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why still treating?

2228 Views 9 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  Yuleluder
Hi Everyone,
After having the VSH bees and the Russian bees and the Survival bee stocks from different parts of the USA from different bee breeders for so many years, why do you have to still treat for varroa?

Why is it that the genetics are not taking over, so that no treatment for varroa is needed?

Would like to know about the facts.
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Not everyone is treating! I'm sure you'll get more posts like this. Most take the method of survival of their fittest stock and grow from that stock.
VSH bees and the Russian bees and the Survival bee stocks .....why do you have to still treat for varroa?
The producers of many of these strains and races of bees will tell you that their genetics improve their bees tolerance but that they will still succumb to the parasite's pressure and/or the vectored diseases.
One of the Ontario bee breeders who has been actively breeding for hygienic behavior and mite resistance for over 10 years now, says that they have been able to skip the spring treatments for the last four years with no noticeable adverse effect on the bees. That looks like progress to me. Not sure what they mean by "treatments" though, whether it is soft or hard chemicals or what. Still, I ordered one of their queens. :)

With the right bees (resistant, or survivor, etc...) you don't have to treat for varroa. That has been demonstrated time and again. However, not all breeders breed survivors, and they themselves treat. People who buy their bees have to treat or the bees die. That seems to be the dynamic here. If more beeks would buy resistant/survivor/non-treated stock, breeders would be forced to provide that kind of bee. We'd all win then. :lookout:
However, not all breeders breed survivors, and they themselves treat.
I believe that members of the Russian queen breeders assn agree not to treat. Having said that, I still think they say you should monitor and treat your bees as needed.
Dan's got it. This may start a firestorm, but the VSH/Russian silver bullets are not 100% silver, despite the ads ("your bees will never get sick, you'll drown in honey and they'll cure your asthma too!"). Some folks find that other strains, though they may need more treatment, are gentler/more productive/better suited to their climate/etc. I went to a lecture by Dianna Sammataro last week in which she said "The great thing about VSH is that the bees really do remove brood. The bad thing about VSH is that the bees really do remove brood", meaning that even a parasitized pupae goes on to still become a nurse/guard/forager/etc, even if her life and health are impacted. Her opinion is that they just don't seem to build up as vigorously and rally a strong foraging force. See the recent BC for some interesting data investigating VSH's mechanism.

Every race has its defenders and detractors, but the bottom line is they all have their strong and weak points (even AHB, and yes even the shining-armored VSH strains). It's all about learning who works well for your particular situation, and making your management practices align with the bees' needs. Obviously, breeding resistant bees' traits into stocks is the grail everyone's working towards (or should be), but the fat lady hasn't sung quite yet on what those bees will look like :).
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When I was keeping all local survivor bees, developed by walk-away splits from an original cut-out colony, they behaved as if they were likely AHB's. I never treated them (over a period of at least eight years) and never lost a colony, though sometimes one part of a walk-away split would simply abscond to parts unknown. They had many other undesirable behaviors, but were very durable and productive.

Now I've taken to importing Cordovan Italian queens, then breeding additional queens from the best of them. They are open mated, so these daughter queens can sometimes build colonies with a few undesirable traits, I screen these out by growing many nucs of these daughter queens and quickly replacing any queens that don't perform as desired.

I have continued to restrain myself from using any typical treatments for mites. The treatments I do use; I spritz a little Certan on combs in storage to reduce damage from wax moth larva, and I also add a little supplemental copper to the syrup I feed nucs while getting them established. Those are the only two treatments I have come to use - otherwise my colonies are without treatments, I have recently had colony losses (the first in all my years of beekeeping), one out of each ten colonies these past two years. In October/November of 2008 I lost most of about a dozen nucs, when they were suddenly usurped by likely AHB queens, then soon afterwards they perished in mysterious circumstances.

I know those queens were usurped because they were all newly mated and laying golden Cordovan Italian queens, then I did a check about two weeks later and I couldn't find a single golden queen in any of these nucs, they were all very dark queens.
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I haven't treated in 4 or 5 years and it's great to save that time & money. If I brought in a hive that had been treated or if a neighbor brought in bees that required treatments, I'm sure my bees would no longer be treatment free. I realize that some of the experts will say I am niave, but IMO, if no bees in the US were treated, then in a few years all bees in the US would not need treatments. There would be a lot of losses initially, but the treatment free bees would be able to be used to repopulate.
I have never treated my bees and won't. Beekeeping is demanding enough especially when it is only a part time job. I started with Russian lines but have gradually moved towards Carnis simply because my area demands bees that can build up fast and catch the short but strong Spring flow. They seem to do just fine 38 out of 50 made it through the winter, and the yard where I lost 11 out of 13 was the yard I did not feed in the Fall.
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