Continuing to look at beekeeping in the United Kingdom this week, we came across an article in the Guildford Dragon about the growing point of view that UK beekeepers (and probably all beekeepers) should stop treating their bees with chemical sprays.
This may seem somewhat confusing to many beekeepers who have been told for years by experts that chemicals are the only effective way to fight off the invasive varroa mite.
British beekeeper Jonathan Brookhouse, in Cranleigh, learned beekeeping while living in a small organic commune in Israel for twenty years. He was also a government bee inspector and is still heavily involved in beekeeping on a personal level. He went chemical-free with his hives in 2011, believing this gives the bees a better chance to develop a natural resistance to the mites. He is breeding resilient bees in his Cranleigh apiaries, using observations he made during the days he worked as a bee inspector.
He hasn’t used chemicals on his hives in eight years and although he lost a few hives during those years, he finds his surviving bees are more robust and healthier than ever.
He also observed that the untreated bees are dark in color and quite calm. They are starting to resemble the native European dark bee, known as mellifera mellifera, unlike imported bees which are much more yellow.
Jonathan thinks the native true European dark bee is gradually reasserting itself and that by selectively breeding bees that are resistant to varroa mites and sharing them with other beekeepers he will be able to help the stronger bees take hold in his geographic area and beyond. He hopes to have his bees tested in a lab in the future to measure their immunity and compare their state of wellness to other bees.
It is important to him that bees remain the beautiful independent creatures they are meant to be. He observes that if we don’t stop chemical spraying, we are creating bees that are dependent on humans.
If you spay your bees with chemicals, what do you think about Jonathan's argument for spray-free resilient bees?