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  1. #41
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    Default Re: Treatment Free Commercial Beekeepers?

    I think the experiment of going treatment free in commercial beekeepers has been done in the past. Unfortunately I do not think those guys are around to tell how they made out. As Jim pointed there is absolutely no incentive to go treatment free. There are so many risks and perils in this business, why would anybody even contemplate trying? The risks are huge, the benefit almost non existent. I for one will wait until I see others having success going treament free before I would even consider it on 10% of the outfit. We, the beekeeping industry is in a situation were even low levels of varroa mites are vectorin viruses that take out your hives. Point being the so called low levels of 15 years past does not cut it today.

    Some have challenged Dee Lusby as to her "commercial" status. When pressed to give some generalities on her production she would not divulge. I doubt that it would be sustainable on a commercial level.

    Jean-Marc

  2. #42
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    Default Re: Treatment Free Commercial Beekeepers?

    Quote Originally Posted by StevenG View Post
    It seems to me the key to going treatment free, especially for the commercial beekeeper, is not to reinvent the wheel, as it were.
    With all do respect, I don't know if there is a wheel to reinvent. If you talk to 10 different, successful, long term treatment free beekeepers (and I'm talking more than one or two hives, as that doesn't denote an actual successful system in my book), you'll likely end up finding 9, or maybe even 10, different systems on how they do it.

    Some use small cell
    Some use large cell
    Some use foundationless
    Some rotate comb every 3 years
    Some rotate comb every 5 years
    Some don't rotate comb at all
    Some promote the use of one particular queen
    Some promote the use of another particular queen
    Some promote the use of multiple different kinds of queens
    Some promote the use of local (feral) queens
    Some use screened bottom boards
    Some use upper entrances
    Some feed
    Some don't feed
    Some treat, softer and softer, until they claim they don't need to anymore
    Some go cold turkey
    Some have large losses
    Some have complete losses
    Some claim to never have noticed a difference in losses (although admittedly not many)
    Some use brood breaks
    Some use re-queening techniques
    Some "just let bees be bees"
    Some claim success based on genetics
    Some claim success based on geographic location (isolation)
    Some claim success based on techniques
    Some don't claim success, and claim it's the bees doing what they do best
    Some say you have to start with a treatment free hive
    Some say you have to start with a treatment free nuc
    Some say you have to start with a treatment free package
    Some say you can place a treatment free queen in a mite ridden colony and they will survive
    No-one appears to be the same

    The list is not exclusive, of course, just meant to prove a point. I don't see a "right" way to go treatment free, or a "wrong" way (other than through treating, which has it's own definitional nightmare), or a "proven" way. Without having anything proven, how can we expect an industry to adopt it?

  3. #43
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    Default Re: Treatment Free Commercial Beekeepers?

    Quote Originally Posted by jim lyon View Post
    It's a nice notion but I just don't see the incentive when there are so many good options for mite control.
    I'm in total agreement with Jim.
    I would add that after all these years of practice, if beekeepers don't have a handle on managing mite populations, they are REALLY SLOW LEARNERS!
    As for selecting queens for mite resistance:
    Many of us are worried that some queen producers may be going way down the wrong road by taking their eye off of the aspects that really count such as productivity and gentleness and focusing soley on mite proof bees.
    Give me good queens that keep us all in business and I will take care of mites.
    But to answer the OP's quesstion:
    No. I do not know one single (successful) commercial beekeeper that does not do their job as a good beekeeper and address mite populations.
    I have exactly ONE hive more than you.
    That makes my opinion beyond question.

  4. #44
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    jackson county, alabama, usa
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    Default Re: Treatment Free Commercial Beekeepers?

    got it, thanks jim!
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  5. #45
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    Default Re: Treatment Free Commercial Beekeepers?

    If you do not treat for disease, you will not have any hives. Easy to practice that on 50, but not 1000
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  6. #46
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    Default Re: Treatment Free Commercial Beekeepers?

