Michael and I are good friends...there is far more that we agree on than disagree on...but the disagreements make for a bit more drama This is a bit of rant (or tirade)…but it is thoughtful, and I think reveals some of the issues and history that are at play.
If I were to start some academic research on the economics of running a nuc and queen producing business in Vermont, I would have a few options of how to setup the model.
If one was not aware of what you and Kirk teach (or not bothered to understand it well enough to appreciate the advantages), the obvious thing to do would be to split in the spring to make up winter losses, and harvest some frames or bust up yards at various times throughout the year for the nucs....and buy in fancy "3 letter queen" stock every year. The conventional wisdom is that wintering nucs in Vermont is iffy at best (this is not to say that you haven't been changing this).
You could do the above, and you could show that it is either profitable or not.
But if the academic instead looked at what people are actually doing in Vermont to run a nuc and queen production operation....especially if they looked at what Mike Palmer was doing, they would see a method that would probably produce more nucs/year, produce nucs with a higher market value (overwintered nucs with overwintered queens that are selected for honey production in a commercial honey production operation in the north), _and_ produce a commercial honey crop to boot. Such research (based upon some proven successful models) would be much more valuable than a research done with procedures determined by the researchers first instincts.
Comparing the two, one would see not only a huge difference in economic outcome, but also see an operation that is much more robust. Not only is your system elegant, it actually works and has some redundancy built into it. I'm sure you feel the same way, otherwise I don't think you would care as much as you do that people understand what you are talking about.
As recently as two years ago, one of our state bee inspectors (you know the one) told me to my face that nucs won't survive in Massachusetts over the winter. ...yes, I feel the same way when I'm told by Marla Spivak to my face that non-AHB won't/can't draw small cell comb without foundation and she say's "no thank you" to an offer to bring her some the next day....it's as if you aren't actually doing what you are doing....it's as if no one wants to know.
I know that for USDA trials held in these parts (the one run by Jeff Pettis on tree injected imidacloprid specifically), HFCS feeding is part of the protocall. No one has to mix anything, and its easy on the beekeeper to feed and measure. I think you have commented recently that you moved away from HFCS because nuc survival, specifically, suffered.
What if there were a study, using HFCS as winter feed as part of the protocall, that claims to prove that nucs can’t be overwintered effectively in the north? Using “package” style queens for the nucs? Doesn’t “feed up to weight” in the fall, but opens hives to put HFCS patties on the nucs every week? You would say (loudly, I imagine), “But that isn’t what works.” “I’ve shown what works, but you have to look at the details and at the operation and management as a whole system.”
What if there were 10 such studies? What if Jim Fischer threatened your publisher with litigation if they didn’t recall the book you wrote talking about what you actually do? What if Peter Borst posted a bogus 1star review on Amazon…removed it when there were negative comments made in response, and then reposted a similar one (in an effort to get rid of the negative comments)? What if Amazon (on their own) found it to be abuse, and deleted all traces of the reviews? Now, what if neither of the above had actually read the book you wrote? What if they didn’t even know what you wrote, yet thought that it was important enough to discredit that they bother to take the above actions? That would feel pretty weird? …WOULDN’T IT?
This is essentially what is going on WRT small cell and treatment free beekeeping.
I'm not sure exactly what you are referring to (I’m sure I’ve said something like that, I’m just not recalling the context), but it does bring up a few thoughts.Last I read, you said that there's no need for such a study, as the proponents of SC know it's the answer, and don't have to prove anything to anyone.
Do you remember what your first words were to me when we first met? I do...you said, "I think it is terribly unfair what they are doing to you over on Bee-L." (I’m pretty sure that’s word for word).
At the time, I was posting to bee-l about some of the research and thoughts we had regarding the gut microflora. Statler and Waldorf over there were having a field day, while we were busy going over everything as Ramona was giving her first presentation on the gut microflora. This was October/November 2008, and well before these issues were being discussed by anyone....certainly before the 3 part series in ABJ June-Jully 2009. You should listen to the recording of the talk…she hadn’t given a public talk since college, and was really nervous. Please remember that she assembled this without the aid of any of the articles, discussion, or knowledge that we have 4 years later…she had a vision and went with it.
The stuff we were saying back then is largely commonly accepted nowadays, but if you read the discussions on Bee-L from the time, you will understand why Michael felt I was being treated unfairly.
This is typical of the environment in which we’ve been able to try and discuss these ideas….
• A Bee-L moderator posts a paper touting antibiotics as being beneficial to all manner of livestock. When I replied after looking at the paper, that the paper was the product of a trade group for animal meds, and was entirely made up of reps from major pharmaceutical companies (Phyzer, Bayer, etc), the mod replied back privately stating simply that this fact was not worthy of discussion, and my post would not be put through (there were no issues with personal attacks or any of that stuff).
• The same moderator claims to lose all of his bees by following the “advice” of the treatment free folks….except that in addition to the obvious things that deviated from what those who’s “advice” he claimed to have followed, he used two antibiotics (TM and Tylan), at least one miticide, and I can’t remember if/what else. So much for testing anything about not treating…but this remains his claim….his failed no treatment experiment.
