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  1. #21
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    Jul 2006
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    Worcester County, Massachusetts
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    3,586

    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    Everything about beginning beekeeping is problematic.

    You have to know 1000 things....to understand these 1000 things you have to know 1000000 more things....then you realize that there is barely 1 of those 1000000 things that beekeepers agree upon...so for each of these 1000000 things, there are 100 opinions.

    How is a new beekeeper to learn (much less understand) anything?

    In some ways, these forums are very helpful...but in others they add to the confusion. One of the things that tends to get lost is a whole system....instead, we have thousands of disparate facts, techniques, and ideas. They are not of equal value, and more importantly, they are not all compatible.
    For instance:
    If you aren't using foundation, you don't want to put a new box full of new undrawn frames on top of the hive (you want to use some bait comb, a sheet of foundation, or put the new box under the bees rather than over the bees)....but if you are adding a box of foundation, you can place it right on top. I think it was here on beesource where someone reported that the bees drew plastic much more readily than foundationless...this seems at odds with the experience of most of us...turns out it was a mixed box of foundationless and undrawn plastic frames placed on top of the bees...if the box had been placed under, I expect the opposite results would have been obtained. The common "bees only work up" only works in hives with foundation or comb....left to their own devices, bees only work down.

    An integrated approach is important. Understanding an integrated approach requires understanding a number of integrated approaches...this is to say, I don't know how you can really learn this stuff without reading a number of books. Not all books offer an integrated approach.

    deknow

  2. #22
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    Nov 2009
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    Columbia county, New York, USA
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    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    Quote Originally Posted by Solomon Parker View Post
    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.
    Sol, yes I do understand what you are saying. I was given a single hive my first year, and it promptly died over the winter- that's 100% loss. The next year I started with two new nucs, and lost one over that winter- that's 50% loss. This year I'm going into winter with 5 colonies (2 are nucs) and I am 'hoping' for less than 50% loss this winter. But my point is that it does jive with your experience of 100% loss first winter, and I suspect if I had gone into that very first winter with 5 hives instead of one, as you suggest, odds are I would have had maybe 2 survivors and thus would not have had 100% loss that first year.
    So in that sense you are totally correct about beginners getting better results from 5 hives to start. It's only that I don't think I could have managed that many very well that first year! Now 2 yrs later I can handle 5 hives just fine.
    So what you and I are saying really doesn't negate each other, it's simply a matter of practicality for me.
    The little bee returns with evening's gloom,
    To join her comrades in the braided hive... -Tennyson

  3. #23
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    Faulkner Manitoba, Canada
    Posts
    1,696

    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    This is making beekeeping to complicated for beginners. Keep it simple
    Start with two hives, scrap the nucs, start on clean equipment, and start with packages. No old wax, no larva which might already have some breeding varroa

    No wintering nucs...Just two hives to learn on. The curve is steep, the cost is expensive, the results could not be good come the following spring. Thus leading to a discouraged beekeeper who just laid out a ton of cash on your 5 hive system.

    No need to re invent the wheel here Solomon...start small, start fresh, and go from there

  4. #24
    Join Date
    Dec 1999
    Location
    DuPage County, Illinois USA
    Posts
    9,392

    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    I'm still partial that beginners start with packages. Keeps someone else's comb out of their new hive that were most likely treated, and allows the beginner time to prepare for things as the hive increases at a slower rate than a nuc.
    Regards, Barry

  5. #25
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Menomonee Falls, Wis.
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    2,662

    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    Omie wrote:

    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.

    No Sarcasm intended. I TRY to write concise comments. I must have failed. The point I was trying to make is that mites make it hard for a beginner(neophyte), and that someone complained when a poster suggested that the beginner treat for mites. It is possible to use the "Treatments" that appear in the forum rules as 'Not Treatments" to control mites, such as brood breaks and drone frame manipulation. You can be "Treatment Free" and still treat for mites using the second group.
    Any clearer?

    Sol reread my comment to Mr. Clemens, I believe I gave him credit. It does take work to create a weaker mite, if that is what is happening.

