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

    Default

    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
    2,243

    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
    3,311

    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
    6,985

    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
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    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
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    2,373

    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.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    los angeles, ca
    Posts
    109

    Smile

    I find organic beekeeping very in-expensive.I never feed much never treat for anything use my own wax which is chemical free make my own starter strips leave them alone let them do there thing natural and small cell end of story
    kirk-o
    I like bugs

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    43,419

    Default

    I suppose there is the issue of the official designation "organic" as in "USDA certified organic" or just not using all the chemicals etc.

    If you mean not treating for everything it seems to me that feeding less, using no chemicals etc. is much more inexpensive, simpler, easier and more effective. The last time I was foolish enough to treat for Varroa, I lost all my bees.

    http://www.bushfarms.com/beeslazy.ht...tionlessframes
    http://www.bushfarms.com/beesnaturalcell.htm
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Luzerne County, Plains, PA, USA
    Posts
    162

    Default

    I didn't think that "organic" as an official designation was possible, as the bees will go where they want, and eat what they want, without any means of control by the beekeeper. One would "think" you had no way of knowing for certain that the bees had not feasted on pesticide ridden crops/gardens etc.....thus making "Organic" a nearly impossible designation.

    However that being said, the other day at the local grocery, i noticed my wife looking at honey..... she said she was looking to see what the prices were, and pointed to one saying "figures this organic one is more expensive". I read the label and sure enough it stated clearly "USDA Certified Organic."

    I don't recall right off what the name on the label was, just that is was a product of Brazil (why not US)?
    A beekeeper is not what I am, it's what I aspire to become.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Crawfordville, FL
    Posts
    2,570

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by WayneW View Post
    I don't recall right off what the name on the label was, just that is was a product of Brazil (why not US)?
    I found this from the USDA website...

    The NOSB report recommends that if products from an apiculture operation are to be sold as organic, the bees and hives have to be managed in compliance with the organic livestock standards for at least 270 days prior to removal of products from the hive. This includes developing an organic apiculture plan for your organic certification agency and observing all the national organic provisions. For example:

    Origin of the livestock — Hives have to be under continuous organic management for no less than 270 days prior to removal of honey or other products, or hives need to be purchased from organic sources.


    Supplemental feed — Organic honey and organic sugar syrup are allowed up to 30 days prior to honey harvest.


    Forage area — Hives have to be located at least 4 miles from any area using prohibited materials listed in the standards or from any contaminated sites.


    Living conditions — Hives must be made of natural materials, such as wood or metal, but not with treated lumber.


    Health care practices — Make sure all therapeutic products are listed on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances as NOSB approved, or are approved by your organic certification agency.


    Record keeping — Necessary for documenting movement of hive, health care, and sale of products, as well as for auditing.
    Seems you can treat as much as you want as long as it's 270 days before harvesting (on a new hive I gather) and organic feed only 30 days prior to harvest. Also doesn't mention testing of the comb at all.

    Doesn't seem too difficult of a standard to achieve.
    The bees know!
    AKA Wormtounge

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Calgary, Alberta, Canada
    Posts
    18

    Default Thank you

    Thank you to everyone who replied, particularly ndvan, whose reply I found very helpful.

    I also found helpful the discussion of terminology and parameters... It made me reconsider "what do I *really* mean":

    Due to my urban setting, it would be impossible to do formally organic, as I have no control over the source-flowers. What I am, hoping to do, however, is embrace natural pest and disease control methods, in the hopes of making my beekeeping more healthy (for me) and sustainable, with minimal chemical inputs. If my practice is dependant upon chemicals or pharmaceuticals, it is not worth doing for me.

    We practice organic gardening, and have had fantastic success with it. It has required a great deal more self-education to move beyond the stock garden-center techniques... It is clear that beekeeping is similar, and that I have a lot more learning to do before I can dive in.

    Thanks to everyone's answers, I now understand the question better...

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    Boulder,Colorado USA
    Posts
    1

    Default

    I am a first season beekeeper with 3 new colonies (got them end of June and mid-July) that need fall feeding to overwinter. As an organic gardener, I have been trying to use organic methods and not treating with chemicals. I have been making a 2:1 organic sugar syrup and would like to add a pint of clean honey (no AFB spores) to the syrup. Does anyone know if there is a problem with combining sugar syrup and clean honey to feed the bees or could there be a problem with fermention? They have been going through a 1/2 gallon in 2 days. Thanks for any advice.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Vancouver, BC
    Posts
    122

    Default

    Theresa, make sure the honey you feed is from your own hives. Who knows what your bees will get from storebought.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    Saskatchewan, Canada
    Posts
    241

    Default

    Is there such a thing as organic honey? In this day and age I am sure everyones bees have visited crops that cannot be called organic.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    lewisberry, Pa, usa
    Posts
    6,081

    Default

    Bodo...are you sure you read about the 4 miles part? You think documenting and finding areas of 4 miles with no contamination is even possible on the east coast?

    I could not imagine contacting and documenting every landowner for 4 miles around my apiaries. I spoke to the certifying auhtority in Pa. and land use documentation would be required.

    I don't agree with the requirements. I'm just commenting on whats required. I think they are way overblown, that's for sure.

    I find the market for local raw honey to be much stronger than organic. And I think a certain amount of the public also questions or thinks twice about "organic" products coming from far off places. Buying local produce and supporting local farming is something worth doing for most people.

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    Warne, North Carolina
    Posts
    551

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by dgl1948 View Post
    Is there such a thing as organic honey? In this day and age I am sure everyones bees have visited crops that cannot be called organic.
    Yes, there is such a thing. I know several certified organic farms that have honeybees here in the mountains. They are surrounded by national forest land. It's like heaven to a beekeeper - especially one that doesn't treat with chemicals,
    ~What do you know there's so much to be done
    Count all the bees in the hive, Chase all the clouds from the sky~

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    lewisberry, Pa, usa
    Posts
    6,081

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Cyndi View Post
    Yes, there is such a thing. I know several certified organic farms that have honeybees here in the mountains. They are surrounded by national forest land. It's like heaven to a beekeeper - especially one that doesn't treat with chemicals,
    So the farmers are organic. Are the beekeepers who have bees on the farm organic certified also? Saying you have bees on a organic farm is not the same as being certified as a organic beekeeper is it?

    I also know several beekeepers who have bees on organic farms. And they try to beat around the bush with suggestions of "organic" honey. But when it comes down to it, the beekeeper did not do any of the requirements to be certified. They suggest..."produced on Organic farms" or "From bees kept on organic farms" etc. I always wondered if the bees were part of the organic certification process of the farm, or is that considered different in some aspect. To keep bees on a organic dairy farm for instance...would they (dairy farmer) bee concerned about the bees and hives?

    I think "yes" may apply to beekeepers having bees on organic farms. But that's different than being a certified organic beekeepr and able to slap the "organic" label on a bottle of honey.

    If they are certified beekeepers, and it's not just a play on words, than can you list or name them? I am sure they would be proud of their achievement and would not mind. If anything, it would be good advertising.

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