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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Location
    Rockford, Michigan
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    147

    Post

    It seems that most of the folks that post to this forum are what I'd term "hobby" or "serious" hobby beekeepers. Perhaps 100 hives or less and something that can be managed in a weekend.
    It would be interesting to hear from a big commercial outfit that keeps hundreds of hives and how they manage them for mites. Do they employ a sticky board on every hive and count the mite drop from each? Do they use the FGMO treatment on every hive every week?
    What differences are there in how a large commercial beekeeper operates and how a hobby beekeeper operates?
    Do commercial outfits suffer a higher percentage rate of winter loss due to mites?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2001
    Location
    Mason, MI, USA
    Posts
    1,015

    Post

    I do not consider myself as being a big beekeeper but I have 504 hives.
    I have not used any harsh chemicals in my hives for 8 years now. I have had many losses but I have most of my hives regressed down to 4.9mm foundation in the brood nest and for 3 years I have used FGMO fogging every hive once a week. This year I added thymol to the FGMO and have found it to work better.
    I use SBB and use sticky boards on at least 50 hives every week checking for mites. I rotate which hives so I am not checking the same hives every week. Most of the time I can count the mites but some times I just estimate them.
    There are so many ways to manage your bees that you need to decide if you are just a bee haver (poor management) or a beekeeper (good management) Do what work for you.
    Bees are my livelyhood so I try to do my best. (some times mother nature sets me back) but I try not to loose. Most commercial beekeepers dont lose hives to winter because we move hives around (south) for polination so we don't see much winter. I do have 4 experimental hives left in Michigan that I do winter over.
    But I some times loose hives when they are stolen or a farmer forgets to let me know when he is going to spray his crops.
    I hope this answers your questions.
    Remember it is against the law to kill honey bees in Michigan.
    Clint

    ------------------
    Clinton Bemrose
    just South of Lansing Michigan
    Beekeeping sence 1964

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    Manitoba Canada
    Posts
    5,739

    Post

    >>What differences are there in how a large commercial beekeeper operates and how a hobby beekeeper operates?


    Same question I had when keeping bees in small numbers.\
    Perhaps one difference is the beekeepers approach to hive management. Large scale management involves accomplishing as much work with a hive to mold it into the most productive hive unit in a efficient amount of time. Hobbiers simple have various amounts of time to spend on thier hives, and are able to accomplish differnent goals with their hives.
    My year average was 155lbs of honey/hive in an operation of 260 hives, where as my neighbour with two hives produced an average of 260lbs/hive. He was able to maintain a better handle on swarming, but I produced 40000lbs of honey more than him.


    >>Do commercial outfits suffer a higher percentage rate of winter loss due to mites?

    Why would you perceeve that a commercial operator would suffer higher losses? I would suggest the opposite. A beekeeper who depends on hte bees for a living has to make sure his hives are alive and healthy and makes sure that problem pests are under control. Commercial beekeepers are and have to bee profesionals and specialists in many feilds. Where as hobbiers hives are expendable and it is were you are most likely going to see alternative pest controls and/or improper use of current cemical control. Granted there are many experinced and highly informed hobbiers out there, but I bet that there are far more unexperience and uninformed hobbiers, who are in and out of the art over the years.
    Probalbly the biggest difference B/t hobbiers and commercial outfits is capital and time involvement.
    Ian

  4. #4
    jfischer Guest

    Post

    > Probalbly the biggest difference B/t hobbiers
    > and commercial outfits is capital and time
    > involvement.

    I think it is more mindset than anything else.

    If you work in the rain, you have made the
    jump to "big time", in that you have admitted
    that waiting for better weather is not an
    option.

    If you slap feeders and pollen patties on
    hives when wearing a parka, you have also
    made the cognitive jump. You tolerate the
    cold, and you know your bees can handle
    being briefly exposed to cold as you whip
    off covers and pry hive bodies open a crack.

    If you use phrases like "does it scale"?
    Then you are thinking in terms of more
    hives than can be worked in a single day.

    As far as mites go, one makes decisions
    based upon designated "sentinel hives",
    who represent an apiary. There simply is
    not time or money to count mites from even
    100 hives, let alone more. The assumption
    is that if two hives test as infested,
    the whole apiary set gets treated. (If
    you are putting sticky boards in every
    single hive, you are doing research!)

    Weight is another matter. Every hive gets
    hefted. Feeding certainly might be done on
    an apiary basis, but it is not cost-effective to do so.

    There really are no "secrets". There are
    differences, but they are the differences
    between walking my dog, and taking a cub
    scout troop for an organized hike.
    More time is spent on logistics, equipment,
    and dealing with personalities than one
    spends working the bees with one's own hands.
    In short, "Management overhead".

