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  1. #1
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    Default Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    I've been writing an article for my website that sets out a plan for starting as a treatment-free beekeeper. I was wondering what other treatment-free beekeepers thought of my ideas. This is just the text, there will be pictures. Enjoy.



    How to start Beekeeping

    This is a sensitive subject for many reasons. Weíve come to a time in beekeeping history when there are perhaps more people trying to start beekeeping and failing than ever before. This leads to a great number of disaffected former once upon a time newbee beekeepers. I donít want this. I donít know of any beekeeper or experienced beekeeper who doesnít think this is a terrible thing. Beekeeping as a career is diminishing. Beekeeping is becoming harder to do and make money. And while Iím not terribly concerned about the maintenance of the commercial beekeeping profession, I am concerned about assuring that new beekeepers have a positive and fulfilling experience. So Iíve given this a lot of thought and Iíve come up with a plan and a philosophy that I havenít heard from anyone else and I havenít at the time of this writing told anyone else. I think it can help to make a difference and give the freshman treatment-free beekeeper a leg up on the status quo.

    Before you get the bees
    Guideline #1: Never purchase your bees in the same year as you decide to become a beekeeper.
    What Iíve seen happen is every spring, a whole new crop of beekeepers come in and plop down their $200 for their starter kit with a deep hive body and a medium super and a veil and a smoker and a hive tool and the other little accessories that come along with it. Then theyíll plop down their $100 for their 3 lb. package of bees which due to some natural disaster will not be delivered on time. This throws the newbee into a nervous fit because everything is not working out exactly how they planned. Little do they know that this is the way of things and that they will subsequently receive a whole bunch more of the same. There are so many threads which start on Beesource.com which are something like the following: ďHelp!!! Something about this is going totally different than I expected!!!Ē It causes a whole lot of problems for queen and package producers.
    So take the time. Take the time to study and prepare. This isnít like buying a hamster. Bees are sophisticated insects. They shouldnít need you to survive, and if they had the intellectual aptitude, they would most certainly reject you as their manager. Study. Never stop learning. Open your mind and if all else fails, simply do nothing. You canít make it much worse by doing nothing. You can certainly make it worse by jumping the gun and doing the wrong thing.
    Buy some good beekeeping books and read them cover to cover. I recommend ďThe Complete Idiotís Guide to BeekeepingĒ by Dean Stiglitz and Laurie Herboldsheimer and ďThe Practical BeekeeperĒ by Michael Bush. Michaelís book is much thicker and more expensive, but at the same time, virtually all of it is available on his website Bush Farms. Spend a lot of time there. You wonít regret it.

    Guideline #2: Donít start with just one hive.
    There is simply too much to go wrong to consider this as an option these days. There really is a serious chance that one hive will die in its first winter. If itís not due to mites, it could be due to related viruses or infections or it could be starvation or it could be a failed late season supersedure or it could be by robbing from neighborhood colonies. There are just so many things that could go wrong that first year. Additionally, having more than one hive gives you many options for helping out your other hives. Call it socialism or Robin Hooding or whatever, but itís really helpful to be able to pull a frame of open brood out of a neighboring hive and be able to give it to a queenless hive so they can make their own queen. Itís also very helpful to be able to equalize stored honey in the fall when some hives may have more than they need and some may be a bit short.
    When I started, I started with 20 packages. But that was back when packages cost $35 apiece whereas now, they may cost $100. That many would only be for the most serious of starting beekeepers as I was. I was intending to become a commercial beekeeper. I didnít end up doing that, but I did learn a vital lesson. My recommendation is to start with no fewer than five hives. As to how to start them, Iíll deal with that in a minute.
    Be serious. Starting with five hives is a serious investment and if you are wanting to be a treatment-free beekeeper, a serious investment is necessary, not only in bees and equipment but in study and planning. At this point in time treatment-free beekeeping WILL NOT WORK by buying bees and putting them in a hive and leaving them in the back yard. Do not be fooled. It is not as easy as that. Thereís a reason most of the beekeeping community are still using treatments. Treatments help avoid big and immediate and hard to stomach losses. They are the easy way to do things and they do produce results, for a while. But as it has been shown over the years, eventually the effectiveness of the treatment wears off and then youíre still stuck with the same problem. To succeed in treatment-free beekeeping, much attentiveness and study and work is necessary. But itís worth it, for you and for the bees, in the long run. Take it seriously.

