Elgon
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Resistance Breeding
I started long before the mite arrived to focus on increasing the varroa resistance in my stock. 1989 I went to the mountains of Kenya to get genetic material that were more related to the resistant bees in South America than we had in Europe. You can read a little about this HERE . And more HERE . Today I realize I probably didn't need to do that. Maybe it made it easier. But it wasn't easy to go to Africa either and make a new combination breed.
Anyway here I am with what I call Elgon bees. I don't want any other bees today. Maybe I may try new strains in combination. I have already done that.

Initial tests with Monticola crosses done by Dr. Bert Thrybom, one of the team members who went to Kenya, showed that Monticola had shorter development time of brood and that what we today call VSH (Varroa Sensistive Hygien) was present to some extent. The other team members were Michael van der Zee, Erik Bjorklund and I, Erik Osterlund.

As soon as I realized in the beginning of 1990:s that the Monticola-Buckfast crosses were of no threat to beekeeping I sent some queens for testing to areas in Sweden with Varroa mites. These tests were encouraging and made varroa resistance selection possible. I got pieces of combs with young larvae and eggs back for grafting.

Treatment free Elgon beekeepers When the mites finally reached my apiaries there were beekeepers with Elgons in Denmark (Poul-Erik Karlsen), Finland (Sven-Olof Ohlsson), Norway (Hans-Otto Johnsen) and southern part of Sweden (Leif Hjalmarsson) and finally just 100 km from me (Tore Härnkloo) that didn't use any treatments at all (including drone brood cutting). The bees did it all by themselves, fought the mites.

These beekeepers had one thing in common. Their bees were quite isolated from other bees. Four of them were on small cell, Two on 5.1 mm cell size. One on 5.1 and 4.9. One on 4.9. One was on large cell, 5.4.

My preparations I also took my bees down on small cell, 4.9 mm. I did everything I could to prepare for the arrival of the mite. I guess I hoped it was enough to escape the need for treatments without having any losses but a few due to the mite.

I was wrong. All of us seem to have to go through some kind of purgatory, longer or shorter in time. I didn't want to use pesticides like Apistan as residues of it builds up in wax and propolis. And I didn't want to use acids because of the risks for myself, as well as for the bees. So I was left with thymol to use if I decided the bees needed it.

Thymol I didn't know how to use and I didn't know how resistant my bees would be towards the mites. I wasn't aware of the initial adaptation period after the arrival of the mite, evidently an epigenetical adaptation period.

If you choose to use thymol to treat against Varroa mites, the easiest is to buy a thymol product on the market. I made my own thymol pads by drenching pieces of dishcloth in liquid warm thymol. It melts at 50 Celcius (= 120 Fahrenheit) but smells awfully at that temperature. By weighing pieces of cloth before and after I knew how much thymol the pieces contained. Today I add a very small amount of alcohol to lower the melting point substantially so I don’t need a breathing mask when making the thymol pads.
1. Original old type of dish cloth called Wettex about 1 mm thick, 200 x 175 mm big is cut into 12 pieces, 58 x 50 mm big. If you use 125 gr thymol for a batch you will need somewhat more than 2 dish cloth pieces of 200 x 175 mm.
2. A digital scale which you can reset including the weight of a small saucepan.
3. After you have poured into the desired amount of thymol crystals you add a very small amount of rubber alcohol.
4. Warm it slightly, not much, stir it a little until the solution is clear. You can take it off from the hotplate to avoid too much warming and thus smellng.
5. Then pour into almost all of the 25 pieces (if you used 125 gr of crystals. Take some kind of a plyer and dip one piece at a time and let it drip off somewhat.
6. Then you put the pieces on a prepared place to dry a little.
7 . Like for example a baking tray.
8. Even before the pads have dried from the alcohol and got hard you, when still somewhat wet and soft, you can put them in ziplock plastic bags. Then in a second bag. Then put these bags in for example in a toolkit of plastic. This toolkkit you can bring to be at hand when going to the bees.
1. A week colony like the one on top I give one piece place at the back to avoid brood in the middle of the combs. It can be weak in spring from for example mites, or weak later in the season for the same reason.
2. A strong colony whenever it is during the season (in spring it might get one piece) get two pieces above a queen excluder with a wooden rim to increase the air to flow around the pieces better and help evaporate the thymol. If it's not very hot weather. Then I might use only one piece at a time as thymol vapor can be too strong in the hive.
3. If the colony needs complementary feeeding for winter in August, the two pieces can be placed at the back if the entrance up to the sugar solution is at front. This arrangement is made to not disturb the bees from reaching the sugar solution.
After I have placed one pr two pieces on a colony, I come back after 10 days and replace with the same amount, one or two pieces. After a total of three weeks the last piece(-es) are also removed
.
If you can’t do selection work among your bees and you choose to treat with thymol my experience tells me the safest way to keep the number of hives and not loose any or very few is to use thymol both in spring and before winterfeed, two applications per occasions. With home made thymol pads of 5 grams of thymol in each one, one plus one (with 10 days in between) is used in spring and two plus two (with ten days in between) in August. That would make a total of 30 grams of thymol a year. Altogether no more than 3 weeks treatment at each occasion.

