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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2015
    Location
    Dolianova, Sardinia, Italy
    Posts
    259

    Default The road to treatment free...

    I would like some advice. I own twenty hives that I have begun to regress into natural cell, and my end goal is to become treatment free. I can see three distinct possibilities for attaining this goal:

    1. The "cold-turkey" approach. No treatments from the start, intensive splitting to manage number losses, culling and breeding to encourage desired resistence.
    2. Half-and-half. I stop treating half of my hives, and treat the other half as a failsafe, and to bulk up my producing colonies.
    3. Treat and breed. I keep treating as necessary, and begin slowly selecting for the traits I am seeking.

    I am in short trying to decide which of these paths to follow. I am tempted to go cold-turkey at once, as I am persuaded by Michael Bush's reasoning on this issue - that if one treats one's bees, it is much more difficult, if not impossible, to validly select for Varroa resistence. A single concrete question, then, and I'll leave the rest to the forum - if I stop treating now, would it be possible to grow my numbers in the coming year, or would I more likely be battling merely to keep stable at twenty hives?

    I do not want this introduction to become any windier, but I think it pertinent to include some relevant information. My bees come from a commercial beekeeper in this area who purports to produce organic honey with a quantity of his bees; but he also recommended that I treat my bees before Christmas with Apistan and two bouts of oxalic acid, which inspires little confidence in the quality of his bees' Varroa resistence. I have been able to find no producer of treatment-free queens anywhere in Sardinia, so for the moment I am constrained to use the bees at my disposal - those that I have, and any swarms or cut outs I am able to gather the coming year (which I hope will be a goodly number). I have, however, great potential for queen rearing, as I have access to several remote properties in which to stage a breeding scheme.

    Thank you for your patience with the unwieldy length of my introduction. I would very much appreciate any advice or guidance.

    John

  2. #2

    Default Re: The road to treatment free...

    You best go for 3) as it doesn't produce unnecessary losses. Cold turkey means 100 % losses every third/fourth year, no honey, lot of money into the sink. Orientate at the Kefuss approach: http://www.immenfreunde.de/SBT.pdf

    That's the most sustainable and practical approach in breeding for resistance. I have good success doing so - without unnecessary bee killing.

    PS: Forget about regressing bees, it is waste of money and time. You can get the same results without this small cell stuff.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Location
    Champaign, Illinois
    Posts
    847

    Default Re: The road to treatment free...

    Just quit treating and try to keep your bees alive. Breed the survivors. Decide what you're managing for, honey or bees. My philosophy is to raise lots of bees and the honey will follow. More of a hobbyist at this point so am not so wrapped up in the numbers.

    Propping up the weak ones with chemicals is not sustainable imo. (if you're selling the chemicals, that's different)
    Let bees be bees and they'll fix it, whatever "it" is. Buona fortuna with whatever path you choose.

    My apiary and yours are nearly the same scale. 20-ish colonies.
    Internet credibility is an oxymoron

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Clinton, Iowa
    Posts
    3,764

    Default Re: The road to treatment free...

    If you just cut them off... get ready for devastation in the second winter.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    lee county, fl, usa
    Posts
    1,078

    Default Re: The road to treatment free...

    What are your winters like? I went cold turkey in my second year and my average losses are about 2-4hives per year. Our tough time here is summer, not winter.

    I have slowly grown from 4 hives the first year to now in the 40's in my 6th year. I lost 2 hives this year. One was a nuk that I believe became overcrowded, overheated, collapse. The other may have been queen failure. As I don't treat, I really don't know why the loss. I watch closely for AFB. This year I am much more aggressive with failing queens and non hygienic hives so I expect even fewer losses. I also started raising my own queens.
    Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Prvb 16:24
    March 2010; +/- 50 hives, TF

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Location
    Manassas, Virginia, USA
    Posts
    1,928

    Default Re: The road to treatment free...

    What is the scale of your operation? Most of us small-time backyard beekeepers have a snowball's chance in heck of breeding TF bees from scratch. However, our state bee inspector has told our club that he wishes the large commercial guys would set aside about 25% of their hives and go TF. The results would initially be horrid (see jwcarlson), but he is confident that selection from survivors will eventually work, as it has with other bee diseases.

