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  1. #561
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    Default Re: Treatment Free Commercial Beekeepers?

    RHA, in regard to what you said about commercial beekeepers not having trialled TF, you have assumed they haven't and unfortunately, you have assumed wrong. Have you, for example, checked to see if I am a treatment free beekeeper? You come across as thinking the commercial beekeepers know little more than you do. But they are aeons apart. It's obvious why few of them say anything here though.

    As to what you said to Specialkayme re lecturing, much of what you say sounds like a lecture, to me. And if that's how I hear it, I'm sure there will be others. And in fact when I begged to differ with some of your opinions, your reaction was hardly that of somebody prepared to learn.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  2. #562
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    Default Re: Treatment Free Commercial Beekeepers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Specialkayme View Post
    So it's not possible for your bees to produce more honey than they already are?
    We're not talking about honey, we're talking about hives dying. My hives do quite well for the area considering I don't feed them much, and nothing in the spring.

    Quote Originally Posted by Specialkayme View Post
    I believe he was referring to the wisdom of King Solomon
    Yeah, I got that. Perhaps you should stick to clarifying your own statements.


    Quote Originally Posted by Specialkayme View Post
    Tomorrow I would be a treatment free beekeeper.
    No.


    Quote Originally Posted by Specialkayme View Post
    That first day were you a treatment free beekeeper?
    Treating was never an option. I don't not do it just because my bees aren't dying.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  3. #563
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    Default Re: Treatment Free Commercial Beekeepers?

    Quote Originally Posted by rhaldridge View Post
    SpecialKayme, I assume you were unable to point to an instance in which I lectured someone.
    Unwilling actually.

    If you want to say you're right, fine. I could care less. I've got better things to do with my time than sort through these posts and put one up where you are arguably lecturing someone. And everyone else on here has better things to do than listen to you and I quibble about something that isn't related to this topic.

    Shall we move on?

  4. #564
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    Default Re: Treatment Free Commercial Beekeepers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ian View Post
    so what is it about Dee's bees that has her to believe that the small cell is making a difference ?
    I'll rephrase your question so I can answer it.

    What is it about small cell that Dee believes makes a difference with her bees?

    ***********
    http://www.beesource.com/point-of-vi...-ed-dee-lusby/

    NATURAL COMB


    The Lusbys have, for several years, been investigating the ramifications of the cell size honey bees use. Their extensive research has turned up some interesting, and intriguing information.

    Historically, man-made foundation started the same size as the size bees naturally produced. However, the cell size bees naturally produce is to some degree dependent on where in the world they are. Like many animals, those closer to the equator tend to be smaller than those closer to the poles. That is, honey bees in the southern U.S. naturally build cells a tiny bit smaller than bees in Canada. This discovery has complicated what is ‘natural,’ but not the fact that natural is still, well, natural.

    Years ago beekeepers believed that larger bees would be better able to take advantage of flowers with the nectar deep within, normally out of reach of the bees’ tongues. Long tongues were selected for, and some advantages were gained. However, larger bees were deemed the answer to even longer tongues, and to produce larger bees foundation with slightly larger cell base size, hence slightly larger (eventual) cells. It was believed bigger was better. Well, maybe, maybe not.

    The Lusby’s theorized that this larger cell size, and larger bee, produced an environmental stress on both individual bees, and the entire colony. Generally, colonies handle this subtle but persistent pressure with indiscernible outward signs. It is, however, difficult to measure because essentially all comb produced now is artificially large, at least to some degree.

    Measuring cells produced by feral colonies in their part of Arizona, coupled with the results of their research led the Lusbys to initially produce foundation with a smaller-sized cell base on an experimental basis. Their first attempt was a cell base with a parallel-side-to-parallel-side measurement of 5.0 mm. (see diagram).

    Since most foundation produced now is in the 5.22 mm to 5.55 mm range, reducing cell base size to 5.0, (a 4.3 – 10% reduction) seemed significant. But after a few trials the differences seemed minimal. Their time spent, however, continued to uncover more information supporting their belief that ‘natural’ cell size was better for bee stress reduction.

