It requires a certain Head in The Sand attitude to ignore these facts.
Or so it seems to me.
My head is in the hive seeing whats happening not in the sand. What ever floats your boat I just get tired of having treatment free crammed down my throat.
"Treatment Free"? I am certainly not treatment free, I graft larvae to grow queens. I manipulate frames and combs to facilitate growing and dividing colonies, to produce more colonies. I sometimes feed sugar syrup, and pollen substitute. I frequently open hives and examine their combs to determine how they are doing. I have and sometimes still do, used Bt to help control wax moths. I sometimes feed copper gluconate as a nutritional supplement. I've even been known to swap combs from one hive of bees to another, and vice versa. I use some plastic foundation, some beeswax foundation, and some without any foundation at all. Some have horizontal wires, some crossed wires, and some fishing line; others with no supplemental support at all. And I could probably go on for much longer, just describing the many different "treatments" I provide my bees, to help get them to perform as I'd like.
I have not, as yet, resorted to any treatments that are usually referred to as, "hard chemicals". However, I do lose colonies all the time, every time someone comes to pick up a nuc or queen to start their own colonies with, or requeen one.
Not treating can't "make stronger bees". If your bees have a genetic hygiene trait, they have it. If they don't, they're not going to somehow develop that gene spontaneously because you let them die a long, slow, miserable death. The idea that not treating leads to "stronger bees" is an illusion, based on a misunderstanding of how evolution works.
Fair point melliferal, but most of it lies on finding a hive that does survive, then base your stock off them, which may bottleneck them but whatever floats your boat right. The way I look at it, treated or not, people select for their best hives, and even in a treatment program, you're strongest hives are probably that way because they're more mite resistant so to blindly say treating is going backwards is not very accurate. That being said, by treating you may keep a lot of dogs around that dilute the gene pool as far as resistance goes, but at least you're keeping some diversity around.
I don't deny that there are foolish and shallow people who take a simplistic view of treatment free beekeeping, and they are even more annoying to treatment free beekeepers than they are to you, for reasons that should become obvious with a moment's thought. But there are foolish and shallow people on the other side of the fence as well, who think all you have to do is hang some strips in your hives, dump in the antibiotics, and all will be well forever.
Of course there are successful beekeepers on both sides of the fence, and I certainly don't automatically think that those who treat are foolish. But I do think that trying to use bug poison to kill bugs on bugs is not a practice that can be sustained forever. The process is inherently damaging to the bugs we want, and the bugs we don't want seem to rapidly develop resistance to each new bug poison. I think most intelligent folks can see the difficulty there. I doubt anyone really likes the treatment treadmill, but many can't risk stepping off. They have families to support with those bees, and they know that developing resistant bees is a process fraught with death and destruction. When the Bee Weaver company started their program to breed resistance to varroa, they began with 1000 hives and lost most of them over the first winter. But now, many years later, they'll sell you a queen that at least in some areas, will produce a colony that can survive mites without treatment. These are not yet perfect bees, but denying that such bees exist is a pretty fair example of Head-in-Sanditis.
No they aren't, thats the point. You let bees with bad genes die.Quote:
If they don't, they're not going to somehow develop that gene spontaneously because you let them die a long, slow, miserable death
Its just like playing poker. You keep the cards you want, you trade in the ones you don't. You have no control over what the new cards will be but there is always a chance that it will be better, and as long as you hang onto the best cards every time and only discard the low value cards you will eventually get a full house.
A treatment free program without any breeding program will never lead to stronger bees, but it least it won't lead to stronger mites.
Treating is like playing poker blind and bluffing every time. If the other players (mites) have crappy hands then you will win, if they have a good hand, you lose. Over time the bad players run out of money and stop playing and only the good players are left and because you never look at your cards you never become a better player. Eventually you will end up at a table facing against all the best players and they will clean you out.
Now, if treatments where like a gun and you could shoot and kill the other players any time you started losing it wouldn't matter but until the come up with a treatment that kills 100% of mites you can't do this.
I can't believe I have to try and explain this, haven't we seen every single species that we use a less than 100% effective treatment on grow stronger!? Have you never read a book on the history of parasites or disease in your life?! Why is it that Penicillin and quinine are no longer used even though at one time they where miracle drugs?
Don't they teach evolution in school anymore? Heck in my biology class we created DDT resistant fruit flies in only a couple of months! We went from 90% effectiveness to less than 1% by doing nothing but treating them and letting the survivors breed. I'm sure thousands of other classes have preformed the same basic experiment.
You breed from your best bees. Where do you think hygienic traits came from? The genes were in the pool, but the line had to be developed by someone who applied some sort of selective process to the bees.
This is basic animal husbandry; human beings have used the process for thousands of years, long before Darwin. The great thing about bees, compared to other livestock, is their high reproductive rate. This means that selective breeding of bees is a much faster process than, say, selective breeding of horses.
But if you treat, you will find it more difficult to breed for these desirable traits, because the treatment can mask the response of the colony to varroa pressure. Some scientists have chosen to breed for certain marker behaviors, but this is a somewhat artificial approach. The most direct approach to breeding for survivability is to select for survival, not for single traits such as brood removal or hygienic grooming. In my admittedly inexperienced opinion, true survivability will probably turn out to be a cluster of anti-varroa behaviors.
