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Hygienic Bees » Swindon Honeybee Conservation Group

Hygienic Bees

The Swindon Honeybee Conservation Group (SHCG) is based in North Wiltshire. We have achieved major successes in breeding honeybees that are able to live with, and survive, the Varroa mite which is currently devastating the honeybee population throughout most of the world.

As I write this in 2014 it is twenty-two years since Varroa mites were first discovered in Devon. Unfortunately these nasty little blood sucking creatures are here to stay. They cannot be eradicated but their numbers can be lowered to a level where they may not present such a major problem.

Also unfortunate is that most beekeepers around the world have resorted to the use of chemicals to lower Varroa numbers and appear reluctant to stop chemical use for fear of losing their bees. These chemicals are still being regularly applied by beekeepers. Some are also culling large numbers of drone bees before they hatch in order to destroy any varroa in the act of breeding. The Varroa breeding method is explained in About Us.

DEFRA recently published an advisory leaflet indicating that “If only 5 mites are found on 100 uncapped drones it should be treated as a serious varroa infestation”. I read that as killing 95 drones unnecessarily; drones which are badly needed to mate with new queens. Is it any wonder that we continually hear  “My queen has stopped laying” or “I have a young queen but my bees keep making queen cells”. Their queens may not have been able to mate properly due to the lack of drones.

By 1995 I had discovered that one colony of my bees were actively grooming each other to rid themselves of mites. When looked at under a dissecting microscope the grooming is made obvious by the damage caused to the Varroa carapace on some and legs removed on others. See pictures in the My Research page.

Over the past nineteen years our breeding and assessment programs have enabled us to increase our stocks of these hygienic bees without the use of any chemical. Our aim now is to selectively breed lots of queens from our very best hygienic bees and use them to spread their genetic abilities so that everyone may one day stop using chemicals and some swarms, if not collected, will be able to survive in the wild, eventually restoring feral honeybees in remote areas where there are no bees unless there are local beekeepers.

 

Ron Hoskins

 

Read more about the later developments and progress in the About Us page.