Varroa destructor? Tracheal mites? Scourge of the honeybee, domestic and feral? This is a mystery to me. Why are my bees not being squashed by this plague?
When I most recently relocated here from Santa Fe, New Mexico and began keeping bees in the Marana/Tucson, Arizona area (March 1997), I had been keeping bees in a kind of blissful ignorance, I enjoyed the bees while neglecting to communicate with anyone else in the beekeeping world. I had been in my ignorance for more than a decade. Then while still ignorant I purchased some equipment and moved a feral colony from beneath a neighbors mobile home into 10-frame Langstroth equipment (all medium supers). They quickly established and grew strong enough to split, which I did. Soon after acquiring these bees I subscribed to "American Bee Journal" and my ignorance of the dreaded mites ended. I promptly watched my bees to see Varroa, and opened drone brood too. Sure enough, there they were.
The mystery deepens: Iâ€™ve never used any treatment for mites or any other pest or disease of honeybees yet all my colonies have continuously remained healthy and strong. Of course, at the time, I predominantly used Pierco foundation in wood frames and one-piece frames. It has been suggested that this was perhaps the equivalent of using a cell size that was a little smaller than the usual which may have increased the bees tolerance of mites. Anyhow, one of the possibilities I became aware of was that some believe that smaller cell size used to raise worker brood will assist the bees in keeping themselves free of these pests and diseases, or, at least make it easier for them to tolerate their co-existence.
I was intrigued by this concept and decided to give it a try. I continued to split my colonies and let the queenless portions of the splits raise their own replacement queens. Now Iâ€™ve given some of my colonies (now twelve) some smaller cell brood comb by use of all beeswax and some plastic base small-cell foundation. Since around here the bees almost never stop raising brood, you would think that theyâ€™d have an even more difficult time with mites.
Can anyone think of a reason why I might be having such an easy time with mites?