Book Reviewed: Summer Brood Interruption for Vital Honey Bee Colonies: Towards sustainable varroa control using biotechnical methods.
By: Aleksandar Uzunov, Martin Gabel, Ralph Büchler.
Publisher: Apoidea Press.
Available via: https://www.amazon.com.au $38.24 + delivery.
Reviewed by: Patrick Dawkins
There isn’t a Kiwi beekeeper out there who isn’t aware of the continual threat which varroa poses to their honey bee colonies, and very few who are not looking to expand their knowledge and improve their management strategy. While we hope for scientific advancements to assist our varroa control, as the pesky mite gradually grows resistance to miticides, in the meantime there are potentially management practices, such as brood interruptions, which could help.
With this in mind, this book on brood interruptions would be a welcome addition to many beekeepers’ libraries. While it is authored by three Germany-based bee scientists and converted to English, it is written in a manner making it highly pertinent to Kiwi beekeepers. The book is also self-aware enough to state that some of the techniques detailed are difficult to scale up to commercial operations. Despite this, the theories presented and practical details required to achieve effective brood breaks are good education, and the book is a handy reference point should such methods ever be used, in large scale or small.
It introduces three methods for ‘summer brood interruption’: ‘brood removal’ (i.e. completely removing all brood frames from a hive), ‘queen caging’ (i.e. enforcing a brood break) and ‘trapping comb’ (i.e. restricting the queen to a series of combs to trap mites in as the remainder of the hive is broodless). Queen caging is the most common method of these which I have heard used, or discussed, here in New Zealand. In my own operation I am considering trialling this technique to enforce a winter brood break. So this method, at least, is not limited to summer as the book’s title suggests.
Each of the three methods is succinctly, but well, explained. It’s an A5 sized, paper-back, book which runs to just 80 pages. However, the three methods of brood interruption are detailed over 34 pages, meaning the reader can quickly learn each technique within minutes of reading. Having all the timings and dates of queen laying, varroa’s reproductive cycle and the required actions of the beekeeper laid out is a reassuring reference point. The remaining pages provide supporting chapters such as ‘Factors affecting applicability’ and ‘Additional aspects and tips’ which help the reader decide what methods are best for their operation and how they can be harnessed to improve hive management more generally.
It is definitely written by beekeepers for beekeepers too, and by that I mean there are multiple ways of displaying the required information – because we all know each beekeeper has their way of doing things and this goes for learning things too. Each method of brood interruption is explained in text, but then with photos and diagrams detailing timings and actions required. On top of that, each title page has a QR code so the reader can quickly scan with their smart-phone to load a Youtube video of the method in action. It’s a modern book!
And it’s modern in more ways than one. I read Summer Brood Interruptions for Vital Honey Bee Colonies in probably only a couple of hours combined reading time, and that is perhaps its best quality. In a world where we are attracted by ‘bite-sized’ pieces of information, its succinct chapters fit perfectly, with short videos and simple but effective diagrams to boot.
So, who should buy this book? Any beekeeper reassessing their varroa management strategy, any beekeeper who likes to keep a library of reference material from expert and respected authors, or any beekeeper who is simply looking to expand their beekeeping knowledge base more generally. The methods detailed would certainly appeal to many hobbyists who are intensively managing hives, or a hive, as they could more practically be introduced on a small scale.
I don’t know if summer brood breaks are going to be the answer to controlling varroa long-term in New Zealand, but they very well could have a role to play and this book will help you decide whether they do in your operation or not.