A locally adapted Varroa resistant bee stock

Reid Hives


Richard Reid in a Virgina rural area in the US began with bees 1973. Beekeeping was simple, almost only it consisted of putting on and removing supers.

By 1995 all of his bees died due to the Varroa mite. He didn’t like drugs and didn’t use any in his colonies. A package bee colony he bought also died, after only two months. He couldn’t take more, dropped the bees, and devoted himself entirely to his construction business.



After a number of years, he discovered that a few swarms had settled in a few stacks of supers. He went and looked at these wild bees sometimes and saw that they lived on. They lived and swarmed for 12 years unattended. After a few years he was encouraged and decided in 2008 to give beekeeping a chance again.

Reid feral12 One of the feral swarms settled in his stacks of supers.

There are no big farms nearby (thus not so much of agriculture chemicals) and some smaller beekeepers were at least 3 km (2 miles) away from his bees. So the conditions for healthy beekeeping was good.


Come back

He took care of the two feral swarms and began to expand the number of colonies using these, VSH, and Russian lines. He decided again not to use any kind of chemicals against Varroa. He didn’t buy any package bees or colonies from other areas (well, none at all). He multiplied his own colonies.

Reid SwarmtrapBox He also catches some swarms.
He bought however queens from different places which he believed to have resistance characteristics, VSH Carnica, Russian bees, and survivor bees from different places. He never monitored mite levels in his colonies.
Annual losses since 2008 have been between 10-15%, except after the winter of 2012-13 when 40% died. Each year, he had seen some wingless bees in some colonies. After the winter with the big losses he hasn’t seen any wingless bees. He has since bought fewer queens from outside and bred most from his own.
Every year he breeds from several “lines”, now about 18 of them. Queens are mated in his home yard. He makes many splits every year. Some of these get pupae of those he breeds. Some splits rear queens themselves.

Reid queen One of his queens.



2015 he wintered 75 production colonies and 105 nucs. 30 of the colonies are kept in the vicinity of his home yard. There he keeps 17 of them. The nucs are also kept close in the home yard.

Reid Hives&Nucs Some of his nucs and production colonies in his home yard.

He has altogether nine apiaries. He wants to have at least 10 colonies in each apiary, but he hasn’t reached that goal yet for most of them. He is now aiming to increase his number of production colonies to 100 and the nucs to 150, as well as an additional 2 apiaries.
Regarding cell size, the great majority of brood frames in his colonies are Mann Lakes standard plastic frame with plastic foundation. (http://www.mannlakeltd.com/beekeeping-supplies/category/page19.html) The cell size on those are 4.95 mm. The rest of the frames in the honey boxes have a larger cell size. Some frames are started without a foundation. The intention is that the bees will build some drone comb there. He wants to flood the area with desired drones. But bees are also building fine worker brood in some of these frames, especially in the nucs.


Selling nucs, queens and honey

He split the nucs in the spring and sells one part with the queen, saves the rest to build up a new nuc. It’s usually used for a mating nuc or nuc production depending on the season.

Reid Brood One of the worker brood frames built by the bees without the help of a foundation.

He usually has a very good spring flow that will carry the colonies through the rest of the year, but there’s usually a dearth in the summer, which means the nucs may need to be fed sugar syrup to prepare for winter. 2015 he had so much spring honey production, he only had to feed about 20% of the nucs for winter.

He says that now he has enough resources so he can share honey between production hives and nucs. Thus he feeds less. He usually only feeds a handful of production hives (mostly new ones) to prepare for winter. The production colonies go through winter on large supplies of honey. Quite often he has extracted honey in April. You can say he uses his colonies as a honey storage.


Richard Reid’s locally adapted Varroa-resistant bee stock

• There are at least 3 km to apiaries with other bee colonies than of his stock.
• The area where he lives is not a highly developed agricultural area, so there is not so much agricultural chemicals there as can be the case in many other areas.
• He started with bees which had a degree of varroa resistance.
• In most brood combs, he uses small cell size.
• He doesn’t bring in colonies (such as packages) from outside the area with his bees.
• He splits nucs (with new queens from his breeder queens) to make more nucs, which later become production colonies or bees for sale. He also splits a few of the smaller, less productive, production colonies to create new nucs.