As little as possible for me
As I'm focused on selecting resistant bees, I treat as little as possible. In 2008 I fumbled forward to know the how to and how much my bees needed. I hoped for nothing. I realised I had to start already in spring due to quite some crippled winged bees in some colonies. The thymol worked a miracle. But I tried to find out when I needed to apply it. I concluded I wouldn't have time to count mites or do any drone brood cutting in my then 200 colonies so I decided to look for the presence of crippled winged bees.
DWV-virus is closely connected to the precense of Varroa mites in a bee colony. Crippled winged winged bees normally, but not always with some odd wingless bees showing up, means many mites in a colony. In the beginning of when Varroa came to my colonies DWV-bees like that one to the left was the normal appearance of them. Today when I see such bees they more look like normal bees (without the small abdomen, but a nomrla such), but with small ragged wings, like the three ones to the right.. It's invaluabe to have a hard board, 0.5 x 0.5 m, in front of the hive to see what ends up there from inside the hive.
The first strategy
After a couple of years I came up with a system that seemed to work well.

1. When I saw more than a few crippled winged bees in front of the hive or on brood combs AND
2. the strength of the hive was not what could be expected

I gave the colony one or two pieces of 5 grams thymol, depending on the strength of the colony. This was repeated 10 days later when the piece(s) were exchanged for new one(s). And after another 10 days removed.

If the colony was very weak it got half a piece with maybe 2 grams. As I find it most important to help the bees survive I gave thymol whenever they needed it, even during summer with supers on. Wasn’t that bad for the honey? Actually not so bad as one may think. Thymol is not water soluble but fat soluble, so it get into wax, not honey very much. And it was not needed to use thymol on all colonies during flow, just a few. I wanted to save these colonies, but most of all eliminate reinvasion sources for mites to my other colonies. You can read about this
HERE .

Thymol is highly volatile. As soon as you have pulled out the piece with what is left of thymol, it starts moving out of the hive again. And the amount that is left in honey is nontoxic, even smaller amount than in Thyme, the spice. It’s not possible to feel the taste of it. Some honeys can contain quite some thymol naturally, for example thyme and lime honeys.

Though I recommend to avoid using thymol during nectar flow very close to harvesting. If a comb smells of thymol the best place to get rid of the smell is in the hive where ventilation is good and the very most of thymol will go away in a couple of weeks.

Better Varroa resistance
This strategy of mine using thymol when virus problems occurred have made my stock more Varroa resistant. But I have realized that it has also caused an ongoing reinvasion of mites keeping the mite pressure higher than wanted in the apiaries. The use of chemicals seems to help viruses to multiply better, both in bees and mites. So today you need smaller populations of mites to get virus problems, even if my bees probably have become more resistant even to viruses, I think that also the virus pressure in my hives have been higher than if I had use an effective miticide regularly.

