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Thread: Mentors

  1. #1
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    Default Mentors

    I ran into the beekeeper I used to rent bees from to pollinate our water melons and he offered to let my son and myself follow behind while he inspects 500 hives that are going to be shipped to California for almond pollination. During the course of our lengthy chat he was telling me how horrible varroa, SHB, and tracheal mites have been this season and how much he had to spend on treatments for his bees to which I replied I had started out treatment free and planned on staying that way. He told me he would accept no failures when it comes to beekeeping and not treating was unacceptable and I told him I had to expect losses, even a total loss, at the beginning to start out correctly. We argued for a while until I told him I just wanted to see how he inspected and how he was prepping his hives for the trip to California. The biggest thing that bothered me is that his apiary is 3 miles from my apiary so we have at least a 1 mile overlap in our respective apiaries foraging range. Even though this guy is adamantly pro-treatment there is so much I can learn from him, up to and including which treatments are out there, what they are used for, and when and how they are administered. Even though I don't plan on using treatments it surely can't hurt knowing about them not to mention his 35 years of experience vs my 1 year. This fellow did hire me to help load tractor - trailers with hives as his son is ill so during the morning I expect to tag along on 250 inspections before I start loading skids of hives onto trailers.

    The guy seems very willing to be my mentor but he is very adamant about me treating my bees. I am equally adamant in the opinion of not treating my bees. There is no doubt this beekeeper has been very successful, he has 1500 hives and doesn't lose much in the winter. I do see friction between he and I on the treatment issue though. We'll see if he is reasonable enough to lay off when he understands Im not going to budge on the treatment issue. Hopefully this point of contention won't interfere with a working relationship because I don't have any issues helping him to administer treatments to HIS bees even though its not how I plan on doing things.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Mentors

    It's kinda hard to argue with succes vs beginner knowledge. go with him to understand his program to gain experence then you can judge better.his experence in beekeeping probably is more valueable than you understand. the odds of you being treatment free reduce your chance of survival. good luck

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Mentors

    Fantastic opportunity, I wish I had that opportunity when I first tried to keep bees. I may not have turned out treatment-free, but who knows.

    Watch and learn and figure out how you want to do your own thing. But learn everything, including how others do it so you can formulate a plan you think may work better.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Mentors

    I am also very new. I see there are a lot of choices that must be made concerning the care of bees. No two people will make exactly the same series of choices. I am pretty sure that with his experience and the gravity of his responsibilities concerning bees. His choices are intelligent ones. Remember he has a lot of work and a lot of other people counting on him to do his part. I think in that situation I would also use every tool at my disposal. I am a back yard keeper and will likely only own two hives for now. I can tolerate total losses due to "Farting Around" with other methods. I honestly suspect that is how most experienced beekeepers see treatment free methods.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Mentors

    You'll find there is a huge difference in attitude towards bees between hobbyist and commercial beekeepers. To the hobbiest, they are almost like pets. To the commercial guys, they are like cattle. You cannot afford to not treat if that has proven to keep your colonies alive and producing. The hobbiest has the 'luxury' of going without treatment, and dealing with a possible total loss, the commercial guys do not. I'm not saying that commercial beekeepers do not appreciate the bees, just in a different way.

    In the end, you can't argue with success!

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Mentors

    Quote Originally Posted by mjtracy View Post
    ...you can't argue with success!
    But you can go by a different definition.

    Speaking of mentors, always take the opportunity to gain advice and wisdom, even if you don't plan on using it. You can learn good advice from bad, sometimes just from the tone.

    Beesource offers more than you an assimilate off all the types.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Mentors

    Looking at it from his point of view... As you admitted his yard and your yard overlap. His livelihood could be at risk because your bees are untreated and could be exposing his bees to diseases. What if you experience a total loss because you didn't treat, then his bees rob out your hives and take whatever killed your bees, back to his operation... He has a lot to loose.
    Of course he is going to be insistent that you treat your bees...
    Always question Conventional Wisdom.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Mentors

    Thinking of this a different way. What if someone came to you looking to learn about raising watermelons. Let's say they grew one in their garden last year. You agreed to let them come and learn from you. Once there they start arguing about how you do things.

    Watch, ask questions, ask more questions. If you don't agree keep quiet, you don't have do things that way.

    Tom

  9. #9
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    Remsen, NY, USA
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    Default Re: Mentors

    You lucky dog. You've got an opportunity most of us would die for. You mentioned a son in your post, so let me assume you're married. If you are, I'm sure you never told your wife everything you did or didn't do. If you were really clever you learned how to avoid the subject all together. Drop the self-righteousness and apply the same tactics. I wouldn't worry that your untreated bees will affect his. They are treated! Besides, think of all the untreated feral bees they are exposed to. Yours are insignificant in the big picture.

    I completely understand his insistence on treating his bees...his livelihood depends on it and how can you argue with success. Being a stick-in-the-mud myself on some issues, how could I not understand.

    Go learn as much as you can and just remember, nod your head and say "Yes, dear."

