Data for: A survey of UK beekeeper’s Varroa treatment habits
Martin, Stephen; Valentine, Alexandra (2023), Data for: A survey of UK beekeeper’s Varroa treatment habits, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.xksn02vkn
The global spread of the parasitic mite Varroa destructor instigated a substantial decline in both managed and feral honeybee (Apis mellifera) colonies mainly across the Northern hemisphere. In response, many beekeepers began to treat their colonies with chemical acaricides to control mite populations in managed colonies. However, some countries or beekeepers allowed their bees to develop mite-resistance by adopting a “treatment-free” approach, rather than using selective breeding programs. Yet, the distribution and proportion of beekeepers either treating or not within the United Kingdom (UK) are unknown, as it is in most Northern hemisphere countries. Therefore, the aim of this study was to conduct a beekeeper survey to determine the current treatment strategies within the UK. We gathered 2,872 beekeeper responses from an estimated 30,000 UK beekeepers belonging to 242 bee-associations in the winter of 2020/21. The survey indicated that the majority (72–79%) of UK beekeepers are still treating their bees for Varroa, typically twice-yearly using chemical-based methods. Six percent or 1,800 UK beekeepers were treatment-free for six years or more. This is reflected by our finding that 78 associations out of 242 consist of responders who entirely treated, while only four associations had more than 75% of their members that were non-treating. Overall treatment status was not affected by association currently. Using the baseline data from this survey it will be possible in the future to observe if a shift towards treatment-free beekeeping occurs or not.
The survey was constructed using Google Forms as it allowed an unlimited number of responses whilst also allowing the incorporation of the University logo to add credibility to the survey. The survey consisted of a brief description outlining the study, its aims, and our definition of treatment, which was, “any form of external or additional control administered to bees by beekeepers aimed at reducing Varroa numbers”. Then followed six questions: 1) association name, 2) number of colonies, 3) if they treat or not, 4) number of times a year they treat, 5) number of years since last treatment, 6) type of treatment (see Fig S2 for survey). Answers were either multiple-choice questions or open questions that all helped assess the beekeeper’s treatment habits. The survey was kept short in duration to increase the response rates.
The contact details for 325 beekeeping area associations across the UK (Fig. 1a) were obtained via the four UK Beekeeper Association websites (British, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland). Initial contact was made by email with 303 of them; outlining the study aims to determine general interest. The responding associations were then sent the survey online link and asked to forward it to their respective members. Beekeepers were given ten weeks from 23rd Dec 2020 to complete the survey. A small number of beekeepers did not complete every section of the survey fully, so for each analysis, the precise number of responses obtained from that part is given. Amateur bee associations were chosen as they contain around 30,000 members in the UK. The results have been published in PLOS ONE.