New strategy needed
I decided to change my strategy and try somewhat new strategies after considering the six points listed below.
1. VSH (Varroa Sensitive Hygien)
2. Use of feral bees if possible
3. Isolation with 2-3 km (1.5-2 miles)
4. Not moving bees around
5. Measuring Varroa level
6. Starting with almost zero mites
A good working set up for dragging out puppae and looking for mites, their feces and offspring.
1. VSH (Varroa Sensitive Hygien)
In spring 2013 I listened to John Harbo and started to check my most promising colonies that year (
http://www.elgon.es/diary/?p=146 ) ( http://www.elgon.es/diary/?p=716 ). The one with the highest VSH value, 50%, was a swarm from a feral colony in a wall of the dog training center in the midst of “Elgon land”.

This colony had some typical Monticola features, short development time and black thorax for example. Of course I bred from it. One colony in an apiary at the edge of “Elgon land” quite far from other bees got a ripe queen cell and the virgin mated there. I call it S241. Early in 2014 the colony shifted its queen.

In 2014 I measured the most promising colonies again for their VSH value. I found one with VSH 80% and of course bred from it. I got very good feedback concerning daughters from this colony from other beekeepers in 2015. But daughters in my own operation were among the first to show deformed winged bees, virus bees (DWV – Deformed Wing Virus).

In 2015 I was still mainly following the strategy to treat a colony when it showed DWV-bees so the virus level in the colonies was most probably higher than if I had treated regularly each year with an effective miticide. Maybe a very intense selection on hight VSH might come along with some unwanted trait, as higher susceptibility for viruses?

There are more traits than VSH for the bees to use to fight mites. Maybe VSH 50% is a good choice in a resistance mix of traits, as the feral colony seemed to have “chosen”.
This is the entrance to a feral swarm that has lived in this unheated house in a remote little village for many years at one edge of the Elgon area where thar hasn't been very many managed bee colonies and quite far from this place. But now a couple of more Elgon colonies have been established a couple of km away (about a mile).
2. Feral colonies
In many places where a population of honey bee colonies has developed resistance to the Varroa mite, feral colonies are a part of the success. They contribute apparently. And why not, no one manage them and they have to make it on their own. Though their circumstances are not exactly the same as for a managed colony. But their adaptation is not disturbed by miticide chemicals, and many times not but agro chemicals either.

In 2014 I caught another swarm from a second feral colony not far from the apiary in which S241 was placed. The mother feral colony to that swarm had been living in a wall of an old unheated house for many years. I placed this swarm in the same apiary as S241 and called it C243. –
http://www.elgon.es/diary/?p=505 http://www.elgon.es/diary/?p=515 I learned later that not far from this apiary and this house there are this old village with very old ash trees and other old houses. (Here’s a longterm feral colony living in an old ash tree at another place than this village, http://www.elgon.es/diary/?p=235 ) So hopefully there are more feral colonies around this place.

S241 might then have been mated for two generations, at least with some feral drones. That might explain why this was the colony that stood out in the very difficult year of 2015. I tried to make a VSH test early in 2015 with S241 but I found only one mite in a brood cell and it had no offspring. Not statistically significant, but a good hint. The colony had not been treated in 2014.

I bred mostly from S241 in 2015. And somewhat from C243 and another colony. C243 also showed VSH 50%. 2015 was difficult for the bees because the spring and summer was wet and chilly. Especially in spring few possibilities to gather fresh pollen for the bees, which they need for a strong immune system.
Leif Hjalmarsson at his 3 km isolated apiary with Elgon colonies since established in 1998.Here he kept 5-7 colonies without treatment until he died in 2016.
3. Isolation with 3 km distance to other bees
Especially in the difficult year of 2015 I thought about the experiences of a number of beekeepers with Elgon bees, beekeepers that hadn’t been treating against Varroa for 10 or more years, with small problems from the mite. They had in common that they were isolated from other bees or/and dominated their area heavily with their bees.

