find.
Fine! I understand that, so get your cheap queen/package, but BOOK resistant queens, and re queen your hives later in the summer when you CAN get them.
Perhaps those queens will not completely eliminate your treatments, but in adding them to my apiary, I have noticed a reduction in emergencies and crashing colonies. I don't have to treat as often, and THAT is worth the extra expense of the queens right there. Less expense for the treatment, and less LABOR to apply them.
Don't settle for less! If we all work toward the same goal, the impossible becomes possible!
I am all about lazy beekeeping, and I have hope, that when I am 70, I will no longer have to worry about treating, so my beekeeping will be more enjoyable. My bees will be easier to keep alive, and I can relax among the bees more often!
Every year, I will review the queens I purchased the year before, as well as the apiary I purchased them from.
If you HAVE queens you really like, please feel free to recommend them!
If you HAVE queens you really like, please feel free to recommend them!