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  1. #1
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    Question Goals in Treatment-Free Beekeeping and Measures of Success

    I see a lot of disparaging comments about losses incurred in treatment-free beekeeping. The question for treatment-free beekeepers is, what is the true measure of success? Is beekeeping all about the number of colonies you lose? How many is too many?

    What would cause you to give up treatment-free beekeeping? Would you give up beekeeping altogether if the only solution were to treat?

    What other aspects of beekeeping do you consider when deciding what you're doing is successful? What are your goals?

    What are acceptable sacrifices given in order to achieve one's goals and reach success?

    As far as I can tell, typical goals include hives not dying and volume of honey. Other goals I have seen include 'helping the species' because the bees are in trouble, or pollination of one's garden, keeping bees treatment-free, making money, having fun, learning about bees, or even just keeping bees for sting therapy.

    One of my goals is to at some point be the person who has kept bees treatment-free for the longest continuous period of time. I started at 19 and my family on the balance typically lives into their 90's, so I think I have a shot.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Goals in Treatment-Free Beekeeping and Measures of Success

    It falls into the category of "The Facts of Life"

    Some beehives perish each year. That is nature at work.

    There is no goal, only a basic set of principles
    -- Don't put foreign material into my hives ( except plastic foundation base )
    -- Do not feed my hives ( with the possible exception of starting a new package or very small swarm )
    -- Do not heat, cool, or wrap my hives ( this is coastal california)
    -- Do not combine weak hives with good hives ( would you put your frail grandmother in a room full of flu patients ? )
    -- Do destroy any hive (and boxes) suspected of EFB or AFB

    As for success, that is simple
    -- I get 100-200lbs of honey per hive
    -- I am used as the "control sample" by those who treat their hives ( and lose more than I do ).
    -- Have not treated in 10 years... Still have bees

    Fuzzy

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Goals in Treatment-Free Beekeeping and Measures of Success

    It's a hard one to answer, because everybody's goal is different.

    For me, I have little interest in honey production, my days of lifting tons of honey daily are over far as I'm concerned. My particular goal is to run a hobby sized bee and queen breeding operation producing a small number of top quality queens and nucs, preferably raised in chemical free conditions.

    What would make me stop chemical free? Simple, if being chemical free stopped me achieving the above goals, I would treat.

    And just to clarify, I do treat most hives. But am working towards being treatment free with an increasing number of treatment free hives. In order to achieve raising queens in chemical free conditions, I've been using non residual chemicals, and using management methods such as drone removal.

    The ideal would be totally chemical free. I'm attempting to achieve that but only time will tell if that's going to work. I couldn't live with the results some other treatment free folks are getting, but that's just a matter of preferance.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  4. #4
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    Stillwell, KS
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    Default Re: Goals in Treatment-Free Beekeeping and Measures of Success

    We have a good feral bee population here in the Kansas City area. I did a number of cutouts on thriving colonies last year where the hives reportedly were over 5 years old and by the looks of the comb I couldn't disagree:

    http://s269.photobucket.com/albums/j...e/Bees%202011/ (Click on the sub links on the right to see job pictures)

    My goals this year are to:

    1 - Ascertain if they are truly feral surviving hives or just dying colonies that are get repopulated every couple of years
    2 - Test to see if I can determine what mechanisms they are using to survive (i.e. VSH, grooming, frequent brood breaks, swarming).
    3 - Implement a modified version of the German AGT varroa tolerance testing and incorporate progeny testing:
    http://www.toleranzzucht.de/fileadmi...raynor_abj.pdf
    4 - Produce about 40 queens from the best of my tested feral colonies.
    5 - Requeen the bottom 50 % of my hives from those queens
    6 - Double my sources for new removals and feral swarm captures

    Don

  5. #5
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    Baker Oregon
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    Default Re: Goals in Treatment-Free Beekeeping and Measures of Success

    To Answers your Questions

    1 Success: getting rescources from the hive, pollination and an entertaining hobby.
    2: No, it is about what your personal goals are.
    3:If you cannot rebound to the number you want, you are losing to many.
    4: Continuing Failure would remove me from treatment free BK
    5:No I would treat
    6 Success: Am I meeting MY Goals?
    7: The ability to be self-sufficient is my primary goal. If I have to treat I will try to use things I can produce/procure locally
    8:Treatment Free is an acceptable loss to me. It however is the simplest way to reach my goal, if it fails I will try something else. However it has worked so far, but this is only my second winter.
    Dan Hayden 4 Years. 12 hives. Tx Free. USDA Zone 5b.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Goals in Treatment-Free Beekeeping and Measures of Success

    >I see a lot of disparaging comments about losses incurred in treatment-free beekeeping. The question for treatment-free beekeepers is, what is the true measure of success? Is beekeeping all about the number of colonies you lose? How many is too many?