    The "treat when necessary" approach is what I do but it is also almost certain to NOT produce TF bees. To get to TF, the bees that ever need treatment must die.

    There is, however, another option. Join a club, meet TF beekeepers IN YOUR AREA, and see if they can be persuaded to part with a nuc or two or some queens that have already shown some ability to deal with mites on their own.

    You might even stumble on to feral bees, or an old hive untended for a decade (somebody here found one recently), that have done it on their own.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Clinton, Iowa
    Posts
    3,764

    Default Re: The road to treatment free...

    Quote Originally Posted by bevy's honeybees View Post
    Our tough time here is summer, not winter.
    That's probably accurate. Either way... year two. You'll notice it when you first check the brood in spring after the first winter. It will gradually subside when the queen outlays them (unless they are too weak to grow). But eventually when the eggs slow down the mites per larva ratio goes through the roof and that's when you've got trouble. The EFB looking snot brood in some of my colonies seemed to "clear up", it was really just diluted more in the hive if I'm being honest.

    Part of the trouble for people running 2-20 hives thinking they'll be treatment free is the affect on others in their area when their experiment goes south as it pretty much has to for the whole theory to work.

    You're not breeding some super bee with four hives in your yard... there is some complex here that's a bit dangerous for new people. Is TF possible? Absolutely... but until you understand beekeeping a little bit better... you can't read between the lines so well. Relentless splitting, selling off lots of nucs (meaning lots of mites), etc.

    Phoebee, clean colonies up and requeen with better genetics. It makes no sense to me why people wouldn't take this approach vs. just letting them die/abscond/drift/be robbed. Frankly... it's not being a very good bee-neighbor as I don't think there's anyone who has bees so well adapted to mites that they could take a massive influx from a collapsing colony well.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Location
    Mt holly, NC, USA
    Posts
    77

    Default Re: The road to treatment free...

    I would think that if anyone were to stumble on a long term untreated hive or feral colony, the queens and bees generated from them would be worth a fortune. Likewise, if through significant effort the resistance to disease were cultured into a group of hives, the product of this effort would be in high demand.

    I have not seen this happen, what am I missing?

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Algoma dr. Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    2,072

    Default Re: The road to treatment free...

    Quote Originally Posted by Stonewall View Post
    I would think that if anyone were to stumble on a long term untreated hive or feral colony, the queens and bees generated from them would be worth a fortune. Likewise, if through significant effort the resistance to disease were cultured into a group of hives, the product of this effort would be in high demand.

    I have not seen this happen, what am I missing?
    If it were a closed group of hives, maybe only till you move them and expose them to other drones or pests with a different genetic virulence.

    Is your breeding program buying new bees like buying lottery tickets with the feeling of assurance that "eventually You must win"?

    I dont know what route I would take since so many of the avenues are supported by ideological issues many of which have debatable or even contraditory value. Very hard to pin down the real cause of any short term apparent progress.

    I hope you have more time, more patience and deeper pockets than I do.
    Frank

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Location
    Manassas, Virginia, USA
    Posts
    1,928

    Default Re: The road to treatment free...

    Quote Originally Posted by Stonewall View Post
    I would think that if anyone were to stumble on a long term untreated hive or feral colony, the queens and bees generated from them would be worth a fortune. Likewise, if through significant effort the resistance to disease were cultured into a group of hives, the product of this effort would be in high demand.

    I have not seen this happen, what am I missing?
    There was a thread about a month ago on this. The search engine is timing out looking for it. The first though in my mind was ... breed those bees and I'd like a queen. Somebody here was asking about saving a decade-neglected hive with decaying woodenware but a full of survivor bees. And there is another about survivor colonies living feral in the northeast.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
    Location
    Cameron, Wisconsin, United States
    Posts
    64

    Default Re: The road to treatment free...

    You may be better off starting by buying queens from someone or better yet several different people who is/are already breeding for mite resistance. That way you get several lines of genetics of bees that are already resistant to mites.

