Saturday, January 26, 2008
I just completed the University of Minnesota's online extension course: Healthy Bees. This beginner-focused course introduces the hobby beekeeper to the various pests and diseases that currently plague honey bees in a very entertaining, accessible way. Each module of the course focuses on one hive "super-villain", presenting what entomological science currently knows about it, the preventative measures beekeepers can take against "the villain", and suggestions on what to do should "the villain" appear in your hives. Drs. Spivak and Reuter see "hard chemicals" and antibiotics as weapons of last resort, urging beekeepers to use good apicultural management techniques, nutrition and genetically resistant bees for combating diseases and pests. As experimental empiricists, they suggest only those treatments that have been found effective in laboratory tests and do not produce resistance in the pest over the long-term. So Spivak and Reuter reject the use of many "essential oil" approaches and say that the "jury is still out" on whether the small cell approach has any significant benefits in the control of Varroa mites. They also reject the use of antibiotics as a preventative protocol.