sounds like warre hive material here
It seems to me that the present conventional beekeeping system is more than a little broken. He's doing a lot more to fix it than many folks. I don't always agree with him, but at least he always argues from a factual basis, and I respect that.
It seems to me that the present conventional beekeeping system is more than a little broken.
But is it? They do alot of things I do not, but where do most of the replacement bees come from? When the average commercial beekeeper is buying his replacement bees from a TF beekeeper, I will concede this point.
I think things have got a bit more real here on the TF forum than they were a few years back. The main players now do say you will lose more hives if going treatment free, whereas a few years back a lot of people were in total denial. Many, if they lost a hive, could accept any possibility, except mites. It would be starvation even if the hive was full of honey, or whatever.
Before I started TF hives I read extensively, but only here on Beesource, plus a lot of Dee Lusby. Not much else. I did figure out that Dees bees are a bit different, so based most of what I did on what's reported here in the TF forum. And, I WAS mislead, or at least, not fully informed about potential losses. Fact was, most of what I read was that losses of TF hives were little different from treated hives, and people were constantly reporting how well they were doing and how they didn't lose any hives. A bit like this, a common type post:-
I was not given this information before I went TF with some of my hives, had I known I probably would not have done it.
From a practical perspective for a beginning beekeeper, if they do average, they will lose 4 hives in 10 if TF annually, or 3 hives in 10 if not TF annually. This can be a hard path for a beginner. If they lose 4 in 10, of the 6 survivors they need to be able to successfully split 4 of them, just to stay where they are numbers wise, this can be a big ask and why so many new beekeepers disappear after a few years. If they treat and lose 3 out of 10, they only have to make 3 splits out of the 7 survivors, a much more palatable proposition for a beginner and gives a lot more room for success. These kind of statistics are not made readily available, or, they weren't to me, so people go in over optimistic.
I think some of the TF "evangelicals", will think, so what. We have to get people to be treatment free. Personally, I'd rather see people succeed. It is now standard procedure that all beginners start TF, believing anything else is wrong, damaging, makes weak bees, etc. Some of them do better than average and stick around. Some of them do worse than average and quit, disillusioned.
I am left wondering what a "conventional beekeeping system" actually consists of. Sounds kind of like an assumption that those who don't follow the Beesource treatment free definition are all doing things in a like manner. But if that is the case then why do some seem to have much better results than others, shouldn't those following this system all be losing their bees? Hmmmm.
In a past time the wax moth was the varroa mite wiping out hives. Honeybees adapted and now wax moths are a thing of the past. I started out treatment free 8 years ago. Was it tougher yes. Was it worth is yes. My expenses are lower, my wax better. My genetics localized, successful and deep.
I am keeping my bees up to par with the times.
I believe that is why apples and roses need so much spraying. As the diseases and pests continue to "naturally" evolve the plants are grafted and remain outdated.
Our honeybees are the same we have kept them out of date and are paying the price when we go off the crutch of chemicals.
Africanized bees are a great example of an awesome selection of nature. nature selects the best, we needs to only let the best be selected as well.
I believe the future of successful chemical free beekeeping (or beekeeping period) must be realized thru the local industry.
small cell makes sense. it's natural. better yet go foundationless and save money.
keeping 10 frames in a ten frame box keeps true cell depth and is natural. helping keep tracheal mites at bay.
What kills new beekeepers namely is the waste of money packages that are commercially sold. With queens so poor a great beekeeper could not coax them to a crop. (if the bees don't supersede her right away) Then after that I would say a lack of successful beekeepers T.F. and old fashion ones are to blame as well.
As in everything in life there are those who can't and those who can.
Since I started in 2007, I never once treated my bees for anything. Helps when you start with stock that isn't treated for mites either (Bee Weaver). Haven't lost a single hive to pestilence. And I don't do small cell either. And I don't do drone frames or anything like that.
But aren't these last 2 posts a classic example of what I just said 4 posts back? The typical scenario - I never treated, I never lost any hives, success success.....
The reality that the average TF beekeeper loses 4 out of 10 hives each year is not to be found by reading the treatment free forum on Beesource. As the OP has been saying.
It might well be that the replacement bees produced in large quantities for both commercial and hobby beekeepers are part of the problem, not evidence that the system is working well.
Most of the commercial beekeepers I know replace their losses by buying or producing their own queens and splitting their live colonies. Some folks will buy truck loads of other beekeepers hives. I imagine their are some who buy packages, but I don't know what percentage of package bees go to commercial use. I'm under the impression that most of the packages go to non-commercial beekeepers.
I guess what I was referring to is the idea that it's possible to poison our way out of our present difficulties. I'm deeply dubious about that proposition. I could be wrong, but I think the evidence is on my side. As an analogy: consider antibiotics. We've managed to evolve organisms that are resistant to just about every antibiotic in the inventory, and all we can do is hope for new drugs that the organisms haven't yet acquired resistance to. But when those new drugs appear, it will be only a matter of time until they become less and less useful. This has a familiar sound to it, doesn't it?
