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I've been inspired to write this post after reading the thread 'What actually works to convince Newbees to treat mites?' and also because of quotes like this one:

There was a time when I had TF bees that stayed alive for many years. Was a teen aged bee haver. ;)
Had my bees and learned almost nothing about them because they took care of themselves. That was back in the good old days and the good old days are history.
Point is that I'd maybe be the worst beekeeper ever if it were not for Varroa and SHB forcing me to keep em strong, well-fed, and healthy.
Please read this entire post before replying:

This is a classic example of the oldest beekeeping misconception available; everyone talks about 'the good old days pre-varroa and pre-SHB (Small Hive Beetle)'.

Here is my translation of the common belief among wise and classic beekeepers who I respect. 'European bees used to work, then began to die when varroa showed up, now we use chemicals to keep them from dying. Our queens that used to life for 3 - 4 years now barely live for one year and our colonies struggle from every predator on the planet but, boy oh boy, times used to be good.'

I hate to break the news but varroa mites and Small Hive Beetles are not new problems. These species have co-existed with bees for centuries. Yes, I said centuries. What does everyone mean then when they talk about pre-varroa and pre-SHB? They are all talking about this side of the globe with our superficial European bees.

What am I suggesting? Perhaps it's time for us to change our methods: I'm going to give my opinion about every one of those points I quoted above.

1) 'European bees used to work, then began to die when varroa showed up.' Let's talk about some history here:

The first recorded case of Varroa in the America's was September of 1987. Interestingly enough, 5 years prior in 1982 the FDA approved GMO seeds nation wide. Any correlation? Maybe maybe not.

Biologist Johannes H. Bauer performed experiments on fruit flies testing an organic diet versus a non-organic diet. The flies on the organic diet performed much better than those on the non-organic diet. (View Article: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130326121732.htm) If that goes for fruit flies, is it not also likely that bees near fields of GMO crops (which are non-organic) produce a weeker bee after generations? I think that is not unreasonable to believe.

My answer: Is the core problem behind the failing of European bees GMO's and Varroa? No.

Think about this. Let's assume you get sick with the 'common cold' and your symptom are a runny nose and a fever. You can think one of two things about your sickness:

1) The runny nose and fever are the problem so I must figure out a way to stop them.

2) The real problem is not the runny nose or fever, the real problem is the sickness deep within. That sickness is what I must fix.

I believe the same goes for our bees. We can fix the runny nose (varroa mites) and the fever (SHB or wax moths) but the core problem, I believe, is deeper than these symptoms. The core problem is that our hives 'immune system' cannot fight these 'infections'. Another issue to speak of has been the damage done by superficial breeding. European queens have been superficially bred by beekeepers for centuries. Those beekeepers bred trates they liked into the bees (high productivity and honey production) and bred out trates they didn't like (defensiveness and propolis production). This is one of many reasons standard European bees are failing like crazy. They don't defend their hive and they don't seal predators out.



2) 'Now we use chemicals to keep them from dying. Our queens that used to life for 3 - 4 years now barely life for one year'.

Let's talk about my experience: I have queens right now that are three entire years old and lay on par with queens that are two months old. How can this bee??? It's simple.

Bees, like many creatures of the earth, are an actual wild specie. Believe it or not, they can survive without a beekeeper.

Now, you may be wondering why bees can survive mites, SHB, wax moths and other pests in the wild when those same pests seem to knock out domesticated hives all the time.

Again, this ties back to our superficial breeding. We, as the beekeeping community, need to consider our methods, step back and realize that something is seriously wrong. Why do your bees not survive the winter? Why do your bees not survive mites? Why do your bees not survive SHB or the wax moth?

Climate from region to region varies greatly! Even an hour north of my location here in Phoenix, we recieve snow in the State of Arizona. To say we can take one variety of bee, spread it all over the nation and say 'this is the bee that is all and can do all' I think is completely wrong. The European bee has varied and adapted to fit it's climate and conditions. We can't just send that bee variety all over the nation and expect superb results.

Think about this. If you took a Zebra and said 'this is now going to be the internationally recognized horse type. Everyone should use this animal and stop using your native horses'. you then send Zebra's to everyone who would ordinarily use a horse and tell them to release their old horses or get rid of them. Everything goes well during the first summer and everyone is talking about how great the Zebra is because it is so much cooler than a horse. Then comes winter and thousands of Zebras freeze to death in the very stalls the old native horses used to stand. Other Zebras come down with strange diseases that no one has seen before, but there are a few that survive the winter and do begin doing well in their new climate. The people who have frozen Zebras have no idea what happened, the people who suffered from strange disease have no idea what happened but there are still a few people with the Zebras that survived saying they are the best things out there.