Poul Erik Karlsen on the island Bornholm in the Baltic. He used 5.1 mm cell size. He is now retired and just have a few colonies left, after many years being a relatively big beekeeper on the island. Sven-Olof Ohlsson in western Finland with around 200 colonies. He uses mainly 5.1 mm cell size, but also some 4.9. He is now retiring and going down in number of colonies. Thore Harnkloo in the "deep" forest some 100 to the south of me. He is now retired and has sold his bees.

Hans-Otto Johnsen in western Norway with several hundred of colonies. He hasn’t been treating for 15 years. He uses 4.9 cell size. He also makes his own wax foundation with a commercially quality set up. He is now getting funding from the government to find out the important parts in his operation to help other beekeepers. Officials have found the varroa level is very low in his bees, and in the bees of his beekeeper friend Terje Reinhertsen who has been cooperating with.

Leif Hjalmarsson in the southern part of Sweden. He used 5.4 mm cell size. Another difference with him and the others was that his Elgon bees didn’t have any problems with the mite from the start. The mite had arrived in his operation some 5 years before he received 5 queens from me. He had all the time treated all his bees with Apistan, an effective miticide.

Leif started his Elgon colonies with very low levels of mites. After introduction of the queens in their colonies he moved them to an isolated spot in the woods more than 3 km from other bees. He didn’t treat his Elgons for more than 15 years. He got some new queens from me when he needed. But many colonies just shifted their queens themselves. Unfortunately he grew old as we all do and got a stroke. He passed away early in 2016. He was a good friend and a good beekeeper.

With isolation of about 3 km you avoid reinvasion of mites through so called silent robbing (you don’t recognize the bees are being robbed). And you also avoid bees seeking new homes, which are coming from crashing colonies. Silent robbing I propose will take place when mite populations will be bigger than 3-5 % varroa level, thus lowering the defense against silent robbers. The time for this is in times of nectar drought, mostly when varroa population is growing and brooding is going down later in the season.
4. Not moving bees around
One big stress factor for bees are moving them to new places. It enhances drifting and mixing of bees and mites. Harmony takes time to get back, time during which defense systems woun’t function to 100%. Maybe also some combo adaption between mites and bees are disturbed by heavily mixing of mites.

I also glanced at how Dee and Ed Lusby worked when Varroa hit their operation in the Sonoran desert in Arizona. They lost 90 % of their hives due to the Varroa mite when it hit their bees. In some apiaries the number of colonies went down to just one single colony. Lusby’s though didn’t collect them together in apiaries, but let them keep their place and built up the number again, apiary by apiary. Also catching swarms.

In nature feral colonies are stationary, or swarm. And there are never many colonies in an “apiary”. Feral “apiaries” are most often not very close situated. Anyway I reasoned it wouldn’t hurt to stop moving splits between apiaries, instead keeping the splits in the same apiary.

If this has a big negative influence I don't know. I just as a precaution decided to not move hives and splits around my apiaries. If I had been a migratory beekeeper I might not had been able to choose to do this, at least not more than for a few apiaries to try to find out eventual differences.
The Bee shaker I got from Michael Palmer.
5. Measuring the Varroa level
I didn’t like the ongoing reinfestation of colonies in my apiaries. I had a feeling it contributed a lot to the difficulties my bees were having to stabilize their Varroa resistance at an effective level. My thoughts went to the Bee shaker Michael Palmer gave me some years ago. (Thanks Mike!) I didn’t understand then how it could benefit my operation.