    What bees to get
    Guideline #3: Start with nucs. (This means two things.)
    Before you can get bees, you need something to put them in. As I mentioned before, newbees commonly jump on the internet or run down to their local beekeeping supply store and grab a beginnerís kit. Donít do it. You donít need all this stuff yet, and as far as I can tell, itís overpriced anyway.
    The first problem is, they give you the most expensive equipment, the ĎSelectí grade stuff. You donít need this. Itís made specifically for people who donít know any better. You want commercial grade stuff. Itís just as good, not as pretty, but it will be painted anyway. Second, you canít pick your frame size and often foundation is included so you canít pick cell size either. I will only ever recommend small cell or natural cell. You donít need gloves. You donít want an entrance feeder. Youíre not going to want the tiny smoker theyíll give you. You donít need inner and telescoping covers, you can use migratory or plywood or something simple. Theyíre not going to give you the kind of veil you want or need. You donít need a screened bottom board. You donít need the book theyíre gonna give you and you donít need their video, thatís what YouTube is for in this generation.
    Some thinking is required.
    The main thing you should decide right at this point is what size frame youíd like to deal with. Many Bee-ginnerís kits include two boxes with two different sizes of frames. However due to a lot of issues I discuss on the Size Considerations page, you should pick a single frame size, and generally speaking, Iíd recommend the medium. I have used a single frame size in my entire beekeeping career and have never regretted it. All those frames were deeps and at times I have been disappointed with that choice but never the choice to use one size.
    The next decision is what to purchase to start beekeeping. Your choices are in most cases to buy established hives, buy nucleus hives, or buy packages. Thereís also the option of catching swarms which I heartily recommend at all stages of beekeeping, but itís not really reliable as a method on acquiring bees. If you have the opportunity to buy established treatment-free hives pay whatever it takes. However, since that is a near impossibility, my recommendation is to purchase treatment-free nucs. Those are also few and far between, so the next best option is to purchase treatment-free package bees. But those are also hardly available. There are small cell versions of both those and that would be the next best option. If you get in early enough, you should be able to get small cell nucs without too much hassle. I got some from Dixie Bee Supply without too many problems a few years back.
    Now for the second part of ĎStart with Nucs.í
    Thus far, the things I have recommended are pretty standard. But the next part, I have never heard anyone talk about. I think you should do a year or two keeping only nucleus hives. I think you should increase as much as possible, I think you should overwinter them, and I think you can use them to continue to develop your treatment free operation long after youíve switched to full size hives.
    Thereís a number of reasons why I think you should do this. First of all is cost. The cost of five five-frame nucs is significantly less than five hives with lids and bottoms. It gives you an excellent opportunity to make your own nucs and pretty good quality ones for $5 each. Thatís right, $5 each! Hereís how you do it:
    [Insert Nuc plan pic here]
    This is what they look like when theyíre done.
    []
    These ones are 5-frame deeps, but you can easily adjust the sizes of the sides and ends and tops to make them for any type or size of nuc you want.
    This is a simple five frame nuc design that uses ĹĒ nominal (15/32Ē actual) plywood and you can make four of them (5-frame deeps) from a single piece of plywood costing about $16. I do not yet know how many you can make in mediums. Iím thinking about doing 6 frame medium nucs just because it gives a little more space for overwintering. Iím not sure yet how successful it can be to overwinter medium nucs but I know that Michael Palmer and others overwinter 4-frame deep nucs in Vermont and 6 medium frames approximately equals 4 deep frames in deep so Iím confident that it can be done.
    This is a fantastic opportunity to get started with a minimum amount of investment and with the maximum chance of success due to the capability for rapid increase. With nucs, youíll need to take a more active management direction because they fill up so fast and can swarm. As a new beekeeper, youíre gonna want to do this anyway. So hereís your opportunity. If your hives are bringing in a goodly amount of nectar and pollen, youíll probably have to take a frame out of the hive every week to make sure they donít fill up and swarm too fast. If you have five five-frame nucs, that means every week, youíll have five frames that youíll need to do something with. Start a new nuc. Here it is your second or third week of beekeeping and youíre already learning how to increase. Pay attention though, small nucs have a habit of absconding if weather is too hot in the summer and it may be profitable to build little supers to go on your nucs and give the bees some extra space. Or, this might be a good time to start to build or purchase full size boxes which can be used as 8-10 frame nucs themselves.
    [10 frame nuc pic]
    This is the kind of steep learning curve you can really sink your teeth into. And to keep ahead of the mites youíll need rapid increase especially if you started with poorer stock. Thereís no reason why you shouldnít be able to at least double your number of hives in your first year. If you do well and have favorable conditions, you might even get up to 20 nucs from five in your first year. If feeding is necessary, itís a whole lot easier to feed 20 nucs to full than it is fewer bigger hives.
    The first winter will be the first real challenge. Many if not all hives will be seeing increased mite loads, some to the point of crashing. This may be a good time to consolidate your five frame nucs into 10 frame nucs. Kill off the poorly performing queen and unite the nucs using one of several methods. You can do a newspaper combine, or you can place both into a neutral box. Bees know within seconds if you place a frame into a hive which is not their own. Youíll know this by watching and listening to them. A neutral hive leaves everybody without the need to defend something. Use it. It may be useful to stack the nucs together in a sheltered spot to give them the best opportunity. Find out what works best.
    Make sure you watch this video: http://vimeo.com/23178333 several times to glean the necessary information to succeed in this venture. Victory favors the prepared.