It's the same with our bees. We have taken a bee native to a very specific climate and used it as the standard for basically most of North America. You cannot do that and not expect them not to freeze to death or not to die from the heat and still others not to encounter some new disease they have never experienced before.

There are bees native to your region that are perfectly fit to survive those native pests and these bees are perfectly equipped to surviving your individualized climate. All my experiences with feral bees have been positive ones on the spectrum of bee productivity and survival. True feral bees in your region are the best fit bee specie for you to use. There is no industry standard bee, period.


Now with regard to the queen only lasting one year, you can't just use chemicals and expect they don't damage bees inside the colonie. Your queen suffers the consequences along with all the bees, it's just that she is the only one you notice the difference in.

Takeaways: The standard European bee should not be used as it is being used today. The reason queens die after one year is the treatments used to kill mites and other pests.



3) 'Our colonies struggle from every predator on the planet but, boy oh boy, times used to be good.'

I've already talked about this point a little bit. We struggle from predators because we have bred the bees defensive nature out of them. True feral bees still have those defensive natures and tendencies which is why many TF beekeepers have success using them (feral bees) rather than the industry standard European bees.

It is not untrue that times used to be good. I will agree that for a very long time the standard European bee has to some extent succeeded in it's quest to be the industry standard bee. However, times are changing and the bee has been potentially broken down by many different factors; GMO's could possibly weaken our bees, Neonics possibly weaken our bees, our own breeding has weakened our bees... Continue this trend since the 1980's and all of a sudden you have a runny nose and a fever.

The problem is not the runny nose or fever (wax moths, varroa nor SHB) the core problem is the 'immunity' of the bees. Before our bees were introduced to those things that made them weaker, there were fewer problems. That is why I believe we need to go back to the basics, remember that bees can survive on their own and harness the power of feral bees which do not struggle from so many of these different issues.

One thing I would like to point out: I've heard some people talk about how they have done feral cut outs and the hive was really bad. May I suggest that was not truly a feral hive? Simply a hive that swarmed away from another standard European hive? Make sure you have a truly feral hive and not a European swarm.



I know that was a long read but I hope it inspires you to think. I would love to hear comments of all types (positive and negative) with regard to any of the topics discussed. I would especially like to hear feedback from TF beekeepers on this topic.

In closing, I hope we are all mature enough to speak to these issues with respect for one another (as we all share common goals in the beekeeping community) even if we don't all agree. I am by no means the oldest of the beekeepers, nor am I the wisest. All of these ideas and concepts are based off of one theory of mine: The big question of modern beekeeping. If there are feral hives surviving without a beekeeper and without treatments, why is it so necessary for us as beekeepers to use treatments on our hives?

I look forward to all of your thoughts.

Regards:
 

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There are scores of native bees, but no native honey-producing bees in North America. All "feral" bees are just European honey bees that have escaped our kind care.

As far as I know the only other bee species that can produce harvestable hive products is the Asian honeybee, which doesn't exist here in the US at present. (And I would not be in favor of importing it, either.)

European honeybees are a remarkable species, and not as far as I can see under any threat of extinction because they are both very hardy and hugely valuable to humans.

Enj.
 

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I agree that "breeding" of bees or what I tend to think of a mass production of queens. Is the single greatest root cause of problems with bees today. You don't have to look very far to find examples of similar results in the actual breeding of other livestock. Genuine breeding of bees by it's definition. Which my translation of it is breeding results in breeds. Is not possible with bees and most likely never will be. Breeding is well known to produce as many or more problems in a breed than solutions. You live with it due to the desire for or benefit of those select few traits. In Bee breeding I believe we get the negatives without the benefits. The benefits or actually development of breeds do not happen due to the Honey Bees unique sensitivities to standard breeding methods.