Nowhere in my definition of HITS is treatment or treatment free mentioned. Knowing the enemy is my point. The importance of understanding the magnitude of damage caused by varroa and recognizing the level of infestation seem to have been lost in many circles.
Survival is only one measure of success. An important one, to be sure. A heavily parasitized colony of bees may survive from season to season but no matter what else, its vigor and health are severely challenged.
I hate using percentages. I don’t think I have enough hives for those types of measures to carry any real significance. Having said that….for those who insist….15% is pretty close to my year to year losses. But like many backyard beekeepers I am able to open and personally inspect every hive several times each season. If I ran 5000 hives that wouldn’t be possible…and surely my failures would go up. If I had 10 hives in my backyard, I would expect 0% if I teated for mites and around 30% if I didn’t. In addition to survival…I believe that if I didn’t treat, my honey production would fall substantially and the overall health of every hive would decline. I’ve run a tf yard and that is what I saw.
Rhaldridge I am not necissarily pro treatment. I observe and treat when needed, just like I do with my children and pets. I think I and beemandan are on the same page. As beekeepers we are trying to keep them around. When we see a problem and do nothing and just let them die, that is not benificial to them or us. Those same bees if treated can get over thier sickness just as me or you and still be around. I am not saying by any means to just routinly treat. I am saying when theres a problem do what you can to fix it, help them don't let them die a cruel death.
Simply letting unresistant colonies die isn't nearly the same thing as selection. It can't be, for the simple fact that you're not actively culling unresistant stock or removing it from the breeding population. "Letting them die" means that while you're deliberately looking the other way waiting for them to choke, they're as busy as bees ever are - swarming as much as possible, casting as many drones as they can out into the wind. Therefore, you are not in any way concentrating the mite-hygienic gene in your local breeding population; it will remain effectively status quo. There is a small change over time; but it's not large enough for you to notice, and it's not dependent on what you're doing - any more than it is dependent on what treated bees are doing. And don't forget that all this time, the mites as well will be changing to be able to survive and possibly thrive despite "mite-hygienic" behavior. There's a reason noticeable species-wide evolution tends to deal in thousands-to-millions-of-years timescales.
Even making splits from your apparently-coping stock isn't actually doing the job. Remember that all your workers are only half-sisters; if the hygiene trait came to your queen via drone, a large quantity of your eggs are actually not hygienic, and if one of those eggs becomes the new hive's queen - congrats, you have a non-resistant colony; but you won't know it, because it came from a resistant colony and therefore contains little to no mites, lending the illusion that it's resistant. And given the treatment-free philosophy of not even bothering to check because "the bees will work it out on their own", you'll never know - until in a couple of years when they finally succumb. And in that time how many swarms have they cast? How many splits or nucs did you make?
Natural selection takes eras. Anything you do to speed up that process is unnatural selection. Which is perfectly fine; but why are you making all those colonies suffer needlessly? VSH queens are available. Heck, they're even available in your favorite flavor, if like me you prefer Carniolans over Italians or (inexplicably) vice-versa? If you really want to make a short-term impact on the breeding stock you're contributing to your area, why not buy some of these queens that are observed laying VSH bees, and re-queen infested colonies with them? It will save you a whole lot of time and an immeasurable quantity of life that would otherwise be condemned to misery and empty death.
ETA: For what it's worth, hygienic traits were not discovered and cultivated by people leaving beehives to sit and then simply holding onto and splitting the hives that didn't die. People had been doing that, for decades. They even made packages out of these bees and had the audacity to advertise them as "mite resistant", based on nothing but a chain of pure assumption.
Varroa Sensitive Hygiene, and other hygienic behaviors as developed by Dr. Spivak for instance in Minnesota, were actual behaviors, and were cultivated by actually getting into the colonies, and watching what the bees were doing from hour to hour, day to day. VSH bees aren't merely "resistant" to mites or somehow just so manly-hardy that they thrive strongly despite mites just hanging off them; bees can't "resist" mites any more than humans can develop a "resistance" to dog bites. VSH bees were observed in the act of opening and removing mite-infested capped brood, and then several series of controlled experiments were conducted in order to discover whether this behavior is a genetic trait. When it was, this led to a controlled breeding experiment, which is essentially still ongoing, and involved such unnatural processes as artificial insemination. VSH could never have been cultivated by the Bond method - it would never have even been discovered, not in our lifetimes.
A big, bodacious colony of bees in the spring will likely be a seriously infested colony in the fall.
A large cluster of bees going into winter is no assurance of survival if they are heavily parasitized.
A lack of visible DWV isn’t an indication that your bees aren’t infested.
An empty hive at winter’s end is much more likely a result of varroa collapse than an abscond.
A small cluster of dead bees in an overwintered hive may appear to be starvation or exposure but the underlying reason that the cluster was small and lacked the vigor to survive is probably varroa.
Collapse by every other cause is influenced by varroa.