    The 5.0 mm cell size did show promise, however. The Lusbys noted some reduction in parasite infestation and less incidence of disease. But not enough to be commercially economical, and colony losses continued.

    It should be noted here that along with the inclusion of smaller cell-sized foundation in their management scheme, the Lusbys discontinued the use of all drugs, medications and acaricides, except a propolis, sugar and vegetable shortening combination in a patty. The early results were predictable – colony losses mounted, but not as rapidly as other, untreated colonies. Something was going on.

    Further research indicated that, at their latitude, a cell size of 5.0 mm may have been 0.1 mm too large, and they found a cell size of 4.9 mm may be better. Precise measurements of feral comb supported the 4.9 mm size, so they began to search for a foundation mill to produce this size cell base. This wasn’t an easy task. Not only were current manufacturers not using mills that small, most were reluctant to make a switch without some hard evidence the cost would be worthwhile.

    One did, however. Tom Industries, in El Cajon, CA agreed to make a few small-sized mills, for a price, to see if they worked.

    Lusby’s make their foundation the old fashioned way, one sheet at a time. They dip a board in melted wax, let the wax cool and peel it off. One dip is enough. Then they run this through the hand powered mill. Result – eight sheets to the pound.

    So far they’ve found that colonies on their new natural comb seem to swarm less (There is more space for brood – about 1250 more cells in a two-story chamber than using Duragilt.) and have fewer mites.
    The few-mites thing, along with less disease incidence, has been aided by continual selection for tolerant colonies. But the two have worked. Independent sampling by USDA researchers have confirmed that, indeed, fewer mites than normal are present in these small-cell colonies.

    So far the Lusbys have changed over most of their colonies. Their early observations indicate faster build up, healthier colonies and more honey production. But these are early results.

    They are passionate in their belief that this management scheme is the answer to the stresses of desert beekeeping, both mites and whatever diseases their bees encounter.
    Regards, Barry

  5. #565
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    Default Re: Treatment Free Commercial Beekeepers?

    Please, let’s keep the discussion respectful and quit the personal back and forths. Remember the old adage: “If you can’t say something nice, turn the other cheek”? …..Oh, it was something like that….

    Sheri

  6. #566
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    Default Re: Treatment Free Commercial Beekeepers?

    Very interesting!

    (Standard disclaimer, complete noob, got one hive very recently, but read a lot) I've wondered if a useful analogy for what is wrong with the bees is elderly cars. I've got about 50 years of experience in keeping old junkers running, and what I've noticed is that one thing can go wrong, or two things or three, and the car will still run, though not as well. But at some point, one thing too many goes wrong, and then the car becomes a yard ornament until you get around to fixing it. I can't help but think that this might be sort of the situation with bees. It might be the culmination of a lot of stuff going wrong over the 150 years of modern beekeeping. For that reason, the approach of some treatment free beekeepers seems to have a certain logic to me. The Lusbys are a good example of this, I think. They fixed a couple of things and the car is running a little better.

    One element of their approach that Barry didn't touch on is that their colonies have a much greater range of microflora and fauna in the hive and in the bees. I find the idea that treatment destroys possibly vital elements of this microcosm to be persuasive, as should anyone who's ever taken antibiotics and gotten a terrible case of the touristas.

    I think there's a lot to be learned from Kirk Webster's approach too. I find it hard to characterize brood breaks as treatment, because the natural tendency of colonies to swarm is a brood break that requires no intervention from a beekeeper.

    I'll never be a commercial beekeeper. I'm too old and have too many other things to do before I die. But I have enormous respect for folks like the Lusbys and Webster. As chemical means of controlling pests and disease continue to lose effectiveness (a trend which I hope no one here would dispute) where are the beekeeping technologies of the future going to come from?

