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  1. #21
    Join Date
    May 2002
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    Danbury,Ct. USA
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    1,966

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    Good points Buckbee,
    Using them, the hobbyist coud probably effect some change. It seems to me that if we don't solve the problems of the commercial 'keepers, we don't really solve any problems. This is probably a dumb question to ask of you, but have you ever seen 500 or 1000 hives in a yard? I did last year for the first time.See: "Riding With the Big Boys," Bee Culture, May 2005. My conception of bees and agriculture changed forever.

    The Citrus in Florida needing pollination is measured in Square miles and bees in semis. I don't see any local queens possible where the bees move thousnds of miles in a season. The ones I saw went from Florida to Maine. If you take away pollination services many 'keepers won't make ends meet with honey alone. Last year it was close to cost for some at .80 a pound.

    Most of them control swarming with splitting and changing new queens for old. They don't find a queen, kill her, and insert a new one in a cage. They simply slam in a queen cell in a protecter and expect 80% of the newly hatched queens to kill the old ones.

    My rant is not to disagree, just to help refocus the problem. Rob Harrison visits here once in awhile. When he talks I listen. He's commercial, in a tough climate, and seems to have solved many problems with his experimentation and choice of bee. That means it's not impossible.

    Dickm

  2. #22
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    I tried to make a comprehensive list of things that we change from nature by the way we raise bees:
    Genetics:
    We breed less:
    Defensive.
    Swarming.
    Propolis.
    Burr comb.
    Nervousness on the comb.
    We breed more:
    Hoarding.
    Spring build up and fall let down.
    We are now breeding:
    AFB resistance.
    More “hygienic” (meaning they tear out cells that are infested with mites or other problems)
    Suppressed Mite Reproduction (I don’t think we really know what this is except there are less mites)
    Disturbances:
    Smoking.
    Opening the hive.
    Rearranging the frames.
    Confining the queen with an excluder.
    Forcing the bees through an excluder.
    Forcing the bees through a pollen trap.
    Robbing honey.
    Food:
    Pollen substitute instead of pollen.
    Sugar syrup instead of honey.
    Poisons, chemicals and other foreign substances in the hive:
    Essential oils.
    Organic acids (formic oxalic etc.)
    Miticides. (Apistan and CheckMite)
    Pesticides (from crop spraying and mosquito spraying)
    Antibiotics (TM and fumidil).
    Because of embossed wax foundation:
    Organization of the hive:
    Cell size.
    Amount of drone cells.
    Orientation of cells.
    Distribution of cell sizes.
    Population of the hive.
    We try to get less drones.
    We do get less subcastes of different sizes.
    Accumulated contaminates that are wax soluble.
    Because of frames or bars:
    Spacing between combs.
    Thickness of combs.
    Distribution of thickness of combs.
    Accumulation of chemicals and possibly spores in the wax of the foundation.
    Ventilation around the combs. Top bars on frames have spaces on the top. Natural combs are attached solid at the top.
    Because of supers, expanding and contracting volume of the hive to prevent swarming and to overwinter.
    Natural hives vary in many ways anyway, but because of hives:
    Ventilation?
    Size
    Communication inside the hive?
    Condensation and absorption and distribution of condensation.
    Beespaces above and on the ends where in a natural hive it is usually solid at the top with no communication there and only passages here and there at the whim of the bees elsewhere based on either convenience of movement or ventilation.
    Entrance location.
    Detritus at the bottom (wax scales, dead bees, wax moths etc.)
    Miscellaneous:
    Some clip the queen, which keeps her from making any kind of flights after she is clipped (and hopefully mated). Some of us have observed queens outside of the hive on occasion. For what reason I can only imagine, but what if it’s important?
    We mark the queen with some paint.
    We replace the queen more often than nature does.
    We often interfere with nature replacing the queen by not allowing swarming or supercedure to complete.


    Anyone have anything else to add?
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  3. #23
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
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    Totnes, Devon, England
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    dickm,
    To be frank, I'm not really concerned about the problems of the commercial beekeeper - I really only care about the problems of the bees, as without bees, there are no beekeepers, commercial or otherwise.

    Last spring, I opened all the hives at B*ckf*st Abb*y to find that more than 50% of them were dead. Many appeared to have starved, while for others the cause of death was unclear. Unfortunately, I was not in a position to insist that lab tests were carried out. Other beekeepers around here fared little better; some lost everything. We are in a fluvalinate-resistant area, so some were using Apiguard, others oxalic, formic or lactic acids. Something is badly wrong with this picture.

    If 'hobby' beekeeping is unnatural (see Michael's comprehensive list above) then 'commercial' beekeeping (which has only existed in the modern sense for less than a hundred years - the flick of a bee's wing in terms of evolutionary time) esp. as practised in N. America, is utterly indefensible and unsustainable in terms of the welfare of bees. (Oh boy, am I in trouble now!)

    We simply cannot push against nature to the extent of having 500 or 1000 colonies in one yard and expect nothing bad to happen. This is like growing an oilseed rape monoculture on the same land ten years in a row and expecting no disease to erupt. It is the arrogance and ignorance of mankind that has brought nature to her knees and now we are reaping the harvest of our own sowing.

    (Now I am sounding like a preacher - sorry guys.)
    The Barefoot Beekeeper http://www.biobees.com

  4. #24
    Join Date
    May 2002
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    Danbury,Ct. USA
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    Buckbee,
    Sorry to hear about your losses. Unfortunately that is a common story. How many hives are at your location now? I have 20 and had about the same losses last year. I've never used anything but O/A. I'm thinking the problem now is the queens, which I have had to buy. I'm going to try to manage without that this spring.

    >>>I'm not really concerned about the problems of the commercial beekeeper -<<<

    However, they aren't going to go away. The tail is wagging the dog at present and the wags are going to get bigger. Soon there will be a GM bee. As if the huge machine operations haven't done enough damage.

    When half my apiary died I bought new queens. I don't have enough years left to breed my own queens from the survivors. If we wanted to be really natural, we could celebrate our losses as being natures way of having an input. Only 1 out of 3 or 4 swarms ever makes it. Our bee club is circling the prospect of raising our own queens next summer. It seems a daunting prospect. Can you still find a remote spot to breed in in the UK?

    Dickm

  5. #25
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    Dec 2004
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    Totnes, Devon, England
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    We did manage to make up the losses from nucs (many of which did better than full colonies: never underestimate the value of nucs)and by the end of the season were nearly back to full strenght, i.e. 240 production colonies + 100 nucs. I have now left the Abbey to pursue my own TBH/organic approach.

    Isolated mating is still carried out using Bro. Adam's mating apiary on Dartmoor (est. exactly 80 years ago), which is one of a very few places in the UK where it can be done.
    The Barefoot Beekeeper http://www.biobees.com

  6. #26
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    Grinton, North Yorkshire, England
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    >>I really think we have to 'get back to basics' and rethink 'modern' beekeeping if our bees are to survive and prosper.

    Are TBHs the way forward? Any practical suggestions?

  7. #27
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    Aug 2002
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    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    You can get natural comb with foundationless frames in standard equipment. You can do a lot of things naturally without going to TBHs. Not that I don't like them, I do. I have several and enjoy them a lot. The nicest thing about them is the simplicity.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  8. #28
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    Jan 2003
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    Manitoba Canada
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    >>Of course, if we call ourselves beekeepers (the kind who like to get a crop of honey) we will have to do some 'interfering'. What we need to be ever-watchful of is the NATURE of our interference,

    >>then 'commercial' beekeeping (which has only existed in the modern sense for less than a hundred years - the flick of a bee's wing in terms of evolutionary time) esp. as practised in N. America, is utterly indefensible and unsustainable in terms of the welfare of bees. (Oh boy, am I in trouble now!)