    Sol wrote that I must be breeding stronger mites. What facts do you have to support that statement? We have not seen mite issues in five years, and have treated with methods you defined as "Not Treatments"

    Crazy Roland
    Linden Apiary, Est. 1852

  6. #26
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    Dec 2002
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    Denver, Colorado
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    5,078

    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    Quote Originally Posted by Roland View Post
    Sol wrote that I must be breeding stronger mites. What facts do you have to support that statement?
    I'm only using your own logic. IF by letting bees die, a weaker mite is selected for, THEN by treating and keeping hives alive, stronger mites are selected for. We already know that mites, like most pests, are automatically selected by pesticides to produce individuals immune to the pesticide. But you know all this, you're an expert. You just need to be consistent.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  7. #27
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    Nov 2009
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    Columbia county, New York, USA
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    1,535

    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    Quote Originally Posted by Roland View Post
    No Sarcasm intended. I TRY to write concise comments. I must have failed. The point I was trying to make is that mites make it hard for a beginner(neophyte), and that someone complained when a poster suggested that the beginner treat for mites. It is possible to use the "Treatments" that appear in the forum rules as 'Not Treatments" to control mites, such as brood breaks and drone frame manipulation. You can be "Treatment Free" and still treat for mites using the second group.
    Any clearer?
    Yes, it's completely clear now- thanks! I'm glad I asked you to clarify, I was getting a totally different message from misinterpreting your words. I totally agree with what you are saying. My mixup is that I don't think of brood breaks, splitting, drone frames, etc as 'treatments'...I plumb forgot that they are considered 'treatments' in this forum's guidelines. sigh.... well hey I'm glad I asked you about your post!
    The little bee returns with evening's gloom,
    To join her comrades in the braided hive... -Tennyson

  8. #28
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Location
    Denver, Colorado
    Posts
    5,078

    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    Quote Originally Posted by Omie View Post
    My mixup is that I don't think of brood breaks, splitting, drone frames, etc as 'treatments'...I plumb forgot that they are considered 'treatments' in this forum's guidelines. sigh.... well hey I'm glad I asked you about your post!
    Um, no, they're not. Check Unique Forum Rules.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  9. #29
    Join Date
    Dec 1999
    Location
    DuPage County, Illinois USA
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    9,392

    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    Quote Originally Posted by Solomon Parker View Post
    IF by letting bees die, a weaker mite is selected for, THEN by treating and keeping hives alive, stronger mites are selected for. We already know that mites, like most pests, are automatically selected by pesticides to produce individuals immune to the pesticide.
    Roland has made it clear that he doesn't use pesticides.
    Regards, Barry

  10. #30
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    Dec 2002
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    Denver, Colorado
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    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    I said 'treating'. Pesticides are used in a different sentence providing background information.

    The forum definition is different from my definition, however, some assume that the forum is 'mine' and the rules thereof are also 'mine.' Such is not the case.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  11. #31
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    Nov 2009
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    Columbia county, New York, USA
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    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    Quote Originally Posted by Solomon Parker View Post
    Um, no, they're not. Check Unique Forum Rules.
    D'OHHHH!!! lol

    Ok I re-read the non-treatment forum rules. I am now informed! ;D

    I also can now call myself a treatment free beekeeper!

    P.S. A beekeeper acquaintance I know really annoys me when he proudly crows (every time I talk to him) that he never uses any treatments at all. He uses Mite away formic acid pads twice a year every year routinely, but when I remind him of this he merely flips it off, saying "formic acid is all organic!, it's not a chemical treatment!" Rather exasperating.
    The little bee returns with evening's gloom,
    To join her comrades in the braided hive... -Tennyson

  12. #32
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    Dec 2002
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    Denver, Colorado
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    5,078

    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    Quote Originally Posted by Omie View Post
    Rather exasperating.
    *Sigh* yep.

    But anyway, back to a plan for newbees. What about having more than one hive makes it so exasperating? Could it be thinking that they need checked too often? I'm trying to figure out what I'm missing because I don't remember that 20 was overwhelming at all. The only thing I remember was overwhelming was during my first inspection when I discovered that all the foundation was falling out of the frames. That was 195 frames! I was overwhelmed! I was near to having a panic attack.

    If you want to go back and check, you can probably find the post that my girlfriend posted for me while I was out in the yard throwing a fit. I eventually pulled myself together (and got rid of her too, she was crazy) and since I had done my research, I had some knowledge about swarm ketching frames. I also had access to rubber bands and was able to learn how to put comb into frames. I also got to design and use a new wax melter which produced fantastic looking wax made from all the loopy comb.

    But I don't remember that having 20 colonies was overwhelming. But maybe I have a more relaxed management style. Tell me what you think.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  13. #33
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Tucson, Arizona, USA
    Posts
    5,324

    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    I agree, once you put the bees together with their woodenware, you never really have to touch them again unless you have a reason(s) for doing so. Such as you plan to manage for and harvest honey, or manage for and raise queens and/or bees. What can be less stressful than that?
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  14. #34
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    May 2009
    Location
    Garland, Bladen County, NC, USA
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    2,978

    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    Pretty sure it is a matter of individual style.. or maybe just how relaxed the person is. I feel like I know several who would have no trouble with 5 new hives.... and I know others would would struggle with 1. Your 6 month prep time should help to answer that for the individual. Of course the one unchangeable factor would be space... even that could probably be taken care of with creative thinking.... and desire. (Out Yards)

  15. #35
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    Dec 2008
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    Menomonee Falls, Wis.
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    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    Sol wrote:

    IF by letting bees die, a weaker mite is selected for, THEN by treating and keeping hives alive, stronger mites are selected for.

    I do not assume that the above statements are true. I believe that the size of the gene pool for the mite has more effect on it's virility than whether or not the bees that they inhabit live or die. I breed for a weaker mite by encouraging inbreeding of the mite. I let the GENES of the bees die, not the bees them selves. You can kill the genes of a hive by replacing the queen without losing the hive. I am accomplishing a very similar result to yours without the death of the colony.

    The bottom line is that we do not know what all the mechanisms of change are. I have a hunch that they are way more interrelated than we wish to admit.

    Barry - Thanks for the defense.

    As for neophytes, everyone learns in a different manner, beekeeping is local, so it may be difficult to develop a "best " plan.

    Crazy Roland

  16. #36
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Herrick, SD USA
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    4,322

    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    Wow! Lot of information in post #32 Sol. Getting back to your original post, though, I gotta give you high marks for your tenacity. While I may not agree some of your points most notably the whole premise that its best that bees should be allowed to die I didnt come here to debate that. I do feel though that a post like yours was long overdue. I fear far too many people who are infatuated enough with bees to begin a beekeeping endeavor make a decision to be treatment free because it fits their whole notion of the naturalness of bees and their environment without understanding the difficulties that lie ahead of them to reach that goal. I'll bet I am approached a couple of times a year by someone who wants to buy a hive or two for a whole variety of reasons. I always feel bad talking them out of it by warning them of how much the initial investment would be and how dedicated you have to be to them if you want them to live longer than a year, but I would feel worse taking their money without sharing what I have learned. I have had a success story or two along the way but they are the exception. In any case I think your well thought out post deserves a read for anyone who is considering owning a few hives and to being treatment free. I would also, though, encourage them to read up on the choices others may have made and the successes or failures some folks may have had with some of the more natural treatments that are available.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  17. #37
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    Nov 2009
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    Columbia county, New York, USA
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    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    Quote Originally Posted by Solomon Parker View Post
    What about having more than one hive makes it so exasperating? Could it be thinking that they need checked too often? I'm trying to figure out what I'm missing because I don't remember that 20 was overwhelming at all....
    But I don't remember that having 20 colonies was overwhelming. But maybe I have a more relaxed management style. Tell me what you think.
    I remember how I felt with my first hive, and also the second year with my next two hives. Yes I was thrilled and yes I had been reading up on beekeeping and taking BK classes too.
    But I was also somewhat terrified. Terrified of failure, terrified of killing my bees somehow, terrified of being stung all the time, terrified of my neighbors reporting my (probably not legal under zoning) hives.
    Mind you, I'm usually calm and confident when jumping into new activities, and I've studied and enjoyed insects all my life, kept many types as pets over the years, millipedes, snakes, snapping tutles, tarantulas...but beekeeping was different. I worried, fretted, and every time I needed to go into my one or two hives I sort of had to work myself up and get prepared in advance. I just felt like if I made a mistake while I was in the hive it could be really bad.
    I realized this was not very logical, but that didn't prevent me from feeling a huge sense of relief when I had closed up the hive and nothing awful had happened. This year, starting again with two colonies, and after splitting and moving queen cells and making nucs, it was the first time I really felt confident and not nervous at all about going into one hive after another. For a while i had 6 colonies this year and it was no problem to methodically go from one to another very calmly. I finally did not feel nervous or worried this year any more. But it took a couple years.

