In areas where the density of bee colonies are high it's difficult to just stop treating without loosing many colonies, your own and your neighbours.
You may have difficulties setting up apiaries isolated enough (2 km). You may have many hives.
You may decide to develop resistance in your bees gradually anyhow.
It may be possible whatever your situation is. It can maybe take a little longer.
You can find the one or two apiaries most isolated and put only a few colonies in each, to begin with.
I decided to go step by step and went forward learning more and more. You can find my experiences in several articles on this website.
Infected brood opening/removal by the bees. Also drone brood.
No removal of drone brood
I have never used removal of drone brood. There are several reasons for that.
It would take too much work. Added to all the types of work involved in beekeeping and bee breeding.
Without drone brood removal by the beekeeper, bees will increase the trait of identifying mites in drone brood and do something about this, as they are doing with mites in worker brood. Thus they are doing the "drone brood removal" without the help of the beekeeper.
The colony need their drones. Many drones with good resistant traits will help increasing resistance in the bees in the whole area – if beekeepers are not constantly requeening with queens from outside the area from places with low resistance.
The least bad chemical
The first to decide is what to use to fight the mite. After you have decided to go stepwise to go treatment free.
Synthetic chemicals leave residues in honey and especially in wax, residues that build up in wax to higher and higher levels. It can be degraded. But the daughter substances after degradation can be as toxic as the mother substance.
Organic acids you have to protect yourself even more when using, with respiratory protection and acid-proof gloves. The residues are very low.
Essential oils are in essence organic and harmless for man, used as spice (flavouring) in different products and as a preservative. Above all, you can use it whenever needed. Interesting:
When you make the agents for using it, for example thymol pads, you avoid strong fumes that can occur. You can find higher than threshold residues of thymol during treatment in honey and maybe a week thereafter, that gives an extra taste of thyme. There is no threshold for thymol in food as it is not dangerous for our health. Essential oils are highly volatile. That's the way they work. The residues quickly leave after removal of the treatment pads.
The best way to decrease thymol in wax (thymol is fat soluble) is to keep thymol smelling combs in the bee colony where the ventilation quite quickly remove it.
My choice was thymol (somewhat still). It works marvelous, easy and quick, from spring to autumn. You adjust the amount used when treating, according to the outside temperature to get a good enough evaporation but not too much (when it's hot). For a good result there should be brood present in the colony.
When it's hot you use smaller amount but instead repeat the treatment more often to cover an entire brood period of three weeks. Similar commercial products to these homemade pads are ApiLife Var and Thymovar.
Don't forget and don't fool yourself. Also essential oils in high doses kill microbes in the microbiome.
Recipe for thymol pads
• 125 gram thymol crystals
• ≤ 1.5 centiliter (≤0.5 ounce) technical alcohol
The alcohol is used to lower the melting point. Thus avoiding too much smelling of thymol fumes.
This amount of thymol and alcohol gives about 24 thymol pads.
Each pad will hold somewhat more than 5 grams of thymol.
Warm in a saucepan on a hob outside (for quick removal of fumes) until you get a clear solution.
Take away the saucepan from the hob and put it on a potholder to avoid the solution to get overheated and thus smell as little as possible.
• Dishcloth (cellulose and cotton fiber) 1.5-2 mm think (0.6-0.8 inch)
Cut pieces (pads) roughly 5 x 6 cm (2 x 2.3 inch)
Put dishcloth pieces into the thymol solution until they are saturated.
Take them up piece by piece with a plier and put them on a plate for cooling somewhat.
Put about 24 of them in a zip lock plastic bag.
It's ok if the thymol pads haven't cooled completely.
When they have cooled they have most often hardened.
The thymol solution have become crystals in and on the pads.
Put the plastic bag with thymol pads in a second zip lock bag.
Thus keeping the pads hard and good for use.
Putting them in a third zip lock bag could be a good idea.
Put the zip lock bags in an almost tight plastic box (small tool box).
Keep the box out of the sun.
Bring the box with you into the apiary, ready for use when needed.