I agree with Barry, and TFB hives only pose a risk depending on how high the mite pressure is. If they're maintained at a low level, I would say their risk is equal to treated hives unless they're getting 100% kill and general opinion is no one gets 100% kill.
The name is Bond.
Bond: Live and Let Die.
Those first colonies that die from mites and DWV, most certainly do have a very high mite and pathogen load.
Hives that have been treated for mites won't show anything like the DWV levels that you'll see in a treatment-free, Bond: Live and Let Die, colony.
Bombus terrestris and Bombus pascorum were described as "displaying wing deformities with 'infected Honeybees almost certainly the source of the infection (Genersch et al. 2006)" (de Miranda 2010).
Let's face the fact that we're seeing DWV, in our treatment-free hives, at a rate that isn't seen in a hive treated for mites.
It's a risk some can't seem to face.
Denial isn't just a river in Egypt. :)
Here's the Genersch paper:
This one shows RNA viruses in Hymenopteran pollinators:
Good post libhart
I think treating our dogs, cats, livestock is a little different than some of the stuff done to treat our bees.
Some chemicals/medicines we put on the hive cause death of healthy bees and brood and it seems like the bees don't like it one bit. It's almost like putting a pack of flea-bitten dogs in a room and setting off sulpher candles to get rid of the fleas on the dogs. Most of the fleas will be gone but some of the dogs may die and all of the dogs will have not liked it and have tried escaping the fumes. Probably a poor analogy but....
We treat/medicate our furry pets much like we medicate/treat ourselves; with medicines that have minimal side effects.
I haven't treated any of my feral based hives this year. They all seem to be happy and healthy when I checked them last week.
My uncle treats his hives with a fogger and baby oil. Seems to keep his bees healthy for over 30 years.
Having read all the posts thus far, I'm not sure where to begin.
I restarted with bees in 2006 by purchasing treatment free bees. I have been treatment free since. My two best colonies this year produced 175 and 170 pounds of honey, treatment free. A couple of years ago I saw some dwv in one hive, but it disappeared by the end of the season. I have not seen more than a couple of bees in a couple of hives since then.
Treatment free does not mean leaving them alone. This year I practiced "Let alone beekeeping" which I remembered from the 1970's when Charles Koover espoused it in Gleanings in Bee Culture - some of you old timers might remember him. It was a serious mistake for me, and I wrote a thread elsewhere about that experience. I do not recommend it, and explained why there.
To blame treatment free beekeepers for the demise of native pollinators is wreckless and irresponsible. The pathogens were here before we went treatment free. The native pollinators will adapt and survive, or die off. In much the same way as my breeder provider lost 90%+ of his colonies when first hit, and bred the survivors, to develop his line of treatment free bees. I try to manage my hives to prevent swarming, but not too seriously. I don't mind swarms as it is my way to help introduce survivor bees into the feral populations. And what are you "treaters" doing to help the feral populations?
Treatment free beekeepers can be good or bad beekeepers, just like treating beekeepers can be good or bad. The treatment methodology alone does not determine the quality or competency of the beekeeper.
As a "Treater", I collect swarms, and do cut outs from basically "feral" populations. I do not treat these unless it becomes apparent that they will die out without help. I do not use those that do not perform well as grafting candidates. Survivability is the first rule in selection. How do I judge that? Colonies with lots of bees and lots of field force (larger honey crops) get selected. Why? Because it is those colonies that will likely propogate the species not a weak sruggling "resistant" hive. Does it cost me? Sure it does. I allow colonies to dwindle to a point prior to beginning treatment, so it costs field force, etc. which translates into lost harvest.
Several of the posters on treatment free have mentioned lack of swarming from their hives. This is not a desirable outcome. The strong should reproduce and that is what a swarm is. If your hives are not swarming then they are not adding to the feral population, except for drones. The chances of a colony that does not swarm having a lot of drones is not very high. I usually judge that a colony with a lot of drones is healthy and happy. With varroa, drones are favorites, so they are the first to fall in a hive that is overrun with varroa. So once again that struggling resistant hive is not adding much to the local feral population.
