, Volume 48, Issue 10, pp 1209–1218 | Cite as

Beekeeper stewardship, colony loss, and Varroa destructor management

  • Christopher A. ThomsEmail author
  • Kristen C. Nelson
  • Andrew Kubas
  • Nathalie Steinhauer
  • Michael E. Wilson
  • Dennis vanEngelsdorp
Research Article


Varroa (Varroa destructor) is a leading cause of honey bee mortality worldwide. In a U.S. national survey of beekeepers, 3519 respondents noted what they believe are the advantages and disadvantages of managing for Varroa, what good stewardship means in beekeeping, and whether they treated for Varroa. Dominant attitudes were keeping bees healthy, minimizing disturbance, and monitoring hives. We found a bifurcation in Varroa management beliefs. Decision tree analyses show group distinctions. Treatment Skeptics tend to say that stewardship means bees should not be disturbed or subjected to chemicals, and should be given forage to do their ‘normal business.’ This group was less likely to treat for Varroa. Treatment Adherents identify themselves as bee stewards and say stewardship means active hive management and keeping bees healthy and alive. Illuminating beekeeper stewardship is essential for a socioecological understanding of how to address challenging Varroa management and complex human–environmental production systems that have landscape-level effects.


Colony loss Decision-trees Honey bee health Stewardship Varroa management 



This study is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Award # 20166800424832 as well as Kristen C. Nelson’s research by NIFA McIntire-Stennis 1000343 MIN-42-069. We thank the Nelson Lab for manuscript review—Michael Barnes and Hannah Ramer. As Minnesota Co-PI lead, Dr. Marla Spivak provided support in numerous ways.

Supplementary material

13280_2018_1130_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (194 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 194 kb)


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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher A. Thoms
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kristen C. Nelson
    • 2
  • Andrew Kubas
    • 3
  • Nathalie Steinhauer
    • 4
  • Michael E. Wilson
    • 5
  • Dennis vanEngelsdorp
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of Forest ResourcesUniversity of MinnesotaSt. PaulUSA
  2. 2.Department of Forest Resources, Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, & Conservation BiologyH.T. Morse Distinguished FacultySt. PaulUSA
  3. 3.Saint Paul CollegeSaint PaulUSA
  4. 4.Department of EntomologyUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA
  5. 5.Department of Entomology and Plant PathologyUniversity of TennesseeKnoxvilleUSA
  6. 6.Department of EntomologyUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA

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