    Another way to get mite resistant bees is to collect all the swarms you can get. Of course it is probably impossible to tell if a swarm is from bees that have lived on their own for years or if they just swarmed the day before from an apiary that uses heavy doses of treatments.

    If you start with what you already have you may have very limited genetics to start with. If you are lucky that could be a good thing but more than likely it isn't/

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Rensselaer County, NY, USA
    Posts
    1,939

    Default Re: The road to treatment free...

    I am very skeptical of the notion of "survivor bees".

    Before I kept bees, I had honey bees living in the same cavities of two walls of one of my barns for twenty years. Bees were never not there during the summer. I know this because I kept careful notes and this barn is only about 50 feet from my house, so very easy to check often.

    In the late Fall of of 2012, bees were definitely there and kicking. One of my last pre-winter chores is putting a ladder up over the bee-colony entrances and closing up a hay-mow door above them, so I always knew the bees were alive and active just before winter took a hard grip. In the late Spring of 2013, no bees were alive in those cavities (and no dead bees there, either). Hundreds of pounds of stores left behind - truly an enormous quantity. I have no idea what happened to the barn-living bees.

    Then in late May 2013,first one, then two, and finally, three separate swarms moved into those cavities - attracted no doubt to smell of all that honey and the rich resource it represented. These three colonies were hived on June 23rd. I still have them all. One colony has replaced its orginal queen (just this summer), but the other two (marked) old girls are still laying well, now in the their third summer with me. I have made splits from all three.

    I live in an area with a good number of unmanaged, feral hive sites, most of which are occupied every year. There are a few backyard beekeepers but not much swarming from their hives. These feral bee colony locations seem to be serially occupied, and then reoccupied, by successive colonies, but not necessarily continuously occupied by the same colonies. So what I see is not so much survivor bees, but survivor premises.

    My bees, sturdy little mutt-girls that they are, are all swarms from local bees, likely with at least some chance of being from "unmanaged/feral" stock genetics, if not wholly from unmanaged sources. They are thriving under my care, which includes minimalistic, but effective, treatment for varroa. But without that treatment I think I'd be seeing the boom and bust pattern that I see in the feral colonies I know about near me.

    Just in the past month, a very large bee tree, with a cavity-living colony that has been in situ for at least three years has simply been abandonned, leaving no dead bees behind that I can see. (Their disappearance corresponds to a period when I saw a marked increase in scouts perusing the barn area that my own hives settled into in 2013. Since my bees were hived I have not stopped up the barn openings, but I have removed the stockpile of stores. Nobody has claimed the space in my barns since then.)

    With the peripatetic nature of modern beekeeping I think the idea that survivor bees will have somehow spontaneously evolved a strong-enough, heritable-enough, reliable resistance/ tolerance/ behavioral modification to mites is very, very, unlikely. At best, localized bees might, if isolated enough, establish some kind of survivable equilibrium with the extant varroa mites. But directly that new bees with even slightly different strains of varroa showed up, all bets are off. And beekeepers move bees (and their mites) at the drop of a hat. In some ways the current fad for keeping bees in order "to save the bees", may be making things even worse as it brings (repeatedly in the case of TF enthusiasts, with their small-scale Bond experiments) novel bees into even more locations. And each time a new genetic strain of varroa is delivered, free of charge, with that package or nuc.

    Enj.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
    Location
    Cameron, Wisconsin, United States
    Posts
    64

    Default Re: The road to treatment free...

    Quote Originally Posted by Stonewall View Post
    I would think that if anyone were to stumble on a long term untreated hive or feral colony, the queens and bees generated from them would be worth a fortune.

    Just because the hive hasn't been touched for 10 years and it had bees in it doesn't mean those bees were treatment free. The hive could have been empty and had new swarms move into it many times over the years.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Location
    Champaign, Illinois
    Posts
    847

    Default Re: The road to treatment free...

    TF bees. Those are the ones with the TF licence plates. Right?
    Until I see some registered TF bees with names and registration numbers I'm going to assume it's a myth like unicorns, 100% fuel efficient engines, and fairies.

