What can we learn from the "wild" bees living inside the tree successfully from year to year?
I sell bees and many of those sales are to new beekeepers. They consist of about 1/3 women of all ages, 1/3 middle aged men, and 1/3 older to retired men (for the most part). After questioning them about their reasons and goals as a new beekeeper, many of them want the bees because they feel like it is a “good thing to do” and they want “some” honey. Then there are the other new beekeepers who want all the honey their bees can produce and are ready for it to happen now. Often this group already has not only purchased their “beehive starter kit,” but also the “supering kit” for all the honey that their new bees will produce the first year. I tell all of them that their first goal as a new beekeeper should be the successful overwintering of their bee hive(s). Without successful overwintering of the beehive, the beekeeper can become very discouraged with beekeeping and quit. We need more successful beekeepers and for that to happen, they need good training and encouragement.
After speaking to many new beekeepers, it has become obvious that most of them do not have a plan for dealing with the varroa mite. Unfortunately, this is true with many, if not most, hobby beekeepers. They have heard about the mite and how it can kill their bees. But with all the conflicting information and philosophies on internet websites/bee forums, it can become very difficult in formulating a plan for dealing with the mites. The end result is no plan at all. These new beekeepers are depending on their screened bottom boards and luck for their mite control plan.
During this next season, I will write installments on a regular basis on how I deal successfully with the varroa mites. It is an easy management plan with the stated goal of keeping your bees alive while producing some honey for you and your friends. The management plan will use the natural occurring honeybee nesting sites (a hollow cavity inside a tree) as our model.