....more later, I'm working on some other things at the moment.
....more later, I'm working on some other things at the moment.
No, the point I am making is that if you really want to make a difference in this industry you have got to come up with a blueprint for how to change the beekeeping practices employed on the 99% not on the 1% of the hives. If someone makes an environmentally friendly car that gets 200 mpg but isnt practical for the average American to afford or to drive then you havent really accomplished much. If you are truly buying into the assertion that treatment free honey is a better product then the "small guy" that we should be concerned about more is the 99% of the honey consumers that cant afford to pay the high prices charged at specialty shops and end up consuming what many feel is an unfit product.
Hey, the honey from the "organic farm" that we found to be 30% beet sugar was selling for $11/lb. The particular store is located within a few miles of several universities, including MIT and Harvard (no, this is not the honey store in harvard square). Some of the most educated people in the world were buying this stuff, and paying plenty for it. So, unless you think honey should contain 30% beet sugar, you've got people who _can_ afford the specialty shop prices, who are paying them, and they are still getting an unfit product.
Again, you missed Jim's point. How does your TF regime work for all the commercial beekeepers who produce the lion share of the honey sold?
Am selling at market so will have to be brief but not all folks who buy treatment free honey are wealthy...many of our customers do not have great financial means but value the honey we sell. Many are from cultures that use honey daily as medicine, preventive and otherwise, and are very concerned about sugar in beekeeping...they come to me asking for honey from bees that are not fed sugar.
Jim "If you are truly buying into the assertion that treatment free honey is a better product"...
The problem I have with "some" individuals professing to be selling only treatment free honey is not the treatment free aspect so much as how they actually handle their treatment free honey. Not using treatments in your hive (approved or otherwise) is one thing, but I have personally witnessed extracting and bottling setups by the hippy-dippy crowd (no offense dean) that leaves a lot to be desired. Garage setups, contaminants stored close by, non-approved storage vessels, and downright un-sanitary conditions are quite common. In that case, I’ll take my chances with the bigger guy.
I keep saying it doesn't. I haven't seen anything in Deans post that says it does. Have you? If everyone was producing a product like Dean does don't you think his prices would drop like a rock. Same why with organic vegetables.
I don't want to characterize Jim's product...I'm sure it is well above average.
In a previous life, I made very, very high end orchestral piccolos. I would spend 4 days (sometimes 5 if I was slow) making the keywork and mechanism from stock, and from raw castings. Grinding, filing, fitting, soldering, sanding, polishing, cleaning sterling silver, and sometimes 14 carat gold.
When I was in school, and thought I wanted to go into the instrument making field, I had had summer jobs in high end shops like the ones I worked in later, but I took the train to Elkhart Indiana, where band instruments have traditionally been made in this country.
There were crappy instruments that came out of those shops, and some nice ones. All of them were "mass produced" rather than "hand made". I'd make the keywork for an instrument from scratch, and fit it precisely to the imperfections of the body (for this, customers paid between 4 and 7k...in the 90s). In Elkhart, even the higher end instrument keys were made in batches...100 G#'s, 100 thumb keys, etc. Final fitting was done by bending. polishing was done with big machines that work fast and automatic, but remove too much material to leave sharp bevels and details...the hallmark of quality metal work of this kind. there were some very good instruments being made this way...but our customers wanted an instrument that was made in the way they thought an instrument should be made...by a single maker or small shop, with years experience and skilled handwork....and we had a 4 year waiting list, with about half the instruments going to Korea and Japan to players and collectors (duties were about 100% on these things as well).
Spending months perfecting wheel skills, or working on soldering at low enough temperatures so that copper doesn't migrate to the surface of silver is a waste of time if you are going to make the keys out of nickle silver by machine....spending time obtaining those skills won't help the worker on the factory floor where they are not valued or needed.
Commercial beekeeping has a lot of baseline practices that fill in the gaps between what bees need, and what they get. Feeding of sugar and/or pollen patties, medications for disease, moving them for a perpetual bloom, rotating out comb before it becomes too contaminated, requeening every year to prevent swarming, etc. This is the sledge hammer approach.