    If you bought smokers that you yourself have
    never lit, either you are a "commerical"
    beekeeper, or your hobby has gotten way out
    of control!


  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Location
    Rockford, Michigan
    Posts
    147

    Post

    Thanks for the comments. As for the question on winter losses….I had a brain fart there. I forgot everything heads south at the first sign of cold weather!
    The comment that hobbyists have time to do "research" on every hive is correct.
    The original purpose to my question was to determine just exactly how much "research" time was devoted to hives in the real world of commercial operation.
    I think you have answered my question. Thanks

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    Manitoba Canada
    Posts
    5,739

    Post

    >>I forgot everything heads south at the first sign of cold weather!


    Not up here in Canada. Well, I guess I could send them south, but they would not be able to return,..
    I mostly winter outdoors here in MB Canada. Take an average of 15% losses. Mostly able to make up for with the spring split. Tinkering around with indoor wintering, but prefer towinter outdoors. Last winter I had a loss of under 9%.
    Ian

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Location
    Totnes, Devon, England
    Posts
    1,019

    Post

    If it's of interest, here's what we're working on at Buckfast Abbey in Devon, UK.

    We currently have 248 honey-producing hives, plus about 100 in our mating station on Dartmoor, which was established 80 years ago as of June 2005 by Brother Adam.

    Pyrethroid-resistant varroa have become a serious problem here, to the extent that Bayvarol/Apistan no longer work. Thymol is our main defence, and we are working to add mesh floors to most colonies before spring in the hope that they will contribute to varroa removal.

    Ultimately, we hope to selectively breed from stocks that seem best able to cope and maintain a low level of infection.

    Personally, I am interested in the smaller-cell approach, as it seems to make sense to provide foundation of the size that the bees prefer. I took some measurements today, and found that the brood foundation we currently use is about 5.65 mm, while a piece of 'free' comb taken from a dead colony was between 4.9 and 5.1 mm. This must suggest that the bees have their own ideas about cell size, and we all know the folly of arguing with bees' personal preferences!

    I am told that small-cell bees emerge a day or so earlier, which reduces their exposure to mites, and perhaps there is an effect from there being less space in the cell for mites to reproduce. I hope to do some experiments next season to see if there is a measurable effect here.

    Thanks to advice from Peter Edwards of Stratford-upon-Avon BKA, we have started the process of switching from sugar syrup (traditionally mixed in a vast bath using a monk and cold water!) to fondant, which requires no processing and is much lighter per calorie to haul. Believe me, you would not want to haul syrup to our steep and boulder-strewn mating apiary, across two plank bridges and up a flight of slippery, uneven, granite steps.

    Buckfast's operation has always run on 'traditional' lines, and while Brother Adam was a great innovator and made many contributions to beekeeping, some of the working practices are now badly out of date and need some radical re-thinking.

    I may get around to setting up a site where we can post our progress reports - until then, I will post here from time to time, if you don't mind the odd contribution from across the pond.

    Happy bees all round.
    Phil Chandler



  8. #8
    jfischer Guest

    Post

    Anything anyone at Buckfast Abbey wants
    to say will be read with rapt attenion
    around the world.


  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    45,282

    Post

    > until then, I will post here from time to time, if you don't mind the odd contribution from across the pond.

    I'm sure none of us will mind. I look forward to it.

    If you wish to know more about small cell there is the Lusby's writing in the POV section here:
    http://www.beesource.com/pov/lusby/index.htm

    and you can get on the yahoo group where all the small cell people exchange info here:
    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Organicbeekeepers/

    and I'm sure Dee Lusby would be happy to correspond concerning small cell:

    deealusby1 at aol dot com
    (disguised to stop the spam crawlers)

    And, of coure, the "Biological" forum on this site.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Location
    Totnes, Devon, England
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    1,019

    Post

    Thanks jfischer for that encouragement, although I certainly do not put myself in the same league as Bro. Adam, so please don't hang on my every word!

    And thanks Michael - I have admired your innovative approach for some time. And yes, I have corresponded with Dee Lusby and Erik Osterlund and have read everything I can find on the web about small cell. What I haven't found yet are any direct, objective, full-season comparisons relating cell size to varroa infection and honey production. If you know of any, I'd love to read them - that's the sort of thing that would convince me to set up a full-scale trial. Otherwise, I will certainly do a small trial anyway.

    It sounds like the 'biological' section is where I am most likely to gravitate, as my long-term aim is to reduce to an absolute minimum the use of toxins in our work, for the sake of the bees, the people who eat our honey, and the beekeepers.


