One of the developing non-chemical methods to fight varroa is to use Russian bees and to acquire Russian queens.
That’s what Tom Conlon, a beekeeper in Massachusetts and a member of the Russian Honey Bee Breeders Association, is doing. A recent article in a local Massachusetts newspaper about him says:
As a member of the Russian Honey Bee Breeders Association, Conlon began introducing honey bees from Russia’s Primorsky region into his hives 14 years ago. The Russian bees, which are from the same area as the mites, have developed a natural defense against them: They groom each other, removing the bugs and tossing them out of their hives — a behavior which their European cousins don’t exhibit.
But the adult bees aren’t the only ones threatened by the mites. During the pupal stage — the period in which a bee transitions from a larva into an adult — the mites force their way into the cells and try to eat the pupa.
According to Condon, the Russian bees have developed a way to sense when that is occurring and are able to pull those mites out as well.
“In nature, a lot of these mechanisms appear over long periods of time, and some have these abilities that help them survive,” said Condon. “It’s probably the best solution yet, it’s very exciting. They’re hardier bees. Eventually there won’t be any treatment necessary.” (quoted material)
Conlon is serious about keeping his Russian bees as pure as possible, as the article explains. It makes good reading and is food for serious thought for us beekeepers.
More support for using Russian bees to fight varroa can be found on this page of the Agricultural Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Key words: bees, honeybees, varroa, Russian bees, Russian Honey Bee Breeders Association, Tom Conlon, beekeeping in Massachusetts, non-chemical methods of fighting varroa, Agricultural Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture