After a nearly twenty years out I am considering getting a couple hives set up. I'm still on the fence at the moment and may put it off for a year to spread the set up costs over time. I have been reading and studying as much as I can. I have decided that I want to run with a minimalist approach. Minimal manipulations and medications and hopefully minimal problems with maximum production LOL. Let me outline my thinking and welcome comments from the peanut gallery. Please kibitz all you want I'm trying to learn here.
1. Obtain as resistant strain of bee as possible. Resistant to what? Varroa of course but hopefully TM, SHB, PMS and the whole slough of pestilence out there today.
On this I am unsure as to the various claims made about SMR, Hygienic, Russian, Feral survivor, Small Cell et al. Race is secondary, though I lean toward italian as they are what I am familiar with and what ever I get will invariably be compared to what I had in the past. Disease aside, what I desire are bees that are predictably gentle. Tempermental and unpredictable are a frustration I want to avoid. Definitely not prone to swarm at the drop of a hat. The italians I am familiar with had three faults. I really think they are related. Extremely fertile creating huge colonies willing to swarm at any time of the season. I have seen one hive throw three swarms in one season AND still be strong enough to survive the winter. That's two, and third is a willingness to rob if a careless beek let them get a whiff of free honey. The things I liked were the sheer predictability of the italian. I think the books I read were based on italians or they could read LOL. Gentle and productive as a rule. My ideal bee would be an italian with all the good traits reported in the SMR (mite suppression), Hygienic (cleaning out infected brood), and Russian (tolerance to mites and PMS) with the traits mentioned above toned down to some degree.
2. Start these bees out on small cell, either foundation or starter strips and keep them on it.
I have no idea on this whole regression process. I assume it is the removal of comb that does not have the prequisite percentage of cells that fall into a set size range (4.7?-5.0?) until such time as all comb falls into the indicated range. As this is happening and with each subsequent brood cycle the bees will regress naturally, I assume.
3. Consider having a few frames of drone comb drawn out for varroa control. At least until such time as small cell is achieved. Of course may not be needed if varroa is not present (yeah right, not according to what I hear).
4. Screened Bottom Boards on all hives at all times with sticky boards. Monitor these boards religiously for mite counts.
Unsure as to whether close or open for winter. I guess I will decide when the time comes. Hives will be raised off the ground on a site built rack (two 4x4s set on posts 18" above the ground)
5. Determine what level of mite count requires immediate treatment and what can be kept in check.
Here I am unsure if any is to many or if there is a magic number. I guess the health of the hive and time of year would have a large bearing on this.
6. Determine the forms of treatments I am willing to use for the various threats to the health of the hive.
Here I am pretty firm in that want to adopt the hippocratic principle of not making things worse. Now define worse LOL. Not having hands on experience I with hold judgement on chemicals just that I feel that throwing chemicals at the problem is not the answer. This applies across the board to most problems in this country. We're to quick to run to the doctor for the latest greatest miracle drug, but that's another topic.
So far here is the way I'm leaning menthol spring/fall for TM. Undecided at the moment about grease patties due to potential conflict with SHB control. A regimented treatment for VM until such time that SC/resistance shows treatment can be discontinued or reserved for severe problems (if the decision is made to "save" the colony). At no time will this treatment consist of chemicals I would be afraid to eat in the amounts found in the hive. Oxalic seems to be the way I'm leaning until I learn more about fogging FGMO. The cords seem more reasonable but am unsure of thymol at the moment. I need more information on formic acid before I can form an opinion. It is possible that I would combine two or more methods if needed.
SHB would need to be dealt with so I am considering a defense in depth. Begin with traps at the outer limits of my property covering the perimeter. Entrance traps at the hive to hopefully intercept beetles entering or exiting the hive. Ground drench to get those that hatch inside the hive. Doing everything to keep a strong colony. The cardboard on the bottom board seems to interfere with the SBB concept. In light of my studies I have an idea or two that I wish to experiment with once the hives are in place. This is one area where I really don't like the recommended treatment. As further control a freezer will be dedicated for the storage of frames and supers (I intend to stay small). As additional control I would like to look into smaller entrances above the bottom board.
7. Decide what is an acceptable loss rate.
Bees die from causes other than mites. Is it possible to keep my losses to a level they were twenty years ago? If not how much is to much?
8. Do I treat for AFB/EFB and Nosema?
Twenty years ago I didn't and never had a case of either FB. From my readings teramycin is a preventative NOT a cure. So far I doubt I will bother, but will keep the matches handy just in case. Nosema was treated on a as needed basis, I think I will continue that practice.
9. Checkerboarding makes sense at least on a gut level.
Sure beats cutting swarm cells. Yes that was the accepted practice in my area twenty years ago. I never could figure out why that stopped swarming if they were determined to rebuild the cells as fast as I destroyed them. Reversing deeps on a regular basis is a pain in my buttocks. In light of Walt's research I will run a shallow/deep/shallow (I can't break the two sizes habit even though everyone else has LOL). I will also experiment with going excluderless.
10. Requeen or not.
In the good old days we didn't (well some did). The bees could be counted on to produce a decent queen and swarms were always available. It ain't so today. Though there is the thought of allowing her majesty to date the local boys (yes there are a few of them left) to see if they have something going on that makes them the last man standing. This gets into the whole queen breeding thing and needs more study. Until I do the required reading I will requeen.
[size="1"][ December 18, 2005, 12:17 AM: Message edited by: warrior ][/size]