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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Calgary, Alberta, Canada
    Posts
    18

    Default Organic vs traditional beekeeping.

    Attending the local beekeepers meeting for my first time last night, I was struck by both the amount of losses they are suffering, as well as the amount of chemical interventions and pest management involved.

    I know little about organic apiculture practices, and I'm curious to hear from those using them, and their experiences.

    Does organic decrease some of the interventions and management required? Are there any negatives, or tradeoffs involved in organic beekeeping?

  2. #2

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    I'm far from sure if organic is the right word to use. Intergrated pest management (IPM) is the technique I am using to manage my colonies. I use small cell foundation, screened bottom boards, use sugar dusting if I see evidence of varroa mites, and treat all my comb with xentari. The last chemical I used was ApiLfe VAR and that was 2-3 years ago. I lost 2 of 13 colonies over winter this year and 3 of 8 last year. It is my understanding that beekeeping these days requires much more intervention than it did before the arrival of parrasitic mites and the like. I'm in my hives at least once a month, often once a week, if nothing more than to check activity and health.

    Good luck!

    Pete0
    Bena, VA

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    owensboro,ky
    Posts
    2,240

    Default

    i thought traditional WAS organic.
    "Wine is a constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy" Ben Franklin

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Indian Valley, Virginia
    Posts
    587

    Default

    i think you would find it expensive to beekeep purely organically. for example, if you were to feed sugar syrup, the sugar would have to be certified organic sugar. if you used foundation it would have to be certified organic foundation, etc. but you can control the chemicals you put into your hive to some extent.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Tulsa, OK
    Posts
    3,426

    Default

    "I thought traditional WAS organic."

    I suppose long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, there weren't varoa mites, tracheal mites, small hive beetles or farmers spraying chemicals all over the place. But not anymore.

    In a serious answer to the thread, I think that a small scale beekeeper at least has lots of options for hive treatments that work fine without using chemicals, particularly miticides.

    For both types of mites, genetics is important. Genetics alone can take care of t-mites. For varroa, particularly if you have good genetics, you can do fine with screened bottom boards, powdered sugar dusting and/or drone comb frame removal. Genetics alone may get you by -- monitor the mite levels to see for yourself.

    You can start WWIII talking about small cell for varroa on here. I tried it myself and had virtually no mites, at least when I bought bees from a small cell beekeeper and had good anti-varroa genes. I personally question whether it is the small cell, the genetics or some combination that works. I also question whether this method is as easy to get started (particularly for beginners) as is some people claim. In my experience, bees draw large cell comb easier and better that the small cell stuff. I really question whether a new beekeeper needs to deal with regression problems in the first year. Others with more experience will both agree and disagree, which is fine by me.

    Bottom line, the non-hard chemical methods are just as easy (or easier) and cheaper than the hard-chemical methods for varroa control. I don't see why anybody would use Apistan or Checkmite at this point. Who wants that stuff in their comb and honey? Who wants to breed supermites.

    For brood diseases, get hygenic bees and burn any hives that get American foulbrood (which is rare in these parts, anyway).

    Small hive beetle traps can be used, with as much success as anything, without using any chemicals other than mineral oil to drown them. Studies show that certain kinds of nemotodes can be added to the soil around hives that will kill larvae before they pupate. Strong hives help more than anything else in most locations.

    If you actually have a T-mite problem, I don't really see the harm in using menthol. I don't see any harm in using menthol crystals as a matter of course (although in the long run those are some bee genes we could do without).

    To me, the only point where the use of a "chemical" is debatable is for Nosema, where I will use Fumigillin prophylacitcally.

    As far as whether beekeeping technically qualifies as "organic," I personally don't care. My goal is just to make honey that does not have anything in it that I don't want to eat and to not put anything on bees that is poison to them or me unless, for reasons of a specific issue, it is in the bees' best interests (both at the hive level and for purposes of genetics).

    My 2 cents,

    ndvan

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    College Station, Texas
    Posts
    6,973

    Default

    ndvan writes:
    I suppose long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, there weren't varoa mites, tracheal mites, small hive beetles or farmers spraying chemicals all over the place. But not anymore.


    tecumseh: ah yes those were the days. it is amazing how many concerns have arrived since the advent of free trade.

    petoO writes:
    I'm in my hives at least once a month, often once a week, if nothing more than to check activity and health.

    tecusmseh: once a month would seem about right, once a week seems a bit excessive.

    there are certain diseases (I think perhaps nosema is one of these) that seems to be slightly associated with how often hives are worked.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Location
    Arundel, Maine USA
    Posts
    1,207

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by randydrivesabus View Post
    i think you would find it expensive to beekeep purely organically. for example, if you were to feed sugar syrup, the sugar would have to be certified organic sugar.
    This is the problem I'm having! Organic sugar is SOOOOO expensive, but I don't know what else to do. It doesn't make sense to use non-organic sugar in the hives if I'm trying to keep access to pesticides at a minimum.
    Let's BEE friends

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    Erie, PA
    Posts
    2,030

    Default

    Then there's the question of whether feeding the bees is "natural" at all...
    “The keeping of bees is like the direction of sunbeams.” -Henry David Thoreau

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    Kiel WI, USA
    Posts
    2,368

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by hummingberd View Post
    It doesn't make sense to use non-organic sugar in the hives if I'm trying to keep access to pesticides at a minimum.
    I don't think there's much risk of pesticides with conventional sugar.

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