One day I read on Randy Oliver’s website and found the Bee shaker there and how to use it. Also talked with Randy when he visited Sweden a couple of years ago. I finally realized it maybe could benefit a lot. Here I write about Randy using a Bee shaker:
http://www.elgon.es/diary/?p=354 My reasoning behind starting to use the Bee shaker: http://www.elgon.es/diary/?p=794 Here’s how to make one: http://www.elgon.es/diary/?p=660 And a videoclip on how to make the test: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oR3oX5Rjlj0

Eric Ericson had the limit 15% Varroa level when a colony was taken out from his Varroa resistance breeding program in 1995 –
http://www.elgon.es/diary/?p=457 When the program had went on for a couple of years he lowered the limit to 10%.

Today you can see recommendations of immediate treatment when Varroa level is above 5%. Today mites and bees have been more filled with virus and it will quicker develop problems even with lower Varroa levels, which makes it more difficult for your bees to become treatment free.

After talking with Randy Oliver and considering my own experiences I say the Varroa level limit is 3% regardless of the time of the season, if a shaker test is made at least twice during the season, in early May and in early August. If the May test gives a value just below 3% a new test is sheduled a month later with that colony. This way I will get a good idea of the resistance value of my colonies without creating a lot of reinvasion problems. But still my bees can pick up mites from other beekeepers’ bees of course.

If I have my bees relatively isolated I will give them a good chance to develop their resistance traits without getting a lot of mites from other colonies. The less good ones in my operation then will get new queens as soon as possible. That’s how I reasoned.
Find a couple of suitable bottles suitable lids. Make holes the lids. You can also heat a metal can very hot and melt out the hole (of course holding the hot can with a plyer. You can weld or glue the lids together with a piece of metal mesh with about 3 mm openings. Or you can buy from the website given.
Click and see the Youtube clip how to make a Bee shaker test
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oR3oX5Rjlj0
6. Starting with almost zero mites
After thinking a lot on the experiences of Leif Hjalmarsson I concluded I had to try to make a relatively isolated bee yard as mite free as possible with an effective miticide and see what happened. I hated to do that, but I couldn’t dismiss this option to learn more about achieving Varroa resistance.


New strategies
After considering the six points I have been discussing above, six different strategies formed. I started one in 2014. One in 2015. The rest in 2016.

A. The first involved one apiary on an isolated place far into the forest. Started in autumn 2014

B . The second involved one of my regular apiaries that is quite isolated (2 km). Started in autumn 2015

C . The third involved two small apiaries.

D. The rest of all my apiaries I would manage as I had done the previous years, treating when seeing more than two crippled winged bees. When seeing one such bee a shaker test would be done and the 3% limit for treating would be valid.

E. I decided that those colonies I decided in autumn 2015 I would shift queens in, or sell in 2016, I would treat early in the season of 2016 to give the new queens a fresh start and the buyers mite free colonies. It happened to be about 15% of all my colonies after about 10% winter losses.

F. Splits were only made from the best resistant colonies and placed in the same apiary as their mother colonies, not moved to other apiaries. The splits were allowed to raise their own queens. If that failed, such a split got a ripe grafted queen cell. As before the inferior colonies got their queens shifted with grafted ripe queen cells.
A project apiary autumn 2016. It fits to the A strategy described
A. The first new strategy – first experience
Will isolation and never letting the Varroa level reach high levels make it easier for Elgons to reach a treatment free situation?

A project was started in the autumn 2014 involving LP:s biodling (a bee quipement dealer), me and a beekeeper named Arne Andersson. A report about this project will probably come on this site or/and other media. The project is continuing. One part of it involves an apiary I give a report from here.

I started this apiary with three colonies in the autumn of 2014, all on 4.9 mm cell size and somewhat different heritage. The colonies were splits with new queens. The colonies had not been treated during 2014 so I didn’t know the Varroa level.

The apiary is placed in a forested area where it's normally difficult for the bees to survive. 2016 was as well a bad year as 2015, but in 2015 the heather flow gave a crop.

During 2015 splits were made from all three colonies. One failed and got a new ripe queen cell. But the split was weak when wintered and didn’t make it till 2016.