I think the HITS rant is a direct insult to a large body of Beeks and am surprised that it is allowed.
I believe that Brother Adam said you really need around 100hives to make any progress on breeding because of open mating etc. I should also point out that if you do manage to breed resistant bees you may not like the result if you are not carefully selecting. Resistance could come in the form of agressivness or increased swarming or smaller populations that produce less honey etc.
In any case I think beemandan's point was varroa is a problem whether you treat or not and whether you bother to look or not.
I think for those who successfully have kept there colonies without miticides should be called MITP. (Money in the Pocket.) Maybe not as catchy but better on the bottom line.
Workin on your genetics toward coexistence is the logical choice for beekeepers now and the future generations of beekeepers.
Yes I see mites. I saw 3 in inspections yesterday. Sure keeping your head in the sand is dumb, but breeding for tougher mites using treatments is pretty..........ya.
Sure varroa is a problem but the solution is clear and chemicals natural or not are not the long term answer.
Anyone on here who thinks you can beat or out treat a force of nature like varroa is two sandwiches short of a picnic. You have to work with it, understand it, and use the bees natural tendencies to fight against it. Making a better bee.
Out of 57 colonies this winter (treatment free since 2004) I lost 5.
3 were five frame nucs, 2 were hives. Due to splitting I am up to 74 already.
Using our honeybees best defense against them "artificial swarming".
We all have a choice some will stick there (HITS) some will slow down progress treating, and others lusby, bush, Webster, Williams, and others will pave a way to a future where varroa are no longer a major concern.
(Don't get me wrong some of my best friends treat.) But who always agrees with there friends 100% of the time right?
HITS for years is short term for a winter horse show circuit ...Horse Shows in the SUN:) ...this is a totally new meaning but seemingly a good one.
In human and pet medicine parasitic vectors can be controlled by the HITS method but it happens when the parasite is no longer in balance with the host and the host population dies off to the point that the parasite has no host to keep it going. Then the parasite population does diminish, the host population starts to thrive and the cycle starts again. I guess it depends where in this ongoing cycle you step in, and whether you are siding with the host or the parasite, as to whether you think HITS is working or not:)
I am new to bee keeping...but to my mind the difficulty is that the host and parasites are both insects so what kills one tends to kill the other and that makes things a bit tricky...especially when their life cycles are so closely aligned:( It is further complicated when one wants to harvest honey for medicinal and food uses so contamination is also an issue.
It was mentioned that they don'y have varroa (and the associated virus) in some areas. Where did this problem start? What are the geographical boundaries of its distribution?
Can environmental parameters such as temperature, CO2 levels etc be manipulated to favour bees over mites or is the mite such a good parasite that the parameters are closely aligned?
You can't take this stuff personally, even when it's borderline ad hominem. And I can almost guarantee that if you got the worst ranters in a room together, they'd be a lot more polite than they may seem to be on this forum. The medium encourages conflict.
Anyway, even when the message is insulting, you can still make reasoned arguments against it.
How do we know this? Because we've BTDT. Varroa mites are to bees what cockroaches are to us - and as we all know, there's just no killing cockroaches. That's why pest control companies are called pest control companies, and not pest eradication companies. The fact is, although roaches can't be completely got rid of, they can be controlled to the point where they're not an issue anymore. They're definitely there, but they're not active or populous enough to spread disease.
The alternative is to let roaches flood the house and only allow people who don't get sick to breed, and...continue to live in a veritable bath of roaches. Yay.
Now of course, just like with mites, there's natural methods of treatment if chemicals bother you. They shouldn't - technically everything in the world is a chemical - but if you're concerned about chemicals that may be caustic or toxic to humans, there's chemicals that aren't. There's also mechanical treatments - for instance, roaches can be controlled by diatomacious earth. Any roach (or any insect for that matter) that walks through diatomacious earth will die, there's no avoiding it and there's no such thing as developing a resistance because its method of action is purely mechanical (can a person "resist" dying from hypovolemia?). There are such mechanical treatments available for bees as well, that mites simply can't resist or "become stronger" from as long as they're varroa mites.
By the way, the favorite analogy used by those who think you can't breed resistance to varroa is "you can't breed sheep that are resistant to wolves." There's an interesting video here about a process that resulted in resistant bees, a process which did not involve the procedures you refer to above.
What do you say to beekeepers who claim that their bees no longer die from mite pressure, and that this was due to letting inferior genetics die out and breeding from survivor colonies? Do you think they're all lying?
In particular, I like the example of Tim Ives, who has about 150 hives in northern Indiana and does not treat. He told me that when he first began keeping bees, about 12 years ago, he used packages, and suffered anywhere from 50 to 90 percent losses every winter. A few years in, he started collecting local swarms, and splitting from the best of these. His losses over the last few years have averaged about 8 percent. He still doesn't treat and he still doesn't feed, same as he did when he had those huge losses. I'm scratching my head trying to think of some explanation other than a change in genetics for his success.
The great thing about bees from the viewpoint of animal husbandry is their very high reproductive rate. There's nothing wrong with buying in resistant stock; I've already done so, and this is my first year. But the sovereign indicator of survivor stock is survival.