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  • Writer's pictureTrevor Bawden

Why Buy Local Mite Resistant Bees?

Updated: Jan 23

beekeeping in the rain
Installing virgin queens into mating nucs in a spring rain storm for our customers nucs that will get picked up a month later once they have mated and grown in size. Rain doesn't stop us here at LSB!

Are buying local mite resistant VSH bees a better investment as a beekeeper?

I think so! I believe this because purchasing a WI overwintered nuc is a proven winner.

That means that the colony has proven itself to survive in our climate. A WI spring nuc is a descendant of our breeder stock, which has been vetted for high VSH and overwinter survival. These spring nucs are made once grafting and mating weather is appropriate for our area. Buying an imported package or nuc means that you are buying bees that have proven they can be shipped to CA, go through almond pollination and survive a CA winter.

Between the two choices, buying local bees seems like a no brainier to me.

Why do local mite resistant bees cost more? It takes a lot more effort to run a VSH breeding program correctly, behavioral assay all our colonies used for queen or drone production and produce artificially inseminated queens. Then think about how much time, resources and love as a beekeeper we spend getting our colonies prepared to winter in WI successfully. That all adds up quickly. To put it simply, we jump through all the “hoops” for you and that costs a little more.

If you’re concerned about mating a virgin queen from us because of the poor stock around you, I wouldn’t be overly concerned. We found that queens we have shipped around the country have had good mite resistance still. Now if you continue to breed future generations off these queens without applying any behavioral assays, the traits get watered down. This is true of any stock you are trying to keep. In our mating yards, we stock the surrounding area with our drones at a 1 mile radius and again at a two mile radius. So, if you are very concerned about getting ALL the genetics, buy a mated queen.

You may be wondering what kind of data we have on our mite resistance. Well, I was going to save the 2022 results till spring once we determined overall winter survival, but

I’ll give you a sneak peek...

Every season we have mite counted all our colonies and recorded the results. We don’t treat for mites at all during the season until we have counted everyone and only those that need it get the treatment. This year it was less than 25% of our total colonies that required treatment. We take all the counts before treatment in August each year and get an average. Here are the averages for the past three years:

  • 2020 – 8 mites per 300 bee sample

  • 2021 – 4 mites per 300 bee sample

  • 2022 – 2 mites per 300 bee sample

In my opinion, this shows that our behavioral assay breeding and management of the bees are working to improve mite resistance. It is my opinion that 50% of the equation is breeding and the other 50% is management. Good breeding makes management easier because you don’t need to worry about treating a dozen times or more like commercial operations. If you import commercial bees, then you need to treat and manage them like commercial beekeepers. If you want to learn about our management style, I encourage you to take our overwintering class. Using our stock and overwintering management, we find that the bees only consume 1-2lbs of resources a week in the winter and then 5 lbs a week in the spring when brood rearing commences.

In the grand scheme of things, I could make a lot more money and save heaps of effort/time by just driving down south in the spring to pick up packages and nucs to resell here in WI.

I believe in safeguarding our beekeeping future in WI by not doing that.

Only by having mite resistance and locally adapted stock can we hope to succeed. If we continue to import bees, we are only hurting ourselves in the long run. What will be done when our mite treatments no longer work? We will have to give up or hope a new drug hits the market in time.

If you want to be part of the solution, support local beekeepers that are working to be the change and help create a more sustainable market for beekeeping.

Thanks for supporting local beekeeping,

Trevor Bawden

Lloyd St. Bees

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