    The funny thing is I meet people who treat who lost all their bees and yet they act like if you lose a hive it's because you don't treat. I think my losses are lower with natural beekeeping than the beekeepers I know who are treating.

    >What other aspects of beekeeping do you consider when deciding what you're doing is successful? What are your goals?

    Self sufficiency.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  7. #7
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    May 2010
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    Default Re: Goals in Treatment-Free Beekeeping and Measures of Success

    If this comment is in the wrong thread feel free to move it I just wanted to make a comment on Michaels post.

    Regarding colony losses when going treatment free my thought is that if you are losing all your colonies within a 3 year period while not treating then it's my belief that mites killed those hives and those bees were not tolerant.

    If your bees are in an area that has minimal ferals and minimal reinvasion from mite infested hives then you could keep those bees treatment free for about 3 years.

    On the other hand if those bees are going strong after 3 years or more without splitting the hives for varroa control then I would say you are onto something.
    I believe that some treatment free beekeepers rely on reducing their mite load by splitting their hives which in my opinion is a treatment.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Goals in Treatment-Free Beekeeping and Measures of Success

    Splitting hives is how you keep from buying packages.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Goals in Treatment-Free Beekeeping and Measures of Success

    I think Frazz meant don't buy packages. Don't split. Don't add swarms. Or whatever. Wait three years & see how many of those sustainable hives are left.

    The way Frazz does things, if he started with 100 hives, 3 years later he would still have pretty close to that.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Goals in Treatment-Free Beekeeping and Measures of Success

    Quote Originally Posted by frazzledfozzle View Post

    Regarding colony losses when going treatment free my thought is that if you are losing all your colonies within a 3 year period while not treating then it's my belief that mites killed those hives and those bees were not tolerant.
    hmmm, what about those that lose all their hives in a 3 year period who _do_ treat? Is that also "from mites"? Because the mite treatments don't work? Because the treatments themselves are challenging to the bees?

    deknow

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Goals in Treatment-Free Beekeeping and Measures of Success

    Some hives "cold starve" some dwindle because of various queen issues or bad timing of flows. Some swarm and go to the trees and the replacement queen doesn't do so well, or fails altogether. Reality is, if you surround yourself with life, you surround yourself with death. Everything that lives dies. You make splits so that you keep the natural increase in the bees, in your hives and that increase doesn't move to the trees. That's why they call it "beekeeping".

    When they die of Varroa you find thousands dead on the bottom board with them. You find Varroa feces in the brood cells. There is evidence beyond just dead bees. When they starve and there isn't a Varroa problem there are not many Varroa on the bottom board and virtually no Varroa feces in the cells. While Varroa would be my first suspicion in a dead hive in early winter, I would look for actual evidence.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Goals in Treatment-Free Beekeeping and Measures of Success

    right...something as simple as overfeeding or forestalling swarming can cause swarms that are too late for survival of either the parent or swarm.

    feeding syrup in the fall can lead to fatal moisture issues.

    misreading the techniques others promote can lead to "checkerboarding the broodnest" (instead of checkerboarding above the broodnest), which can also be fatal.

    ...and these are just a few beekeeper caused problems. bees die...as Yoda said long long ago, "it is the way of things".

    deknow

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Goals in Treatment-Free Beekeeping and Measures of Success

    Quote Originally Posted by Solomon Parker View Post
    The question for treatment-free beekeepers is, what is the true measure of success?
    The true measure of success in beekeeping is how well you're reaching your goals.

    Quote Originally Posted by Solomon Parker View Post
    Is beekeeping all about the number of colonies you lose?
    Certainly not all about it, nor is it about how much honey you harvest. One could theorize an apiary where each hive survives the winter and produces 300 lbs. of honey every year and also stings to death every mammal within 300 yards. No thank you.

    Quote Originally Posted by Solomon Parker View Post
    How many is too many?
    All of them. Dee Lusby is my apicultural ancestor. It was her work I followed from the beginning. (Sorry Michael, I only started following you later. ) I followed her model except the shakedowns. I fully expected 95% loss worst case scenario. That's why I started with 20 packages. It's sort of an engineering state of mind. I wanted to be guaranteed that one would survive. Fortunately the situation never made it to the worst case scenario phase.

