Beekeeper stewardship, colony loss, and Varroa destructor management

Christopher A. Thoms, Kristen C. Nelson, Andrew Kubas, Nathalie Steinhauer, Michael E. Wilson, Dennis vanEngelsdorp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1209-1218
Number of pages10
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 15 2019



  • Colony loss
  • Decision-trees
  • Honey bee health
  • Stewardship
  • Varroa management

Cite this

Thoms, C. A., Nelson, K. C., Kubas, A., Steinhauer, N., Wilson, M. E., & vanEngelsdorp, D. (2019). Beekeeper stewardship, colony loss, and Varroa destructor management. Ambio, 48(10), 1209-1218.