Yes, do struggle for resistant bees. Don’t just talk about it! Or say an easy no, it’s impossible, or an easy yes: ”Just do like I tell you.” Tell me your success story. I tell you mine, well a part of it here.
1989 I went to Kenya and got breeding material from Apis mellifera monticola, the mountain bee. Yes, that was a good longshot. I don’t regret it. In 2000 I visted Lusby’s in Arizona and got hooked on smaller more natural cellsize. I don’t regret that either, even if I’m not sure how much it helps against varroa mites. It’s more natural and bees don’t perform worse with it, in any way. Natural selection benefits survival and it has selected for small cell size in brood area at least. There are obvious benefits like rapid spring build up.
I thought I had regressed my bees down to 4.9 mm cell size when varroa hit hard in 2008. The mites arrived a couple of years before to my area. But it turned out when I analyzed the dead colonies following that many had too many badly drawn combs.
My plan A was that I wouldn’t need any treatment against the mite as I had African genetics in my bees and they were small cell. But a gut feeling told me to have a plan B if something should go terribly wrong. And it did
I didn’t want to use acids as my conclusion was, wrong or correct, that formic is to hard at the bees and dangerous for me. Oxalic put me also in danger as I can’t smell oxalic fumes, but formic it’s no problem smelling. Inner organs and skin you know. I want to keep them going. Nerve poisons like Fluvalinate and organic phosphates like Coumaphos, cancerogenic like Amitraz and it’s breakdowns. My gut said no. The only thing left was Thymol. Yes it kills a lot of microbes as well. But it’s a spice and you find somewhat in basswood honey.
My conclusion was that it’s better with some living colonies than all dead. You can select the best among the living. It’s no use among the dead. Was it possible to use less and less Thymol? The bees were so overhelmed with DWV (Deformed Wing Virus) and mites that no one would have been left of my 250 colonies in 2008. Well, maybe 10 % when autumn 2009 came,…. When spring came 2009 I had lost 50 %. I got a feeling the mites were filled with viruses when coming to the area. I lost several tens of thousands of dollars in left out income in struggle for more resistant bees. But I didn’t want to get caught in the chemical trap.
Thymol for susceptible bees you need minimum two trays with 25 g thymol each (50 g in total). 10-14 days apart. If only treatment normally too little in a year. For some years now 80 % of my bee colonies have been treated. I have used in average10-15 g of thymol a year on my colonies (all included then). A few needed 35-40 g. They have of coursed got new queens.
I now winter about 170 colonies. I have lost 15 % of the colonies the last winters. (But this winter seems to end much better.) 30 % of those that survive have been small, got treated and new queens and gave no honey. The average honeycrop, including the 15 and 30 % mentioned has been about 50 pounds (25 kg). The top colony almost every year reach 400 pounds. The apiaries differ a lot in yielding nectar.
I treat only (and I do it mostly right away regardless when it is in the season) when I see a couple of deformed winged bees outside or inside the hive. The hives are equipped with a board half a meter in square in front of the entrance for easier seeing what the bees are dragging out of the hive. Mostly the colonies are being treated in spring or in late summer. Those few treated with honey supers on get the honey ventilated in zig-zag stacks of supers in a warm room with a fan going for at least a week before extracting. To vent out thymol smell.
There’s only my stock of bees in quite a big central area where I have my bees. In the outer areas my bees dominate. I keep about 10 colonies in each apiary and they are as close as I can find places for them. 1 mile (1.5 km) between them would be ideal. The queens are mated in the apiaries.
Last year (2013) I used thymol on 50 % of my bees. In average I used 5 g thymol, all colonies included. For breeders I use colonies that havn’t been treated for at least the two previous years. The number of breeder candidates has increased for every year. Last year I started to check the VSH trait. I think this will make it possible to check eventual breeders a year earlier then before.
The VSH tests I did last year on my 5 breeders gave the following results: 1) 50 %, 2) 40 %, 3) not possible as I didn’t find one single mite in the brood, 4) not possible as the four year old queen died of age early (I just was able to make one graft), 5) not possible as the three year old queen produced more than 50 % drone brood.
A good apiary. Bee escapes on. Next visit the bee blower rids the boxes from the remaining bees. It will be when yo take 4 boxes like from the colony to the right. (That’s at least 150 pounds of honey).