I am not sure I agree the Varroa mite GMO's or Neonics have weakened out bees. Predators and harsh environment in general is nothing new. I still think it is mass production of queens that has caused the bee to be more sensitive and less capable of tolerating them. I also hold to no damage is acceptable. This does not mean I don't recognize progress toward that end. Neonics may not be a perfect answer. But is it an improvement. Even if the answer to that question is yes. That in no way is an admission that it is the answer. it is but an improvement but not an acceptable solution. Rather than be the enemy of Neonics. I think it would benefit beekeeping to be a partner with such efforts to continue to make gains on the goal. products that pose no danger to bees. Yet we set on our pedestals doing more damage to our bees than any other single source ever will and paint them to be destroyers of the earth. We criticize others for the progress they make when as beekeepers we would qualify as the poster child of environmental disaster and it's consequences. I think it would be beneficial to spend more time and attention on what we do or don't do and less on what others are doing.
 

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We know that feral bees had the stuffing knocked out of them by varroa when it first arrived so its not like they were pre adapted for it. So we know that varroa IS a new challenge. A few did survive and in some areas have made a comeback. We still don't know how far they have comeback to to point they are behaviourally and functionally the same.

The biggest problem is the long distance movement of bees and their hitchhikers (pests/pathogens). It creates a dynamic adaptive environment where bees are always playing catch up. This together with centralized queen rearing where queens are introduced to new adaptive environments and expected to do well. Almost no chance of adaptation is possible in this scenario.
 

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I met a swiss beekeeper yesterday who claims to have never treated his bees for 34 years now ( his bees are not isolated ) and who claims all institutes know bees are able to survive without treatments.

He claims there are two kind of bees. He calls them „the hungry“ and „the breeding ones“.
The „hungry“ are hives the beekeeper installs at a permanent place, which adapt their breeding to the location and are sometimes without brood but make not much honey surplus.
The „breeders“ are those which make much honey and are used to migrate with.
The „hungry“ are the resistant ones.
Depends on race mixing, hybrids, genes…he says.

It´s all about honey and profit in the bee world, he says.
So far nobody seems to have treatment free resistant production hives.
A whole industry of treatment tools would brake down.
 

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I think a lot of the pressure on the bees is coming from the proliferation and adaptation of the 20 or so viruses affecting bees. Many of these are vectored by varroa mites. Geographic isolation that normally contains disease has been removed by the way we industrialize the bee usage and production as Iharder says.

It is hard to get traction in the adaptation game when the reproduction time of the separate viruses is measured in hours, the vector's (varroa) reproduction time is days, and the reproduction rate in the bee is functionally a year! Developing adaptive resistance is a serious logistics problem for the bee when we remove isolation and genetic diversity from the bee's arsenal.

I would like to hear what people would suggest is a practical plan to change the industrial model that is such a major influence, continent wide, on bee health. I guess really it is now a global issue! Hand wringing is easy to do. "They should do this or that". What would be do-able in non utopian terms?
 

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What would be do-able in non utopian terms?
Share our jobs so nobody is poor.
Better payment for everybody, tax to stock market profits and share of company profits.
To have enough money means to be able to consume as you want to.
This starts buying more local and quality oriented.

It´s utopia because people are greedy. Market rules.
 

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I would like to hear what people would suggest is a practical plan to change the industrial model that is such a major influence, continent wide, on bee health. I guess really it is now a global issue! Hand wringing is easy to do. "They should do this or that"
I think "they" are ok with the current model, so change is not likely to happen anytime in the near future. We humans are rarely proactive, but we excel at being reactive after money is trumped by more pressing concerns, and usually those solutions come in the form of money making ones. Anyone seeing a pattern here? I think bees will be fine as long as there is relative isolation to be had. Bees in the industry, I can't tell you their future, but it doesn't look good.
 

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Maybe our reactive instincts are just not adapting rapidly enough for the phenomenal "progress" of the last three hundred years or so. We are still very much driven by instincts that no longer serve a planet where co operation is looking more essential than competetivness. You think bees are hard to program! just try changing human nature! Like trying to herd cats:rolleyes:
 

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The core assertion, "if feral bees survive without intervention, how can intervention be thought of as necessary" is a red herring.

Base survival of untreated domestic bees is about 35-40% year over year (as documented in numerous surveys of varying quality). Inversely, this represents mortality of 60-65% per annum.

Base survival in untreated feral colonies likely matches this mortality.

A feral population establishing daughter swarms at "wild" rate will maintain a feral population. This tendency is observed in the research which shows small, frequently swarming colonies are the norm in feral populations. If any selection has impacted feral genetics, it is swarm frequency and tendency -- both traits are strongly heritable and already present in the normal genome of the population.