• More recently, the _same_ moderator posted results of how the bees drew some pf100’s (small cell) vs some other brand of 5.4mm plastic frame/foundation. He reported that the bees much preferred the other brand…that they didn’t all draw the pf frames well. ….later to mention that the other brand was wax coated, and the pf frames were bare.
Things are quite a bit better here on beesource in this regard, but there is also a different demographic here, and some discussions would be better served by being allowed to happen on Bee-l. I say all this just to highlight that we have been trying to get to the bottom of a lot of this for a very long time…and we haven’t had much support from “the establishment”. This is the long way around of explaining why I might have been dismissive of doing these studies…the other (most important reason) is that they are not done well, and the conclusions are not supported by the work. Why perpetuate more of the same?
Mike, you would be the first to criticize any work that I did where I:I'm not criticizing anyone, or trying to dis-credit anything. I'm only getting impatient with the attacks on the SC studies, with nothing better coming out of the SC camp.
• Measured 10 cells in the middle of each side of a frame, averaged them, and called that “the mean cell size” for that frame. …Seeley did this.
• Reported that overwintering nucs in New England is not possible…without spending any time talking to a beekeeper that overwinters nucs in New England. …Seeley did this with respect to small cell.
• Pretended that molded plastic comb is the equivalent of wax comb in a side by side comparison. …Seeley did this.
• Found the most mite ridden bees I could find, let them fester for 6 weeks, then break them down into nucs to see if they will survive winter (conventional wisdom is that nucs do a better job of handling mites, especially if they are newly made up…..but will this work in the most heavily infested bees you can find? Are such results relevant?) ….Seeley did this wrt small cell.
• Claimed that none of my experimental or control colonies contained any drone comb. That none of the colonies tried to rear a single drone. That at most these hives (with no other drone comb) built 25 drone cells in a month…but never tried to rear a single drone. …This is exactly what Seeley claims with both the control and experimental colonies….it is not believable.
I’m with you…I want to see some good work in this area…but not critiquing the incredibly bad work done so far (no matter who’s name is on the paper) is not going to make that happen. I was excited that Tom Seeley was looking into small cell, and you will see that I posted several times that I was looking forward to reading his study. I was disappointed.
Yes, I do remember, and I was flattered. …but I think the Paul Harvey version (“the rest of the story”) needs to be told in order for this to be honest.Remember in 2009...I asked you for the same. Gave you 2 1/2 years to put it together...really would have included your report at EAS. Ramona said, at the time..."He's a really smart guy and could do a good job".
You did ask, but there were conditions. It had to be something with “real science” behind it..some hard data to work with. I have a lot of respect for you, and I had (and have) no doubt that we would generally agree on what kind of work would meet that standard. I have some ideas of some more simple things that would be interesting, but it remains that I have no budget, no grad students, and a limited time. Is anyone asking Tom Seeley to do research on his own time and on his own dime?
Michael, now that your EAS is over and done, how many speakers can you name that presented who presented work that you would consider up to that standard who work for themselves? I’m sure there were a few with small SARE grants, I certainly would consider your data on your overwintering operation as valid. Most, I expect, do research as a career. They are employed by institutions that pay them a salary, and their job is to secure funding and carry out the research.
How many speakers who were asked to speak were told that they had to have “scientifically valid data” to back them up as a precondition? Did the guy who claimed to be able to affect the shape of water crystals by saying “I love you” rather than “I hate you” to a freezing glass of water have data? Given that presentation, do you think that anything that I would present would be any kind of embarrassment? I know you didn't have total control of the program, but we were excluded for not having better "science" than we have, while Tom Seeley would have been presenting "valid research" if he talked about his small cell study...meanwhile you have the angry ice crystals being presented next door....I'm supposed to feel like I'm being treated fairly?
There was no funding offered. EAS notoriously doesn’t reimburse speakers for expenses. I appreciated the offer (and I still do), but it is not quite as simple as you make it out to be, it isn’t quite being fair to me at all, in fact. Remember, to some extent, it is the opportunity to present to the same crowd that has already dismissed anything that I have to say.
You did have Tom Seeley at EAS?…did he speak about his small cell study? He did have funding. He did have a reputation to uphold. He did have the resources of Cornell behind him. He did have 3 years to do the study. He did have a phd and years of experience behind his model and execution. He failed miserably. I don’t know what the funding was, but it was for 3 years. At the very least the write up could have been more honest with the write up…fortunately we have the funding reports (that I posted earlier) to let us know how things unfolded. Telling me I can’t critique such a bad study unless I do my own is, frankly, insulting. I’m not criticizing it for no reason…it’s simply lousy, and the beekeeping community should demand better (that includes you).
Well, as you can see from the rough outline I posted yesterday, I have some ideas, and Ramona and I are discussing how to get all this stuff funded….but thanks for poking a bit at it…it has stimulated some new ideas that might be workable.I know how busy you are...as posted recently in discussions with squarepeg. But, we're all busy.How about it?
I love ya Mike,