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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Massillon, Ohio
    Posts
    3,405

    Default Treatment Free Local Footprint

    I would love to hear from some treatment free beekeepers with a description of the areas where they are successfully keeping bees without treatment. What I'm curious about is ....

    How saturated is the area surrounding your apiaries with your own stock?
    Is there a major infusion of package bees into your region in the spring?
    How many other apiaries, not your own, are within range of your yards?

    The reason I ask is, I've been told that the county where I have my yards set up has the highest number of beekeepers and apiaries in the state. It's a terrific area for honey production and it seems there are beehives set up on every street corner you pass. Each spring there is a major introduction of hundreds of package bees into this area, good production bees but not at all mite tolerant. Everyone in the county who does not treat seems to be hopelessly trapped on the package treadmill. I just wonder if it is even possible to maintain your own treatment free stock in this type of environment, or would you need to set up your own breeding area in some other remote location?
    To everything there is a season....

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Location
    Denver, Colorado
    Posts
    5,079

    Default Re: Treatment Free Local Footprint

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Gillmore View Post
    How saturated is the area surrounding your apiaries with your own stock?
    It's hard to tell, there are certainly feral bees in the area, bees with consistent characteristics you would never see in commercially produced queens. I have my home yard and one yard four miles to the south. I know that some beekeeper in the area has a small yard about three miles to the north, but I know nothing about him. There was a guy a few miles to the northeast, down in the valley in Greenland who kept an apiary at his house, but he seems to have gotten sick and died or something. He gave all his bees away to someone else and I don't know where they went.


    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Gillmore View Post
    Is there a major infusion of package bees into your region in the spring?
    Not major. I hear of a few beekeepers starting up most years. This is not a big beekeeping area. No major commercial beekeepers or breeders. There are a few local honey producers who sell direct to the local natural foods store and the farmer's co-op. I sell all mine at church.


    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Gillmore View Post
    How many other apiaries, not your own, are within range of your yards?
    Just the one that I know of.


    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Gillmore View Post
    I just wonder if it is even possible to maintain your own treatment free stock in this type of environment, or would you need to set up your own breeding area in some other remote location?
    I wouldn't know without trying. Michael Bush says that small cell makes all the difference but I'm not totally sure of that. The stock that I brought in from Zia (no hard chemicals) and put on small cell has done more than fine over this last winter and is doing quite well now.

    If it were me (and I know that it isn't), I would certainly try. I look at it similarly to the feral population. The feral population is hardly affected by the kept population and such effects last very few generations. The kept population just doesn't have much to offer the feral population. Who knows the level of performance your drones will be able to achieve? If yours are the best, most healthy, and numerous, perhaps it's you who will affect the surrounding population. There's little in the natural world that follows such simple math as 1+1=2.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Massillon, Ohio
    Posts
    3,405

    Default Re: Treatment Free Local Footprint

    Thanks Sol, great information.

    Anyone else?
    To everything there is a season....

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Menomonee Falls, Wis.
    Posts
    2,673

    Default Re: Treatment Free Local Footprint

    I would love to help you with information, but I assume you do not want that from someone that does not treat chemically for mites, but can do so with just about any kind of bee, in any kind of equipment.

    Crazy Roland

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Lincolnton, NC
    Posts
    1,106

    Default Re: Treatment Free Local Footprint

    I've been treatment free for about 7 years with around 15 hives. Of the beeks around me, 3 are small with captured swarms (probably from my hives), one keeps around 8 hives and stopped treating successfully 2 years ago (I like to think it was at least partially influenced by mine), and one guy has 10-15 hives but has always treated and bought packages from out of state each year).

    The only commercial influence is a farm that has brought in bees for pollination for the past 2 years. It's about 2 miles away.

    I know the feral population has increased in recent years. I do not know if it existed before I was able to go treatment free, but I think so.

    I feel like my hives being treatment free has lead to the one neighbor being able to become treatment free also and has helped out the feral population.

    I feel like if the guy who treats and brings in outside packages were to stop, the feral population and my hives would become healthier.

    I don't know what influence the commercial operation has, but those bees are probably treated and has somewhat of a negative influence on the local population. We have to remember that successful treatment free operations has as much to do with the genetics of the local mites as it does the local bees. Assuming that the pollinator hives are treated, but probably have very destructive genetics of the mites, if a swarm issues from them or those bees come into physical contact with my bees while on the same bloom, a worse mite could be spreading into my local area.

    That's the way I see it.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Massillon, Ohio
    Posts
    3,405

    Default Re: Treatment Free Local Footprint

    Quote Originally Posted by heaflaw View Post

    I feel like if the guy who treats and brings in outside packages were to stop, the feral population and my hives would become healthier.
    I suspect that as well in my area.
    To everything there is a season....

