Dear Bee Informed Partnership.
While I applaud your efforts for ‘big data’ collection to help better understand and guide the resolutions of problems affecting the Honey Bee, I would suggest you’re asking the wrong question, and providing advice contrary to what is becoming the accepted practice–chemical free (not management free) bee keeping.
With every passing week a new peer-review, scientific article comes out in journals outlining just how complicated the problem of the introduced Varroa mite is, not to mention how we are compounding the problem by blindly using dangerous chemicals to attempt to put a band-aid on what is at its root, a genetic problem.
Instead, or perhaps in conjunction, you may very well be better served by making a call to track chemical free apiaries, the management techniques used, economic returns, and honey yields rather than following the mite. Hopefully your survey has a category for chemical treatment free apiaries.
But to my primary complaint, statements on your website regarding treatment presented as fact are unreferenced, and much of the current literature contradicts them.
Specifically from (https://www.beelab.umn.edu/sites/beelab.umn.edu/files/varroa_brochure_final_print_2.23.17.pdf):
“Treating your bees keeps them healthy and also decreases the likelihood that neighboring colonies will become infested. Make sure you test again after treatment to monitor results. *Make sure your tub is dry before performing your next mite test.”
Like it or not, varroa mites are part of the global landscape (save Australia for now) and their chemical control is making them stronger, as evidenced by their resistance to chemical treatments, without significantly impacting their population, as evidenced by their ubiquitous presence around the globe.
It is becoming more and more widely accepted that chemical treatments are exactly the wrong way to approach the varroa mite problem. I am yet to find a pro-treatment community willing to discuss what such treatments are doing to mites.
No treatment is 100% effective, and evolution works. By providing environmental factors that kill off the weakest mites, mites with a dramatically shorter time frame between reproductive events that allows for genetic recombination, those who treat their bees are doing exactly the wrong thing for bees, but a great service to the mites by rapidly pushing their evolution to a stronger state (again as clearly evidenced by the now many synthetic chemicals that mites are resistant to and their continued success in our apiaries).
There is increasing evidence also, that in-hive chemical treatments are detrimental to the honey bee. Once such article, referenced below with other articles showing the survival of feral colonies and their use as genetic sources in breeding programs.
This is a complex problem due to the introduced species, yet feral colonies exist with resistance to varroa, and many queen breeders across the globe in varied climates have demonstrated the ability to select for genetic traits that confers tolerance to mites.
It’s a reckless and disappointing approach to advocate for unproven, costly, dangerous, and failing mechanisms of mite control when so many other options exist.
Appropriate hive manipulations or queen exclusion to reduce mite loads until the colony can be re-queened with a mite tolerant queen are just a few examples.
I ask that you approach this topic with more care and recommend, rather than chemical treatments, you encourage appropriate management techniques which do not strengthen the genetics of mites and stagnate that of bees, but rather the opposite.
Treatment free apiaries are not a fring group ‘infecting’ the world with their mites. Rather, as Kefuss observes, when robbers or drones bring mites into his treatment free colonies, the mites don’t come back out. Varroa are a problem because of their introduced nature. Apis Melifera never had the chance to co-evolve with them like Apis Cerana.
This is a genetic problem, and chemical ‘life support’ systems for bees that will never be able to survive on their own with this parasite is eliminating opportunities for evolution which we can’t afford to squander.
Coombs, LeCont, Webster, Harrell, Kefus, Crowdeer, Brother Adam, and so many more scientists and backyard keepers alike are not wrong in this. We keep apiaries, without the hazardous (to ourselvs and the bees) chemicals you advocate. Please adjust your rhetoric to align more fully with what the science is clearly bearing out and what is obviously the optimal path for long term survival of the species.
Strong genetics are the solution to the Varroa mite problem.
Thank you for your time and consideration.