In closing I will ask these questions: Do you know of any beekeeper that would rather have to check for pathogens, access the hive against them, spend the money and time to treat for the maladies than to just place a hive and harvest honey?
I think we would all prefer to be back 30 years when that was possible. Do you?
Interesting observation. It is my concern that EHB presents risk for wild bees. So, I have mixed feelings - I love my honey bees but I do aware that they may compete with native varieties. Since I introduced honey bees in my yard, I noticed that actual number of wild native bees are increased (have no explanation to this). We also have native California plants garden. Honey bees are completely uninterested in native plants - they foraged in nearby community vegetable garden and blooming trees (pepper-tree, etc). So, we have honey bees and native species leaving next to each other. At least in urban environment, I do not see a competition. I do not know if parasites and diseases transferred to wild bees from EHBs. It seems to me that honey bees used non-native sources for foraging (mainly trees, eucalyptus, for instance) and there is a niche for wild species. Combination of the native plants, wild and honey bees creates very nice "close-to-nature" environment - we have bunch of birds, butterflies etc. Also, it looks like bees had some influence on squirrels - we have much less these days.
One can easily jump to the conclusion that it was thru commercial beekeepers bees in close proximity to noncommercials, or infested packages and queens, but, what about those apiaries which were geographically isolated wherein no new bees were brought in via packages or queens and were located far beyond flight distance from any commercial operations. Areas of Essex County,NY come to mind. Schroon Lake, Moriah, Mineville, those sorts of places where folks w/ a small handful of hives eventually also had varroa mites. How did they get them? No obvious way apparent to me.
How did varroa, shb, and nosema cerana get to the US? We closed the Borders, shut down importation of Queens from Europe, back in the early 20th Century to avoid thge Isle of Wight Disease, aka tracheal mites, only to have it show up in 1984. How did that happen?
One concern amongst Apiary Inspectors is that the new crop of beekeepers w/ Treatment Free/Hands Off/Bond Beekeeping in mind will be aloof to the knowledge of bees, bee diseases and pests, the identification of those pests and diseases, to the extent that they will become reposetorys of diseases and pests.
Smaller sized beekeeping operations have been found to have higher percentages of AFB. So, smaller sized operations managed by someone w/ the idea that bees should be allowed to build their own resistance to pests and to diseases too will, I predict, be where those diseases and pests will be found more often.
The greatest defence against bee pests and dieases is knowledge and experience, not philosophy. Gain the knowledge, then decide what your philosophy should be. Going into beekeeping w/ your mind made up about how things aught to be done before you know how things work is, in my opinion, not a good way of becoming a beekeeper.
"To blame treatment free beekeepers for the demise of native pollinators is wreckless and irresponsible."
Well, it's more like: if you go treatment-free, you are taking the risk of spreading pests and pathogens to native species.
I think that it's important enough to consider before making a commitment to go treatment-free.
If you had a chance to read the 'RNA Viruses in Hymenopteran Pollinators' paper in the link above, you would read that pollen seems to be the way that viruses can spread amongst native pollinators.
Pollinators apparently infect the pollen, and the pollen can then infect other pollinators.
When I began keeping bees, back in the mid-1960's, I was entirely 'open' to whatever worked best and worked for me. I usually bought into, and even purchased treatment products, Fumagillin and Terramycin (to name a few), but never actually found a need to use them (a waste of money). It's been a while since then, I have learned not to waste my money on 'treatments - cures - remedies'. I have rarely lost a colony for any reason, usually those I've lost were due to my own shortcomings. Though laying workers, developing in colonies that were queenless for too long, got weak, then robbed out is where most of my losses occur.
I've had AHB usurpation swarms take over several nucs and a few full-size hives, but this doesn't usually kill a colony, just makes it trickier to maintain EHB genetics.
I know there are Varroa present, and sometimes DWV, vectored by Varroa, or maybe not just Varroa. I sometimes see a colony or two affected by what I've heard called, PMS (parasitic mite syndrome). But that usually only persists for a month or so.
I use some foundationless, some PF120 or PF100 frames, some HSC frames, a few RiteCell foundations, and a few other frames/foundations.
