Thoughts ahead of next year
I'm trying to wrap my head around trends in my own beekeeping and beekeeping nationally as I make plans for next season.
This was a disappointing honey production year, with my only surplus honey coming during the summer from Russian hives. I've never gotten surplus from the Russians before, so that was good. However – getting no surplus from the fall goldenrod/aster flow was definitely not good!
So here are some things I am pondering – please chime away with thoughts and critiques.
Several years ago the Russians were touted as the answer to Varroa. That has not been my experience with them, and following a recent inspection by the State of Maine I was told that 5 of 6 colonies of Russians that I have at one location are showing signs of lots of virus issues and will in all probability not make it to spring. Not what I wanted to hear! The one that is projected to survive is a split made up this year with a new queen (and is the hive that made surplus too)
In the November ABJ I read about a migratory keeper of Russian bees who is treating his bees once a year, ostensibly because in their migration they meet up with all sorts of nasty pathogens. The Russians were made out to be the salvation of modern beekeeping; should a non Migratory yard require assistance in dealing with mites? Is it better to have a bee that needs a little bit of man help to survive rather than the common commercial strains that require frequent treatments?
My heart would truly enjoy a bee that required no treatments, and I am experimenting with some other stock to see how it copes with the mite. I'm also convinced that treatment free beekeeping is something that works well in some areas, but not in others. Unfortunately I live in one of those “other” areas.
This leads to my 2nd Query, which might best be summed up “All mite treatments are not equally effective and so what is a smart and responsible beekeeper supposed to do?” Our state people tell us that the mites in my area are resistant to Apistan and Checkmite, which I suppose is good because it removes a reason to use those products. I have had fairly decent luck over the years with the Thymol products – I like Apiguard as much as one can like using a product in a bee hive to kill pests, and also the Formic Acid products – Mite Away 2 and now MAQS.
And now we've got Hopguard and it looks like some version of Amitraz may soon be legally available. I don't enjoy spending money on medications, but I really don't like dead bees. I have close to 40 colonies so whatever I use needs to not be too time consuming. What is a person supposed to do?
Before this gets too long I'll just mention that I am concerned about the native pollinators on my land and the proper use of agricultural chemicals. I have wild blueberries on my property and don't use any herbicides, fungicides or pesticides. I worry that most of the problems with the neonics come from their improper use and/or application.
Re: Thoughts ahead of next year
There isn't a varroa proof bee yet as far as I know, so in the mean time varroa resistant or tolerant will have to do.
I have been raising my own queens for a few years now and am thinking that the next step is an isolated treatment free yard to really push for vsh genetics. So far I've been grafting from treated hives that have survived two winters. It would be nice to not need treatments but for now I would be happy with a bee that only needed one "soft" treatment a year.
Re: Thoughts ahead of next year