Thomas D. Seeley
Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA
(Received 21 January 2006 - Revised 23 April 2006 - Accepted 23 April 2006 - Published online 29 November 2006)
Abstract - Feral colonies of European honey bees living in the Arnot Forest, a 1651-ha research preserve in New York State, were studied over a three-year period, 2002 to 2005. This population of colonies was previously censused in 1978. A census in 2002 revealed as many colonies as before, even though Varroa destructor was introduced to North America in the intervening years. Most colonies located in fall 2002 were still alive in fall 2005. The Arnot Forest colonies proved to be infested with V. destructor, but their mite populations did not surge to high levels in late summer. To see if Arnot Forest bees can suppress the reproduction rate of mites, colonies of Arnot Forest bees and New World Carniolan bees were inoculated with mites from an apiary and the growth patterns of their mite populations were compared. No difference was found between the two colony types. Evidently, the stable bee-mite relationship in the Arnot Forest reflects adaptations for parasite (mite) avirulence, not host (bee) resistance.
Prof. Seeley is the leading expert in swarm behaviour and feral bee biology. As you can see from his study above Varroa and bees can develop a stable relationship with each other if we let them do so. But if we disrupt it every year by trying to kill Varroa with so many different methods we only breed a stronger, more virulent mite.
Study in Kenya showed that most colonies had Varroa in the hives yet not even one beekeeper EVER noticed any issues. So we can conclude that it is not Varroa that is the culprit but the virus introduced through Varroa presence. Not all Varroa mites are virulent as both the Kenya case shows and Seeley too.
Many experienced "treatment free" beekeepers have come to the same conclusion. The more one treats against Varroa the more virulent it gets. A perfect example are beekeepers who treat every year yet many of their colonies die anyway! Is this not so?
My last years mentor treats every year with Oxalic Acid as most beeks do around Scandinavia yet last winter he had 50% losses and year before that 80%. One treatment free beekeeper in his area didn't have any losses in the last 5 years.
I know of others who treat every year and still lose colonies every winter.
Whats great with feral colonies is they are free from human manipulations. No one ever opens their cavity. Instead of wax foundation with mono-cell size they build natural comb with various cell size. They can have as many Drones as they feel like yet still as the study shows Varroa and bees co-adapted.
There so much wrong with conventional beekeeping I don't even know where to begin! Drone culling, mono-cell size wax foundations, "religious" anti-varroa treatment every year, overworked bees for honey gain, migratory pollination of mono-crops, sugar feeding, swarm suppression, artificial insemination of queens, etc etc etc ...
Its all about our own deformed perspective really. We humans seem to be the ones behind all major issues on this planet. We are to treat our own minds with something rather than Varroa. We have indeed disconnected from the Natural with our "American Dream" lifestyles. I dont know about you but Im ready to re-connect. I will let my bees lead me back home, I'm sure they know the Way.