A domestic industry (and hobby) cannot be maintained in an environment of annual losses of 65%, when the economic alternative is a 20% loss and $10 of miticide. Yes, one can play hero and conduct an "expansion model" where one attempts to outrun mortality by exuberant splitting, but this is not a sustainable model --- as indicated by Solomon Parker pleading for donations to sustain his vocation.
 

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To the part about feral colonies, I believe the problem with finding feral colonies that are week, dying, or just plain bad, is the fact that they are dying off. That said, Feral colonies are still very good, but, feral colonies that survived such problems will be much stronger in the future. All of this is speaking of natural selection, the weak ones, unsuitable, not able to defend themselves from whatever that is in the area, die off, and the strong ones, able to defend themselves from such problems, survived and are thus, better suited to surviving in that specific climate.
 

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Base survival in untreated feral colonies likely matches this mortality.
This is an unsupported factoid presented as reality. I could easily present documentation of long term feral colony survival in this area.

There are many factoids in the above comments starting from the thread starter. I suggest we all avoid them as much as possible.

Varroa resistance is genetic as proven by research at the bee lab and by Kefuss in France.

More than one trait must be expressed for high level varroa resistance to be shown, i.e. hygienic behavior alone won't do the job as shown by the work of Spivak.

Highly varroa resistant bees are available today from Carpenter, BeeWeaver, and others. There are negatives with most of these that preclude use in most commercial operations.

Here is my factoid. I have every reason to believe that a bee capable of commercial production can be bred including very high varroa resistance.

If you have local feral stock that is surviving and thriving sans treatments, by all means, keep local feral stock but don't expect it to perform like bees bred for honey production.
 

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I don't think the bees we work today have been dealing with Varroa for centuries?? It's my understanding that Varroa is a new pest to Apis Melifera it's true that they have and still do coexist with Apis Cerana. I don't know all the answers but, if I could get rid of only one bee problem it would defiantly be Varroa! If you can keep Varroa levels low in a hive which ever way you choose the bees do a lot better.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
All "feral" bees are just European honey bees that have escaped our kind care.

As far as I know the only other bee species that can produce harvestable hive products is the Asian honeybee, which doesn't exist here in the US at present. (And I would not be in favor of importing it, either.)

European honeybees are a remarkable species, and not as far as I can see under any threat of extinction because they are both very hardy and hugely valuable to humans.

Enj.
Thanks for the reply.

It is commonly known that the honey bee (Apis) was brought to the America's by the European's around the year 1622. According to ORSBA, it wasn't until 1853 that the European honey bee reached the West coast. Let's assume that in 1853 there was a moderate population of feral bees on the East coast. Those bees have been naturally surviving for 163 years! That is plenty enough time for the bees to adapt to their new environment and thrive.

You are correct in saying that all bees were originally from Europe, but after close to 200 years, I'm going to call these feral bees. Some of those bees have not been tended by beekeepers for nearly two centuries, they are no longer domesticated in my opinion.

As for how remarkable the specie is, I believe it entirely! The European bees, as well as all bees are incredibly complex and amazingly smart creatures. I never claimed the European bee is facing extinction. The reason they are not is because of the beekeepers tending to them. Without the keepers you get a 60 - 65% loss on your standard European bees per year (according to JWChesnut who I replied to down below). I only believe our methods of queen rearing must change. If we change our methods we can strengthen the bee family to create a much more hygienic and defensive bee that is able to deal with problems on it's own.



I am not sure I agree the Varroa mite GMO's or Neonics have weakened out bees. Predators and harsh environment in general is nothing new. I still think it is mass production of queens that has caused the bee to be more sensitive and less capable of tolerating them. I also hold to no damage is acceptable.
Thank you Daniel. I agree entirely. I only suggested those may be possible weakening factors as suggested by the research done on fruit flies.


We know that feral bees had the stuffing knocked out of them by varroa when it first arrived so its not like they were pre adapted for it. So we know that varroa IS a new challenge. A few did survive and in some areas have made a comeback. We still don't know how far they have comeback to to point they are behaviourally and functionally the same.
Good point and I do not believe the feral bees were already varroa resistant when they arrived. However, I do think the treatment of our hives has kept weak hives that would have otherwise died, alive and their poor genetic material with regard to resistance continues into new generations. This process leaves most keepers of standard European bees dependent on the treatments.

I would suggest that because Feral colonies have survived the past 29 years with varroa present in the America's, they are fully capable and able to deal with these new predators. If they were not able to do so, feral colonies would practically be non existent and that is simply not the case.



