I would like some advice. I own twenty hives that I have begun to regress into natural cell, and my end goal is to become treatment free. I can see three distinct possibilities for attaining this goal:
1. The "cold-turkey" approach. No treatments from the start, intensive splitting to manage number losses, culling and breeding to encourage desired resistence.
2. Half-and-half. I stop treating half of my hives, and treat the other half as a failsafe, and to bulk up my producing colonies.
3. Treat and breed. I keep treating as necessary, and begin slowly selecting for the traits I am seeking.
I am in short trying to decide which of these paths to follow. I am tempted to go cold-turkey at once, as I am persuaded by Michael Bush's reasoning on this issue - that if one treats one's bees, it is much more difficult, if not impossible, to validly select for Varroa resistence. A single concrete question, then, and I'll leave the rest to the forum - if I stop treating now, would it be possible to grow my numbers in the coming year, or would I more likely be battling merely to keep stable at twenty hives?
I do not want this introduction to become any windier, but I think it pertinent to include some relevant information. My bees come from a commercial beekeeper in this area who purports to produce organic honey with a quantity of his bees; but he also recommended that I treat my bees before Christmas with Apistan and two bouts of oxalic acid, which inspires little confidence in the quality of his bees' Varroa resistence. I have been able to find no producer of treatment-free queens anywhere in Sardinia, so for the moment I am constrained to use the bees at my disposal - those that I have, and any swarms or cut outs I am able to gather the coming year (which I hope will be a goodly number). I have, however, great potential for queen rearing, as I have access to several remote properties in which to stage a breeding scheme.
Thank you for your patience with the unwieldy length of my introduction. I would very much appreciate any advice or guidance.