If you take these crutches away, you are left naked in front of mother nature with an incomplete system. If you take the automation away from the factory workers, you are left with workers that lack the skills and knowledge to build an instrument by hand. So, how do you fix such a system once you've taken the crutches away? The best way I know how is to see how someone else is doing it. We have mother nature, Dee Lusby, Kirk Webster, Bob Brachman...all with very different approaches, all without treatments, and all producing a commmercial crop, and all getting a premium for being treatment free.
One can certainly make a living building instruments in Elkhart (or at least one could 10 years ago...I don't know what is going on there now,but I bet it isn't pretty), but it isn't how I wanted to spend my time. I was lucky, I got to feel close with the instruments I was making, their owners, and the music they produced. When I'm managing bees without feeding, without treatments, I feel like I am closer to them...less like a factory where sugar and drugs go in, and honey and bees comes out.
Again, I'm not comparing Jim's honey to mediocre band instruments...I'm poniting out that doing things different ways requires different things and results in a different outcome.
The reason our customers trust us is because we are trustworthy. I have seen Dee's, Kirk's and Bob's extraction setups. We maintain an approved and inspected wholesale food facility so that we can do what we are doing legally.
Honey (at least in the U.S.) changes hands as a commodity. I would bet that most packers and beekeepers have not seen the extracting setup used for the honey they are bottling. The "big guys" are the most likely to buy the most honey they can get for a bargain...not necessarily honey from 'clean' extraction rooms.
"We maintain an approved and inspected wholesale food facility so that we can do what we are doing legally."
I have no doubt that you do, but you are but a few apples on the tree in the big picture of selling treatment free honey. If we are talking about specific practices of treatment free honey in general, then we should probably expand the scope of the conversation to others engaged in that practice, and not just the few that you seem to have imbedded in your keyboard.
I know other treatment free beekeepers for sure, but we do business with the three I've been mentioning...we report to the state health department where we get all of our ingredients and honey.
If we are going to look at unsanitary practices of treatment free beekeepers, is there an implication that beekeepers that use treatments are immune from such practices? Should we look at some of the offlabel uses of treatments to characterize "treatment beekeeping"? Should we look at sugar adulteration in some honey from some beekeepers who feed to characterize all beekeepers that feed?
What am I supposed to be responsible for? What are you responsible for?
Once again, a lot of intelligent people countering each other.
Unfortunately, if one is coming here to help them decide which way to go in their beekeeping practices, it leaves your head spinning. You just have to pick a direction and try it.
For myself, it has left me somewhere between Mike Palmer and Mike Bush - keeping in mind that they both are drawing from the ideas of others, mixed with working experience over many years.
As it all relates to the OP on small cell foundation, I find that I'm trying a mix of smaller cell (5.1) foundation mixed with foundationless in what I have this year. I've got a bunch of 5.4mm foundation as well, so I think I will likely use that as starter strips to some degree - unless I find foundationless to go pretty smoothy - without a ton of messy combs.
To deal with mites, I've come to this: (and I admit that my lack of experience necessitates me making some decisions based on faith to some degree. That means that years of reading (while beekeeping) has lead me to feeling that some of the writers are more 'trustworthy' than others - and that really just means that what they say 'rings true' with my own way of looking at the world.)
• Narrow frames in the broodnest- because I've seen the bees create that spacing on their own in the tbh.
• 8 frames- easier lifting/tighter space which I feel could help in wintering and efficient use of stores.
• No foundation in the brood nest or very little of it - allowing the bees to do their thing on cell size and minimizing wax from unknown sources.
• Managing nucs as a majority of my colonies - maximum colony numbers on minimal gear, and making nuc management the core - knowing that the young and small colonies will require less mite control effort.
• Honey for bees first - feeding only when their stores would not be sufficient and taking honey for myself that is truly surplus to wintering needs.
So it's a mix of approaches offered here by people I believe to be competent beekeepers, who make a regular practice of readily answering questions from people like myself. "Cyber mentors" I guess.
It still leaves me taking it all to the workshop and bee yards to actually see how it all works in practice in my own hands, with my own bees, in my own region.
You come looking for answers, but you really get a selection of them. Then it leaves you making your own choices - and playing them out - in order to find your own 'proof' of what works and what doesn't.
"If we are going to look at unsanitary practices of treatment free beekeepers, is there an implication that beekeepers that use treatments are immune from such practices?"