    So do you blame the total distruction and loss on beehives taken down by small hive beetle as beekeeper mismanagement, too? You guys are getting way too far ahead of yourselves, and by the sounds of it, real full of yourselves.
    The face of beekeeping is ever revolving. We as beekeepers have to be right on top of the ball at all times to ensure the health and productivity of our hives.
    It is some of our livelyhoods you know...
    It is too easy to simply say, swarming will solve our current mite problems. As a beekeeper, manage swarming is our biggest job. Bees in the trees do not make me money, nor do they make up for my witering losses, nor does it set my hives up for a 200lbs honey crop. By managening swarming we are mearly manipulating our hives to their full potential. If our interfearance is so unnatural to them, then why are my bees flurishing, and making me a **** fortune! Must be doing something right.
    Go ahead, promote swarming. It is good news to me, for there will be less honey on the market;')
    I tend to focus my attention of ever evolving bee genetics. That is the true answer. Focus our attention of promoting genetics,and speed natures natural selection.

    >>I just don't think swarming is the answer. But a break in the brood cycle, a new queen etc. can be simulated with a cut down split, AND you can get more honey.

    Agreed.

    [size="1"][ November 29, 2005, 09:22 AM: Message edited by: Ian ][/size]
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  9. #29
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    May 2005
    Location
    Colorado
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    <I tend to focus my attention of ever evolving bee genetics.>

    Has our evolving genetics gotten us anything? Where is this varroa resistance? SHB? Who sells a guaranteed <hives up for a 200lbs honey crop.> queen?

    Don't get defensive if someone looks a little further than normal for some answers. It's not an attack on you. Ian, you're making a living off of this stuff. You're the man. The rest of us are dreamers. If we can dream up something useful, let us do it without affecting your profit crop. Then take advantage of it. The correct answer would have been, "Let us know how it works out." lol

    Hawk
    KC0YXI

  10. #30
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    >>>Has our evolving genetics gotten us anything?<<<

    Yes. Hope this is a correct answer.

    Dickm

  11. #31
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    >>Has our evolving genetics gotten us anything? Where is this varroa resistance? SHB? Who sells a guaranteed <hives up for a 200lbs honey crop.> queen?


    Maybe you should have a good chat with any of the serious queen breeders in your country. Even your local breeders. Inthe past three years even, we ( I ment those who are dedicating their passionate time) have been able to make strides in tolerating the v mite, which I would not have beleived myself if I hadnt stumble upon some of their queens myself. Focusing are attention to promoting specific trait for specific areas, and not making a one size fits all honeybee type. Im sure some of you southern beekeepers would not appreciate how our queens would perform in your environment. But up here, they are gold.
    Fortunately we dont have to deal with the SHB quit yet, and I am hoping it stays that way.

    >>Who sells a guaranteed <hives up for a 200lbs honey crop.> queen?

    Perhaps you should visuit some of your northern state beekeeper friends. Im not saying you can buy a queen to promote a 200lbs crop. All queens have that potental. Im saying our manipulations in the spring promote that 200lbs crop.

    >>Don't get defensive if someone looks a little further than normal for some answers.
    >>If we can dream up something useful, let us do it without affecting your profit crop. Then take advantage of it

    The deffensive attiude I sometime have here is mearly caused by the overwhelming lack of respect and continous "commercial beekeeper" bashing. I like exploreing into details and elaberating on honeybee biology, but I hate opinions that explain that all our beekeeping problems are associated to commercial management. All of our obsticals stem from nature itself, commercial or hobbiest alike. AFB was beekeepings biggest obstical in the 1800's also you know.
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  12. #32
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    Apr 2005
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    Worthington, Pennsylvania USA
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    Hello Buckbee(oh boy am I in trouble now)is a posssibility I suppose. I share the concern of the commercial operators bringing me (my bees)something that I did not ask for. I know of one beekeeper that bought a hive from a commercial keeper and it was so hot that he and his partner placed it in a very remote area--instead of taking care of the problem they placed it in someone elses lap in my opinion. Luckily a bear took care of the problem.
    "Younz" have a great day, I will.

