Resistant bees in Wales

In north Wales, there is a group of beekeepers that do not treat honey bee colonies against the Varroa mite. They havn’t done it in years. Winter losses are lower among their bees than with those who treat. Here is a video made about them: https://vimeo.com/157019200

Dave was probably the one who was the first to stop treating. Then Pete stopped. He is a bee inspector. He had a lot of losses initially. He knew there were feral (wild) bee colonies. He observed that they stopped giving swarms when the Varroa came, but all feral colonies didn’t die. Some lived on, and after 3-4 years, they began to give swarms again.

Clive stopped to treat because Apistan stopped working in 2004.

Pete now focused on capturing swarms from feral bees. Then his bees survived better. Others split the colonies that survived Varroa best and had small Varroa populations. They provided new beekeepers with such new colonies. And the number of treatment free beekeepers grew.

Many of them don’t feed sugar but let them live entirely on honey. They keep the number of colonies in apiaries low. Pete has maximum 5 in each apiary. With his 60 colonies he harvests his 2 tons of honey to serve hos customers.

In 2010, they began to wonder how big the differences in losses were between those who treated and the treatment free beekeepers, so they asked around. The first line of numbers in the table is from the winter of 2010-2011. The last line is a summary of five winters.

Conclusions from the video:

  • The treatment free beekeepers group dominant their area with their bees
  • They cooperate with the feral bee population in the area
  • If you make splits, make it from the best colonies and let the bees make new queens.
  • Take swarms.
  • The colonies that are not fit enough die (or are requeened, if not by the beekeeper, by the colony itself).
  • No mating station with sister groups producing drones is used. All survivors are producing drones for mating with virgin queens.

7 thoughts on “Resistant bees in Wales

  1. Dear Erik,

    averaging percentages this way is mathematically incorrect.
    If done correctly, the outcome is quite different.

    If “Colonies” is annual total, then the average losses would be 15 % vs. 11 %.
    If “Colonies” is annual losses, then the average losses would be 10 % vs. 8 %.

    Either way – in my opinion the delta of only 4% or 2 % is statistically NOT relevant!

    André

    • Hi Andre,

      correct, the statement that losses of treated vs not treated colonies is different, can not be proven statistically.
      Anyway, in my eyes the main story is that, this is another example that bees can live without treatment. And the conclusions Erik made how they proceed to do so….
      Very nice! Again this underlines, that it is important to control drones, but allow for natural reproduction. In many areas this is hard to achieve, as most beekeepers unfortunately treat and made it worse, rather than better.
      All successful examples that I know, have an somehow isolated area, in which their drones dominate. Otherwise your selection rate or losses are too big or resistance is even not progressing…

  2. David Heaf, love him!
    I have to distribute my own swarms, having no ferals, but maybe I will spread some swarms with elgon genetics mixed with local stock? Create some ferals? Stop doing IPM? Very nice this would be. Who knows what will be. It already started.
    Wish I would have a bee inspector like that to work with. It would be so much easier.
    The comments to the video are very interesting, they speak of the uncertainty of how the laws are executed.
    Stand up to your rights! It´s not prophylactic treatments today! Know your thresholds! Only treat the susceptibles ( hopefully without chemicals) and propagate the mite fighters!
    Sibylle

  3. The main point is:

    Even Dee Lusby’s bee colonies are dying, if left to their own business without a beekeepers interference for about 3 years (due to age and healh problems of the lady-beekeeper). Not to speak of the bad temper (or other unwanted characteristics) of her or for instance Mr. Kefuss’ bees.

    The brood combs of the many (Pseudo-)VSH-Breeders I have seen so far look like those of colonies infected with European Foulbrood or other brood diseases. For instance it’s a well known fact, that queens of certain Luxembourg breeders are susceptible for chalkbrood. It’s very distressing that even Erik presented pictures of shot-gun-brood-frames in this blog.

    Varroa does not(!) invade cells in rows of 4 cells in a line!

    So one could say, the mites are cleared of the cells unintentionally – kind of a “collateral damage” to the Varroa-population – within (Pseudo-)VSH-hives!

    And last but not least: (Pseudo-)VSH-Hives aren’t the ones known for record results in terms of bee- or honey production. Which makes perfectly sense: a pupa ripped out of its cell will never become a flying bee.

    André

    • Dear Andre,
      without knowing you personally, you sound like a disgrantled scientist…
      However, it is good that you come along with some arguments, even if these are not discussed in very logic manner… more like a shot gun…:-). And unfortunately you haven’t discussed the arguments that are provided about science today…

      Anyway, lets condense the content what you wanted to say:

      1. The beekeepers managing treatment free beekeeping and are mentioned above are all swindlers, because there “treatment free” claim doesn’t hold true. This can be demonstrated by 1 fact: Bee colonies of Dee Lusby are dying after 3 years of not taking care… And moreover, the treatment free bees display unwanted characteristics…
      If you mean this seriously, I would say the argumentation is very lousy to prove that fact. Please provide more facts that support your hypothesis.

      2. As an example of unwanted characteristics you mentioned chalkbrood or European foulbrood, that you claim are more existing in resistant bees especially in Luxembourg (you name those “Pseudo VSH Breeders”). You even assume that those “Pseudo VSH breeders” are not able to differentiate between shot gun pattern caused by susceptible bees and chalkbrood pattern. Then you generalize “your observation” – which nobody can prove here – and argue that even Erik presenting “short gun pattern”. Implying that the short gun pattern Erik presented is chalkbrood or European fouldbrood.

      My goodness, sure beekeepers making mistakes as well, but I would rather not comment about your provided statements and generalized conclusions and cover this with the coat of charity…

      The other statements are too much taken out of context…Please be more precise and argue in whole train of thoughts… next time.

  4. Questions:

    In which county’s are the apiaries?
    South or North Wales?
    TX

    Markus

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