Caveat: we are super new beekeepers. Last summer Jerry, the bee inspector for our region, gave a talk in our town. He mentioned that a group of beekeepers in Moab, Utah had started organizing to promote sustainablebeekeeping practices, with an emphasis on building up local genetics and minimal treatments. It was very inspiring, enough so that we committed to four hives from someone else who was at the talk. Here's an article that touches on what's going on there.
On Sunday, we helped host a group of local beekeepers for a workshop at our place, including the guy who sold us our hives. Different instructor, but similar values. She introduced us all to the idea of raising our own queens and actively seeking hardy, tough bee genetics. We are lucky here, we are probably as isolated as you can get and still have a beekeeping group. If we can work together, I could see how we could make a dent in some of the disease pressure that others fight all the time.
Anyone know of any other areas where this is working? Anyone raising replacement queens? DH was fascinated-I can see him getting into it as a sideline hobby business if he ever retires.
You are lucky having a community working together on this - it is a difficult project to consider with just a single apiary, or even a large apiary, if everyone else in the area is not working in the same direction. There is a group here in the UK working on this (Swindon I think) and they take a very proactive scientific approach to monitoring varroa mite levels and bee behaviour (multiple hours of microscope work each week). Frankly I think this approach is interesting but unsustainable... it is too expensive to maintain long term and requires technical skills and support from too many people.
I've mentioned elsewhere here the concept of benign neglect... keep an eye on them, but ultimately let the bees figure it out for themselves. If the colony is good enough to survive then it will still be around next year to breed from. I'm quite lucky also as I can catch swarms from some long term established feral hives which are known to be good survivors. I have no objections to making splits from colonies that are known to have good strong traits, so this isn't quite the STUN approach discussed elsewhere.
Moderator, Treatment Free Beekeepers group on Facebook.
I have heard rumors of a group in Plain City, Utah that are working on raising locally-adapted queens. My brother in Washington County raises his own queens. He is a migratory beekeeper, so I don't know what that means in regards to local-adaptation.
Day before yesterday I got to play in the bees. Installed 6 packages.