Re: randy oliver article in january '17 abj
Wow, the diversity of thoughts in this thread! I barely know where to start.
I agree with Randy Oliver. We can breed varroa resistant bees and we can do it today. We don't have to wait for Harry V's pie in the sky it hasn't been invented yet solution. BWeaver did it. Any queen breeder dedicated enough can do it. Any beekeeper dedicated enough can do it.
Beemandan, Harry is correct. Knowing the percentage of phoretic mites is not the same thing as knowing the colony mite load. When you measure the phoretic mite load, you only measured one bucket. The other bucket is the sealed brood in the hive.
What about the pie in the sky solution? What if we could use genetic engineering to program varroa mites into extinction? There is a very good chance this could be done and high potential it will be feasible within the next 10 years. We very much should be investigating this possibility and others that are similar.
Does it make sense to throw away all the breeding progress that has been made over the last 100 or more years? Absolutely NOT! We need the genetics to produce bees for pollination in February, bees to make honey after 9 weeks of spring buildup, and bees that don't make a honey crop until fall. All have a place in the genetics we need. There is no perfect bee, just a bee better adapted to local conditions.
What can we as beekeepers do? Start by measuring the varroa load in your colonies prior to any treatment and flag any low count colonies for separation and evaluation. In just 3 generations we can start to see bees that need less treatment because they do a better job controlling varroa.
What about those of us who already have highly resistant colonies? We need the opposite! Bring in production genetics and start breeding a more productive bee that incorporates varroa resistance. This is what I am doing by bringing in Buckfast queens from Ferguson.
Can we get entire areas onto treatment free beekeeping as mentioned by SquarePeg? We certainly can do that, but only if the beekeepers involved have the commitment and are willing to make the changes required in their operations. North Alabama is an excellent candidate to do so given that we have a relatively large population of redneck hick stubborn beekeepers (good folks who don't listen to Harry) who are already treatment free. What we need most is more breeders producing queens that have proven mite resistance. We have a huge gap because there are maybe a dozen treatment free queen suppliers in the country. Yes, I know we can argue over the number, but, Bweaver, Carpenter, Comfort, VP, BrokeT and a few others are totally overwhelmed by the several hundred queen breeders still producing susceptible queens.
Here are some steps I see to get from where we are to where we want to be:
1. Devise reliable methods to determine mite load per colony.
2. Set up specialized queen breeders whose sole purpose is to collect colonies with low loads and do further evaluation to prove if the resistance is genetic and repeatable.
3. Establish queen mating locations where susceptible stock can be reliably mated to drones carrying resistance traits.
4. Get more queen producers on the wagon to produce resistant stock and by that I mean ONLY resistant stock.
5. Motivate beekeepers, it is time to stop talking and do something about the problem.... otherwise, we ARE the problem.
6. Recognize that livelihoods are at stake. We need enough commercial beekeepers to make the transition to prove that varroa can be brought to bay without losing your house along with your pet donkey.
7. Get "puppy mill" queen breeders to start breeding wolf puppies that chew mites.
8. Recognize just how serious a problem horizontal transfer of mites is in the beekeeping world. The best mite resistance I have can still be overwhelmed if there is enough horizontal transfer. We have to get entire operations and entire regions to resistant genetics for this to work for all of us.
9. Work with the Harry Vanderpool and Beemandan beekeepers and others who are convinced it can't be done. We have to be able to prove that resistance is not a pie in the sky. It is real and it works.
Read my tagline.
NW Alabama, 50 years, 20 colonies and growing, sideliner, treatment free since 2005, 14 frame square Dadant broodnest