Three pounds is what I would consider the lower limit. You should be fine though as long as they are a healthy package.
Sounds like you have the right thought process going and a good attitude. Follow what HiveMind said and you'll be ok. Installed my first 2 pkgs. 2 weeks ago and by feeding them with sugar syrup they are off to a good start. Goo luck.
I started my first hives for "4H" in the late fifties. The only problem I remember was the possibility foul brood. We didn't do any treatment. My biggest worry where I lived were bears. I sold my hives when I went to college. Last year I got back into bees with my daughter. After a lot of reading both books and information on the internet we decided to go with local swarms and treatment free. Michael Bush influenced me the most with his writings. If I were a commercial beekeeper with a thousand hives I might have to do things differently. We have three healthy hives, two top bar and a langstroth all started from captured local swarms. We harvested some honey but not a lot. Being the first year we wanted them to build. They wintered over strong and healthy with no feeding. They are now starting the new season with foundation less frames full of empty comb and lots of blooms. We captured a swarm on tax day from a lilac bush. I don't plan to buy bees or queens. I feel catching local swarms will supply me with healthy stock.
I started my first hives for "4H" in the late fifties. The only problem I remember was the possibility foul brood. We didn't do any treatment. My biggest worry where I lived were bears. I sold my hives when I went to college. Last year I got back into bees with my daughter. After a lot of reading both books and information on the internet we decided to go with local swarms and treatment free. Michael Bush influenced me the most with his writings. If I were a commercial beekeeper with a thousand hives I might have to do things differently. We have three healthy hives, two top bar and a langstroth all started from captured local swarms. We harvested some honey but not a lot. Being the first year we wanted them to build. They wintered over strong and healthy with no feeding. They are now starting the new season with foundation-less frames full of empty comb and lots of blooms. We captured a swarm on tax day from a lilac bush. I don't plan to buy bees or queens. I feel catching local swarms will supply me with healthy stock.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that things like mite resistance and longevity of the queen stock are more important factors to consider, than whether or not to treat. Even the strongest, healthiest, best bees can get sick, just like Olympic athletes are not immune to the flu.
That said, however, I don't subscribe to the cook-book method of prophylactically treating bees. My thoughts are, do the absolute minimum, keep a close eye
on the hives and mite counts, and when you see a problem looming, THEN treat it aggressively.
Personally, I don't treat for anything. There are 2 reasons for this. One is we have very little varroa/SHB/AFB/EFB in this region. The other is because I want to get a sense for the conditions my bees exist under. I want to see for myself what is going on- in other words, if I treat, I wont be able to tell whether it's the treatment that keeps the hives alive, or if they would have been fine without it. I'm a little leery of beekeepers who say things like "If you dont treat, you wont have any hive comes spring". I'm willing to lose my hives to put that claim to the test, and also to see just how quickly they succumb to pests/pathogens, what the symptoms are, how well they react, etc. To me, thats what being a beginning beekeeper is all about- the learning process. When a local beekeeper sold me a couple of what he called "rough around the edges" feral nucs that ended up being queenless, I was thrilled. I got to learn to requeen, do newspaper combines, deal with a laying worker, and still managed to get one hive through the winter. I learned a ton from those "rough" bees, and wouldn't have traded them for anything.
So, my thought is don't treat. Sit back and see what happens. Then treat any problems that crop up, and see how well it works. Expect a loss rate in your hives, but chalk it up to a learning experience.
I'm a 3rd year TF guy who had heavy winter losses this year. Down from 41 hives to about 20 strong colonies left, with a few more stragglers.
Now, I'm sure the major reason for my losses was related to our drought and lack of fall forage and pollen (and some beginner mistakes), but I'm also sure mites played a roll in some of my colonies not being as strong as they should have been.
I'm commited to TF for at least another couple of years, but in my experience TF can be a tough road in the beginning.
Like Karla said in an earlier post, the beekeeping learning curve is pretty steep and the best advice I would give you emulates her's, and that is to get a good local mentor who has had success at keeping bees the way you think you would like too, and follow everything they say to a tee. There are TF folks in your area.
Overland Park, KS
There are two basic ways to go treatment free.
First, get some bees and don't treat. Breed from the survivors year after year, and after massive losses, you'll have treatment free bees.
Second, buy packages or queens from a reputable breeder that has a proven track record of treatment free bees. They're out there, and they advertise. Then you can with confidence go treatment free from the get-go. This is what I've done, and have been completely treatment free since re-starting in bees in 2006. Losses range from a consistent low of 6% to a high of 18%.
It's much easier to START on small or natural cell size than to convert later. It's much easier to NOT contaminate your comb than to replace it all later. It's much easier to get and maintain a natural system from the start than to try to recover from all the damage you do by treating.