I met a swiss beekeeper yesterday who claims to have never treated his bees for 34 years now [.] He claims there are two kind of bees. He calls them „the hungry“ and „the breeding ones“.
The „hungry“ are hives the beekeeper installs at a permanent place, which adapt their breeding to the location and are sometimes without brood but make not much honey surplus.
The „breeders“ are those which make much honey and are used to migrate with.
The „hungry“ are the resistant ones.
Depends on race mixing, hybrids, genes…he says.

It´s all about honey and profit in the bee world, he says.
So far nobody seems to have treatment free resistant production hives.
A whole industry of treatment tools would brake down.
Thanks for pointing that out Sibylle. The treatment industry has vested interest in selling their own products. If people begin figuring out that using certain varieties of feral bees they don't need to treat for mites, the treatment companies would have far fewer sales.



I think a lot of the pressure on the bees is coming from the proliferation and adaptation of the 20 or so viruses affecting bees. Many of these are vectored by varroa mites. Geographic isolation that normally contains disease has been removed by the way we industrialize the bee usage and production as Iharder says.

It is hard to get traction in the adaptation game when the reproduction time of the separate viruses is measured in hours, the vector's (varroa) reproduction time is days, and the reproduction rate in the bee is functionally a year! Developing adaptive resistance is a serious logistics problem for the bee when we remove isolation and genetic diversity from the bee's arsenal.

I would like to hear what people would suggest is a practical plan to change the industrial model that is such a major influence, continent wide, on bee health. I guess really it is now a global issue! Hand wringing is easy to do. "They should do this or that". What would be do-able in non utopian terms?
That is an excellent thought. Again it ties back into regional resistance.

Back in the day, the 'white man' brought smallpox to the natives here in North America. Smallpox was not nearly as devastating to the Europeans as it was to the natives because the Europeans bodies had adapted to dealing with it over time.

Thank you for the comments about how to change the current process. I think Nordak, you bring up a very valid point. Because a better way could be costly and has possible problems, we often are willing to stick to our old methods because 'at least they work'. It really doesn't look good for the future of our bees. We continue to bread week bees and use one variety of bee as a standard for basically most of North America. As I mentioned previously, anyone want a Zebra instead of your native horse? ; ) It's just like Crofter said: Once you have that Zebra, you are never going to want to get anything again (even if the Zebra suffers from strange diseases and is not very fit for it's environment) because we as humans can be stubborn.





The core assertion, "if feral bees survive without intervention, how can intervention be thought of as necessary" is a red herring.

Base survival of untreated domestic bees is about 35-40% year over year (as documented in numerous surveys of varying quality). Inversely, this represents mortality of 60-65% per annum.

Base survival in untreated feral colonies likely matches this mortality.

A feral population establishing daughter swarms at "wild" rate will maintain a feral population. This tendency is observed in the research which shows small, frequently swarming colonies are the norm in feral populations. If any selection has impacted feral genetics, it is swarm frequency and tendency -- both traits are strongly heritable and already present in the normal genome of the population.

A domestic industry (and hobby) cannot be maintained in an environment of annual losses of 65%, when the economic alternative is a 20% loss and $10 of miticide. Yes, one can play hero and conduct an "expansion model" where one attempts to outrun mortality by exuberant splitting, but this is not a sustainable model --- as indicated by Solomon Parker pleading for donations to sustain his vocation.

The first point: I never said 'if feral bees survive without intervention, how can intervention be thought of as necessary'. What I actually said was 'If there are feral hives surviving without a beekeeper and without treatments, why is it so necessary for us as beekeepers to use treatments on our hives?'

You are asserting that I think treatments serve no purpose and should not be used. That is not what I said at all. I know that without treatments, most 'standard European' hives would die because they are incapable of dealing with problems. I am asking the question 'how are these feral colonies surviving without treatments when all the while our 'standard European' hives are dying with treatments?'

Those are humongous numbers and and I don't doubt that is true for a minute. Using standard European bees that are incapable of dealing with mites and disease I would expect to find mortality rates as high as you described. However, let's use some logic here and figure out if those numbers are realistic for feral colonies.

