Re: Something needs to change - looking for suggestions
In the end, getting one or two mite tolerant colonies is not enough to tilt the balance. I used three strategies to go treatment free.
1. I found and re-queened with mite tolerant stock. This is the single most important step.
2. I converted to small cell. This has only a minor effect, but it works well with running 11 frames in a brood chamber.
3. I forced swarming from my colonies to saturate the area with mite tolerant ferals.
Several posts were made in a different thread that this can't be done in an area with large numbers of commercial treated migratory colonies. I can't directly argue to that except to say that there are 12 beekeepers within 5 miles of me. How do I know there are 12? A few years ago, Kelley shipped catalogs to all the beekeepers in this town in a tied bundle and mine happened to be on top. I got to see the names and addresses of the others. I know 5 or 6 of them to speak to. There is one beekeeper 5 miles north of me who has 4 colonies all from my mite tolerant stock. There is another beekeeper 35 miles east of me with 2 colonies from my mite tolerant bees. Both got started in the last 2 years.
I've been treatment free since 2005. I don't worry about mites at all... ever. I don't do mite counts. I don't use monitoring boards. I don't spend money and time on anything associated with mites. I leave my bees to handle them. So far, they have done so with ease. My winter losses are 10% or less. I am only running 10 colonies at present. The woods nearby are full of mite tolerant bees. I can tell because I catch a few swarms every year and I know for sure that they are not from my colonies. Next year, I plan to split my 10 colonies into at least 20 and spread a few more around. Two more people have requested colonies. I will find some more who are interested and I will make sure they get a start with mite tolerant bees.
Please don't think that everyone can do what I am doing. If you are getting saturated with commercial colonies every year, your bees will outcross and lose the tolerance within a couple of years. If you start with "local bees" or unselected bees, you may or may not be dealing with significant tolerance. Under those conditions, mite monitoring and selection would be required. I wish Dann Purvis were still producing queens. He had relatively good stock with very high levels of tolerance.
NW Alabama, 47 years, 22 colonies and growing, sideliner, treatment free since 2005, 14 frame square Dadant broodnest