  13. #33
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    Aug 2003
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    Lancaster, Ky. / Frostproof Fl.
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    The bees may survive but how much honey would they make???? If you want a couple or three hives in your back yard and can watch them every day and catch the swarms...ok. You MIGHT I stress MIGHT make enough to eat a little during the winter! A hive of 60,000 bees makes 4 times the honey that a hive of 30,000 bees make. Bees swarm = small honey crop unless you get a late crop! I make my living at selling honey. No honey = no money!! And yes you have to see the bees in Florida to believe it....I know of over 500 hives within 1/4 mile of one of my yards and thats ONLY the ones I see by the road! First time I went to Florida to box bees for orange there were 6 of us in motel parking lot with truckloads of supers and forklifts. amasing site! Rick

  14. #34
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    Dec 2004
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    Yep, I knew I would get into trouble!

    I didn't set out to knock commercial beekeepers, but when I look at the problems out there in the apiaries, it is hard to draw any other conclusion than the biggest problem the bees have is - beekeepers. And the commercial guys have to accept that they are the ones largely responsible for shipping bees around the world and therefore it is mostly them who have spread varroa from its source in SE Asia all over the world. Recent discovery of SHB in Portugal (thankfully destroyed) was the result of a commercial beekeeper importing queens from Texas.
    I know of commercial beekeepers right here in Devon (UK) who routinely use antibiotics and organo-phosphates (illegally) while continuing to sell their honey as 'healthy and natural'. If the public knew what goes into their hives, they would be horrified.
    If you want to make your living from bees, that's fine, but don't bleat about how hard done by you are - it is your choice - nobody forced you to be a beekeeper: you have other choices. Have the honesty to admit that most of your problems are of your own making and that if you continue to push bees to their limits, sooner or later you will find those limits. The everlasting search for chemical cures is a dead end: if we don't learn to work with nature - in agriculture as well as in beekeeping - we are all in big trouble.
    And - while I'm on a roll - please persuade the US government to take climate change seriously before the whole planet is screwed.

    Now I'm REALLY in trouble...
    The Barefoot Beekeeper http://www.biobees.com

  15. #35
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    Lancaster, Ky. / Frostproof Fl.
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    No you are not in trouble. I agree with you about pollution and air quality! I never had allergies until the last 8 yrs or so. Now back to bees. Beekeeping is as close to nature as you can get. ut for anyone to keep bees and be successful(other that a few hives for fun/enough honey to eat) you must prevent swarming. Preventing swarming is the MOST important thing you can to in relation to making a crop. I also believe our currant method by alot of queen breeders is not the best. Buying a AI queen to graft from with no history may not be as good as picking the best 4 or 5 queens from top producing hives along with disease/mite resistance. Genetics is the key. Moving bees does spread paracites/disease. I kept 150 colonies for past 20 yrs until last 5 years when began migrating to Fl for winter and back to Ky in spring and expanding to 1000+ colonies next yr. I started with two hives with the idea to have 10....never thought I ould be where I'm at...but still love it probably even more. And that may be because of forklift ect an dless lifting!! Rick

  16. #36
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    >>still love it probably even more. And that may be because of forklift ect an dless lifting!! Rick

    Ha ha. Ihear you on that.


    >>I know of commercial beekeepers right here in Devon (UK) who routinely use antibiotics and organo-phosphates (illegally)

    Fist off buckbee, what is this statement intended to accomplish? Beekeepers who are using sutch treatments illegally should be put out of business. If you know of sutch substances being used in an "illegal" manner, then turn them in to your state bee inspector and hold them accountable. This is exactly what devestated the South American honey industry. It is nothing to fool with.