    Quote Originally Posted by Solomon Parker View Post
    What would cause you to give up treatment-free beekeeping?
    Debilitating injury.

    Quote Originally Posted by Solomon Parker View Post
    Would you give up beekeeping altogether if the only solution were to treat?
    If such a situation were to truly present itself (and not the doom and gloom preached by some at times in the past 30 years) we would be faced with the extinction of the species and I'd probably try to minimize my losses and make a graceful exit.

    Quote Originally Posted by Solomon Parker View Post
    What other aspects of beekeeping do you consider when deciding what you're doing is successful?
    I consider what others have done before me and alongside me. That gives me a yardstick against which I can measure my progress. I can know that what I am doing can be done or at least be given a reasonable approximation of the possibilities.

    Quote Originally Posted by Solomon Parker View Post
    What are your goals?
    I want to produce honey to sell to my friends and nucs as well. I want to learn the details of how to graft queens and produce queens and nucs. I want to experiment with different hive types. I want to document all of it on my blog and website to make that information available to others who come after me like those before me did. I want to enjoy my work. I want to reach a sustainable population, one which can be sustained through splits without being a big drag on the operation. That's sustainability. There is no such thing as sustainability with a fixed number of hives without replacements. All hives die eventually. That's not sustainability, that's entropy. It appears the definition of sustainability is as polluted in the rest of the world as it is in the US.

    Quote Originally Posted by Solomon Parker View Post
    What are acceptable sacrifices given in order to achieve one's goals and reach success?
    I've been sacrificing my time and money into this thing since before I got my first packages. I haven't yet reached the point where I thought I had enough. And I probably won't until I'm working a regular job as an engineer and know how much total time I have available. Fortunately, as time goes on, more of the money going into the project is coming from the project. This is a good trend.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Goals in Treatment-Free Beekeeping and Measures of Success

    Quote Originally Posted by deknow View Post
    hmmm, what about those that lose all their hives in a 3 year period who _do_ treat? Is that also "from mites"? Because the mite treatments don't work? Because the treatments themselves are challenging to the bees?

    deknow
    It's a rare thing Deknow, but I agree with your statement . The death of treated hives is often because the mite treatment didn't work. So often I look at peoples hives dying of obvious heavy mite infestations, and they say, "but I treated". Maybe they did. But whatever they did, clearly didn't work.

    And again yes, most mite treatments are indeed challenging in some way to the bees. The build up of residue in the comb can possibly slow larval development time, and then there's more obvious things like killing the queen during a FA treatment.
    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: Goals in Treatment-Free Beekeeping and Measures of Success

    The thing with failed hives when treatments are applied is...was it done right? Was it done before the damage was done to the hive? Yes there are variables with treating. If it's not done right or done too late, or if effacy was not determined post treatment, then the hive can and might fail.
    It's like vaccinating cows for IBR and BVD, if the vaccine is in the sunlight or if it is above 4C or if it was mixed to far in advanced (20 minutes ahead) it can be given but the results will not be the same as if it was administered following directions

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Goals in Treatment-Free Beekeeping and Measures of Success

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    I think my losses are lower with natural beekeeping than the beekeepers I know who are treating.
    But I'd be willing to bet your losses during years 1-3 with treatment free were much greater than those you know who are treating.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Goals in Treatment-Free Beekeeping and Measures of Success

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    When they die of Varroa you find thousands dead on the bottom board with them. You find Varroa feces in the brood cells.
    So if I don't find a pile of dead bees on the bottom board, it isn't Varroa? What about if I don't find any dead Varroa? What happens if they are too weak to make it through winter, and die in the middle? With no brood, wouldn't there be a lack of feces in the brood cells?

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Goals in Treatment-Free Beekeeping and Measures of Success

    For a time I ran a sbb with a board under it to test varroa. I'd look at the board and find, say, 20 mites. I'd put the board back without cleaning it and have a look next day, no mites. Where did they go?

    In the same way I've found hives dead from mites, with very few / no mites on the bottom board.

    It's also worth pointing out that as a hive dies from mites, most of the mites desert the hive, other than the ones trapped in brood.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Goals in Treatment-Free Beekeeping and Measures of Success

    Anyhow back to the original topic, me anyway, I don't think meeting a persons goals is nessecarily success. It's success in terms of meeting the goals. But it might not be success by any other measure.

    We could say, that anybody who has ever done anything, has been a success, long as they set their goals low enough. If their goal was to fail miserably, and they succeeded, were they a success?
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Goals in Treatment-Free Beekeeping and Measures of Success

    what is the true measure of success?

    A profit.

    Crazy Roland

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