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Mentors

    I have to follow up on this thread. I got to meet a beekeeper who actually has been keeping bees for a bit over 60 years (not 35) and has 1500 hives. The guy *absolutely* insisted on me treating my bees and made me so paranoid I had to re-assess everything I hold dear about being treatment free.

    We started out at the mentor's house where he showed me the honey extraction portion of his business. He had an uncapping machine which was next to a 90 frame extractor. The extractor was piped to a basin in the floor (where I would guess they strained the honey), the honey was then piped up to an overhead "trough" which had a spigot on it that was used to fill 55 gallon food grade drums. He also had another "trough" which was heated so he could bottle honey in the winter to satisfy winter/spring demand.

    Next we went to his son's house where they kept all their honey supers (all mediums, 5000+ mediums) and migratory top covers. Although all his hives had an in-hive feeder, all the migratory covers had a hole in them big enough for 2 liter bottles for feeding (before he went to in-hive feeders). Each feeding hole was covered with a soup can lid.

    We then picked up his son (30 yr beekeeper) and went to his apiary/bee yard on a crisp 38 degree day that was overcast and never made it past 40 degrees (all day). There were approximately 500 hives that were arranged in the shape of a drinking glass (so a tractor/trailer could be backed in and loaded). On one side of the yard were the bees that were at California pollination 'standards' and were ready to be shipped. All hives were on pallets, 4 hives per pallet, 1 deep brood box with 9 frames and a feeder. All hives also had another deep super on top of the brood boxes, all of which had 9 frames and a migratory top cover. He was feeding corn syrup, and I must say that although it didn't surprise me, the bees that happened to be in the feeders at the time of feeding got entombed in the syrup. He would crack the top super off, I would smoke, then he would feed. All the feeding was done for whatever standards need to be met when the bees were offloaded in California. That was how I spent 5 hours with the mentor.

    The things I learned and have to implement/change:
    *Bees will attack depending on weather conditions . Thinking back I always worked my hives when it was sunny and warm(er).
    *As someone above had mentioned there is a definite difference in the mindset of a commercial beekeeper and a hobbyist. Now I have had cattle and goats and always viewed them as such even if we had one that was a 'pet'. Somehow with the bees I had adopted the hobbyist mindset from the beginning and that changed today.
    *I have top entrances and foundationless frames (both of which the mentor didn't seem to care about or have an opinion on). Im going to modify my top covers into migratory covers (with the 2 liter feeding hole) as the design will better suit my needs and my configuration not to mention shimming them open in the late spring/early summer will be a breeze.

    The guy also works his queens to death and is constantly ordering new queens in the spring. I hope to tag along and pinch the used up ones and use them as swarm lure. One thing though, this guy rattled my cage about my 'hobbyist' views on not treating. I have thought about it and, after a day of thought lol, I still disagree with him on that point. I have options and offers of land to set up bee yards in 3 different locations so I may set up 1 yard where I do treat to learn what is used, when, and for what if only for the experience. The mentor implied that I would never succeed without treating to which (in my mind) I had a very valid counter point to that argument. Michael Bush (from what I have read in his posts) is treatment free and (again from what I have read) is successful and (again, reading) has a rather large apiary rivaling the size of this man's apiary. I just need the stock to start with. I'm grateful for the experience and was offered a cell number, home phone, and an open invitation to call about questions or to tag along later. Oh and I need a subscription to the American Bee Journal

    edit: Today was like going to a professors house and getting a five hour lecture on the semester class you took, thought had a grasp on, but really didn't.
    Last edited by rwurster; 11-22-2011 at 09:33 AM.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Mentors

    Sounds like this guy is running a migratory operation. It would be hard to imagine a large migratory operation that was treatment free. At least in my opinion. I also think that when you say "Well, M. Bush does it... why not me", that you need to stop and think.... Michael Bush has some pretty special talents.... not very many are in his league when it comes to "Bee Skills". Of course if you are approaching it completely as a hobby... why not go TF.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Mentors

    Just from what I saw and heard on my outing I would agree that a migratory operation probably couldn't make it being treatment free, but I can't definitively say it cant happen because there may be someone out there who does it (as unlikely as it probably is). Now although the M. Bush reference wasn't meant to mean he (Bush) was migratory so much as an example of someone who does have a sustainable apiary that is treatment free which refutes the mentor's claim that treatment free can't be done successfully. If Bush were in my area and offered to let me tag along for the day I would be just as happy to go along and see how things were done, ask questions, and not chastise him for whatever practices or beliefs he employs in his operation regardless of whether I agreed or disagreed with said practices. Skills can be learned, which is why I tagged along, and wisdom is wonderful even if it doesn't jive with how I personally planned on doing things. I think most beekeepers who have 10, 20, 30, or more years of experience would have made me see some things differently even if they said to me "I have special skills that dictate I can do things one way and you should stop and think before attempting the same because you may not be in my league." I'm not in their league, i have 9 months of beekeeping under my belt, but in 5 hours some beekeeper knocked who knows how many seasons out of my learning curve despite our differing management practices. I AM going to learn all I can about treatments. I AM going to have treatment free stock that survives even if the last colony I ever have fails. Look into the future and tell me with absolute certainty and proof that treating is going to be the only way one can ever successfully keep bees, then, and only then, will I be convinced that treating is truly the correct path to take.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Mentors

    Michael Bush doesn't seem to be around to address this himself, so let me clear up a few things about his operation. I'm sure he'll be along eventually to further clarify.

