Pests and diseases

A natural approach to treating bee diseases and pests courtesy of Cale Brown:

"With all this talk lately about the proposed new biosecurity measures and Varroa detection and management, I thought it might be helpful to share some resources.

There are some incredible beekeepers in the U.S. that are steadfastly refusing to be drawn into the treadmill of treating their bees, and are having remarkable success with techniques that they have pioneered out of necessity.

I know it hasn't been easy for them and I'm sure they've suffered huge losses at times, but I find it extremely encouraging to read about their success and failures and what they've learnt along the way.

We are lucky enough in Australia to be the last continent in the world to have Varroa. Although when it does arrive it will probably be far more virulent thanks to decades of widespread mite treatments unwittingly selecting for more robust mites that can reproduce fast enough to outrun treatments.  

We now have the benefit of being able to learn from the experience of beekeepers all over the world that have been brave enough to move to treatment free beekeeping without having any model of success to refer to.

A lot of people have probably heard about Michael Bush - and Sam Comfort -, but I think the beekeeper that I've learned the most from is Kirk Webster -

Kirk is a commercial beekeeper in Vermont with permanent apiaries, and is a total luddite! His website is a simple collection of his writings over the years, a lot of them being published in the American Bee Journal previously.

He's amazingly positive about the challenges that Varroa and other pests bring, treating them as mentors that can point the way to better beekeeping rather than as a problem to be avoided.

I think it's great that he's gone to the trouble of describing his beekeeping practices in detailed and very well written articles to help out other beekeepers.

Another great site is Randy Olivers -

Randy is a commercial migratory beekeeper in California but also a biologist.  His website is more about bees than beekeeping, but he has a huge amount of very well researched and referenced articles about all sorts of issues affecting bees and beekeepers.  He's not what you would call a 'natural beekeeper', but he doesn't try to push any particular way of beekeeping either.  

If you want straight up accurate scientific information without judgements, then this is the best site I've found. 

I find it very encouraging to read that a lot of the techniques used to manage Varroa without treatments are already an integral part of Warre beekeeping.  e.g. natural cell size and rapid renewal of old comb.

I might be biased but I really think the future of sustainable beekeeping lies in 'Natural Beekeeping' methods, and it's up to us to create resilient apiaries the can serve as examples of genuine alternatives to constant pesticide use."

Insert brief descriptions and images of

  • SHB – PP slides from 2 day workshop (slide 40 & 42)

  • AFB (slides 42 & 43)

  • Other (slides 44)

  • Varroa – image - C:\Users\Jenna Ford\Pictures\Bees\Beekeeping workshop images


  • The Apis mellifera, honey bees, are how we have food on the table and this is at risk. Bees around the world are dying off, rapidly, dangerously - this is sometimes known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). CCD is man-made caused from the destruction of pristine forest and forage plants to environments made toxic by use of pesticides, fungicides and herbicides and the practice of intensive, commercial beekeeping that weakens bee colony health.
  • The honey bee fights to survive from season to season and is under tremendous pressures from both bee diseases, American Foul Brood and deadly parasites Varroa destructor. Varroa has entered and decimated honey bee populations in every country bar Australia including our closest neighbours New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. If/when Varroa enters Australia our wild honey bee colonies that pollinate for free the food we now eat will die.
  • Research scientists are racing to develop a means of halting the spread of the destructive Varroa mite that wipes out over half the bees in USA annually as well as most other countries. Natural beekeeping practices promotes the keeping of bees in natural, healthy conditions that produce resilient bees. In Australia, we continue to develop healthy, resilient honey bee colonies that will go a long way to protecting our food supply.

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