Certainly not. I have seen some real nasty commercial honey houses as well. My point is simply this: One cannot just automatically assume that because they are purchasing honey from someone who happens to have a trendy treatment free marketing scheme, that they are trustworthy and that their honey warrants the classification of a "better product”, because sometimes it doesn't. I'm sure you and the others you mentioned do a credible job.
...weren't people getting on my case for pointing out that _some_ honey is adulterated? Aren't you just saying that _some_ honey isn't processed in a sanitary way? Why does this have anything more to do with "treatment free honey" than it does "USDA Grade A Honey", "Pure Honey", "Local Honey", "Beekeeper Honey", "Raw Honey", "Pasteurized Honey", "Filtered Honey", "Bee Honey", "Farmers Market Honey", "Home Made Honey" or even "Mass Produced Imported Honey"...whatever.
Do you consider the three you listed to have lifestyles that reflect most other commercial beekeepers?
No, I don't...and you will note that I've never been one to say that everyone (or even anyone) should change their operation. The best decisions for Jim to make are those made by Jim.
As it has been pointed out, if everyone was suddenly treatment free, I'd be out of business in an hour. More people work at Mcdonalds than at independent burger joints. More food is made at mcdonalds than at independent burger joints. Would the market support all of the mcdonalds locations going independent...with the additional overhead, costs, responsibility for quality, decisions, etc? Of course not.
I like Jim, I like talking to Jim, and I care that he understands what I am trying to say...but I don't really care if he goes "treatment free"....I don't care if he shakes out his bees and starts with packages every year (I'm not implying that you do).
What Jim gets for his honey is between him and the person buying it...I have no control over his price unless I'm the one buying it, and at this point, we are only buying treatment free honey....but someone else is welcome to value his honey equivalently to how we value Dee, Kirk, and Bob's honey...he is free to demand whatever price he wishes.
I will say (and I've said it before), we got into this business _because_ we saw Dee's operation, and realized that her honey was being sold to big packers at a low commodity price. We felt it was more valuable than that, so we took a risk of starting a business in Massachusetts selling (at the time, only) treatment free honey from Arizona. This was no small risk, this was less than an obvious thing to do. It didn't just happen.
"real numbers" must include costs (labor, equipment, vehicles, supplies, gas, transportation, etc), feed, treatments, time etc...and certainly must include what price the honey (or the bees, or the queens) are selling for.
it is generally not in anyone's best interest to be quite this open in public...can we see the numbers for Beesource? Hosting costs, staffing costs, time, donations advertising revenue, etc...profit? I didn't think so.....this is essentially what you are asking for, and there are too many good reasons not to be truthful about _everything_ _all the time_ that one shouldn't really expect such things to be posted on a public forum.
Take a chill pill, be that "pretty laid back guy" you said you are, the discussion will be smoother. I'll fess up, in this thread anyway, the main reason you and I have banged heads, is simply, you leave yourself so wide open, it's hard to resist.
Relax, and the world will change.
And because of that, we need to be very careful making statements that can't be backed up with real numbers. Saying someone is a successful commercial TF beekeeper can mean a lot of different things. Unless all the numbers were laid out, there's no real way of defining that term. One successful beekeeper may own a couple houses, take routine vacations, own up-to-date equipment, and live quite well, while another successful beekeeper may live very spartan, can't afford to travel, has older equipment, etc. I think if your living is made from bees, money is at the core to defining success.
Regarding Beesource, I'm not trying to convince Google or Facebook that I run a better, more profitable website, so there is no need to get into the numbers. :)
There are quite a few people who post on here that in the back of my mind I say to myself, wow, wouldn't it be great to know them, or meet them in the beeyard and pick their brains a little. Their persona is indeed generally laid back, and not prone to verbal confrontation. There are others who for some reason or another feel as if the world is out to get them or rain on their parade, whatever it might be. They are quite defensive and often prone to reduntant statements perhaps in order to continuously justify their current positions. So Oldtimer if I am ever in your part of the world, I might look you up. Same goes for Mike Palmer and a few others. Mike Bush stayed at my place this July and we worked a yard of my bees. Other than him trying to tell me how to pry my frames apart when inspecting my deeps it was quite a hoot. I got a kick out of him saying that. He even played his guitar for the bees..now hows that for laid back. Oldtimer your picture thread on here regarding no-grafting for queens is worth its weight in gold.