We recently heard Randy Oliver speak about honey bee health. He likened not monitoring and treating for varroa to “treatment free puppy keeping”, and he showed a very horrible picture of a puppy with no hair with a severe case of the mange. The puppy was very skinny and looked very sickly and sad. Can you picture this? Can you imagine what a miserable life and miserable slow death this puppy would have? Not monitoring and treating for varroa is the same thing. Why do you want to keep bees if you are not going to take care of their health? I applaud treatment free beekeepers who know they can be treatment free because they monitor the health of their hives.
If you aren’t monitoring the varroa mites in your hives you can plan on losing them. Very few beekeepers actually have bees with genetics to resist mites. That being said, I believe it is a direction we all need to move towards. I recently read that if a beek chooses not to treat hives, the over winter survival rate will be about 20% of hives. If you can afford to take those losses for a few years I say “go for it” because you will have a surviving genetic that may not need to be treated. Now if you live in an area with other bee colonies and THEY don’t treat, you will have what is being termed “mite bombs” and the pressure of mites and viral diseases coming into your hives may be such that your colonies don’t even make it to winter.
Honey Bee Health Coalition’s Tools For Varroa Management. That is a link to a printable booklet that gives some great information on how do check your mites and how to choose when to treat. Also, in the September 2016 American Bee Journal, Meghan Milbrath has a great article entitled “Keeping Honey Bee Colonies Safe From The Varroa Mite”. She talks about doing mite counts, the pros and cons of different mite treatments, and when and how to treat. She states “As of 2016, the general consensus is that less that 3% infestation is safe. This means that in a standard sugar roll test where you count 300 bees (100ml or just under 1/2 cup), you should see less than 9 mites.” The same numbers apply to alcohol washes.
NY Bee Wellness is another great site for information about varroa and bee health. Get on their mailing list as they put on lots of great educational programs regarding bee health, and they are a lot of fun too.
Please, be kind to your bees and to other beekeepers (especially if you live in the area of our bees!), MONITOR YOUR MITES AND TREAT IF YOU NEED TO!
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