    Guideline #4: Be Realistic.
    If thereís one thing you must know as a treatment-free beekeeper is that some hives will die. What Iíve tried to do on this page is prepare you for that eventuality. You need to get used to it. You need to plan for it. You need to prepare for it. You need to be able to handle it emotionally. Itís hard to watch a hive die, but thatís how nature works. Thatís how natural selection works. Thatís how it NEEDS to work. Itís that process that you must rely on to winnow your bees and leave you with the best ones. Having more to winnow gives more chances for success.
    Secondly, donít expect any honey in the first year. Donít even try. You can scoop a little out with your finger to get a taste and maybe you could pull a frame early in the summer and crush and strain it to whet your appetite, but donít go buying an extractor. Donít get ahead of yourself. You need a little experience and to start to get good at it before you can reliably expect any honey. Keep that in mind and be okay with it. If you do the right things at the right time and learn the right things before making the wrong mistakes, youíll get all the honey you could want. Have patience.

    Guideline #5: Donít freak out.
    Youíre new at this. Things arenít going to go well at all points in the process. On my first try, I didnít get the foundation installed correctly and it was all falling out and causing huge messes. I was reduced to tears. It was a really bad day. Of course, it wasnít just a handful of hives, it was twenty. But I learned from it. I didnít do that again. I learned how to put comb into frames like doing a cutout of a feral colony. This is the sort of thing youíll do too. Itís okay. Thatís why I suggest you start with so many hives. It gives you a greater number of chances to succeed (or fail depending on how you look at things.)
    If you do have problems, an online forum is a fantastic place to get them figured out. But donít scream and cry and foam at the mouth (textually speaking). Slow down and ask your question patiently and intelligently. If you follow my advice, hopefully it wonít be all of your hives that are in dire straits. In fact, you might just for fun leave one completely alone for the first year, kind of like a control group in a scientific experiment.
    And if things do go seriously south, hopefully youíve expended a smaller amount of energy and money than you would have had you gone other directions. I really do want you to succeed as a beekeeper, whether it be as a backyard beekeeper, a hobbyist, a sideliner, or a commercial. We all do.

    Recapitulation
    Guideline #1: Never purchase your bees in the same year as you decide to become a beekeeper.
    Guideline #2: Donít start with just one hive.
    Guideline #3: Start with nucs. (This means two things.)
    Guideline #4: Be Realistic.
    Guideline #5: Donít freak out.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    Overall good write up for somebody wanting to start beekeeping.

    My opinion is this:
    1. A new beek can't start out treatment free, that is bound for failure. They need to read a lot, I think MB's book is too advanced for most beginners.
    2. They need to join a club and get a good mentor, this is a double edge sword though because it is nearly impossible to find a good mentor, and a lot of commercial based rhetoric comes out of most clubs, and that will lead them down the wrong path.

    3. They need to have a good understanding of when something is wrong and how to identify it, prior to going treatment free, and they need to know how to raise queens and select stock to raise queens from.

