I do not have an answer to that question. I certainly hope that it is a better year with less losses for the Beekeeper and cleaner, more healthy forage for all pollinators.
I was having a conversation with a fellow Beekeeper, trying to explain the process of going chemical free in his beehives. I explained to him that it is a slow process.
If a beekeeper has been treating their bees with chemicals in an attempt to eliminate the varroa mite, those bees are going to be WIMPY BEES!! PROPPED UP – NOT ABLE TO LIVE WITHOUT THOSE CHEMICALS.
You might compare it to our recent outbreak of this virus for the past 2 years. For those that actually got the virus, their bodies produced antibodies and T-cells to combat any future form of the virus. Protecting and building your immune system.
It is a known fact that any chemical in a beehive not only weakens the bee’s immune system, but also confuses the bees with the “stink” of that chemical. Bees communicate by vibration and smell. Interfering with that communication, weakens the hive’s ability to do what they need to do on a daily basis.
Once those bees are not exposed to the chemical soup that a beekeeper might put in the hive, the honeybee’s immune system can be strengthened. It allows the honeybee to become strong again and able to do battle with the varroa mite. When a honeybee is healthy, they will bite the leg off of those mites. When a leg is bitten off, that mite will not live.
Just think, that entire hive of 50,000+ bees all going around the hive and biting off legs of the varroa mite. Very soon, there will be no varroa left!!
If thinking about going chemical free, you might lose some bees. Those bees on a chemical regimen might not make it as they have been so weakened by those chemicals that they might not survive. The process of splitting strong hives, purchasing strong queens that have been raised chemical free and purchasing packages that have not had chemical soups put into them, will eventually give you much stronger bees. The way nature intended.
Thankfully, these types of beekeepers and sellers of bees are starting to be more available. Find a local beekeeper that will sell you a package or maybe just a queen.
Catch swarms!! Especially feral swarms! You will not always get a feral swarm, but diverse genetics are the name of this game. The more diverse the genetics of your apiary, the stronger your bees will be.
Believe it or not, but that “so called” lazy drone is the key to great genetics! The mating of a queen with many healthy drones, will help the queen produce the diverse genetics that the hive needs to thrive by fighting mites and any other pest or disease. The chemical soup will also weaken your drone population.
Congratulations on your choice to go chemical free!! I have been chemical free for over 8 years and do not regret that decision!
Do I still lose bees….YES. You still have those homeowners and farmers that cannot or will not get off the chemical merry-go-round. My bees often suffer due to their poor choices. I am praying that will soon change.