I’ve been successfully keeping and breeding a population of honey bees without any Varroa Destructor controls for over 20 years. Our bees have several traits that help them suppress Varroa mites, and our colonies do not need treatment with chemicals to survive and thrive despite Varroa. I began selecting bees for Varroa tolerance and virus resistance in the early 90s, and most of our colonies were being managed without fluvalinate, coumaphos or amitraz applications before 1999. Since 2000 none of our colonies have had any chemical control measures for Varroa on any of our colonies.
Let me reiterate – for over 20 years we have kept our colonies alive and productive relying only on genetics. We have not used any chemical control measures, e.g., acaricide or insecticide applications , or any other management techniques to suppress Varroa, (like screened bottom boards, removing drone brood or providing supplements or other remedies, including ‘essential oils’ or sugar shakes). The only thing we do to keep colonies alive and thriving is to replace the queen if a colony shows signs of collapsing from Varroa. If, a hive exhibits a large Varroa infestation (many phoretic mites on adult bees), parasitic mite syndrome (dead and dying brood) or many bees in the hive have deformed wings (DWV), we requeen that colony.
BeeWeaver has proven over and over again that we can save colonies that appear about to succumb to Varroa or DWV, simply by giving colonies a BeeWeaver queen. We don’t monitor mite levels with ether or sugar rolls, and we don’t monitor mite drop with sticky boards. In fact, we do not systematically monitor the level of Varroa infestation at all, except to evaluate brood health and the number of emerging baby bees that have deformed wings.
If we spot a colony that has large numbers of emerging workers with deformed wings, or if we find a colony that has Varroa affected brood or observe mites on adult bees, then we replace the queen with a new one. Before long, the mite stress signs vanish.
We are proud of what we’ve accomplished, but we constantly evaluate how our bees perform to assure that we don’t lose the traits that keep our bees healthy in the face of Varroa infestation. We regularly buy nucs or colonies from other beekeepers with queens from other sources and monitor them for signs of imminent collapse from Varroa. When we see signs of collapse, we requeen with Bee Weaver queens and test our queens’ ability to transform those sick hives back into healthy productive colonies. These tests confirm that thus far we continue to maintain the Varroa tolerance and viral resistance traits that protect our bees and can protect yours too.