    Second off, you are tainting all commercial beekeepers to be using illegal or illegally using substances in there hives. This is a very stronge claim to be bosting about, and as sutch, should be backed with references.
    How is this comment going to hold any weight in any arguement? I dont like argueing on "hear say"


    >>The everlasting search for chemical cures is a dead end:

    I agree. There is less and less choices to be used in controling pests in all aspects of agriculture. Something is going to give. Food is being produced too cheaply, and too abundantly. But still readily accessible to a very small portion of the world population. As soon as our costs of production rise and crop qualities drop due to inadequate pest and disease control, many people will starve, but it will not be us.
    To think "organic" agriculture is the answer, you are being nieve. Organic agriculture, to put it simply is "farming without inputs". And that is why it has never been able to expand into large production, as we commonly think current agriculture exists.
    Did you know, that the average life span of an organic farm in Canada is 5 years,...


    >>it is hard to draw any other conclusion than the biggest problem the bees have is - beekeepers.
    >>they are the ones largely responsible for shipping bees around the world
    >>Have the honesty to admit that most of your problems are of your own making and that if you continue to push bees to their limits, sooner or later you will find those limits.

    Okay, buckbee. You heard my opinion already and I have clearly heard yours. We both know where we stand on this.
    So give me an answer to the problem. To get back to nature and stop all commercial agriculture(beekeeping) practices doesnt solve any problems, but mearly elaberates on the already existing ones.
    Your saying to stop all bee movement around the country and world, then where are all the bees going to come from to pollinate the Almonds. Or all the other crops in need for pollination. The beekeeping industry strictly found in California will not be abel hold that responsibilty. Where is all the honey going to come from, if we stop raising bees in their un-natural environmnets? Who is going to supply the huge order for wheat, cattle, hogs.....?
    If you are going to sit there and critisize me( and in me I mean commercial food producers) then give me a viable option..
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  17. #37
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    Before mites, winter loses ranged from as low as 5% to well over 40% depending on where you wintered and how you prepared them, according to the books.

    I have only been interfering with Bees for 10 years.
    I guess I fit somewhere in the middle. I am not a hobby keeper, but far from commerical. The last few years I have run about 20 or so hives, and this year I expanded to 42. Mostly by making splits.
    I have NOT found mites to be a problem as of yet. I may someday, but so far they are more than manageable.
    My hive loses when I prepare for winter correctly are very low, when I don’t they’re higher.
    I have many colonies that are 7 years old and a few may be older.
    I average approximately 100lbs of honey per over wintered colony for the season.

    Here is a history:
    I have yards in Round Top at two locations and one in Catskill.

    Round Top:
    Fall 1995: lost 5 of 5 hives to bears (3 days to move 5 hives, 2 days for bears to find)
    Fall 1996: lost 1 of 1 to robbing (first purchased package)
    Winter of 97/98: Lost 2 of 4 hives – Not wrapped
    Winter of 98/99: Lost 3 of 7 hives – Not wrapped
    Winter of 99/00: Lost 3 of 10 hives - Wrapped
    Winter of 00/01: lost 2 of 14 hives – Wrapped, feeder box,
    Winter of 01/02: lost 2 of 14 hives – Wrapped, feeder box,
    Winter of 02/03: Lost 1 of 14 hives – Wrapped, feeder box - paper & sugar
    Winter of 03/04: Lost 10 of 14 hives– Not Wrapped, feeder box - paper & sugar
    Winter of 04/05: Lost 1 of 17 hives - Wrapped, feeder box - paper & sugar
    Winter of 05/06: Going in with (33) hives. Of these several are light on stores, but are being feed. All hives are wrapped with feeder boxes, syrup and sugar.
    05 Season: Purchased (5) packages, hived (3) swarms, and split 9 hives.
    (Gave (1) of the over wintered 05 hives away and made an Observation hive with frames from another.)