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    Greensboro, North Carolina
    Posts
    2,721

    Default Re: Treatment Free Local Footprint

    I'm someone who went treatment free and failed. I lost all 22 or so of my hives last summer, fall, and winter. I had them in two locations about an hour away from each other.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Gillmore View Post
    How saturated is the area surrounding your apiaries with your own stock?
    My guess is not very. There are many beekeepers around me, although most of them are hobbyists. I contributed to the gene pool, but my guess is by sheer numbers I was diluted significantly.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Gillmore View Post
    Is there a major infusion of package bees into your region in the spring?
    Both package bees, nucs, and commercial queens. Treatment free isn't big in my area, although soft treatments are gaining influence.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Gillmore View Post
    How many other apiaries, not your own, are within range of your yards?
    What do you mean by range? Mating flight range for queens and genetic selection? Or bee flight range for the transfer and spread of mites?

    I'm not too sure, but my guess is if I looked in a 3 mile radius I would find anywhere from 10 to 30 beekeepers. Most probably only have 1-4 hives, but no doubt some have much more. That's just a guess based on the last county meeting I went to, and a "swarm call signup" list that got passed around. Everyone put their name down in the zip code that they lived, and a good 8-12 people put down my zip code. That doesn't count the ones that weren't there that night, or that don't attend meetings at all.

    I might be over estimating, I don't know.

    But I do think in large part why I wasn't successful with treatment free was (1) the small cell thing didn't work for me [nothing to do with the theory, the bees just didn't draw out smaller cells on foundationless frames. I don't know if that doomed my treatment free plan, but I don't think it helped] and (2) the area around me was flooded with non-resistant stock and over infected mite ridden hives that were being treated. My hives were the weakest link in the area.

    I know we have some "feral" hives in the area, but I don't think they are what most think of as "feral." Most are just swarms that were issued from kept hives, that manage to stay alive for a year or two (sometimes three or four) before they die, for whatever reason. Based on sheer number of kept hives, that still means a bunch are being introduced each year into the wild, even if 1/2 or so of them die each year as well. The illusion of "feral" still exists. So while bees are in my woods, I don't think they contribute to my gene pool as much as I wished they would.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Massillon, Ohio
    Posts
    3,405

    Default Re: Treatment Free Local Footprint

    Quote Originally Posted by Specialkayme View Post
    I'm someone who went treatment free and failed. I lost all 22 or so of my hives last summer, fall, and winter.
    That's my biggest fear as well.

    Quote Originally Posted by Specialkayme View Post
    What do you mean by range? Mating flight range for queens and genetic selection?
    Yes, you got it, that's what I meant. The influence of surrounding genetics on your stock.
    To everything there is a season....

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Norfolk County, MA, USA
    Posts
    164

    Default Re: Treatment Free Local Footprint

    I read somewhere, probably here, how one beekeeper was upset that his beekeeping neighbor was keeping untreated bees near his bringing the wrath of mites upon him. Funny how his analogy ran like this, if everyone kept untreated bees near each other they'd be no problems but not treating near his treated hives how it was so irresponsible of the other guy to do so. Maybe I'm missing something there
    Think about it....Buy American

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Poplar Bluff, Missouri, USA
    Posts
    2,280

    Default Re: Treatment Free Local Footprint

    I keep my untreated bees in 3 locations: my back yard, next to a hay field in a forest, and next to a pasture with clover (supposedly). I move 20 of the latter hives to soybeans in late June/early July.

    When I make my walk away splits, resultant queens are open-mated. I have no idea of any other beekeepers within 3 miles of me. There has been no discernable decrease in my bees ability to take care of the mites.
    Regards,
    Steven
    "If all you have is a hammer, the whole world is a nail." - A.H. Maslow

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Massillon, Ohio
    Posts
    3,405

    Default Re: Treatment Free Local Footprint

    It appears so far that the common theme for successful treatment free operations is relative isolation and genetic dominance in their breeding radius. Or, purchase all replacement queens from a proven breeder with tolerant stock and abandon attempts to breed their own local queens.
    To everything there is a season....

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Massillon, Ohio
    Posts
    3,405

    Default Re: Treatment Free Local Footprint

    Quote Originally Posted by Spark View Post
    Maybe I'm missing something there
    I'll take a stab at what he was probably referring to. He was no doubt convinced that his neighbor who did not treat would end up with colonies that eventually would be overrun with mites and then begin to crash. During the crash his bees would be robbing out his neighbors' hive and pick up thousands of hitch hiker mites and bring them back home. His perception is that it would be irresponsible and not a very neighborly thing to do to a fellow beekeeper.
    To everything there is a season....

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