    The philosophy of treatment free beekeeping is some very deep "stuff".
    Internet credibility is an oxymoron

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Location
    Red Bud, IL, USA
    Posts
    297

    Default Re: The road to treatment free...

    3. Treat and breed. I keep treating as necessary, and begin slowly selecting for the traits I am seeking.
    Personally I'd go with option 3. Try to remain TF/chemical free, add at least a couple of hygienic queens each year, split hives with favorable traits, catch swarms, rotating comb out, etc, etc. Push the TF/Chemical free envelope, closely monitor and not be afraid to use a treatment if conditions dictate, i.e. don't throw the baby out with the bath water.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Ridgeville, SC, USA
    Posts
    190

    Default Re: The road to treatment free...

    That all sounds good and makes you feel as if you are really somehow helping your bees. In reality you could be giving them a death sentence. With all due respect to M Bush beekeeping is region and area specific. Is securing a nice honey crop and having healthy bees not good enough? Will you be able to handle a large loss? Will the guilt make you stop keeping bees? I can tell you M Bush no treatment plan that works well for him did not work well for me. My hives (only 4 at the time) were experiencing slow death. If I would have lost them it would have been over for me. I realized my bees in my area need to be cared for just as other animals ...dogs, chickens, fish and so on. They are your bees for you to do with as you want but be prepared. I don't propose hard treatments and only treat as necessary.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Clifford Township, PA
    Posts
    2,433

    Default Re: The road to treatment free...

    Quote Originally Posted by aunt betty View Post
    TF bees. Those are the ones with the TF licence plates. Right?
    Until I see some registered TF bees with names and registration numbers I'm going to assume it's a myth like unicorns, 100% fuel efficient engines, and fairies.

    The philosophy of treatment free beekeeping is some very deep "stuff".
    Assume whatever you wish, Aunt Betty. Not sure why you're hanging out in the Treatment-Free Beekeeping Forum. Perhaps just for the opportunity to make snarky comments?

    Just sayin.

    Wayne

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Cumberland Va.
    Posts
    4,368

    Default Re: The road to treatment free...

    Quote Originally Posted by Joe Hillmann View Post
    You may be better off starting by buying queens from someone or better yet several different people who is/are already breeding for mite resistance. That way you get several lines of genetics of bees that are already resistant to mites.

    /
    This is my approach. G
    The Bees are the Beekeepers

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Ridgeville, SC, USA
    Posts
    190

    Default Re: The road to treatment free...

    Waynesgarden...u think aunt Betty and myself just happened to trip over this in the recent post section...not bashing or picking fights just saying as we see it . We all see things in a different light and not purposely trying to offend anyone..just saying

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    jackson county, alabama, usa
    Posts
    6,112

    Default Re: The road to treatment free...

    Quote Originally Posted by jwcarlson View Post
    but until you understand beekeeping a little bit better... you can't read between the lines so well. Relentless splitting, selling off lots of nucs (meaning lots of mites), etc.
    perhaps when you understand beekeeping a little bit better you'll come to know that relentless splitting and selling off a lot nucs is not what makes keeping bees off treatments possible.

    i tried to look back in your posting history to see if i could determine when you started with bees, but the history only holds 500 posts and you've made that many in just the past month and a half.

    if your join date coincides with when you got started then this would be your second year. (my sincere apology if i assume incorrectly) it seems like i remember you being especially hard on beestudent for rendering advice and espousing opinions that were above and beyond his experience. i noticed in another thread today that your were challenged about some advice you were giving about how to handle a late season infestation.

    it turns out that i strongly agree with your point about the need for us to be responsible 'bee-neighbors'. it's the one point that i feel doesn't get enough press by those advocating the tf approach. on the other hand treatments aren't always effective and even treaters can be bad 'bee-neighbors'. here's a good thread that dates back before your join date in which a lot of good posts from folks on either side of the issue were made:

    http://www.beesource.com/forums/show...ighlight=risks

    so your hives got into trouble in their second year and now you know all you need to know about keeping bees off treatments enough to tell phoebee how to go about it? just sayin.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

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