    Mite treatments for these hives:
    1995: Apistan
    1996: Apistan
    1997: Checkmite (spring only)/ No treatment in the fall
    1998: No treatments
    1999: HBH in spring and fall syrup
    2000: Wintergreen & Spearmint oils in spring and fall syrup
    2001: Wintergreen & Spearmint oils in spring and fall syrup
    2002: Wintergreen & Spearmint oils in spring and fall syrup
    2003: Wintergreen & Spearmint oils in spring and fall syrup
    2004: Wintergreen & Spearmint oils in spring and fall syrup; December 04 OA Trickle method
    2005: Wintergreen & Spearmint oils in spring syrup; Feb 05 OA Trickle method; Wintergreen & Spearmint oils in Fall syrup


    Catskill:
    This yard was started in the spring of 2002. I moved (6) hives that had over wintered in Round Top for (2) seasons of Russian stock.
    Winter of 2002 -03: Lost 3 of 6 hives from moisture. I wrapped and did not take into consideration the added moisture from the river.
    Split remaining hives used bought Russian queens. (4th season for 3 hives, 1st for 3 hives)
    Winter of 2003-04: Lost 2 of 6 hives, (1) cold Starved, (1) moisture a mouse had blocked off the air flow. No wrapping.
    Split (1) hive allowed to raise it’s own queen. (5th season for 3 hives, 2nd for 1 hive, 1st for 1 hive)
    Put all (5) hives on SBB.
    Winter of 2004-05: Lost 0 of 5 hives. Wrapped all w/ open SBB all winter. Empty box w/ paper and granulated sugar on top bars.
    (6th season for 3 hives, 3rd for 1 hive, 2nd for 1 hive)
    Outside of the (3) Russian queens bought in 2003, these hives have raised their own queens when ever needed.
    Winter of 05/06: Going in with (9) hives. . All hives are wrapped with feeder boxes, syrup and sugar.
    05 Season: (5) over wintered and (4) splits from this spring that raised their own queens. (7th season for 3 hives, 4th for 1 hive, 3rd for 1 hive, and 1st for 4 hives)

    Mite treatments for these hives:
    2000: Wintergreen & Spearmint oils in spring and fall syrup (at Round Top)
    2001: Wintergreen & Spearmint oils in spring and fall syrup (at Round Top)
    2002: Wintergreen & Spearmint oils in spring and fall syrup
    2003: Wintergreen & Spearmint oils in spring and fall syrup
    2004: Wintergreen & Spearmint oils in spring and fall syrup; December 04 OA Trickle method
    2005: Wintergreen & Spearmint oils in spring syrup; Feb 05 OA Trickle method; Wintergreen & Spearmint oils in Fall syrup 05:

    [size="1"][ November 30, 2005, 01:27 PM: Message edited by: MountainCamp ][/size]

  18. #38
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    Dec 2004
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    Ian,
    I don't want this to degenerate into a slanging match and I apologize if my remarks about commercial beekeepers caused offence.
    Regarding 'turning in' errant bee farmers, I'm sorry to say that the bee inspectors have a tendency to 'turn a blind eye' to such practices, and as I have no physical evidence, it's hard to know where to go with it.
    I don't know about organic farms in Canada, but here they are definitely on the increase. The organic farm where I keep my bees (see http://www.riverford.co.uk/) was converted in 1987, so that's 18 years and it's still growing and prospering. To describe organic farming as 'farming without inputs' is frankly ignorant. No farming is possible without inputs - it's a matter of the source and qulaity of your inputs. Organic farmers use composted manure and plant waste, seaweed, bone meal, etc, plus crop rotation and companion planting (see http://www.ofrf.org/general/about_organic/). Quote from same site:

    "Is organic food really a significant industry?

    Approximately 2% of the U.S. food supply is grown using organic methods. Over the past decade, sales of organic products have shown an annual increase of at least 20%, the fastest growing sector of agriculture. In 2001, retail sales of organic food were projected to be $9.3 billion (Organic Consumer Trends 2001. Published by the Natural Marketing Institute, in partnership with the Organic Trade Association, http://www.ota.com/consumer_trends_2001.htm). "

    The only way we are going to survive as a species is to treat the whole earth with the same respect we treat our own personal living space. You don't crap in the corner of your sitting room, so don't dump your crap (including industrial waste, pesticides, phosphates, etc) where it will poison water supplies. If a piece of land will support sustainably an output of X tons/acre, don't force it by artificial means to produce 2X tons/acre.

    That's the basic principle.