Now with people, we can't take the Bond approach and let the weaklings die. I'd be dead myself if not for antibiotics. But bees aren't people, they're bugs with a high reproductive rate, we do not become attached to them as individuals, and the superorganism that is the colony is much too alien a being for us to have the same emotional attachment to it as we do to other people. Just as with other livestock, we can select for traits we find desirable. If you believe B. Weaver, their bees are fairly resistant to varroa. To me, that approach makes a lot more sense than the insecticide de jour.
To extend the analogy I tried to make above, it's much more effective, cost-wise and quality-of-life-wise, to try to keep people healthy enough that they only rarely need antibiotics. From what I've read here, this is the approach you take with your bees, only resorting to acaricides when you deem it necessary. To me, that's much more admirable than what I learned in beginner bee classes, which took the view that all hives must be treated for everything, whether they have a problem or not... lest they develop a problem, One of the demos consisted of sprinkling drifts of Terramycin around the demo hive, and we were told that this was a necessary prophylaxis, to be done regularly..
The beekeepers I admire the most, and hope to emulate in some small way are those who take the view that if we can make our hives strong enough and healthy enough, we can avoid many of the problems that currently afflict bees. They try to do this through a combination of genetics and management practices, and there are enough cases where it seems to be working to demonstrate that this can indeed be achieved. To me, that's a more promising longterm strategy.
I tried to avoid that pitfall. I bought a local nuc from a guy nearby for one hive, and a package of Wolf Creek small cell, semi-untreated bees for the other.
I still expect them to die. I hope to be able to replace them from splits I make.
Have non-treating experience for 9 years now. Started enthusiatically and with all hives I had at this time. No small cell, nothing, just live and let die. First year - not many problems. Second year, some hives died, but nothing serious. Than lost almost all in the third year.
Tried all sorts of fixed comb beekeeping. In skeps, Warré hives and logs and all. Avoided pesticides from agriculture. Let them swarm and all. Just honey, no feeding, no transfering of comb, nothing. The hyper-natural way to "keep" bees.
As indicated above, after some time I got into trouble keeping up the number of hives. After a second hard hit I decided to follow the Soft Bond Test as worked out by John Kefuss. See: http://www.immenfreunde.de/SBT.pdf
With this method, you treat hives that need it, sorting them out from breeding and multiply from those that keep varroa at bay. I was able to increase my apiary since and do have zero to very little losses this way.
Doing nothing, live and let die is a waste of ressources, both money, time and nerves. And it isn't natural for the bees to waste away.
Instead working methodly and with a defined and measurable target is most promosing. It might need some decades to get fully resistant bees, but that is not a problem since there are few to no losses.
The Soft Bond Test method greatly reduced the use of miticides in my apiaries. Some years you need to treat more hives than other years. (There seems to be a three to four year cycle.)
Going live-and-let die is most educating, since you observe when the point of no return/recovery is reached, you are able to distinguish between varroa and virus damage and the combination of the two. You learn to distinguish the varroa damage from your own foolish mistakes.
I do not recommend beginners to go all-in as I did, since you need to learn beekeeping first. Beginners do many many mistakes. Of course. Once you've wintered bees with no losses for five years in a row, you can start thinking of going treatment-free. But then I recommend to do it the Soft Bond Method way.
I keep treated and non-treated hives side by side. Some say that varroa distributes from non-treated to treated hives. But I think the effect is negligible - as long the hive is not collapsing. A collapsing hive spreads a lot of varroa. In the Soft Bond Test you prevent this by treating before it collapses.
I learned that all the natural things: swarming, no comb transfering, natural comb (means fixed comb: no frames, no foundation, no barrier, different cavity shapes and sizes), just honey no sugar supplements, no saving of weakened colonies (let die...) and other things considered "natural" do not and will not save the honeybees. Nor is helpful any way.
My lessons learned is, that the environment - at least where I am - is artificial, creating artificial problems which create necessities for artificial solutions.
I think we as natural beekeepers shouldn't target ideals but instead try to aim at an optimum. An optimum is right in the middle between ideals and necessities. It is the intersection of ideals and necessities. That is what nature does. Nature doesn't select for the best, but for the optimized.
So I develop my beekeeping towards a more natural way to do things, but keep an eye on necessities. From all attempts I have seen so far, the most promosing are methodical proceedings. If you have no plan, no method, nothing to measure - you'll fail. (Unless you throw in hundreds and hundreds of hives into the game. Which is something that might work out, but surely not for a beginner.)
Again, have a look at: http://www.immenfreunde.de/SBT.pdf
I highly recommend that method.