    Quote Originally Posted by StevenG View Post
    Jim, I agree that for the commercial beekeeper, treatment free honey has no economic value over honey that comes from treated hives. The commercial beek is going to treat responsibly to avoid contaminating his honey and thus destroying his market if detected. My hypothesis is that the economic advantage that accrues to the commercial beekeeper is less cost involved in treatment free bees. No chemicals to buy, no additional equipment, no time and labor spent in treating.

    Having kept bees as a hobbiest in the 1970's and '80s, and for the last 8 years, I see no difference in honey production between my Starline hybrids back then, and my B. Weaver or Purvis bees now. In fact, apples to apples (similar pasture, similar colony strength, my bees today seem to have a slight edge on the ones back then. Now the caveat, I do not do any intentional brood breaks. I do let the colonies requeen themselves if something happens to the queen.

    My (limited) experience has been that the forage is not as good or widely available today compared to 30 years ago, and that has more impact on honey production than does my use of treatment free bees.

    I appreciate the replies from the various commercial folks here. My purpose in the initial question was to see where the commercials were, and to faciltiate sharing of information, either success or failure.
    Regards,
    Steven
    Nice post Steven. Of all the treatment free testimonials I read on Beesource I always find Stevens experiences among the most intriguing. Keep us posted on how your bees are doing.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  7. #47
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    Default Re: Treatment Free Commercial Beekeepers?

    Jean-marc wrote:

    why would anybody even contemplate trying?

    A person would have to be "crazy" to go treatment free, but...... sometimes insanity has it's rewards. I am willing to bet that a person with a long family history of beekeeping(161 years) MIGHT just be able to sell their honey to the "carriage trade" at a much higher than average price.

    Beemandan:

    I agree, heavily parisitized bees most likely would not be as productive as mite free bees, but I can not speak from experience. We can control mites, without SYNTHETIC chemicals, to a level that we believe is below the threshold of damage. Like I mentioned before, the inspector could not find any mites with a casual inspection.

    And yes, we are on the small end of commercial, the 100 year average is around 1000 hives.

    Crazy Roland
    .

  8. #48
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    Poplar Bluff, Missouri, USA
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    Default Re: Treatment Free Commercial Beekeepers?

    Specialkayme, by "reinventing the wheel" I'm referring to beekeepers who believe they have to go cold turkey or develop their own treatment free bees, with the attendant risks. Such bees are already available.

    The other concern I have, both for the hobby beek and the commercial, is that it seems every time a successful chemical treatment comes along, a few years later the mites have developed resistance.

    And believe me, I understand the difference between a guy like me seeking to manage 50 hives a year for several thousand dollars income to supplement my retirement, and the person who runs 1,000 or more and makes his entire living from the bees. I have learned so much from reading the commercial section of the forum, and appreciate your forbearance. I wonder though, if the fact that some of us who don't have our livelihoods at stake, and take risks the commercials cannot afford to take, if we by doing so and sharing information, are thus able to help you all out, maybe just a little bit.

    fwiw, I neglected my hives in 2012. Reasons are not important, I just supered when needed, ignored the rest of the time. No swarm management, nothing else. I ended the season with 28 hives. Harvested from 23, but the 28 hive average was 54.96 pounds, higher than the Missouri state average. I had 17 hives on a trailer, parked on the edge of a forested pasture of grass, with some clover. Then I moved that trailer to soybeans for 2-3 weeks. My top three producers: #1, clover, 95 pounds, soybeans 75 pounds, 170 total. #2 I split May 9, produced 105 pounds on soybeans. #3 21 pounds on clover, 154 on soybeans, 175 pounds total. All were headed by B. Weaver queens. It was all the bees, I neglected them. Had I been able to do what needed to be done, the rest of the colonies should have produced better. Just thought you might find it interesting.
    Kindest regards,
    Steven
    "If all you have is a hammer, the whole world is a nail." - A.H. Maslow

  9. #49

    Default Re: Treatment Free Commercial Beekeepers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Roland View Post
    We can control mites, without SYNTHETIC chemicals,
    I guess I'm not understanding. You do treat? but with non synthetic compounds?
    And I would also agree that, as a smaller commercial, you could get a premium for tf honey. This is what I believe Dean does. As a honey packer, he pays extra for tf honey and has created a market for it.
    Dan www.boogerhillbee.com
    Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards

  10. #50
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    Default Re: Treatment Free Commercial Beekeepers?