  7. #567
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    Default Re: Treatment Free Commercial Beekeepers?

    Quote Originally Posted by rhaldridge View Post
    I'm glad for you, but no, not really. Would you be willing to hazard a guess as to the difference in your beekeeping approach and the Adee's? Is it just bad luck, do you think, that they had such large losses? Do you think those kind of losses will be sustainable, year after year, or will some beekeepers, maybe the ones who are marginally capitalized, be driven out of the business? Do you think this is an acceptable situation, or should beekeepers be trying different paths in hopes of finding one that works better?

    I've gotten the impression that you're an honest no-nonsense kind of guy, so let me ask you what seems to me the crucial question here: is commercial beekeeping as it is presently conducted a healthy and growing industry, or is it an industry declining under the pressures of stuff like Varroa mites, CCD, and cheap Chinese honey? I guess what I'm asking is this: can the industry go on successfully without any major changes in philosophy?
    I suppose I am an optimist. I dont see an industry in decline as much as an industry in flux. I have been doing this commercially for 40 years and the beekeeper has ALWAYS had challenges but for most of the time it was massive losses from foliar spraying and low commodity prices. Years ago beekeeping organizations were lobbying for indemnity
    programs for spray loss and commodity price supports. With the arrival of varroa, high grain prices and the resulting loss of bee pasturage the challenges have shifted to how to raise a honey crop and where to place your hives so that they have enough forage to stay strong. The growth of the Almond industry in California was a huge game changer. In the matter of a few years rental prices went from $30 to almost $200 and the demand for well over a million strong hives was suddenly needed. At the same time honey prices shot up from the .70 range to $2.00 a lb. For those beekeepers able to raise even a 60 lb. crop and have a strong hive to rent out the next February the rewards are huge. I know many beekeepers who have done very well indeed. The incentive is there so, yes, I have confidence that the industry has a good future but only for those willing to change and evolve with it.
    The differences between my operation and the Adee's? Well we share some similarities in the migratory nature of our operations but I cant speak about the specifics of their treatment regime because I have no knowledge of what they do and if I did I wouldn't feel free to discuss it in a public forum. I would speculate, though, that there are most likely at least some differences in philosophy and management practices. This I will say, though. I have the greatest respect them as both people and as beekeepers. As I said before the experiences of others that I am aware of "run the gamut". Some have struggled but I know of more than one story of beekeepers whose bees have thrived in the past year.
    At the risk of reiterating what I have previously asked in this thread and have yet to get an answer. I will ask one more time. Why should I expose my operation to potential losses of 90% or more? What's in it for me? As near as I can tell treatment free bragging rights here on Beesource is about the only upside and the loss of what my family has spent decades building up is the downside. Currently 4 families live off the income from our operation and we are doing just fine thank you.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  8. #568
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    Default Re: Treatment Free Commercial Beekeepers?

    Thanks Barry! Usually its my wife that re phrases my questions lol

    I have read that previously from your source of references which lead me to the question why is it Dee is seeing an advantage, yet others who have also tried see no advantage?

    >>So far the Lusbys have changed over most of their colonies. Their early observations indicate faster build up, healthier colonies and more honey production. But these are early results.
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  9. #569
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    Default Re: Treatment Free Commercial Beekeepers?

    Would an exposition of the Pseudo-Drone Theory be appropriate? That would be more directly related to the varroa question.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  10. #570
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    Default Re: Treatment Free Commercial Beekeepers?

    she is beekeeping in an somewhat isolated area, as far as I understand

    so then does her success have anything to do with the small cell?
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  11. #571
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    Default Re: Treatment Free Commercial Beekeepers?

    It's her bees.

    After she went small cell she continued to have massive losses, so it's not just small cell. Eventually she was left with a bee that can survive in her environment, with her methods

    However even now, by my standards anyway, she has big losses. These are made up by constant splitting.

    Don't try to buy some of her bees though, they have African genetics.


