When 79-year-old UK beekeeper, Ron Hoskins, lost half of his bee colony to varroa mite he didn’t give up and destroy the rest but decided to do something different.
“We started to study the survivors and what we found was that they were actually grooming the mite from themselves,” he told BBC News.
He’s hoping to breed a breakthrough that could halt the rapid decline in the global bee population. Mr. Hoskins made the discovery after realising that one of his hives had far fewer deaths from the varroa mite than others. He found that the insects in that hive ‘groomed’ each other to get rid of the mites before they had the chance to do any harm.
With the varroa mite becoming more resistant to chemicals used in the past, beekeepers are being forced to look into other methods. Now Mr. Hoskins is attempting to spread his mite-resistant breed of bees by cross-breeding them with queens from other hives.
Mr Hoskins, who developed an interest in beekeeping at the age of 12 after he was evacuated to live with a beekeeper in Oxfordshire at the start of the Second World War, has spent 18 years researching a mite-resistant breed of bee. The former heating engineer from Swindon has lost tens of thousands of bees to the parasitic varroa mite over the years. During his research he found one of his 80 hives had suffered far fewer mite deaths than the others, he examined the insects and found tiny marks on the bees where the mites had been.
He realised this was because they had begun to ‘groom’ one another to remove the parasites. He has now cross-bred his hives so they all contain the ‘Swindon honeybee’, as he has named it.
Not sure if this is where to find more information, but this Bee Association website has a beekeeper named Ron Hoskins in Swindon: http://www.moraybeekeepers.co.uk/Stanton_Park.htm