    Quote Originally Posted by HarryVanderpool View Post
    I would add that after all these years of practice, if beekeepers don't have a handle on managing mite populations, they are REALLY SLOW LEARNERS!
    Well Harry, there is a good reason why we were short in the almonds this year & mites had a hand in that. I am always amazed at what they do.
    NUTRA-BEE feed supplements

  11. #51
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    Default Re: Treatment Free Commercial Beekeepers?

    >> if we by doing so and sharing information, are thus able to help you all out, maybe just a little bit.

    Hi Steven

    I understand what you are saying, that kind of theme has gone through this forum many times before. Not that this kind of talk is not interesting, because it is, it that this kind of talk always leads to the same conclusion - no treatment, no bees.

    Dont think commercial beekeepers dont test the limits, because we all do, and learn from our lessons. My fall mite tolerance levels was once over 5%, I then adjusted that to under 5%, I then adjusted that to under 4%, now I try to manage my fall mite levels under 2%.
    Why you may ask?
    Because its not just the mite that is affecting our ability to raise bees. Four different viruses, higher levels of virus, nosema, higher pesticide exposure, pesticide residues and nutrition have all compounded our hive health problems making the varroa mite exponentially lethal.

    So, its not as simple as just not treating for mites, you have to consider all the other factors to the equation also
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  12. #52
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    Default Re: Treatment Free Commercial Beekeepers?

    Quote Originally Posted by StevenG View Post
    Specialkayme, by "reinventing the wheel" I'm referring to beekeepers who believe they have to go cold turkey or develop their own treatment free bees, with the attendant risks. Such bees are already available.
    Steven,
    I understand your point, but I disagree with it. I'm not convinced that such bees are already available.

    I've taken treatment free queens and placed them in treated hives, then stopped treatments. They still died from mites. I tried taking treatment free nucs and letting them do their thing, and they still died from mites.

    Admittedly, I haven't tried BeeWeaver's queens yet. I have an order for them for this year, but I don't have much hope that my experiences will be any different this time around.

    When I discussed my apparent failure with some successful beekeepers, and asked what I did wrong and how I could fix it, the general answer was "I don't know." Some pointed to a number of different suggestions on why it failed, including cell size and location. Ultimately one of the suggestions I was given was that the TF queens I had were not "used" to the area. So I needed to get local treatment free queens, which based on the information available to me are not available. So I was told to start my own, and select for resistance from what I have.

    Which all gets me back to the same point. TF available bees don't work in my area. The only way I can make it work is to "guess" on how to make it work with cell size, management styles, and comb rotation, then to select from my own stocks. I don't see how that isn't reinventing the wheel. I don't see that there is a wheel that I can place in my apiary that won't fall off the wagon. I've tried.

    Your area, your experiences may be different. But if location plays ANY roll in whether or not a queen can truly be TF or not, I don't see how a migratory operation can successfully be TF. I also don't see how there can be any type of repeatable or reputable source for TF bees on a national level.

  13. #53
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    Default Re: Treatment Free Commercial Beekeepers?

    just to be clear, when the term treatment free beekeeping is used, are you guys referring actual going treatment free as by definition, or just no chemical treatments for the mites? Huge difference between the two,
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  14. #54
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    Default Re: Treatment Free Commercial Beekeepers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Keith Jarrett View Post
    I am always amazed at what they do.
    Me too.
    Oh wait, you were talking about beekeepers; right?
    I have exactly ONE hive more than you.
    That makes my opinion beyond question.

  15. #55
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    Default Re: Treatment Free Commercial Beekeepers?

