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  1. #1
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    Default figuring out how to do this right...

    I'm still pretty new to the world of beekeeping, but recently BjornBee posted a response to a question regarding the treatment of bees in the fight against varroa. If you are curious of the content here's the link: http://www.beesource.com/forums/showthread.php?t=222857

    I know this is an issue that has been debated ad nauseam, and there are as many ways to go about dealing with this issue (and schools of thought) as there are stars in the sky (ok, maybe that's a little over dramatic.) But Bjorn opened my eyes to the issue of treating bees and working with survivor stock...

    I have 5 colonies. I treated with api life var and have been regressing to small cell. But the idea that api life var, or any treatment of bees, may enable the very diseases that threaten their existence, is real. We as beekeepers may be making it impossible for our bees to survive without our constant intervention. I'm worried that I might be traveling down a road I don't want to be on.

    So, my question which is 2 parts, is this:

    Is it possible for a hobby beekeeper, with only a few hives, to create the right kind of environment (enough drones/drone yard, what ever else) so that we can work with survivor stock and lay off the treatments?

    For those of you who have experience working only with surviving stock ( I know BjornBee and Michael Palmer do this...) what would you suggest for a small time hobby beekeeper, to get started down this road?

    I hope that this thread spurs some educational and helpful discussion.

    thanks....
    Let's BEE friends

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
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    parker county, tx
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    Default

    My only remaining hive (out of 4) is a "survivor" hive that was given to me by a nursery owner 6 years ago. The hive had been at the back of their property untended for 5 years prior to my taking it on. When they bought the property, they knew the hive was back there, but none of them are beeks, so they were happy to have me take it off their hands. They were basically what is referred to as a feral hive, and their attitude reflects that. The other hives I had at the time all died (I assume from varroa) because I was trying to go the organic route, I was new at the hobby, and my ignorance caused my losses.
    Anyway, since I have had this hive, I have treated for varroa mites twice with apistan. I feed them a couple of times a year with sugar water and a HBH equivalent that I make myself. When I have treated, I probably didn't really "need" to, but was more afraid not to.
    Since they were still alive after 5 years of no intervention, I assume they have some natural resistance or tolerance, and I constantly play a truth or dare game when trying to know correct management for them.
    All that being said, the best bet is probably other "feral" hives transferred into beekeeping equipment.
    Tough question.
    So many weeds.......so little time.

  3. #3
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    Greensboro, N.C.
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    >>>When I have treated, I probably didn't really "need" to, but was more afraid not to. <<<

    If beeks would spend half as much time checking for mites and diseases as they do treating, they would have twice the bees with half the work.

    Yes, I am a feral bee keeper and check my hives regularly and treat seldom. Then only with fgmo and thymol, which is NOT a cure all. I don't want to kill all the mites, just keep the number down to the point the bees can handle them. I also have a hive that is 6 years old without ever being treated, and none of it's ancestors were ever treated. I can trace it back to the early 80's, before the mites got here.

    People worry about mites building resistance to what is put into the hive, but never think about the bees building resistance to what is put in the hive. [Mites]

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by iddee View Post

    If beeks would spend half as much time checking for mites and diseases as they do treating, they would have twice the bees with half the work.
    Well, I do check mite counts regularly, and got advice on this forum to treat when my 24 hr count was at 35. I treated, and immediately had around 250 mites for the first couple of days, then within a week, had consistent counts of 3-7 or so per day, often, none at all in a 24 hour period. It's so difficult to know when the counts actually represent high mite loads.
    So many weeds.......so little time.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by dragonfly View Post
    It's so difficult to know when the counts actually represent high mite loads.
    Right, the colony in question had mite drop counts of 1-3/day (24hr) Now that I am treating, the mite drop counts are astronomical. On day 20 of api life var treatment, my count was 247. I'm on my last wafer, and not sure if I should add a 4th week!

    Iddee, have you used your one "resistant" colony as breeder stock for the rest of your colonies?
    Let's BEE friends

  6. #6
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    DF, I wasn't referring to you at all. I was referring to the topic as a whole. Too many treat with no idea what the mite condition is. A non-hygienic hive will always have a lighter drop, but more mites, than a hygienic hive. The drop count alone will not tell you enough about the actual mite load.

    HB, I raise some from it each year, and the results are great. Most of my hives, tho, come from swarms and removals. I usually sell most of my hives before winter, but never that one. It is totally....NOT FOR SALE....

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by iddee View Post
    DF, I wasn't referring to you at all. I was referring to the topic as a whole. ....
    Thank goodness. I was feeling like a pretty small little beek.

