Hygienic bees research supported by BDI 

Since the arrival of the Varroa mite from Asia, millions of honey bee colonies have died. For decades, beekeepers have continued to control Varroa populations by the use of chemicals and other invasive methods. However, throughout Africa and most of South and Central America mite-infested colonies survive without any form of mite-control. This has been linked with poor mite reproduction, although what causes this has remained unknown. Throughout Europe, the USA and Wales an increasing number of naturally evolved, mite-tolerant colonies are been discovered. 

Professor Stephen Martin and his team of researchers at the University of Salford - supported by BDI and the BBKA - aims to understand why some honey bee colonies have become naturally tolerant to Varroa and to see if this information can provide beekeepers with a long-term solution to the problem. 

The management of our colonies for varroa is one of the ways that beekeeping has evolved in the recent past and the arrival of varroa in the UK contributed to a steep decline in the number of beekeepers and hives at the time. Since then, a variety of ways of managing colonies for varroa have evolved and learning these have become an integral part of every beekeeper’s knowledge.

Early treatments for varroa focussed on invasive chemical compounds and, whilst these still have a place, the emphasis is changing to biological methods of control, wherever possible. This latest research looks at ways in which bees and the mites can co-exist.

The latest research by Professor Stephen Martin and his team looks at ways in which bees and the mites can co-exist. The BBKA Special Issue explains how the research can be applied by an interested beekeeper.