    Going treatment free is like owning hunting dogs... You can't buy a good hunting dog, you have breed and train them yourself or you are just throwing money away.

    You can't buy bees and decide to go treatment free, they will just die.
    Always question Conventional Wisdom.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    I think that you should treat the bees, but not without indication.

    If you do not treat at all, you will loose a lot of bees in the start. But if you treat when you see signs of problems, you most likely keep the bees. You can then re-queen from a hive that does not need that treatment.
    If you treat them all by routine, you will not gain the benefits from any "superior" stock.

    Remember that a hive is continuously renewing itself, and that a re-queened hive is completely different after two months than what it would have been with the old queen. With other livestock that would be like changing a cow from a good milk-producer to a good beef-producers before slaughter.

    In a beeyard with 10 hives, where 8 suffers from varroa, while two manages pretty fine, I think you will most likely end up with one of the following three scenarios:

    -2 hives and 8 boxes(that has to be repopulated from scratch). 6 weeks later you might have been able to split and have 4 weaker hives. - No honey for you this year

    -2 hives that are left untreated, but manipulated to give queen-cells, and 8 hives that are treated.
    6 weeks later - you have 2 strong hives, and 8 hives that might have had a little stop in the brood-cycle, but are almost as strong as the two first. The new queens are laying and the new more resistant genetics have started taking over the hive.

    -10 hives that has been treated and are strong. 6 weeks later you may retreat. Rinse and repeat for ever and ever.
    I am a fresh beekeeper.
    -Keep that in mind if you think of following anything I say.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    Quote Originally Posted by Duboisi View Post
    I think that you should treat the bees, but not without indication.
    This is the 'Treatment-Free Beekeeping' Forum. Please observe the rules about suggesting treatments. Don't.

    Quote Originally Posted by Duboisi View Post
    Rinse and repeat for ever and ever.
    Exactly what we're trying to avoid. However, when foreign substances are introduced into the hive, their residuals can have permanent effects. Never starting is far preferable.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    I've actually never used any mite treatments and have never lost a hive to mites. Though I often wonder why other beekeepers have such mite problems. I see mites from time to time, so I know my bees have them, I just don't really see many mite problems.
    Last edited by Joseph Clemens; 11-07-2011 at 08:20 AM.
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    Quote Originally Posted by bluegrass View Post
    1. A new beek can't start out treatment free, that is bound for failure. They need to read a lot, I think MB's book is too advanced for most beginners. ... You can't buy bees and decide to go treatment free, they will just die.
    I know what you mean. I'm one of those beekeepers who started out treatment-free and failed. Except that I didn't fail. I succeeded despite the number of times I've been told the exact thing you just told me. It's a load of hooey.

    Quote Originally Posted by bluegrass View Post
    2. They need to join a club and get a good mentor, this is a double edge sword though because it is nearly impossible to find a good mentor, and a lot of commercial based rhetoric comes out of most clubs, and that will lead them down the wrong path.
    I have stayed away from clubs for the exact reason you enumerate here. My mentors have been online. Most probably didn't know they were mentors, but they were none the less.

    Quote Originally Posted by bluegrass View Post
    3. They need to have a good understanding of when something is wrong and how to identify it, prior to going treatment free, and they need to know how to raise queens and select stock to raise queens from.
    Yes, I will write that article in good time.

    Quote Originally Posted by bluegrass View Post
    Going treatment free is like owning hunting dogs...
    Going treatment-free is not like owning hunting dogs.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    If you didn't want input then you shouldn't ask for it.

    I read what you wrote and gave my opinion, no need to try and turn it into a debate.

    You may consider adding Ross Conrad's book "Natural Beekeeping" to your list of recommended reading... it is a conglomeration of wisdom from people like Bush and Palmer, but is written for the beginner. He is a writer first and beekeeper second, he is also fairly new to beekeeping so he didn't interject much of his own opinions into it, he just simplified what others have written.

    Have you ever hunted with dogs?
    Always question Conventional Wisdom.

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    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    For nearly 40 years a yard of 50 hives was left untouched, it was lost when the owner suddenly died. It was located deep in one of those extremely isolated carolina bays. Of the 50 hives only one was alive and it was described to me as one huge comb surrounded by a rotten tissue of wood. Supposedly the hive was thriving with a huge population of bees. Unfortunately no one has told me what happened to those bees. Wonder if they would have had significant value?