According to the USDA's 2016 report on honey bee colonies, there are 2,594,590 domesticated bee hives in the United States. Let's assume way back in September of 1987 there were 1,000,000 feral colonies in the United States (when varroa was confirmed in the America's). Running an average of your 60 - 65% loss per year, there would have been as little as 350,000 feral colonies upon the close of 1988, 122,500 upon the close of 1989, 42,875 by the close of 1990. 15,006 by the close of 1991, 5,252 feral colonies by the end of 1992, 1,838 by the close of 1993, 643 feral colonies by the end of 1994, 225 by the end of 1996, 78 feral colonies by the end of 1995 and all feral bees would have been extinct by the year 2000 according to your numbers.

Because there is no denying the fact we find thousands of feral hives still surviving in the wild today, it is only logical to assume those numbers are not correct when talking about feral colonies.

Summary: I agree that if you take your standard European bees and leave them, you have a high probability they will not survive. However, as we've been talking about, the standard European bee cannot live up to it's expectations and should not be the international bee type.

In addition feral bees obviously do not experience a 60 - 65 percent loss. If they did there would be not feral bees left in the USA.



To the part about feral colonies, I believe the problem with finding feral colonies that are week, dying, or just plain bad, is the fact that they are dying off. That said, Feral colonies are still very good, but, feral colonies that survived such problems will be much stronger in the future. All of this is speaking of natural selection, the weak ones, unsuitable, not able to defend themselves from whatever that is in the area, die off, and the strong ones, able to defend themselves from such problems, survived and are thus, better suited to surviving in that specific climate.
Exactly. I believe over the past 29 years, feral bees have mostly been exposed to varroa and one of two things happened. They died or they survived. If they died that actually strengthen the feral variety. If they survived they are now more able to fight further infestations at a future date.



This is an unsupported factoid presented as reality. I could easily present documentation of long term feral colony survival in this area.

Varroa resistance is genetic as proven by research at the bee lab and by Kefuss in France.

...

If you have local feral stock that is surviving and thriving sans treatments, by all means, keep local feral stock but don't expect it to perform like bees bred for honey production.

Exactly.

Because of our superficial breeding over the centuries, we have created a bee that does collect honey! However, without treatment that same bee will die 60 - 65% of the time (as JWChesnut pointed out). We may lose some honey production by using feral bees, but they will not just up and die without our intervention. It's like comparing the Zebra to the native horse.


This is continuing to be a very thought provoking discussion. I can't wait to hear more thoughts and ideas.

Regards:
 

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Personally I doubt there are ANY feral colonies left. What does feral even mean? surviving bees from pre varroa? All honey bees were imported - ALL HONEY BEES WERE IMPORTED!
Bees can't adapt to things like varroa in a few decades. Sure some obviously have traits that allow them to take care of this pest but they are the exceptions by far.
If you don't want to treat then don't treat.
So many times I read these posts, usually from new beekeepers, about why it is a mistake to treat bee. I feel a lot of these posts are just ways that these people are justifying their decision to go without treating. These huge rambling "know it all" posts proclaiming "evidence" about how bees are varroa proof are just fine. Carry on and good luck. I'll rely on my own experience and I will continue to treat. Then I'll one day read about how, " the wax moths got my hives" :)
 

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" the wax moths got my hives"
I find it interesting that my bees are alive after 12 consecutive years with no treatments at all. I will agree with you that most newcomers who start with packages of treated bees will fail within 2 years. If they have the insight to start with treatment free bees, the likelihood of success is much higher.

We had a massive outbreak of wax moths this year but they did not succeed in overwhelming any of my bees. We had a massive outbreak of hive beetles this year. I had to combine 3 queen mating nucs and 2 large colonies that went queenless with other colonies when the hive beetles got the upper hand. Hive beetles are opportunists taking advantage of weak or disrupted hives. Queen rearing nucs and going queenless in mid-summer are an invitation for them. I'm still going into winter with 20 colonies of bees and I expect most of them to make it to next spring.
 

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I find it interesting that my bees are alive after 12 consecutive years with no treatments at all. I will agree with you that most newcomers who start with packages of treated bees will fail within 2 years. If they have the insight to start with treatment free bees, the likelihood of success is much higher.
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Congrats for being TF for 12 years, but there is no way that the likelihood of success is much higher starting out treatment free. Most newcomers fail, especially those who think TF is the best way to start out. People need to learn how keep bees; bees that are healthy and thriving. After getting several colonies established, then try TF if you want. People buying hives and leaving them to rot because it is "natural to leave them alone" is a huge problem that just enforces the "OMG, the bees are dying and the world is coming to an end" group of people who perpetuate the a myth.
 
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