    But having said all that, the elephant in the room in these treatment free discussions, is production. Treatment free folks hold up survival as the yardstick. But commercial folks need production.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  12. #572
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    Default Re: Treatment Free Commercial Beekeepers?

    I have always read about her splitting her hives, but I dont hear the term nuc,

    is her split what I would consider a nuc?
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  13. #573
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    Default Re: Treatment Free Commercial Beekeepers?

    Quote Originally Posted by jim lyon View Post
    At the risk of reiterating what I have previously asked in this thread and have yet to get an answer. I will ask one more time. Why should I expose my operation to potential losses of 90% or more? What's in it for me? As near as I can tell treatment free bragging rights here on Beesource is about the only upside and the loss of what my family has spent decades building up is the downside. Currently 4 families live off the income from our operation and we are doing just fine thank you.
    If I were you, I'm sure I would feel the same, and it's sure as hell nobody else's business how you run your operation.

    There might be more to treatment free than bragging rights on Beesource. Do you think Kirk Webster cares about that? I don't even think he's on Beesource, is he? From reading his writings, he seems to be a guy who cares deeply about bees, and wants to advance the art of beekeeping. It seems unfair to characterize him as an irrelevant outlier in the commercial world. His bees are doing pretty well, it appears.

    I hope for the best for you and everyone else who is doing the necessary work of making honey, pollinating crops, and keeping their bees alive. But if next winter, your losses approach 80 percent, as Bill Dahle's did this winter, and this continues for several more years, what will you do?

    I really hope you're right, and this is just one of those cyclic downturns in the industry that have been coming along ever since wax moths made their appearance. I really hope so. Anyway, I guess I've sufficiently annoyed folks here, though that was not my intention, and I'll slink away now.

  14. #574
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    Default Re: Treatment Free Commercial Beekeepers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ian View Post
    she is beekeeping in an somewhat isolated area, as far as I understand

    so then does her success have anything to do with the small cell?
    I'm not sure how much her bees have changed over time (pre and post cell size change). It got to a point that the main thing they did change was the cell size.
    Regards, Barry

  15. #575
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    Default Re: Treatment Free Commercial Beekeepers?

    From what I am reading... yes I am reading Lusby.... these days she relies on walk away splits...


    Quote Originally Posted by Ian View Post
    I have always read about her splitting her hives, but I dont hear the term nuc,

    is her split what I would consider a nuc?
    “Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you have travelled.” - The Quran

  16. #576
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    Default Re: Treatment Free Commercial Beekeepers?

    This has been an interesting thread, with lots of divergent points of view.
    Unfortunately, some of the frustration shown on this thread comes from these differing points of reference.

    Remember, this is the commercial/pollination board.

    Some have commented on the dearth of commercial beeks on this thread. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, as a group we are BUSY this time of year. Second, we have had similar discussions many times and it has proven to be a very divisive topic. It is a little like religion that way.
    But, in the hope of peacekeeping thru dialogue I will try to define my perspective a bit.

    It is all well and good to provide the names and specifics of treatment free operations. We can all look at what/how they do it and maybe learn something, but not everything can be applied to all beekeepers.
    There are many different beekeeping models out there. The keeper with a couple hundred hives who sells retail honey locally and overwinters is much different from the 2000 colony keeper who derives half (or more) of his income from pollination. And both are MILES apart from the backyard beekeeper with 10 colonies and even further from one with little to no experience with bees at all. You just can’t fit the backyard beekeeper model into typical commercial/migratory beekeeping. That isn’t to denigrate backyard beekeepers or anyone else it is just a fact.
    To be blunt, most of the examples given would not be considered “commercial beekeepers” by other commercial beekeepers. Again, this is not to denigrate the examples, it is just hard to translate to a migratory operation expected to put roof over heads.

    Some of the management techniques that even a larger stationary keeper might use are problematic for a migratory keeper, which is the perspective I am coming from.