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    Solomon,

    After reading this work, I have a few thoughts, which may or may not be helpful:

    First, I feel like this is not well-aimed at "newbees". It is more useful to someone who is committed to beekeeping in a treatment free manner. The reason I say this is that a true newcomer is not likely to be able to handle a lot of what you're laying out here. A lot of this seems written for someone who has built up a fair amount of understanding, and committed a fair amount of effort to deeper learning before getting into this.

    Now, I understand that you took that kind of approach as a beginner yourself, but I don't think the majority of people do. You may be actually thinking about the more committed, but it is not absolutely clear at the outset. You talk about "newbees", and "people just starting out".

    Also, a lot of what you're suggesting here just cannot apply to many urban beekeepers. So, you're not just talking about "new beekeepers", but people in a rural setting, or with plenty of space, who are very much committed to beekeeping taking up a substantial amount of their time.

    This is all fine, but I think that focus on audience will improve the work and the acceptance of it. You'll reach more people who are in tune with what you're offering if you are more specific with you you're talking to.

    You suggest beginning with 5 colonies. But the average newb is not likely to lay out $400 - $600 on bees their first time out. They're also not going to be likely to accept the "steep learning curve" you're describing in raising nucs and regular splitting - followed by wintering multiple nucs their first year. I can certainly see the value of learning all of that, but I have seen way too many people melting down on just trying to install a package to believe that they can swallow all of that new experience in one year as a hobbyist.

    Your point about beginning with nucs is very interesting, especially from the equipment cost stand-point. But the need to do so much management and expansion in order to avoid swarming will quickly put them into quite a few boxes and frames.

    I find your interest in a radically different approach interesting, but aimed at new beekeepers makes it unfeasible to me. How many people do you think would have kids if they knew it meant starting with triplets - or quintuplets?

    I know just from starting out with top bars, which have a steep learning curve - that you have to be pretty committed, to handle a ton of extra learning as a beginner. And what you've written here is steeper than starting a couple of top bars. The plan here as it stands would likely eliminate just as many beginners as dying bees does - just for different reasons. In this case, they'll just be overwhelmed.

    As I read it, half of this is suited to a beginner, the other half is suited to a person with some experience, who is committed to building a 10-20 colony apiary.

    I just happen to fit solidly into the second group, so I do respect your work, and appreciate your sharing it. I put these points here only to assist you in reaching your goals. A focus on the right audience, and a tailoring of the information to that audience is key.

    Adam

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    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    Quote Originally Posted by bluegrass View Post
    If you didn't want input then you shouldn't ask for it.
    I did ask for input, and I do want it. It just so happens I disagree vehemently with one of your points and it's primarily because it undermines the whole purpose of what I'm trying to do. I say "Here's how to start beekeeping treatment-free" to which you replied {paraphrase} "Impossible." Sorry, not valid to the subject.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

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    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    First, I feel like this is not well-aimed at "newbees".
    Adam, you make a good point. And it's hard to write this looking from other perspectives because I have a different level of drive than others do. But to put this in a context, I believe if you start with one hive and attempt to do it treatment free, it will fail. It's because that level of drive that I have to be successful at something that I was able to get this working from the beginning. I had the forethought to expect failure and plan for it while others expect success and miss the mark. I didn't deceive myself by thinking all my bees would survive, I knew that before the thing was done, I'd lose 90-95% of my original stock. I planned for that eventuality and saved the money necessary to complete the task before starting it. The truth is, I got overwhelmed. But an experience like that is one that should be used for learning and strengthening and not for a reason to quit.

    So I understand that it was not well aimed at newbees, and my first point was that you should not become a beekeeper the year you plan to become a beekeeper. In a sense, I was not a newbee when I purchased the bees. I had six months of preparation. I accumulated equipment. I built wooden ware. And when things fell in place, I did what was necessary to follow it through. These are the things necessary to be successful in treatment-free beekeeping. It requires a dedication not found in a newbee with a credit card and an internet connection. If I'm going to be advocating a method that works, I must advocate the method that actually has a good chance at working, and that's what I'm doing. Otherwise, I'm just perpetuating the atrocity of setting newbees up for failure. I can't ethically do that.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