Of the six colonies (including the splits) in 2015 four showed DWV-bees and 3% or higher Varroa level in June. One of those that showed wingless bees though had only 2% Varroa level. The four were treated at one time with two pieces of thymol pads with 5 grams of thymol each in June. Two new pieces were applied and exchanged 10 days later.

In 2016 it was possible to make splits from three colonies. They had enough strength. Varroa level in spring was 0-0.3% in the five colonies. Of the three splits two failed to raise queens in spite of also new ripe queen cells. In the six resulting colonies the varroa level in autumn was 0-1.5% (the sixth colony with 1.7%).

As we had decided not to keep more than five colonies in the apiary I gave away the 1.7%-one to Arne Andersson. He tested it with short term treatment with formic acid to get another evaluation of the mite population. It fell 10 mites from the treatment.

I’m very happy so far for this result. It is in line with what I had hoped for with this isolated environment.

B. The second strategy.
Will a starting point with a low level for the Varroa population and a quite isolated Apiary (2 km) together with control of the Varroa level make it easier to reach a treatment free situation?

I choose an apiary that was quite isolated, 2 km from a couple of my other apiaries. In autumn 2015 I treated all colonies with an effective miticide giving downfalls ranging between 150 and 600 plus one 800 (in spite of thymol treatment earlier for this one). The 800-one was a swarm I caught, which probably came from another Elgon beekeeper in another area. I just happened to hive it in this apiary in 2015.

I had treated some of the colonies with thymol earlier in the season, but not the one giving 150 mites. That colony gave also a bumper crop in spite of the bad year, so I considered it a breeder actually. I didn’t measure the Varroa level in spring 2016 as the treatment had been of such an effective type the autumn before.

I made splits from those colonies I judged to be the three most Varroa resistant. I sold the three least varroa resistant colonies, but left one box of each with enough bees and brood to make a queen (it was in the middle of May) with the intent to shift the resulting new queens later in the autumn.

I killed the queens in the rest of the colonies in June and gave those a grafted ripe queen cell a week later. The swarm I didn’t touch because I didn’t know enough much about it. I was prepared to shift the queen.

In June the bee inspector wanted to see me making a Varroa level test with the Bee shaker and I wanted to know how this swarm was doing so we went and made a test with this colony. It showed 0% mite level and it had a crop above the excluder of more than 100 kg. Both he and I were amazed.

In autumn I checked the Varroa level in this apiary with the Bee shaker. With the three splits the number of colonies now was 11 in the apiary. Four of them had 0% mite level, four had 0.3%. The three remnants from the colonies sold were so weak I didn’t want to take any bees from them to check them. I decided to check them in spring if they survived and decide what to do then. They gained strength during the rest of the autumn and might well make it till spring. The swarm was allowed to keep its queen as it had only 0.3% mite level and had given a crop high above expectations. And as well showing a good temper.

I’m very happy so far with this result too. It is more than in line with what I had hoped for. I hope it will continue like this next season.

C. The third strategy
Starting with the Varroa levels there is. Will keeping track of the Varro levels at least twice a year and treat colonies with mite levels above 3% and shifting queens in those as well as making splits from the best, take these apiarie closer to being treatmentfree?

Another two small apiaries I decied I had time to keep track of concerning the Varroa level with the help of the Bee shaker. One of those Apiaries have three colonies. It is the apiary close to the source of the second feral swarm.

One of colonies in this apiary have a daughter of the feral swarm. The second have a new queen as well, grafted from another apiary and now mated in this one, so it was from a selected queen mother. The third colony was a weak colony that barely survived winter. Well, the first colony was weak too but grew strong much better.

Colony 1 had in spring a mite level of 1%, Col.2 – 0.3%. Col.3 – I didn’t measure due to weakness.
In autumn Col.1 – 0.3%. Col.2 – 1.1%. Col.3 – 4.7%. Colony 3 got thymol treatment asthe mite level was above 3%. No colony showed any DWV-bees.

