In an age of debate over the merits of pesticides and genetic modification, veteran bee-keeper Ron Hoskins of Swindon Honeybee Conservation Group has his own story to tell after almost two decades of scientific observation of bee colonies.
Ron’s work confirms that nature definitely knows best. He said: “At the moment, bee-keepers are advised to administer damaging chemicals into their hives to eradicate mites and viruses, which are such a threat to the global population of honeybees.
“But since stopping the use of pesticides on my own hives in 1995 I began to observe honeybees grooming their honeycombs to clean out mites.
“I then demonstrated that this behaviour is due to a genetic capability in the bees, and it’s this that I want to spread to make sure that bee colonies can be self-sustaining.”
It took 19 painstaking years of observation, recording and interpreting the data from his hives before Ron was confident that the evidence was pointing to honeybee populations finding their own ways to make their habitats hygienic and mite-free.
“I noticed that adult bees were ejecting baby bees that had been affected by the destructive verroa mite. I began to find the antennae of baby bees gathering at the base of the hives, along with the dented bodies of the mites. The evidence suggests that the bees have bitten into the mites and discarded them, along with the remains of the babies.”
In 2010 Ron’s discoveries made international news, and he is still on a mission to spread the word that pesticides are not required as long as hygienic bee stocks and specially bred queens are used to establish hives.
Addressing the Central Association of Bee-keepers in London in April, Ron explained his approach to apiarists. He said: “We need to stop using pesticides that leach into everything and stop the practice of culling drones, which is reducing the reproductive capacity of the bees in the wild.”
Ron runs bee-keeping courses at Stanton Country Park. For more information, mail: firstname.lastname@example.org