Honey Bee Health Coalition Publishes Guide Documenting How Commercial Beekeepers Keep Healthy Hives without Consistent Use of Off-label Varroa Treatments
DENVER, CO, Keystone Policy Center – Commercial beekeepers are finding success treating Varroa, a parasitic mite that kills honeybees, in their hives without relying exclusively on off-label chemical treatments, according to a guide published this week by the Honey Bee Health Coalition. The guide is pivotal to the industry as Varroa mites are already showing signs of widespread resistance to existing varroacides.
“We set off to create a hands-on guide that covers what you might learn when talking to a commercial beekeeper in the hallway of a bee convention,” remarked Chris Hiatt, Vice President of the American Honey Producers Association. “We stress the importance of not relying on one single product for your mite control. Commercial beekeepers helped develop this for commercial beekeepers and the info in this guide can put to use into beekeeping operations now.”
“In the short term, relying on off-label products to treat Varroa may seem to be the lowest-cost strategy. But overuse of amitraz, for example, increases the long-term risk of mite resistance and significant economic damage to the industry, as beekeepers may be left without effective control options. The operational decisions that each beekeeper makes will either promote or reduce the likelihood of developing resistance,” writes the Coalition in the Guide.
The Guide to Varroa Mite Controls for Commercial Beekeeping Operations lays out a vision that addresses the risks of resistance created by off-label use. Widespread resistance to amitraz poses a serious threat to the long-term financial health of every commercial beekeeping business. Continuous use of off-label amitraz, with increasing dosages and frequency of use as it becomes less effective, is very likely to cause amitraz to lose its effectiveness more quickly, just as other products like coumaphos and tau-fluvalinate have become largely ineffective for controlling Varroa mites.
“This new Guide was developed to try and stave off amitraz resistance long enough for researchers to find the next reliable varroacide,” said Matt Mulica, Honey Bee Health Coalition facilitator. “We developed the guide to show that you can be a financially viable beekeeper without resorting to off-label products like Taktic.”
This guide aims to help commercial beekeepers evaluate a variety of Varroa control methods that can be integrated into a management plan to protect their bees and their business. It highlights the experiences of beekeepers who are having success as they explore alternative strategies to limit their reliance on off-label amitraz and avoid using unregistered products.
“I’m extremely uncomfortable using unregistered products. Even if costs are higher short-term, I need to find other ways to control mites that will work and will work over time. That will cost me more initially but will make me money down the line,” said George Hansen, former president of the American Beekeeping Federation, whose approach to Varroa treatment is featured in the guide.
In addition to documenting six case studies examining various approaches to Varroa treatment, the guide also reviews the causes and impacts of Varroa mite resistance to varroacides. It also highlights control methods that can be used in an integrated pest management (IPM) strategy or a highly specific, knowledge-driven approach, referred to as precision apiculture.
The full guide is available for free on the Honey Bee Health Coalition’s website at: https://honeybeehealthcoalition.org/varroacontrolsguide/
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