This post is triggered by a highly respected TF advocate recently posting advice to a new BYBK (backyard Beekeeper) Planing on getting 2 hives and had a question of what to do if his hive started having mite problems “ let them fail and start over the next year” this is compounding on all the post I have seen telling new BYBK (backyard Beekeepers) “let them die and try again next year with better bees” bees that are nearly impossible to buy, and even good TF stock can be mite bombed by a failing hive.
This is a dangerous message and I feel we should be speaking out against it. Mite bombing is poor beekeeping, and can kill your good TF hives, your neighbor’s hives, and ferals. It serves no purpose in developing or selecting stock, especially as a BYBK isn’t going to develop any sort of stock with a few hives surrounded by other BYBK.
People are being taught the worst thing they can do is treat, they should be taught the worst thing you can do is mite bomb your neighborhood and you need to do everything in you power to stop it.
There seems to be an attitude that somehow treating a hive to save is going to set back the development of TF bees as if they are some sort of addict in treatment trying to get clean. Seems kind of simple, don’t breed from a queen that went over threshold, the biggest setback to becoming TF isn’t treating to save a hive, It’s not having bees come spring
As usually Randy Oliver puts it well
The University of California’s definition is -“The only bees that need to die are the queen and drones; both are easy to intentionally kill at the appropriate time (during swarming season). Requeen with resistant stock, best obtained locally. The ultimate evolutionary result is exactly the same as if you had allowed mite-infested colonies to die, but you get honey in return rather than a bunch of deadouts
beyondpesticides.org saysIntegrated pest management (IPM) is an ecosystem-based strategy that focuses on long-term prevention of pests or their damage through a combination of techniques such as biological control, habitat manipulation, modification of cultural practices, and use of resistant varieties. Pesticides are used only after monitoring indicates they are needed “
As I read it the whole point behind IPM is(or can be) to be TF when you can, and only use pesticides when pest monitoring hits a threshold that indicates it is needed to head off loss.A well-defined Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a program that should be based on prevention, monitoring, and control which offers the opportunity to eliminate or drastically reduce the use of pesticides.
I feel there needs to be a shift in tone to BYBK…… from "let them die and you have to pay all that $$ again" to "Monitor your mite counts, if you hit threshold they are going to die anyway, treat to protect your investment and re queen, or at very least euthanize the sick hive to protect the area and your other hives"
Tom Seeley, Mike Palmer and Randy Oliver agree
If you pursue treatment-free beekeeping without close attention to your colonies, then you will create a situation in your apiary in which natural selection is favoring virulent Varroa mites, not Varroa-resistant bees. To help natural selection favor Varroa-resistant bees, you will need to monitor closely the mite levels in all your colonies and kill those whose mite populations are skyrocketing long before these colonies can collapse. By preemptively killing your Varroa-susceptible colonies, you will accomplish two important things: 1) you will eliminate your colonies that lack Varroa resistance and 2) you will prevent the "mite bomb" phenomenon of mites spreading en masse to your other colonies. If you don't perform these preemptive killings, then even your most resistant colonies could become overrun with mites and die, which means that there will be no natural selection for mite resistance in your apiary. Failure to perform preemptive killings can also spread virulent mites to your neighbors' colonies and even to the wild colonies in your area that are slowly evolving resistance on their own. If you are not willing to kill your mite-susceptible colonies, then you will need to treat them and requeen them with a queen of mite-resistant stock-Tom SeeleyThere is a vast difference between breeding for survivor stock and simply allowing commercial bees to die from neglect! By introducing commercial bees year after year into an area, and then allowing those package colonies to first produce drones and then to later die from varroa, these well-meaning but misguided beekeepers screw up any evolutionary progress that the local feral populations might be making towards developing natural resistance to varroa. Not only that, but those collapsing “mite bombs” create problems for your neighbors. Referring to yourself as a bee-keeper confers upon you a responsibility to the local beekeeping community. Allowing hives to collapse from AFB or varroa makes you a disease-spreading nuisanceMike Palmer (20min 18s) https://youtu.be/6GF3TOKf97U?t=20m18sSome may make the argument that by treating your bees that you are working against nature by propping up weak stock that should be allowed to die. The reality is that it serves no purpose whatsoever to allow colonies to unnecessarily die from varroa, and if you do so, you actually do a disservice to surrounding beekeepers, as their colonies will quickly pick up the mites from your collapsing hives. The ensuing domino effect can wipe out all the hives in a neighborhood!–Randy Oliver
Coming from different angles to the same issue, all agree that mite levels need to be monitored and action must be taken to prevent mite bombs THIS is the message we should be sending to new BYBK’s… Keep track of your mite and take action when needed to protect your stock and the stock of others
Lastly there is the impact on the new beekeeper , quoting Square Peg, as he said it better than I could
In light of the above information, taken as a whole, I cannot see one good reason for the TF group to promote or suggest that a new (or for that matter any) BYBK go bond.The beginner is often left disheartened and has lost return on investment. many are left with a negative view of treatment free and such examples provide ammunition to those who vigorously oppose the tf approach.
in my opinion, and until the time comes when treatment free bees become more readily available, the recommendation for folks to continue accepting the losses until at some point they end up with bees that can survive off treatments is neither palatable nor sustainable..
It has no advantage, and is dangerous to other beekeepers stock, as such it’s a blackeye on the TF cause, and one of the positions anti-TFs attack with vigor…and RIGHTLY so. A few years back I took 100% losses, 10 TF hives based on feral stock I had grown from 3 swarms, to a package bee Mite Bomber who set 6 package bee hives 300m from me and went 007 cause the internet said that’s what you do to be TF.
Now someone running a true breeding program is a different story, Bond can and does work to a degree, but its not suitable for someone new, with a low hive count, or in an area with other keepers.
Here’s the take home
Monitor your mites, Mite Bombing is bad beekeeping, and can have a large negative impact on the development of TF bees in you apiary and in the wild. If Seeley, Palmer, and Oliver agree on a subject we should take notice.
Letting hives die are a poor return on investment, both to the pocket book of the BYBK and to the Street Credit of the TF movement. When Mike Palmer refers to some of the TF Gurus as BS on BS in a lecture posted on YT and Randy Oliver calls others the Beekeeping Taliban… well you know there is an image issue
For the new BYBK, BOND is about as effective as adding copper wire and magnets to the hive
The BYBK is not going to be selecting for, or developing jack squat for stock
We should be teaching TF is HARD and you need to work harder and have to be a better bee keeper then someone who just treats by the calendar.
We should be promoting to ALL(not just TF) BYBK the use of drone frames and culling, not just for the added benefit of Mite reduction , but to castrate unproven (sub 2 years TF) and other undesirable hives to stop their genetics from flowing. The main streaming of drone trapping can be a boon to the TF movement.
We should NOT be teaching that TF is easy hands off bee having IE don’t bother with mite counts or doing anything and just sit back and see what happens.
We should be teaching (for many/most) Trying to be TF is going to take good beekeeping- mite counts and “manipulations” at a min to get the bees threw the 1st years IE drone culling, brood breaks, simulated swarms, OTS etc … and yes even up to sugar dusting and organic acids if the mite counts dictate. This needs to be kept up until mite counts tell you such action can be reduced and the hive will be fine without being a threat to the nehoborhood .
As a side note Seeley and Conrad have a good study running right now, and have been seeing good results with only physical management techniques VS MAQS I am very interested to see the spring numbers, the fall mite counts were looking good https://mysare.sare.org/sare_project...=annual&y=2016
Reasonable, rational, and logical responses excepted