Why treatmentfree bees when you are not treatmentfree yourself?
Every stressfactor put burdon upon the bees and lower the immune system. You can’t hinder the farmer from using pesticides, but you can stop yourself. If you manage to do that, you give your bees a much better chance to deal with the remaining stressfactors, as neonicotinoids for example.
VSH – Varroa Sensitive Hygiene – is a very valuable trait and VSH-test is a very valuable way of finding out if a colony is an eventual breeder colony. You can read about that and my first VSH-test here: http://www.elgon.es/diary/?p=154
Of course I didn’t chose colonies to test randomly. For some reason I found them interesting to test. The first one behaved very well in different respects and seemed to be very little affected by mites. And its origin was a feral colony.
This second colony had never been treated against varroa and it never showed any signs of viruses. It was some years old now. But it was in no way perfect in traits that the beekeeper value highly. The temper wasn’t good. It didn’t give good crops. And this year it swarmed twice in July. Actually my only colony behaving like this. So many bad traits collected in one colony. But it seemed it was good against mites. And it drew 4.9 wax foundation very good. It was a third cross of Kefuss origin into my Elgon stock. Usually the most outstanding trait with such crosses were the big honey crops.
This colony turned out to have a VSH index of 40%, a little less than the first that had 50%. But still enough above the limit of 30% which was said to mark the limit for varroa resistance. After swarming the mother colony has a little better temper. But the two swarms, which I caught, are a little worse, or the same. None of them have shown any sign of virus influence. The colony was in no way empty of mites. As you can see on the photo there was VSH-trait showing on the comb tested. Quite some cells have uncapped pupae. Though the brood has not an especially marked shotgun pattern. A shotgun pattern may well indicate a high infestation with mites.
I’m not sure what to do with this colony and its daughter colonies next season. Use it for breeding or use other colonies that have nicer traits concerning temper, swarming and crop.
I love Inner Cover in Bee Culture. Almost like with poems Kim Flottum is firing up our minds with right on the spot insights and humor. Why is it so much money in funding for finding in detail why our bees are dying? We all know that what we need in first place to save the bees are resistant bees! Resistant against Varroa mites. That’s some of the things Kim is writing about in the September issue.
In the ‘same’ issue, but another journal, ABJ, Larry Connor is writing about resistant bees and efforts getting them. Larry is en extensive writer with a lot of instructive books an numerous articles in both Bee Culture and ABJ. Visit is website: www.wicwas.com
In Europe many scientists say it’s so difficult breeding resistant bees only institutions can do it. But where’s the efforts and the results. Very few. The funding doesn’t seem to go there in first place. But there are some efforts, like that of John Kefuss (without funding). But too few varroa fighting queens in too few countries are reaching the beekeepers.
In USA you have more initiatives both from scientists and beekeepers, which have resulted in good stock. Connor is mentioning the VSH-group on www.vshbreeders.org and the work with the Russian bees: www.russianbreeders.org At the end of his article Larry Connor write:
Many survivor programs are nothing more than the result of a careful beekeeper who has used no chemicals for varroa treatment and has only used locally adapted survivor stocks in new colonies and to replace queens.
Both Flottum and Connor points out that we beekeepers are also responsible for the situation. We have to be concerned in getting resistant bees and looking for queen suppliers producing such queens. Let’s fill the air with drones from resistant queens.
A lot of discussion is going on which role neonicotinoides and gmo play for die offs and ccd of bee colonies. A poison is never beneficial, neither for bees nor for man (well, many are used as plant protection). And residual substances are more difficult to discover and many times not much less dangerous.
To be able to find the true truth we want the whole picture. Sometimes new facts don’t seem to fit into the picture you have endorsed.
I got this mail from Larry Garret in Indiana in the Corn, Soybeans and Wheat belt, where neonicotinoids and gmo are used overflowing. There he took care of a feral colony that local people told him had been there in the abandoned house for 7-8 years. Now the farmer didn’t want to drive around the house with the tractor anymore, so he asked Larry to rescue the bees.
The wax filled 146 liter of the 255 liter big cavity in the wall. He harvested 20 kg of honey and many buckets of wax. The longest comb was 244 cm. Cell size was between smaller than 5.1 mm to 5.3 mm. Drone cell size was between 6.5 and 6.6 mm. The entrance was close to the bottom.
This colony was thriving in spite of a lot of plant protection poisons. Remember the conclusion that die offs are due to a complex of causes. Evidently when some are missing the bees can stand the others better.
These bees didn’t get a massive reinvasion of pests and parasites from neihgboring colonies. They didn’t have to stand miticides or an unnormal big cell size. They lived on their own food and weren’t fed HFCS.
Were they Varroa resistant? We don’t know. But we learn somewhat about favorable circumstances from which such bees can benefit.