    To name a few of the suggestions:
    *Multiple nucs to repopulate dead outs: we give up almond income, honey production and income from splits from the nuc colonies.
    *Small cell: how would one quantify the costs of regressing 2500 colonies to small cell? Yikes.
    *Take 100-200 as trial tf hives: it comes down to the money. I don’t normally like getting into the personal financials, but will this once just to give a scope of the impact of “experimenting” on 200. That could cost us income of about $315 ea, (rough figuring - $140 almonds, $150 honey, $25 sold bees). That comes to $63000.00. Of course, of small consolation is we wouldn’t have some of the expenses associated with those colonies, after all one doesn’t ship dead bees to California and back, one doesn’t extract the honey, etc.
    *Start with packages every year: might be a good strategy to save money on treatments, and optimize hive honey averages. If not wanting to take bees into almonds it makes economic sense. However, those bees are usually NOT treatment free, as the supplier of the packages most likely treated his bees to allow for the surplus to sell. We sell packages to tf beekeepers every year.
    *Bond method: Not an option financially for most of us.

    I think I speak for many commercial keepers as well as Ian when I repeat the question, “why would we “risk the farm” when our model is working well?” From the financial survival standpoint, there is no reason. Our bees, and those of most I know, have consistently come out of almonds in terrific shape, (knock on wood) giving us ample bees to take care of our deadouts ( from queen failure, not disease), plus. I have heard of percentage losses to rival the Adee's, but know many who have done well for many years. Commercial beeks, like all ag related endeavors must roll with the punches and allow for the unexpected. Being too close to the edge in any business is a recipe for disaster.

    More power and good luck to those trying to assure colony health without reliance on medications, by risking the health of their own, but I don't think there are many out there. It is, after all, mostly about the money. Hence the term, “Commercial”.
    Sheri

  17. #577
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    Default Re: Treatment Free Commercial Beekeepers?

    Quote Originally Posted by rhaldridge View Post
    Do you think Kirk Webster cares about that? I don't even think he's on Beesource, is he? From reading his writings, he seems to be a guy who cares deeply about bees, and wants to advance the art of beekeeping.
    as do I, I care deeply about my bees and want to advance the art of beekeeping, but Im a commercial beekeeper, so that probably would not count in your book,
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  18. #578
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    Default Re: Treatment Free Commercial Beekeepers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Oldtimer View Post
    It's her bees.

    After she went small cell she continued to have massive losses, so it's not just small cell.
    They changed cell size twice before things leveled off and they grew back. I won't say her bees don't play a part in their success, but it appears the main change that took place was the change in cell size.
    Regards, Barry

  19. #579
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    Default Re: Treatment Free Commercial Beekeepers?

    Quote Originally Posted by rhaldridge View Post
    If I were you, I'm sure I would feel the same, and it's sure as hell nobody else's business how you run your operation.

    There might be more to treatment free than bragging rights on Beesource. Do you think Kirk Webster cares about that? I don't even think he's on Beesource, is he? From reading his writings, he seems to be a guy who cares deeply about bees, and wants to advance the art of beekeeping. It seems unfair to characterize him as an irrelevant outlier in the commercial world.
    I have never characterized Kirk in such a way I don't question his devotion to beekeeping for a moment, I just don't fully understand why you would put yourself and your bees through the losses. It just dosent compute with me. The industry currently has the tools needed to control varroa and do so in a manner consistent with respect for the integrity of the honey that we raise and I have the test results to prove it. SpecK made a good point a while back. What exactly is the time frame to qualify as treatment free? I am for about 10 months a year. Is that enough? At what point do the treatment free benefits kick in? 1 year? More? Anyone?
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  20. #580
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    Default Re: Treatment Free Commercial Beekeepers?

    Quote Originally Posted by hpm08161947 View Post
    From what I am reading... yes I am reading Lusby.... these days she relies on walk away splits...
    how can an operation re build hundreds of hives after a loss event with walk away splits? I know the math, that would take years of rebuilding,
    she must nuc out some of her hives,
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

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