Urban ‘treatment-free’ beekeeping leads to explosion in killer Varroa mites


[Editor’s note: Toni Burnham runs one of 10 hives at the National Arboretum in Washington, DC.]

In this season of vitriol we should all perhaps stand down, but there is something that must be said: if you are not raising or using locally-bred queens, or introducing hygienic lines, and you think you are doing survivor stock, you are an idiot. And I am so mad at you that my hands are shaking. My urban treatment-free neighbors, you have just cost me a colony, and a really precious one, too. In fact, I contend that your (lack of) effort is actually an obstacle, and potentially an insurmountable one, to the development of sustainable, resistant bees. Which does not even mention the hammer you are putting down on native bees in your area. Our urban clustered apiaries, containing bomb-silo Varroa factories every few blocks now, means that beekeepers that are really breeding for survival face an impossible challenge while you pump pests out into the world around you.

If you are an urban beekeeper, or are thinking of becoming one, I beg you to help me make a healthier new beginning next season. Please test, treat, know, and care for your bees. Or just leave them to someone who will.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: Varroa bombs are real

For more background on the Genetic Literacy Project, read GLP on Wikipedia

  • Roy Williams

    As the human population increases, so too do the populations of other species that thrive as a result of human population increase. As the population density of a species increases, so do the opportunities for pathogens. In the absence of human intervention, when a species reaches too high a population density, it dies out. In the absence of modern medical interventions, the human population would collapse rather quickly, as it did in Europe during the Black Death. Not providing proper treatment to bees is putting the bees in the same situation as people in Europe in 1345 – 1353: overcrowded with no treatment or prevention – and 2/3 of the population was killed in those 7 years. The “no treat” beekeepers are putting their bees in the same position – which is not “natural”, as bees would never have been in such high population density situations if bee keepers had not put them there. If you make an artificial living situation (beehives) you best be prepared to support life in that artificial situation with artificial support systems (treatments).

    • usamopatriot

      Do you know anything about bee’s from personal experience?

      • Roy Williams

        Yes, I kept bees for years – but that does not count here for anything. What counts here is an understanding of probability and parasitism / pathogenesis. If you have a few hives, or even a lot of hives, in an area that is remote from other bee colonies, the odds go up that you will not experience an infestation. It is possible (but not likely) that you could have hives very close to other hives and not experience any problems, but not likely.
        In the same light, a treatment-free keeper may not have mites (or whatever pathogen you pick).
        Another thing that has to be considered: if a keeper claims that they have no mites,is that claim based on the results of tests conducted by an independent, qualified, testing laboratory? You can be as adamant as you want, call everyone contradicts your firm belief an “idiot”, and it does not change the reality of the situation.

        • usamopatriot

          It’s obvious that modern medicine is your god so far be it from me to bother dissuading you. You guys sure are curing a lot of diseases aren’t you? It’s just a money scam.

          • Roy Williams

            So you would be one of those parents that refuses to take their sick child to an accredited M.D. or hospital???

  • Brendhan

    I saw this article on facebook. I won’t hide behind facebook with my response. I will copy it here.

    I appreciate his passion and energy. I don’t agree with him. Also the
    research does not support him. We have a list of chemicals that are not
    allowed to be used for treatment anymore because the varroa have become
    resistant to them. They can’t become resistant to something is not being
    used. So his article is bunk.

    The title is
    sensationalist and false. Information like this does more harm than
    help. You want good bees? Learn to accept the fact that some hives are
    going to die. It sucks but it happens. When you have just a few hives it
    can really bum you out. Try having 60 die off or more. However
    recognize that what is left has been strong enough and healthy enough to
    withstand the issue that did in the rest.

    while his wonderful article is great at blaming the beekeepers around
    him and forsaking any of his own responsibility, if he tried that shit
    with me. I can very happily say the varroa did not come from my yard.
    Because I don’t get varroa hardly at all. So while his passion and
    energy are wonderful they are sadly misplaced. I hope he can become a
    better beekeeper.

    And yes this comes with the
    sting of a lack of sensitivity to it. He believes his posting some
    article on the internet gives him credibility. Alas it doesn’t and if
    this is the way he keeps bees he may need to rethink it. So I will put
    the same style argument he does; Sam Comfort says the biggest problem in
    beekeeping is beekeepers. I have seen Sam be right in that time and
    time again.

    Bee Barf Apiaries

    • Trey Crowder

      Correct on all points. I am treatment free myself and have very little to no mites. This guy posting this article is the real idiot.

  • Trey Crowder

    Just because your neighbor has treatment free bees does NOT mean they have lots of mites and most definitely does NOT mean the mites that killed your colony came from your neighbor. If fact you ARE THE IDOT!

  • Bill Joe Sweeden

    Do you carry the same discontent with naturally occurring hives?

  • usamopatriot

    You are the idiot here. Treat them with what? A chemical? Freaking moron. I only have feral bee’s and have zero varroa problems.

    • flbeekeeper

      You treatment free guys are idiots. So you only have feral bees and no mites. Ill bet you 1,000 to 1 you do or will. Your a moron. The author is exactly right.

      • usamopatriot

        You chemical users methods are really working aren’t they. When you folks start to give the bee’s credit for actually being able to fix their own problems you might get somewhere. CCD was created by you modern beekeepers barbaric methods. You modern medicine acolytes are all the same. You threw out the baby with the wash water years ago and now the only thing that you know is chemicals and synthetic drugs. You call me an idiot? You folks are doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. That’s one definition of insanity. I didn’t say that I had zero varroa mites, I said I have no problems. Bee’s can handle mites on their own if given a chance but when you weaken the bee’s with constant treatment they will eventually succumb. But don’t let me distract you from refusing to think outside the box. Have a great day.

  • Jesse Fleiss

    His hive was probably filled with dead bees and that brings the mites. Dump people want to use chemicals on everything.

  • Bill

    If you’re constantly checking and treating how did the neighbor kill your hive? Native bees are not susceptible to Varroa mites so how am I putting the hammer down?