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    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    Thus far, the things I have recommended are pretty standard. But the next part, I have never heard anyone talk about. I think you should do a year or two keeping only nucleus hives. I think you should increase as much as possible, I think you should overwinter them, and I think you can use them to continue to develop your treatment free operation long after youíve switched to full size hives.
    I think you're off to a great start! I beleive this quote is key for beginner beekeepers whether they are planning on treatment free or not. Just working with smaller colonies is going to be less intimidating than full size booming colonies which will be helpful in learning handling of bees in the beginning. My first years with bees showed me very clearly that a nucleus colony made up with a queen cell had very little problem going through winter compared to a colony that didn't have a brood break. Early success is really the only way to keep more beginners continuing with bees. A clear management plan spelled out as to how to would be helpful for a newbee in getting off to a good start.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    Good hunting dogs can be bought. They are usually cost three times what they are worth and are half as good as promised. Their new owners can ruin them within a week.
    So maybe buying bees and hunting dogs are similar !

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    After I relocated to Marana, AZ from La Cienega (Sante Fe), NM, bringing no bees with me, I needed bees, so I bought some new equipment, then did a cutout from beneath a neighbors mobile home. When examining my memories of those bees, I think they may have been AHB's. I hadn't been in touch with other beekeepers or the contemporary beekeeping periodicals for at least a decade before this relocation. I was completely unaware of tracheal and varroa mites in the U.S.A. until I started reading about them in Bee Culture, and the American Bee Journal. Once I knew about the mites, it was easy to see them on my bees, I not only could see phoretic varroa mites, I also noticed bees with K-wing crawling on the ground (a symptom of tracheal mites). Despite the obvious presence of these mites, and my not using any mite "treatments", the bees and the many splits I'd made to increase my colony numbers (I was up to six colonies at that time), all my colonies appeared very strong and each established colony produced several 10-frame medium supers of surplus honey each year.


    Then I got married and we moved together to the Picture Rocks area of Tucson, AZ. I increased my colony count from six to twelve using the same technique (walk-away splits). I still hadn't used any "mite treatments" and was having increasing problems dealing with overly defensive bees. My attempts to requeen them were entirely futile. I read everything I could find about dealing with AHB ,mites, and nearly every other topic and subtopic concerning beekeeping. Even participated in serveral online beekeeping forums. I finally discovered success at requeening my colonies and reducing their defensiveness. I also learned how to raise my own queens and nucs, though the genetics of my bees changes with my current choice of mother queens (which has changed a few times in this past decade). Presently I am using Russell SunKist Cordovan queens as mother queens and heading my colonies and nucs with their daughters. Once, a few years ago I had two colonies with symptoms of what appeared to be PMS, this cleared up within a month and I haven't seen it again.


    Specific answers to some questions:


    Q: Why don't I see many mite problems?
    A: I honestly don't really know.


    Q: Did you start out with a particular breed of bee?
    A: Unintentionally, I believe I began in this area with feral AHB's. Though it has been at least a decade since I intentionally kept any like them.


    Q: Are there other bees infested with mites in your area?
    A: I'm fairly certain that all the bees in my area, including my own, are infested with mites.


    If I had any specific ideas why mites don't seem to be the scourge they are to other beekeepers, I would certainly share it. Maybe it's just the climate here in Southern Arizona.

    I use almost exclusively, 8-frame medium size supers; I use screened bottom boards with slatted racks (these are without entrances); I use various small-cell/natural-cell combs (because it seemed interesting when I learned about it - I didn't choose it in order to help my bees with mites); and I use upper entrances - exclusively.
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Location
    Danbury, CT
    Posts
    2,887

    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    Quote Originally Posted by Mbeck View Post
    Good hunting dogs can be bought. They are usually cost three times what they are worth and are half as good as promised. Their new owners can ruin them within a week.
    So maybe buying bees and hunting dogs are similar !
    LOL... well said.
    Always question Conventional Wisdom.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Columbia county, New York, USA
    Posts
    1,535

    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    Sol, I think your article is pretty good, but I think any new beekeeper would be completely overwhelmed by starting with 5 hives. Yikes, I remember how huge a thing it was when i got my 1st only hive...if i had had five I would have not been able to handle them. Lots could have then gone bad.
    This is my third year and I bought one new nuc this Spring and split my surviving hive from last year into 4 colonies. i made nucs and learned from that too. I now have 5 and finally feel confident enough to take care of them.