I remember, as I was learning about the Small Cell theory and Dee Lusby, and being warned that if I didn't 'treat', my colonies would all die within two years, or maybe three. None ever did. I began to relax from the anxiety this created in me, and haven't regretted it, yet.
Maybe someday Varroa and other pests will become a problem for my bees and I. Maybe then I'll change my tactics and begin using some of the many treatments available to me (I doubt that HopGuard will be one - it was tested here in Arizona, but never registered/labeled for use here).
I often wonder why my experiences seem to be so different from many of my fellow beekeepers. But not enough that I lose any sleep over it.
I think that the point is, treated or not, the pathogens/pests are there. If treating eliminated pathogens/pests, we'd only need to use them occasionally, because they'd eradicate the pest organisms. And, eliminating virus could only be accomplished if all the host organisms were also totally eliminated.
Treating honey bees will not stop them from sharing their pests. If it were that simple, it would work between honey bees, too. It doesn't.
While reading this thread so far I'm struck that the treatment/non-treatment debate is masking what I think is the real crux of the matter - responsible beekeeping.
Barry noted earlier in this thread that if one's hives develop an infectious disease you need to deal with it. And I absolutely agree.
That presupposes that the beekeeper will recognize AFB and have or know the resources for positively identifying it and dealing with it. With some new beekeepers (especially those who are starting on their own without local support) over whelmed by a mid summer populous hive, who knows what is going on in there?
So education is important. And not just about honey bees but about the role they fill in the environment and what other insects are filling that role too.
I had dismissed the Xerces Society as the lunatic fringe. Nevertheless, I saw a researcher I respect was going to be speaking at a Xerces talk, so I went. The big thing I got out of the talk was that alternative pollinators are here and doing what they do; my honey bees will benefit from cultural changes on my land as much as the already existing natural pollinators do.
Like not mowing my grass fields until after the first frost. They were primarily being mowed ahead of that for aesthetics not a crop so it wasn't as big a change as it might have been. Other things I've done that are beneficial to both my honey bees and native pollinators: plant tress (Apples and Linden) to provide additional food resources at specific times of the year, not eliminate "weeds" and other undesirables in my blueberry fields, again increasing food resources. Some things I've done just for the alternative pollinators - leave a few standing dead trees, leave a few patches of bare dirt in the blueberry fields instead of trying to recover them to grow blueberries on. I don't use any ag chemicals on the blueberries and my fields don't look anything like the well manicured derocked fields I see along the roadside. But no matter, I hope my fields are healthier. To go along with that hope I now need to learn to recognize blueberry pests/diseases as the last thing I want is for my well intentioned endeavors to harm someone making their living from berries.
In beekeeping, both treatment and treatment free, I don't think we can ever stop being open minded and learning about how our activities influence the surrounding environs. I know I have much to learn. Right now I'm working on how to get the bees to make and put surplus honey in the supers. What little honey there was in the supers this fall has been fed to light hives, along with an insane (to me) amount of sugar syrup.
I'm open to the question of am I running more hives than my area can support. In this as in lots of beekeeping issues, beekeeping is really local.
No fingers should be pointed at anyone. As Mark has said, don't jump to conclusions.
i refused to sell a hive of bees this year to an individual who just wanted to park them on his property, and was not interested in managing them at all.
i remember my first summer with bees, and how overwhelmed i was in trying to work them, and how unsure i was about what was going on in there.
my concern is that it would be too easy for a beginner to adopt the 'hands off' approach, while at the same time thinking they were practicing cutting edge beekeeping.
in my view, not being open minded, and adopting an approach based more on philosophy than science, has with it the risks of spreading problems beyond one's yard.
for me, i hope i can learn skills to manage my hives in a way that allows my bees to thrive on their own. but i am not opposed to lending them a helping hand when it is indicated.
I don't buy it. The treated hives are typhoid Mary in this regard....the syrup makes her a sexy typhoid Mary that all the bees in the neighborhood will be attracted to.
We take great pains to keep our honey free of drugs and sugar syrup.....who is responsible if my harvest is contaminated by someone else's hives being robbed?