The other small apiary had two colonies (now three with a split made). It is placed 500m from another beekeeper’s apiary.
Col.1 had in spring 0.3% mite level. Col.2 – 1.7%. I made a split from Colony 1. Again when I checked the mite level in autumn I found the split to weak to take bees from for a test. It though looked fine.
In autumn Col.1 – 1.2%. Col.2 – 11.7%. Now colony 2 had still its queen from 2014. It showed high mite levels in 2015 too and was treated then. I though doubted that the big increase only were mites produced from the colony itself. I suspect some silent robbing from my neighbors hive(s) as Colony 2 was a big strong colony. No crippled winged bees were seen. Mostly due to the history of the colony I decided to treat it.

I will shift queens in Colony 3 in the first apiary and in colony 2 in the second. Colony 2 in the first apiary actually lowered the mite level and is a candidate for becoming a breeder. It will be interesting to follow these apiaries coming year.

D + E. The fourth and the fifth strategies
Continuing as before looking for crippled winged bees as a sign for treating, but checking Varroa level if seeing just one DWV-bee. Also treat in spring as soon as possible those colonies that were decided to be inferior the previous autumn, as those should be dealt with concerning queens, either just shifting them or selling the colonies. Will this strategy lead towards being treatment free?

Using the bee shaker when seeing only one crippled winged bee. Treating when seeing more than two. Treating in spring 2016 those colonies judged in 2015 to be the least resistant. Also I treated those colonies in spring already, that I should shift queens in and those that should be sold. They had been chosen as they were probably the least resistant. They became treated before they had any chance to develop any mite population that could disturb the development of mite resistance with the better colonies.

I was surprised this season to see so little of crippled winged bees, bees with Deformed Winged Virus (DWV). I have difficulties explaining this unless the breeders from 2015, in first place S241, described above, with a lot of feral heritage in it, was a success.

I only saw one DWV-bee in three colonies in different apiaries in 2016. Additionally only a few colonies in which I saw more than two DWV-bees and treated directly in autumn.

Of the three with one DWV-bee, one colony had 0% mite level (the one I tested in the Youtube videoclip which there is a
LINK to above). This colony had got a S241-daughter in 2015. It was a struggling colony fighting mites and viruses and showed spotty broad. It barely survived winter 2015-16. But it was a thriving colony going into winter 2016 in spite of no treatment. Maybe a breeder.

The second showing one DWV-bee had 6.3% and got thymol right away. It had a history which made me guess the high Varroa level.

The third colony with one DWV-bee was now in its second year without treatment and had previously during the season showed a decreasing mite level. I had had mine eyes on this one as I was curious about its development. It showed in autumn 2016 5% mite level but without DWV-bees. Now there is an apiary only 1 km away with 10 colonies of another beekeeper. I decided to wait and see. I went to the apiary regularly and checked the hard board in front of the hive and it didn’t show but one DWV-bee again in middle of October when the bees were sitting in winter cluster and no brood or very little. It is a strong colony. Spring will tell more.

The three apiaries furthest from “Elgon land” with neighboring apiaries of other beekeepers are not included in giving the positive figures above concerning very few colonies with DWV-bees. Those apiaries gave such signs I decided to treat almost all of the colonies in those 2016, about 7 colonies in each.

I treated very few colonies in total in 2016 compared to earlier years. I’m happy for that. Next year will tell more.

F. The sixth strategy
Making only splits from the best colonies and placing them in the same apiary as the mother colony. This strategy may also have been beneficial to the fact that so few colonies with Varroa problems were seen in 2016.

These six strategies are planned to be continued during 2017, of course!

Your strategy
Now what should YOU do?
I say like John Kefuss on the conference in Sweden some years ago. Even if you don't know what to do, do anyway at least something you think is in the direction of becoming a treatment free beekeeper. There are enough of us around giving you ideas. And your are not without brain!
Here I give an example of a set up anyone can follow (almost), to give you ideas. It's kind of a summary of this article.