Many are periodic hobbyists who keep 2-3 hives, regularly lose them, and replace often with packages. I'm sure that is where many of the drones in my local DCAs come from.
You could always select your best hives and breed from half of those. The other half turn into "drone factories," giving them two frames of drone brood per box. Eventually, your drones will change the genetics of your neighbors hives, which would in turn make your DCAs better off for you.
That's not to say the DCAs would have drones from treatment free hives, but when you arn't a huge operation or working on an island, there is only so much you can do.
Do you mind elaborating on creating "drone factories"?
I have been thinking about ways to increase saturation in the area, but it's difficult because an urban location means that I have access to fewer places to site hives, and that each site must have fewer hives. It would be interesting if I could take some early splits (with old queen included) and encourage them to produce larger proportions of drones, increasing saturation at the DCAs when the other halves and later splits send new queens out to mate. It seems that even a moderate increase in saturation would improve the rate at which daughter colonies retain resistance.
Thoughts? What method would you use?
I should note that I already use foundationless frames, so I won't see the spike in drone rearing that many folks do by replacing worker foundation with foundationless.
Seems like this discussion goes on in one form or another all the time. Just saying... that varroa is a concern. Even for those that seem to have a handle on the "no-treatment" avenue and varroa is not a problem for them whether it be small cell or whatever...
I don't think that natural-size comb and no miticides is sufficient to solve the problem mechanically, although judging from these hives I do think it helped. They had lower counts for longer than most in my local club saw with routine treatment. It's obvious that those who don't treat and start with enough colonies to sustain losses and breed from survivors are selectively breeding for resistance, regardless of what else they do in terms of methods. The tough part for those of us coping with a constant influx of genes from treated package stock is keeping the resistance even if we can breed it.
And robbing brings another issue: bees which succeed in suppressing mite resistance for years may still suffer ill effects if robbers going to mite-crashed hives bring back large numbers of phoretic mites. Even if the imported mites do not reproduce well, there will still be damage to a generation of pupae due to the increase in disease vectoring.
John, you're presenting some interesting perspective for me, in that I thought my colony was pretty bad, but the symptoms you are describing are worse and count is higher, even though you have been treating and I have not.
I was worried to see 15-20 newly emerged DWV bees inside the hive on inspection, but the number of DWV dead on the ground each week is no different from last winter, before this colony boomed, absorbed EFB frames from a sick hive like it was nothing, produced 3 splits, and outperformed every other colony in my yards in terms of quick response to dearth conditions. I can't say that they're good surplus honey producers, but I'm more interested in overall health right now.
It simply will not get cold enough for oxalic here, and though I do not trust sugar dusting for long-term control I may use it repeatedly on these hives to see if I can knock some of the load off while brooding is greatly reduced.
The really interesting thing will be when I can quit my winter speculating and see how these hives far in early spring, whether they crash or are sickly or shake it off.