While I appreciate his work and concerns, the establishment, perhaps as a result of corporate pesticide funding (see my previous post: http://www.psychochickenecofarm.com/2020/03/04/pollinators-and-politics/) has missed a great opportunity to promote a directed evolution approach to varroa control through queen breeding which is safer, more effective in the long run, and the right thing to do from a natural standpoint.
Here’s my response to his article:
I'm glad you mentioned seeking hygenic bees, but the treatment-first approach to varroa control with the fear mongering 'don't spread to your neighbors' and anthropomorphized comparison of human disease to the honey bee is troubling. Treating for varroa without immediate queen replacement of better genetic stock is a dangerous chemical treadmill that favors only the makers of toxic pesticides. You also didn't happen to mention that keeping genetically weak bees alive with treatments will invariably lead to the spread of weak genetics, resulting in increased varroa spread. These weak genes will not only spread to your neighbors hives, but to the feral bee population which is thriving without treatments on its own. This is a wrong headed, short term, chemical approach to an evolutionary problem--and one that will likely only be solved when everyone stops treating their bees and increases their apiary from the 30% or so hives that have genetic traits which mitigate disease and parasite resistance/tolerance naturally. If we don't allow weak colonies to die, we're exacerbating the problem we created by spreading mites and disease around the globe in the first place. Breeding and/or simply making increase from the strongest most disease free hives in your apiary is a globally proven approach to eliminating varroa management from your workload, and it's well past time we started promoting this directed evolution approach over treatments.
It’s easy to get frustrated with our seeming inability to make positive change for the good of the environment (and thus ourselves) when powerful corporate lobbyists seem to have unlimited funds to buy politicians. But as consumers, we actually have a lot of power collectively.
This little guy, identified by the NCSU Extension agents as a crane fly, has a lot of friends living in our hoop house right now. Frequently, when a farmer talks about insects, we expect them to be referring to a pest or problem. A fun fact I learned at a Xerces society beneficial insect class last year is that only 2% of insects are considered agricultural pests… That’s right, when broad spectrum insecticides are applied to the land, 98% of the insects destroyed were not pests, but potential beneficial insects. That level of ‘collateral damage’ is unacceptable.
Our little friend above, the Crane fly, is one of those not considered to be a pest, though its larvae may chew on your production plant’s roots a little here and there, mostly they just consume decaying organic matter in overly wet conditions, so this little fly actually can act as an indicator for me, letting me know when I’ve been watering my hoop house too much!
Chief Seattle said that we are part of the web of life, and what we do to the web, we do to ourselves. Our over use of pesticides is coming back to haunt us, not only through the toxic effects on our bodies, but through the destruction of insects which are at the base of a complex ecological dependence–of which we are a part. Here are two recent articles worth taking the time to read more about the urgent need to remove toxins from agricultural practices:
The Holocene is coming to an end. In general, we as a species have not been good stewards of the land. It’s so powerful and moving to see so many passionate people acknowledging the reality of climate change, and finding ways to combat it on a personal level since many of the governments around the globe are not acting fast enough, if at all.
The consequences of the convenience oriented, disposable mindset I grew up in are a large part of why we chose to start a farm with a sustainability focus, and why we work so hard to sequester as much carbon as we can through our farming practices, while producing clean electricity at the farm via photovoltaics, and using locally made biodiesel in our truck. It’s easy to get depressed by current administration of the USA and it’s rejection of scientific fact/lack of action, so I wanted to put together some links of active heroes and champions of ecological preservation and climate change activism just in case you weren’t aware of them.
We all have a part to play in reducing our ecological foot prints, from the now amazingly easy step of buying 100% renewable electricity thanks to the likes of https://www.arcadiapower.com/ to using locally made biofuel in your car, walking or biking when you can, eating organic, and avoiding the purchase of anything ANYTHING made of plastic! These may seem like little things on an individual level, but collectively, they make a big impact.
Below are links to some of my personal heroes speaking out in support of ecological sustainability and in some cases, encouraging the radical change we so desperately need. I hope these videos inspire you to action and renew your commitment to doing all you can for the future of life on this planet.