    Hello?.... Earth calling you guys who come to the treatment-free forum to tell folks they ought to treat their bees...?? You are so goofy! Dudes!! lol!
    The little bee returns with evening's gloom,
    To join her comrades in the braided hive... -Tennyson

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Menomonee Falls, Wis.
    Posts
    2,728

    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    Omie wrote:

    Hello?.... Earth calling you guys who come to the treatment-free forum to tell folks they ought to treat their bees...?? You are so goofy! Dudes!! lol!

    What if they are suggesting a method of controlling mites(non chemical treatment) that is NOT considered a treatment(chemical) per your forum definitions? I would suggest the neophyte does just that, "treat" mites with a non chemical method that YOU approve of untill they are more experienced . Of course, if they get AFB, EFB, or CCD, they will have to kill the bees and irradiate or burn the hives.

    Mr. Clemens, I suspect you may have done a better job of breeding a weaker mite than you realize, it would explain most of your success. That does not in any way belittle your accomplishments.

    Sol, Your ideas may work in your local, but you are asking a neophyte to attain Palmer levels of skill to winter nucs in a northern climate, much less keep them from abscounding from overcrowding. You audience is getting smaller by the minute.

    Crazy Roland:
    commercially controlling mites and CCD with non chemical "not Treatments"

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Location
    Denver, Colorado
    Posts
    5,113

    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    Well, it's up on the site, and it has pictures!

    I know it's overwhelming Omie, but I think it's what will work. I think the next best option would be for a couple of friends to get together and start as a group. Then each could have a share and each could rely on the others while they get things going. Sound better?
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Columbia county, New York, USA
    Posts
    1,535

    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    Quote Originally Posted by Roland View Post
    What if they are suggesting a method of controlling mites(non chemical treatment) that is NOT considered a treatment(chemical) per your forum definitions? I would suggest the neophyte does just that, "treat" mites with a non chemical method that YOU approve of untill they are more experienced . Of course, if they get AFB, EFB, or CCD, they will have to kill the bees and irradiate or burn the hives.
    Roland, you've lost me there- sorry maybe I'm stupid but I can't even tell what is sarcasm and what isn't- would you clarify or reword please so I can understand what you're saying? I truly don't get what you are trying to say.

    Sol- lots of new BK's do not have space for 5 hives. I'm talking about backyard beekeepers, not people with farms or land. Yes, the friends starting as a group thing might be do-able, but I tried to get that going with two other friends this year (they were both 1st yr BKs) and it just didn't work out too well because we could not agree on how to manage bees- it's funny- we all were into 'natural beekeeping' so to speak so you'd think we'd all be on the same page... but we differed enough to make it problematic to work too closely together. I wasn't into inspecting hives on a rainy day with one person who wanted to do it right then because it was a biodynamic 'root day' or some phase of the moon, and the tarpaper I wanted to wrap my own hive with for the winter was not acceptable for the other person because it was black and didn't match the dark brown tarp on his hive next to it. Too many ideas clashing, so in reality it's winding up just being people emailing each other on occasion to share updates or info. Just relating one experience on that from one person though.

    I'm only one person, but starting with 5 hives would have been way too much for me, and I researched beekeeping for months before getting a single hive. I'm glad I started with one, then two the next year, then split into 6 this year, now down to 5 again. That growth was great for me as my knowledge grew to keep up. If I had it to do over again I would have started with two, second year split to 4, 3rd year 5-8. My small yard can't really house more than 4 full size hives, ...or maybe 2 full and 4 nucs.
    The little bee returns with evening's gloom,
    To join her comrades in the braided hive... -Tennyson

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Location
    Denver, Colorado
    Posts
    5,113

    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    Omie, you gotta do what you think is right and what works for you. One of the things I've endeavored to do with my site is not not comment on things I don't have personal experience with, I try to do the same here. I do have personal experience in losing all of a small number of hives in the first winter, and I do have experience succeeding with a larger number of hives. So I can only recommend what I know works in my own personal experience.

    Roland it seems would rather give all credit to the mite rather than the beekeeper or the bees. Funny he forgets to mention that if we are breeding weak mites then he must be breeding strong ones. Thanks Roland!
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

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