  11. #11
    tzeiner5773 Guest

    Post

    WOW- Someone from Buckfast posting here. I feel honored just to be reading it. I was wondering about the temperment of the bees at Buckfast now? Are they still gentle? Some of the "Buckfast" strains here in the states seem to be more aggressive as the breeders try for varroa resistant(Weaver-Texas) I too look farward to future news from Buckfast Abbey. Thank you
    Todd Zeiner Clayton Indiana

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Location
    Totnes, Devon, England
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    1,019

    Post

    Yes, I've heard rumours of some aggressive 'Buckfast' bees in the USA. Ours are generally well-behaved, apart from a couple of unfriendly colonies which will be re-queened as soon as possible.

    Irrelevant anecdote - I was up at our mating station on the moor today and picked up a dead bee from a landing stage to take back for microscopy. It was lying on its back in a smear of water, wings spread, legs in the air, totally still, air temperature around 39 deg. F, so pretty much totally dead, you would think.

    After a couple of minutes in the warmth of my hand it slowly came round and started walking, so I put it back through the entrance. It made me wonder just how long they can 'play dead' for.


  13. #13
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Location
    Guatemala
    Posts
    244

    Post

    Hearing for far away places like Buckfast Abbey is certainly encouraging.

    I write from the tropical Guatemala. I am not a beekeeper because some years ago I drifted to forestry, but things did not last long and I am currently unemployed. Starting next January, God permitting, I´ll be working for the Ministry of Agriculture; apiculture project evaluation seems to be the mission, and hope to be in very close contact with beekeepers of all sizes throughout the country. The new things I´m learning in this forum and elsewhere are going to be a must-converstion with the local bee folks.

    Anyway, I went to Ohio State for beekeeping and must confess it became an addiction !! Reading, staying updated and sharing new trends with folks like you all in this forum is absolutely nourishing.
    I do know some beekeeping in Guatemala, and I know plenty of american/modern beekeeping; therefore I dare join into the conversation. I hope you don´t mind a non-active bee lover in your posts!

    Without a doubt, contemporary people like the Lusbys, Charles Martin Simon, Michael Housel and so many others have been brave to take a close look inside the hive with an unbiased mind. Taking modern techniques and management practices for granted is a bias... a big and dangerous drawback to further development.
    Modern research it seems is looking into what we have IGNORED, not trying invent on nature´s perfect design. Fear of economic loss commonly gets in the way of innovation, but there is proof that a new (or very old) approach to keeping bees can be just as profitable.

    Both commercial and hobby beekeepers, I hear, are becoming aware of these latest findings and making great efforts at staying in business. Perhaps the desperate situation created by out-of-control mites is in the end a good trigger to back-to-basics beekeeping. We may be looking at a whole new chapter in the history of apiculture.

    Congratulations to you all...hang in there...better times are coming your way.


  14. #14
    Join Date
    Dec 1999
    Location
    DuPage County, Illinois USA
    Posts
    9,303

    Post

    << I will post here from time to time, if you don't mind the odd contribution from across the pond.>>

    Phil,

    Glad to have you part of this board. I look forward to reading your input on discussions and keeping us up-to-date on the happenings there. Welcome.

    - Barry

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    45,282

    Post

    >What I haven't found yet are any direct, objective, full-season comparisons relating cell size to varroa infection and honey production.

    I'm afraid the Bee "Scientists" have not taken an interest in small cell, so I don't expect to see any trials in the near future.

    >Otherwise, I will certainly do a small trial anyway.

    Of course part of the problem is the time involved both in the labor to do regression and the elapsed time to get regressed.


  16. #16
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Location
    Totnes, Devon, England
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    Post

    Barry - thanks for your welcome.

    Michael - by 'regression', I assume you mean a step-down in cell size over more than one season?

    I'm wondering if it is possible to accomplish this in one season by allowing the bees to make free comb on frames in the brood box with only starter strips in place (we use Modified Dadants - big boxes just under 20" square, with half height supers), and maybe drone foundation in the honey supers. It might make for tricky manipulations for one season, but I assume they would make free comb to their own specification right away, without being influenced by what went before.

    That way, we would go into winter with smaller bees and be able to fit 4.9-5.0 mm foundation the following season. Or am I wrong in this assumption?


  17. #17
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    Post

    >Michael - by 'regression', I assume you mean a step-down in cell size over more than one season?