    Quote Originally Posted by HarryVanderpool View Post
    you were talking about beekeepers; right?
    Yeah know Harry I really am baffled, with so much at steak in the almonds with so much overhead to get the bees out here to Cali I am stunned the way they take care of there bees. I truely mean no disrepect to others that have fallen on hard times.
    NUTRA-BEE feed supplements

  16. #56
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    Porto, Portugal
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    122

    Default Re: Treatment Free Commercial Beekeepers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ian View Post
    Dont think commercial beekeepers dont test the limits, because we all do, and learn from our lessons. My fall mite tolerance levels was once over 5%, I then adjusted that to under 5%, I then adjusted that to under 4%, now I try to manage my fall mite levels under 2%.
    Why you may ask?
    Because its not just the mite that is affecting our ability to raise bees. Four different viruses, higher levels of virus, nosema, higher pesticide exposure, pesticide residues and nutrition have all compounded our hive health problems making the varroa mite exponentially lethal.

    So, its not as simple as just not treating for mites, you have to consider all the other factors to the equation also
    This is actually a very interesting observation that could suggest that we need to very quickly create a viable treatment-free bee. By treating we're putting a selective pressure on the mites to improve and are removing the selective pressure from the bees. You've had to step up your treatment regimen continuously because your bees are increasingly less tolerant to the mites/viruses, so it seems that the mites are getting the upper-hand.
    Last edited by pedrocr; 03-10-2013 at 09:16 PM.

  17. #57
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    Default Re: Treatment Free Commercial Beekeepers?

    Quote Originally Posted by pedrocr View Post
    This is actually a very interesting observation that could suggest that we need to very quickly create a viable treatment-free bee. By treating we're putting a selective pressure on the mites to improve and are removing the selective pressure from the bees. You've had to step up your treatment regimen continuously because you're bees are increasingly less tolerant to the mites/viruses, so it seems that the mites are getting the upper-hand.
    Resistance to mite treatments is always a concern, certainly varroa developed resistance to Coumaphous and Fluvalinate pretty quickly. Later mite treatments, though, seem to have held up with little resistance that I am aware of. Let's remember there are two dynamics at work here one is the resistance of mites to miticides but the other is the breeding of bees to better tolerate varroa. My own experience in recent years leads me to be optimistic that the bees are at the very least holding their own.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  18. #58

    Default Re: Treatment Free Commercial Beekeepers?

    Is it just me….or does it seem like this thread has taken a significant shift?
    It started out as a query for commercial beekeepers who’re treatment free.
    Dan www.boogerhillbee.com
    Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards

  19. #59
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    Default Re: Treatment Free Commercial Beekeepers?

    Quote Originally Posted by jim lyon View Post
    Resistance to mite treatments is always a concern, certainly varroa developed resistance to Coumaphous and Fluvalinate pretty quickly. Later mite treatments, though, seem to have held up with little resistance that I am aware of. Let's remember there are two dynamics at work here one is the resistance of mites to miticides but the other is the breeding of bees to better tolerate varroa.
    The risk is that by treating you're making it harder to breed bees that tolerate varroa because you're taking away that selective pressure. I suppose you could still maintaing some of the pressure by only breeding from the hives that need the least treatment.

    Quote Originally Posted by jim lyon View Post
    My own experience in recent years leads me to be optimistic that the bees are at the very least holding their own.
    What I found interesting in the comment I was replying to was the progression of increasingly stricter controls for varroa, suggesting that the bees were losing the fight.

  20. #60
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    Default Re: Treatment Free Commercial Beekeepers?

    Quote Originally Posted by pedrocr View Post
    This is actually a very interesting observation that could suggest that we need to very quickly create a viable treatment-free bee. By treating we're putting a selective pressure on the mites to improve and are removing the selective pressure from the bees. You've had to step up your treatment regimen continuously because you're bees are increasingly less tolerant to the mites/viruses, so it seems that the mites are getting the upper-hand.
    its not in the mites best interest to harbor and vector a virus which will kill off their hive,
    instead what I am seeing is the introduction of the virus to the equation which complicates the whole bee/mite balance.
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

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