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Harnessing Nature's Defense: VSH Honeybees for Healthy Hives

The Varroa mite casts a long shadow over beekeeping, weakening colonies and threatening their very existence. While chemical treatments exist, their downsides, like residue in honey and potential mite resistance, push us towards natural solutions. This is where Varroa Sensitive Hygiene (VSH), a remarkable bee behavior, emerges as a powerful ally.

VSH Queens- Pupae with a Varroa Mite on it

Unlocking the Power of VSH:

Think of VSH not as a specific bee breed, but as a superpower found in various bee stock, including Italians, Carniolans, and Caucasians. This superpower empowers bees to act as vigilant brood protectors, detecting and removing mite-infested pupae from the nest before mites mature and reproduce. This disrupts their life cycle, naturally keeping their populations in check.

What Matters Most: Drone Quality in Open Mating:

Here's the crucial point: achieving optimal VSH in your hives depends largely on the genetic makeup of your drones. While some might suggest artificial insemination, at Kinnickinnic Bees, we favor the power of open mating with high-quality drones. We meticulously maintain hives with exceptionally high VSH counts, ensuring our drones carry those desirable genes. This natural mating process fosters greater genetic diversity, leading to healthier, more resilient colonies compared to the potential limitations of artificial insemination. In order to ensure the best chances of high VSH responses out of newly mated queens we focus on large quantities of drones in our best hives to ensure genetic reproduction.

Key Points to Remember:

  • Targeted Defense: VSH bees primarily focus on young capped brood (4-6 days old), where immature mites reside.

  • Beyond Mite Resistance: While VSH primarily enhances mite resistance, other colony attributes like honey production and temperament remain independent.

  • The Additive Advantage: Even partially VSH bees offer improved mite resistance. Offspring of queens from high VSH count hives inherit a degree of the trait, boosting your colony's overall defense.

Embrace Nature's Solution:

By incorporating VSH bees into your apiary, you're not just gaining mite resistance, you're embracing a sustainable, long-term approach to beekeeping. Kinnickinnic Bees stands beside you in this journey, offering high-quality, VSH-focused queens and drones. Explore to learn more about how we can empower your bees with the natural armor of VSH.

How we do it: We keep an isolated mating yard that has only our best Winter survival stock that also scores highest on our VSH testing, through mite counts in cells. We then increase drone numbers in those hives using drone frames. We then place our mating nucs with freshly hatched Queens in the yard for a couple of weeks of open mating.

Drone quality's importance: Drones are an exact copy of their mother as they start out as an unfertilized egg. This allows for any VSH Qualities in the queen to be passed down through drones to other queens and with careful selection can slowly increase VSH qualities. Part of the issues in open breeding is that poor drone genetics can contribute from hives that have no VSH qualities and still rely on human intervention to keep their hives alive. So isolation and high VSH drone populations are key.

Are you looking for better bees?: We have been working hard on increasing our VSH and UBO response bees over the last several years and we are gaining great traction. If you are interested in ordering VSH queens or VSH bee packages follow the links for more information.

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