With my single hive having died last year due to Varroa, I'm curious about non-chemical means by which I can avoid that same fate for my four hives this year (two large & two splits). I wonder if a kind soul might point me to a thorough discussion (informational / how-to / pros & cons) of the approaches presented below, and/or answer a few q’s.
For now, I’m cautiously considering three approaches, and would like to know about:
1 Removing the colony’s queen, and thwarting the ability to create new queens for a time, as a result interrupting brood cycle to interrupt, too, the varroa reproduction cycle.
• If removing a queen, for how long must the hive go queenless?
• When I reintroduce a queen, do I need to present her in a cage with a plug, or will they accept her when she saunters back in?
• For people who’ve taken this approach, isn’t there a risk to the overall hive population dropping dangerously low?
• My idea is to move the queen out for a time, to a nuc, probably, and to do a combination of the nuc population with the original colony when I reintroduce the queen. Does this make sense?
2 Insertion and removal of (tennis ball green!) drone comb, and a result reducing varroa population by eliminating their reproducing in their preferred comb.
• While I understand that the workers will desire to maintain a 10-15% population of drones, and will dedicate effort towards those goals, my thinking is that if such a strategy helps the colony survive overall, it’s a win – despite the lost effort. Is there some flawed logic to this thinking?
• Is there a preferred window of time to initial insertion of the drone comb? That is, is there a benefit to inserting in (say …) mid-July vs. mid-August … or mid-April, for that matter?
• Would such an approach later in the season (such as starting in mid-August) result in the workers not dedication such effort reestablishing the drone population due to the coming cool weather? Or might they mistakenly carry that effort beyond the time when they might ordinarily expel the drones?
3 Combining colonies down from four hives to two near the end of the season, thereby boosting the cumulative populations and reducing the chance of a late-winter die-off.
• I expect to leave significant stores to support this approach: any other steps or concerns recommended to consider?
Many thanks for your kind replies.