• He doesn’t requeen on a regular schedule. He has some colonies with queens finishing their 3rd and 4th season.
• The bad colonies die or have their queens replaced.
• He breeds after queens from many different lines each year.
• He tries each year just a few queens from other breeders.


Encouragement to all beekeepers

Richard Reid is one of several beekeepers who has managed to breed a varroa resistant locally adapted bee stock. Let us be encouraged by that and despite what some other beekeepers of all kinds say, that this is not possible. How can one be so ignorant to what others achieve? Make use of what you can of the experiences of Richard Reid.
When he started, he hadn’t many bee colonies, so even if you have few colonies you can do something.

Perhaps your circumstances are such that it is good to monitor mite levels in your colonies. There are various methods, for example the Bee Shaker (http://www.elgon.es/diary/?cat=85).

Don’t take it as a failure if you choose to use pesticides at times. Each of us decides what is appropriate for ourselves and our bees, in consultation with the laws of your country. A treatment that doesn’t involve any chemicals at all is to remove all capped brood (worker and drone brood) twice, a week apart. It is effective, weakens the bee population as well though, but not the health of the bees. The bad colonies get new queens as soon as possible.

Next season will always be better!

Let us in – we will clean your combs

Today I got a telephone call from my neighbor when I was out in the car. He told me a swarm was swirling in the air in his garden, then moving over my container for storing bee equipment.

When I got home I went to the container. The door is almost always open to avoid overheating and too much moisture in it. Close to the opening I hade piled up some boxes with combs to be sorted out. Most of them would go to the solar wax melter, moldy pollen, bee feces, badly drawn, etc.

The swarm had smelled the nice odor from the pile and sat on the outside trying to get it, without success. I stood looking at them shaking my head and told them in the world they had went to a closed pile of garbage combs and not to the nice swarm trap hive on the top of the container. I hadn’t gone looking at the swarm trap yet.

As I stood talking to them about their bad choice, I got a feeling they asked me to open up the pile so they could walk in and they would clean my garbage combs for me. Well, I thought and remembered my friend who told me about the swarm that entered a failing colony hive in which the forest ants were building an anthill in one corner. The swarm just threw out everything in that hive and cleaned and secured it from the enemies.

Svärmsstapeln Inside the container looking out. The swarm have went in through the top entrance I gave them. A couple of weeks I will talk to them every time pass them. At that time I will open it to see if they have laying queen and decide how many boxes I will move to another yard to set up the new colony with old crap combs. Poor bees, but they choose them themselves.

So I opened the top lid of the pile just enough for the bees to enter. And they all went in happily. They thus got a top entrance. It will be interesting to see if they will keep what they promised.

Svärmfluster The top entrance of the pile of crap combs.

Then I went to the swarm trap. Well, well, well. Bees were going in and out there. I thought it was bees from the swarm that were looking for a new home when they couldn’t get in the pile. I almost thought it was a mistake now opening up for the pile bees. Maybe they had went to the swarm trap if I hadn’t. But how should I have known?

Svärmkupa Scout bees looking at a house top flat. evidently I stopped them from moving in.

I went to the solar melter to change combs. I had another pile with already sorted combs to melt. Then I saw A second swarm coming out of a hive. Maybe a second swarm from the same hive. No other though in my yard had swarmed. Many times swarms from other yards seek their new home close to a foreign yard. Good for the mixture of genes maybe.

I had the garden hose handy close by and watered the swarming hive. The swarm went back. And the bees from the swarm trap disappeared. They were evidently scout bees from this swarming hive. Well, well, well. Did I do wrong again, or did I do right again. We’ll see tomorrow if this hive will swarm tomorrow again.

Swarm trap in April of May

Weather has turned to April when May arrived. Freezing nights and barely flying weather in days. But solar wax melter works, in the middle of the day. Though development of the bees have begun strong this spring. They have grown in size and they have a lot of capped brood and they are heavy of food. With me, the bees have developed their resistance to the varroa mite and thus the impact of viruses have decreased, of course with the help of the mild winter.

If the weather turn a little better, queen breeding will start in 2-3 weeks, and splitting of hives making new, for increase and selling bees. Up till now 3-4% of the bees were lost during winter-spring, most of them to varroa and virus. 7-8% of the rest are struggling and given some thymol. A few of those will die, or the same as. Some of them will give a crop. Most of them will get a new queen.

I have put up a swarm trap, after learning how to from Tom Seeley.