    He's been unable to keep close eye on the bees due to work assignments for the last couple years, but last time I spoke with him he was planning on semi-retiring and focusing on bees full time this coming spring. In the past, he has had more than 200 hives. To say that he keeps all his hives in 8-frame mediums is only mostly true because he has a couple very nice looking topbar hives. I got to inspect one when I was there this summer. Currently, I'd estimate that he has somewhere in the range of sixty, but that was in June. We did a lot of splits.

    As far as I can tell, he's only ever been completely honest about how he keeps bees. He's certainly provided enough documentation. As he says, his bees are in no way africanized. I went up dressed as usual with no gloves and didn't get stung once the whole week. He really does use Mann Lake PF-120 frames, as well as the plastic comb ones and foundationless as well. It makes processing deadouts so incredibly easy. It's actually easier to let the wax moths have their way and clean up afterwards, but I digress. There was no evidence of any chemical of any type. He doesn't pull drone comb.

    And he is the kind of guy who will let you tag along for a day. He let me and another guy tag along for almost a week.

    It is true that he is not a migratory beekeeper. He makes bee stands out of 2x4's and if my memory serves me, each stand fits 14 hives. Most locations have one stand, but some have two.

    Anyway, suffice it to say, I've seen it, and it is exactly as he says it is. I hope I get to go see it again a few times when he's under full production.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Mentors

    Great thread Rwurster! You've handled the whole thing really well and I got a few chuckles while reading it also.

    I'll be keen to hear what happens on further expeditons with this guy, and I'll add that you ARE lucky. When I was keeping bees commercially we had constant people wanting to come out for a look and learn, but it could be a bit of a pain at times. So you've done well.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Mentors

    Due to the unique definition of what is a treatment here, and what is not, you may not be as far way from this man in your thinking as you think. It is possible treat for mites and still be treatment free. His first thought is to keep his bees alive and healthy, and not let them die. HE is doing that in the most economical way possible. I believe that you can keep your bees healthy also, but it will be alot more expensive(You must count the cost of your time) than his method. Ask him politely if he would object to you controlling mites and other pathogens without synthetic chemicals. He may not object, as long as you keep your bees healthy and alive.

    The people that pay for pollination do not care if he treats his bees or not. It is a monetary decision. He would rather not treat, but dead bees do not make money, and no one will pay him more for treatment free pollination.

    Crazy ROland

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Mentors

    Haha thanks, it was educational. I honestly thought Bush had 1000+ colonies but spose maybe I should have used a different person as an example of a successful TF operation. I wasn't trying to single him out or put him in a spot where he might have to defend himself, I don't know him, I don't idolize him, and despite what I might think about him, or anyone else for that matter, I wasn't trying to use him as a bad example or to take a shot at his operation or character on this forum.

    With that said, next year I plan on using old timer's method of cut cell queen grafting in the spring. Ive read Better Queens 3 times now and have read the thread old timer posted several times... all 17 pages of it I really can't wait to try it, can't wait for spring.

    I was afk and missed Roland's post when i replied. He does care about his bees and he even cared about mine and was upset I hadn't treated. I told him exactly what my management practices had been during the season and my reasoning (the first time I talked to him on the phone) and his attitude came down a notch. He spoke of how much it cost to treat and what a pain some of the regulated medicines were to use and procure. He actually told me the costs of everything he bought and how much he made from pollinating watermelons and pumpkins as opposed to almonds, when and how much woodenware to buy, how to migrate, where and why to migrate. One thing he did mention was how varroa (sp) uses drone comb to propogate itself and I didn't get a chance to ask him about his thoughts on using drone comb for varroa control (if in fact this can be done). Good suggestion Roland, I wrote it down so I remember to ask him next time I see him.
    Last edited by rwurster; 11-22-2011 at 07:02 PM.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Mentors

    >It is possible treat for mites and still be treatment free.

    Sounds like an oxymoron... you can treat and be treatment free? You can treat in ways that are not contaminating the honey perhaps. Or treat in a way that does not contaminate the wax perhaps. But in simple English "treatment free" means you don't treat. And if you "treat for mites" it means you do treat. You either do or you don't.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Mentors

    I employ many non chemical means to treat mites and other pathogens. They kill the pest, just like synthetic chemicals, but without the after taste. The results are very similar. The mites and pathogens are dead.

    Crazy Roland

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Mentors

    You're on my short list of people to visit!
    Regards, Barry

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Mentors

    Could you explain what you use and for which hive pests Roland? I have been hitting the books again to bone up on hive pathogens and pests and would like to hear what you do for yours if you wouldn't mind.

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