    More than one step. Perhaps you can do it in one year, perhaps not. Its all in the timing and it's also up to the bees. The large cell bees (which is what most beekeepers have) from 5.4mm cells or so will only draw 5.1mm from my experience. The generation raised on that may draw 4.9mm. Dee Lusby does it by doing shakedowns. Basically making a shaken swarm and putting them on bare foundation with an excluder under it so the queen doesn't abscond. After two shakedowns you may bet to 4.9mm

    I have done the shakedown method, but found it too stressful for the bees. I wax coated PermaComb to get smaller cells and put the bees on that to get it pretty much in one shot. Down to about 4.95mm anyway.

    If you can get DRAWN 4.9mm COMB then you can do it in one shot.

    >I'm wondering if it is possible to accomplish this in one season by allowing the bees to make free comb on frames in the brood box with only starter strips in place (we use Modified Dadants - big boxes just under 20" square, with half height supers), and maybe drone foundation in the honey supers.

    I have done foundationless and starter strips in Dadant deeps. It needs some kind of support in the middle. A wire, or something. It also helps to put a "comb guide" on the sides.
    http://incolor.inetnebr.com/bush/images/DadantDeep1.jpg

    But large cell bees still won't draw 4.9mm on self drawn comb. And what they build seems to depend on the season. They seem to draw smaller early in the spring and in the fall and larger during the flow.

    As for the drone foundation, Dee Lusby thinks you should give them all the same size because comb building is an imprinted memory for them. If you get small cell foundation and put in the supers or if you use foundationless frames it might work better.
    http://incolor.inetnebr.com/bush/bush_bees.htm

    There are several pictures of foundationless medium frames. One if drawn out.

    >It might make for tricky manipulations for one season, but I assume they would make free comb to their own specification right away, without being influenced by what went before.

    No, they will not. They will go smaller. Probably about 5.1mm. But it takes at least two steps and possibly three depending on the bees, if you give them no guidance in the natter.

    >That way, we would go into winter with smaller bees and be able to fit 4.9-5.0 mm foundation the following season. Or am I wrong in this assumption?

    It might work if you let them free form one year and go to 4.9mm foundation the next. That is still two steps.

    Personally, I would do more than one experiment. Try one with 4.9mm wax foundation and see what they do with that. It only comes in deep, but you can wire it and leave the 2" gap at the bottom. That's what I've done when using 4.9mm foundation on Dadant Deeps.

    Then try another hive with foundationless or starter strips and see what they build on their own.

    I find the bees more willing to draw smaller cells if I change the spacing to match smaller bees. If you space the frames 1 1/4" (32mm) they are more willing to draw smaller cells.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Dec 1999
    Location
    DuPage County, Illinois USA
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    9,303

    Post

    > Dee Lusby thinks you should give them all the same size because comb building is an imprinted memory for them.

    Can you explain this one? I don't follow how this reasons out.

    Regards,
    Barry

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
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    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    Post

    Dee sees small cell in all places with larger cells only on the outside edges. She says size is more a matter of short term memory than bee size. She says if you take a shaken swarm and put them in a box and feed them honey and water for a week before you install them in a hive they will forget what size they were building and build smaller cells than the typical 5.1mm we all see.

    I have not tried that experiment. But other small cell keepers have also said that once they get regressed the bees will build smaller cells in the supers. Sometimes even reworking larger cell comb in order to build the smaller cells.

    Dee believes giving them larger cell foundation in the supers gets the bees in the habit of making larger cells and it's harder to get them to go back to making smaller cells.

    I don't know what I think of the concept because, as I've said, I've never done any experiments on this. But from my experience, in the long run, what Dee says to expect usually comes to pass, even if it doesn't in the short run.

    What I've been doing is all foundationless frames and PermaComb. So they either HAVE small cells they don't have to drawn or they draw whatever they want and the honey supers still seem to be something between 4.9mm and 5.1mm except for the edges which are larger.

  20. #20
    jfischer Guest

    Post

    > She (Dee) says size is more a matter of short
    > term memory than bee size.

    That's an interesting view. Most folks have
    accepted the "bee using itself as a set of
    calipers" explanation, which, to me created
    a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem for any
    effort to "regress" bees. Yes, you can FORCE
    them to build smaller cells, but they clearly
    do not all "take to it" as readily as anyone
    would like, from what I've heard.

    Perhaps the solution would be to malnourish
    the bees that you want to regress. A lack
    of pollen CAN result in much smaller bees,
    and these bees might be more willing to
    draw smaller comb than a well-fed bee.

    Sounds kinda mean, but if the "caliper"
    view is correct, a generation of bees may
    have to suffer to build your smaller comb.
    I like the "caliper" view better, as it
    is the simplest answer, and requires no
    additional memory or "intelligence".

    One question that might shed light would
    be to examine the size of drone cells in
    a "regressed" colony. How big are they?

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