    Quote Originally Posted by iddee View Post
    It is totally....NOT FOR SALE....
    I feel that way about my hive- mostly because it's the only one I have.
    Just kidding, I actually have great reverence for my girls. They are tough, strong, and feisty- kind of like me.
    So many weeds.......so little time.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
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    Tulare County, CA USA
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    Default

    [QUOTE=hummingberd;360934]Is it possible for a hobby beekeeper, with only a few hives, to create the right kind of environment (enough drones/drone yard, what ever else) so that we can work with survivor stock and lay off the treatments? QUOTE]

    You can raise queens from your best hive, but as far as mating the queens that you raise, you are pretty much stuck with whatever is in your area for drones. Your only need for quality drones is to improve the local stock so that next year when you raise your own queens you will hopefully see some improved genetics from the local stock. I'd say raise queens from your healthiest hive each year and accept that this is going to be a long term endeavor that you may never win.
    A good place to start might be a VSH queen that you use only for drone production to help out the local stock which will be your sperm donors next year.

  9. #9
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    May 2002
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    San Mateo, CA
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    Default

    I have not treated for five years. I lose about half each winter (same as when I treated), maybe from (CCD?) not mites. Nucs and baits that I make in summer mostly survive and are my hives for the next year. I protect the dead out combs and use them for bait hives every spring, many produce a crop. Lots of work, but no chems. I have kept bees for 38 years and find that this new era (mites, CCD?) of beekeeping just requires constant making of new hives, rather than expecting hives to last for many years. The last two years I have made up stock with feral caught bait hives (over 25 this year), not from purchased queens.

  10. #10
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    odfrank what you are describing seems to me more like simply replacing the hives lost rather than breeding for resistance, is that correct? If you never increase the amount of hives you have, than it doesn't seem like you'll be able to achieve the goal I'm trying to achieve which is to have a long lasting colony that is resistant to mites without treatments or intervention by me. I'd prefer not to have to purchase new colonies each year or depend on catching or collecting swarms. I'd like to harvest at least a little honey each year, and I think that requires at least some "known variables" though I think those two words open up a whole can of worms.

    I want strong bees. It's not that I don't want to spend time on them or work hard as a beekeeper. I've never been afraid of hard work. I just want my work to be effective and I want to make sure I'm being responsible by perpetuating the best genetics possible.
    Let's BEE friends

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by hummingberd View Post
    I want strong bees. It's not that I don't want to spend time on them or work hard as a beekeeper. I've never been afraid of hard work. I just want my work to be effective and I want to make sure I'm being responsible by perpetuating the best genetics possible.
    With only 5 colonies, and if I were you, I'd concentrate on practicing good basic beekeeping, and buy your stock from a local producer who is working on the traits that you are looking for. I know you're new at this. Why not learn to be a better beekeeper, and leave the breeding program to to someone with more experience and stock. I think you'll have way more fun with your bees...and, isn't that the point?

  12. #12
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    Default

    good point Michael, and thanks! I guess that's what I'm trying to figure out. Should I try to create the "right environment" for my bees or rely on others to produce stock I like? I suppose buying nucs and queens from breeders I trust is an easier way to go about things... But the down side is, I can't always get what I want/need when I want/need it. Know what I mean?
    Let's BEE friends

  13. #13
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    Smile

    Comment changed, sorry.
    Last edited by Oldbee; 10-21-2008 at 08:11 PM.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by hummingberd View Post
    good point Michael, and thanks! I guess that's what I'm trying to figure out. Should I try to create the "right environment" for my bees or rely on others to produce stock I like? I suppose buying nucs and queens from breeders I trust is an easier way to go about things... But the down side is, I can't always get what I want/need when I want/need it. Know what I mean?
    Michael is right... also I would find a local beekeeper near by to learn from. Go to your local Beekeep meetings and don't be afraid to ask them questions. ALso, just starting is not the time to be thinking about breeding. Starting is the time to learn about one thing. Beginner Beekeeping and learn about what to look for in the hive, as far as problems, when to feed and such.

    When you get a couple years under your belt then ask about breeding queens.

    Just my opinion.
    "Where wisdom is called for, force is of little use."
    Herodotus (circa 485-425 BC), Greek Historian

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by iddee View Post
    >>>
    If beeks would spend half as much time checking for mites and diseases as they do treating, they would have twice the bees with half the work.

    I couldn't agree more. I don't worry about them. But, I think one day I might have to, but never did anything years ago and never had any problems. But I know what they look like, and also have seen others with foul brood, and glad I have never had any problems with it either (knock on wood).

    Sometimes people worry to much, it's human nature. I don't mess with the bees as much as some do, and I feel it works best, for me.
    "Where wisdom is called for, force is of little use."
    Herodotus (circa 485-425 BC), Greek Historian

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by iddee View Post
    People worry about mites building resistance to what is put into the hive, but never think about the bees building resistance to what is put in the hive. [Mites]
    That deserved repeating.

    As for good stock, I've always thought that local wild swarms would be an excellent (and economical) source. But I'm new at this, too, and have no data to back up my "gut feel."
    “The keeping of bees is like the direction of sunbeams.” -Henry David Thoreau

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hobie View Post
    That deserved repeating.

    As for good stock, I've always thought that local wild swarms would be an excellent (and economical) source. But I'm new at this, too, and have no data to back up my "gut feel."
    This was a "good" year for swarm collectors. I got 2 from the same property on the same weekend. And almost got a cutout! Free is good!
    Let's BEE friends

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