When I was treating for Varroa I lost all of them. Several times. I have had MUCH more success not treating them and keeping them in a natural system on natural comb.
Well I didn't read everyone's response to this thread. I too am in my second year now and went treatment free. My decision was made long before I came to the site. I went foundationless and treatment free which would not be defined in this forum because I decided to give my bees some good bee tea which I found online that contained thyme oil which was fine with me. Over the winter here in Alabama I lost no bees and hive strong hives. Take care of your girls the way u feel comfortable and have fun.
[QUOTE=Solomon Parker;926087]Good start. They should be local. If you're getting packages from the south, chances are you're gonna have a bad time.
Agree, so now what? How many packages come out of the south each year? 500K 1,000K? How to convert those to treatment free? Anybody can work on regression. What else. What is your recommendation for the masses? Local mated queens, virgins? Does it require a frame of bees to innoculate the hive? Not argueing with you, it would be nice if everbody could start with local nucs. Not there yet.
For those starting with a southern package because it is a choice of that or nothing, what is your suggested course of conversion?
It's probably too late this year, but it is possible to find local bees, and to find packages that are somewhat better than the mass-produced southern packages.
The best advice is to join as many local clubs as you can. That's where I found my first local nuc, from a guy who produces a few just for fun, with local mutts and open mated well-fed queens. And through the club I could have bought others from larger-scale but still fairly local guys. Because I was interested in small cell bees, I also bought a package from Wolf Creek. These are not strictly treatment free, but the treatments are at least limited to stuff like essential oils, so those bees are probably less damaged than many packages. There are other suppliers you can get decent packages and queens from.
But even if all you can get when you decide to start keeping bees is a southern mass-produced package, it's still worthwhile to do it, in my opinion. Bees are bees, and you will learn a great deal, even if your bees die. And you can learn the techniques you'll need when you get better bees. You can have them draw out good natural comb, for example, and if they don't make it, you'll have good comb next spring. You can make splits, you can see what brood breaks will do for you, and so on. It's cheap education.
I'm one of those people who always thought "Gee, wouldn't it be nice to keep some bees," but never got around to it until fairly late in life. Now I wish I'd done it much sooner, because even if I had, there's so much to learn about keeping bees that no one can possibly learn it all. But isn't that the greatest thing about the little bugs?
Start with a package from a southern breeder who sells bonafide treatment free bees...they're out there, just do it.
If you do want to do conversion or whatever you want to call it, go ahead. It will cost you more if you start with unfit bees.
Solomon, with all due respect the comment "unfit bees" is hardly well targeted or correct. Many Many many of those hives do just as good as captured wild swarms. and "acclimated for the area" is silly also.... the turnover of bees in the hive handle that issue quickly. You could comment on queen types with some merit, and also point out your bringing the problems of the package supplier home with you, But I for example have doubled my number of hives almost every year, and my bees do just fine from packages. I only have 1 swarm hive. generaly as a rule I don't have time to even mess with swarms, and those 5-6 I do a year have fared much worse than my packages.
No way to do the math, but were everyone waiting to start beekeeping was waiting on swarms, 90% would never get bees......
So gut your package, get it started, if you like do your small cell, or whatever, get a nice queen from somebody like solomon, research VHS ... just get moving. don't be one of those guys sitting on the sidelines.
Did you treat those packages?
Every year I sell over 300 packages, plus what I use. On a hot year I get a dozen swarm calls... Lots of people would compete for those few swarms....
Generaly I try not to treat. Last year I had some EFB I treated for, and going into winter I did treat 90% of my hives for mites.n The year before I didn't treat at all, and I also have 3 breeder hives that are untreated.
I also steal all extractable honey from everything but breeders, and ran about 50% losses... very pleased with that result given the amount of food left for them, and the really late fall mite treatment.
None of my breeder hives had issues.
Keep in mind i am all for treatment free!, just not fond of all the negitivity about packages, or those who do use treatments. Packages have been and are a reliable source for bees, for close to a million hives a year. since what 1920 or so???
While I am here, I am running a experiment this summer, testing southern production queens against "suvivor queens" do you have 10 you would be able to sell me in May? (not looking for donations) they will be balanced and weighed and tested for mites monthly.
I had four hives I decided to experiment with last year that were packages. Yes not a good sample...but anyways... I split four hives over the course of the year into 12 over-wintering nucs. I have not treated in the past but decided to treat 6 and leave 6 alone. I lost all but two hives. Both hives that survived from this ill-fated experiment were not treated and are gang-busting into spring. Probably just luck of the draw but I will be breeding from these not using treatments on any of my hives this year.