    Applied to beekeeping,
    it may mean that we need more beekeepers over a wider area with fewer hives. Maybe we shouldn't try to cram 500 or 1000 hives into an area where nature would have 3 or 4. It may mean that it becomes impossible to make a decent living just from beekeeping. But guess what, NOBODY has a God-given right to be a full-time beekeeper. Maybe you need to diversify - find something else to do part-time, like I and many others do.

    Let's face it, with oil getting scarcer and more expensive (if you think you are paying a lot for it over there, I can tell you that in Europe we are paying the equivalent of around US$9 per gallon) you are not going to be able to transport hives from Florida to California economically.

    And don't expect me to provide all the answers. I brought up the issue for discussion: I don't pretend to be a guru! You have to figure it out yourselves.
    The Barefoot Beekeeper http://www.biobees.com

  19. #39
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    Mountaincamp,

    Thanks for the hive records. What conclusions do you draw from them?

    And do you have a quantified recipe for your winergreen & spearmint oil treatment?
    The Barefoot Beekeeper http://www.biobees.com

  20. #40
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    I personally think that far too many winter colony loses are attributed to mites solely as the cause, it is easy and everyone now accepts it, when there are many contributing factors. As I have read winter loses before mites ranged up over 40%, so why now when we see 20%, 30%, 40%, 50%, or even higher winter loses are they all blamed on mites?
    I think that mites have an effect on bees and a colony as a whole. They reduce the lifespan of an individual bee and reduce the colony population when not controlled.
    I try to counter act these two situations by feeding light syrup in the fall to keep the queen laying longer. This gives me a larger population going into winter and more younger bees than if I did not feed them or if I feed them a 2:1 syrup and the queen shutdown. It is the younger bees that will make it to spring, not the older field workers.
    You need a base population to form a cluster and keep things going till spring.
    I also add the oils to my fall and spring feeds. The oils are supposed to reduce the ability of the mites to reproduce and reduce the adult mites numbers as well. I add 20 drops of wintergreen and spearmint oil each to a gallon of syrup. As a side note, I pulled 2 frames of brood & bees to make an OB hive for someone. I spent a half hour over the weekend looking for a mite in it and could not find one. The hive that I took the frames from was 3 years old.
    The other winter preparation that I thing is essential is wrapping the hive with felt paper or having a very dark hive box. We discussed hive wrapping at recent club meeting and only about a ¼ of the members wrapped their hives. The ones that did wintered significantly better than the ones that did not. My winter loses were generally all toward the end of winter / early spring. Winter here can see low temperatures in the range of -25F or about -33C. With late winter and spring temperature still getting down to 0F or -17.4C or lower as late as early April with daytime highs averaging in the upper 20’s and 30’s by then.
    A cluster that is anchored by brood and can not more to food is dead. The wrapping allows them to loosen up on the sunny days and get stores. It makes a big difference at this time of year.
    I also place an empty box on top of the hive. I use this box to feed syrup in the fall and early winter. I make sure that each hive is set with a sheet of paper and granular sugar on it for winter. The box allows me to open a hive at anytime and assess where the cluster is and how they are set for food. Before using the empty box, many times I found the cluster up against the inner cover to the sunny side (S / SW) of the hive. The problem was that they inner cover was a barrier to feeding them. They had to break cluster to get to food that I feed. Also, they never like to inner cover being popped when they were that high in the hive. The empty box resolves these problems, I don’t disturb them when I open the hive and I can place sugar or syrup right where the cluster is located. The feeders or sugar is placed on the top bars so that can feed as a cluster.
    I believe that all aspects of what I do contribute to the colony’s survival.
    I also believe that winter plays an important role in keeping mites in check as well. It breaks the brood cycle for an extended period of time. During this time a number of mites will die and their population will decrease. I do not know how mites react on wintering bees and at what temperatures within the cluster they can survive or die at. However it all must play some role.
    My only conclusion from what I do is that it works for me. When I prepare my hives correctly for winter, they survive, when I don’t they die.

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