    The other thing is money. It cost me hundreds of dollars to start out right with my first two hives that I purchased, starting from nothing. I'm no carpenter. I can't imagine what 5 would have cost me! I have bought more equipment slowly since then, spread out over several years now, so that's more manageable and less shocking of an investment.
    The little bee returns with evening's gloom,
    To join her comrades in the braided hive... -Tennyson

  18. #38
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    Dec 2009
    Location
    Canada BC Delta
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    421

    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    I remember years ago when I took a course to learn to become a farrier (horse shoeing) there was 45 students. Out of the 45 students only two of us actually went on to make a career and living at it. Some of them looked after their own horses for a while but most gave that up within a year. This really wasn't anything out of the ordinary in past years courses or future ones. It's just the way it goes. I don't see beekeeping as being any different. Many think they want to do it but few will be committed to go the distance.

    The point as I see it is, The Parker Plan or any other plan to go treatment free at least will give the beginner something to follow with a good chance of having bees the next year. I don't see any reason why the starting number couldn't be adjusted slightly to fit with ones finances. I've started a few beginners with one nuc early in the spring then broke it down into nucs later in the summer for over wintering. They all had bees the next year. Even with that I still think it is better to start with more rather than less.

    The same with M. Palmer's videos. We know he is commercial with around 1000 hives but that doesn't mean use small guy's can't scale it down to suit or needs. I just don't think getting hung up on the numbers is important.

  19. #39
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Pueblo, Colorado, USA
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    673

    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    I started with 10 hives, 2 absconded, I recaptured 1 and moved it near a river. We did everything except #3, we bought packages. Quite honestly, the nucs that were available were so far out of our price range they were unrealisitic. I don't think your new page is too difficult but i think it might assume that a new beekeeper actually prepared one's self before starting out (#3 is a hard rule to follow). The year before I started out I read several books on the subject and I built 20 deeps w/frames and 30 mediums w/frames the winter before the endeavor. I agree that one can't half heartedly approach beekeeping or treatment free beekeeping for that matter or you will more than likely fail. I would say that a good mentor would be invaluable but to approach clubs/mentors cautiously because my experience was that clubs tend to push their products on you and would be mentors sometimes feel if you're not doing it their way, you're doing it wrong.

    I started out foundationless with top entrances and intended to be treatment free from the beginning. I completely expected to lose at least 80% of my hives to disease or noobie mistakes or whatever and I'm still not out of the woods of my first year yet. Honestly, I hope we don't suffer many winter losses, but if there's a complete loss I'm not really worried about it. In the meantime I've learned about catching swarms and lures so even if we lose everything there is still a chance of starting over by catching feral bees to re-populate empty hives.

    I must say this though about not checking hives. I forgot about the '9th' hive that I recaptured and put by the river. 8 hives had my full attention all summer and I had completely forgotten about the 9th hive until we went out hunting last week. They spent all season long in a single deep, no inspections, no treatments, no feeding, nothing. They had a 5" top entrance with a sbb, and without intervention they cross combed across every frame in the hive. To my surprise they were still alive, were clustering, (we've already had 4 snow storms) and the box weighed maybe 70 pounds. We'll see if they make it through the winter.

    From what I have learned during my first season the only thing I would have done differently would be to build 5 frame deep nucs to start my packages as opposed to starting them in 10 frame deep brood boxes. So #3 isn't too unreasonable but finding treatment free bees might be. Treatment free to me means anticipating your first year losses and not giving up even if you lose everything because you need to find that one hive, or multiple hives, that survive.

    I am a first year beekeeper so maybe I'm full of it, but its the only time anyone will ever get my first year opinion.

  20. #40
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Location
    Denver, Colorado
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    5,078

    Default Re: Starting out in treatment-free beekeeping

    I'm very interested in hearing how your story continues.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

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