Someone recently asked a question about treatment-free "methods." If I understood their question correctly, they were asking, "Even with a commitment to treatment-free beekeeping, what do we do to help our honey bee colonies thrive (meaning, typically in this context, not be overwhelmed by Varroa)?
For myself, I believe that the bees are teaching me that the question I need to be asking myself is not "what do I do," but, rather, "what do I provide?" What do the bees need from me in order to successfully reach symbiosis with Varroa?
So, I am constantly trying to learn the answer to that question. A smaller hive cavity? Ventilation they can control? A better insulated hive? Less disruption? Foundationless frames (contributes to natural cell size among many other things)? A rough interior surface that stimulates a propolis coating? Leaving their propolis and burr comb intact? Leaving them all their honey? An eco-floor?
As humans, we may not be able to see a direct correlation between any of these things and their possible effect on mite loads in hives. But what if some, or all, of these things allow the bees to better control the micro-climate and micro-ecology of the hive so that they can reach the symbiosis they're striving for with all of the other organisms in their hive?
We need to remember that a hive is not supposed to be a sterile environment. In a healthy hive, the bees coexist with thousands of other organisms. If we give the bees the ability to successfully superintend that ecology, that may result in all kinds of differences that help the bees reach symbiosis with Varroa mites - differences that we cannot see with our naked eye or even measure with scientific equipment. There may be countless differences we have not yet imagined.
Here's just one example. Honey has a pH value of around 3 or 4, and sugar water has a pH value of around 6 or 7. Guess which pH range Varroa mites thrive at, and which one not so much.