# Thread: New beekeeper interested in chemical free treatment

1. Join Date
Apr 2010
Location
Lititz, PA, USA
Posts
903

## Re: New beekeeper interested in chemical free treatment

Originally Posted by rhaldridge
I guess another way of looking at these numbers is... if you have 10 hives and you treat, (and if you lose an average number of hives) you'll lose 3 of them. If you don't treat, you'll lose between 3 and 4 hives.
It doesn't really work out that cleanly. If each hive has a 30% of loss, and they're each independent trials, like flipping a coin. We know that if we flip a coin an infinite number of times, half will come up heads, half tails. But if I flip it 10 times, each combination of counts has a probability, so I could get all tails, that's possible, and it has a probability, albeit a low one, but it's possible. I have a probability of getting 3 tails and 7 heads, that's closer to half-and-half, so that probability is a little higher. When I start saying things like "at least 3 tails", there are formulas with lots of sums that tell us how to calculate this. The sums are so annoying and long to calculate that before computers there were tables where you'd look up these probabilities.

So think of the hives the same way. If each hive has a 36.7% chance of loss, and you have an infinite number of them, your loss will tend toward 36.7%. But if you have 10 hives or 20, each combination of death/live has a probability. So my numbers are such that with a 36.7% chance of death for each hive, if I want to have less than a 5% chance of losing more than half my hives, I need 26 hives to make that happen. With 26 hives, the chance of having more than 13 die is less than 5%. You can caculate any percentage you'd like though. With those 26 hives and a chance of loss at 36.7% for each hive, what's my percentage of losing at least 10 of those? 50%. You've got a 50% chance of losing 10 hives or more, because that includes the probability of losing 10, 11, 12, 13, 14....all the way to 26. If I lower the chance of loss to 29.5%, what's the chance of losing 10 hives or more? 21%. Now I only have a 21% chance of losing 10 hives or more. My point is I believe that every point you shave from the chance of loss makes a fairly large difference. It isn't just the difference of a fraction of a hive.

2. Join Date
Jun 2010
Location
Stillwell, KS
Posts
696

## Re: New beekeeper interested in chemical free treatment

Originally Posted by Deepsouth
When I started beekeeping 8 years ago a decided to do it treatment free. All my hives came from swarms that I caught. Last year 25 went into winter and 25 came out of winter and most were very strong. I know it is very possible to have healthy hives without treatments because im doing it and im by no means an expert. I don't know how people think bees cant survive without treatments because my area is loaded with feral colonies. I know of feral colonies that I have watched for over 8 years and their still living.
Cool.

We have lots of feral hives in my area also and I have built our apiaries up the exact same way. (hard drought here though and my overwintering losses this year are going to be close to 25%).

Libhart:
Re: Loaction, location, location

Joe Waggle keeps feral caught treatment free bees in your neck of the woods.

Don

3. Join Date
Apr 2010
Location
Lititz, PA, USA
Posts
903

## Re: New beekeeper interested in chemical free treatment

Oh I wish it was that simple

PA's a big state with lots of different regions. Mr. Waggle is over in Westmoreland Co. Did a little looking....17% agriculture, 50% forested, whole county is about 645K acres. Lancaster Co., which produces the most agriculture of any non-irrigated county in the entire country, is 67% agriculture, whole county is about 629K acres.

4. Join Date
Dec 2012
Location
Fort Walton Beach, Florida
Posts
1,253

## Re: New beekeeper interested in chemical free treatment

Originally Posted by jim lyon
In the case of varroa that may not necessarily be true. The really odd thing about their reproductive habits is that as long as their populations remain low they continue to inbreed. It isn't until the populations get high enough for a colony to collapse and be robbed out that cross breeding of varroa occurs to any extent. It seems entirely believable to me that the longer you control your mite numbers the less virulent varroa will become.
That's an interesting thought. Do you know of anyone who has treated and whose mites have become less virulent?

5. Join Date
Dec 2012
Location
Fort Walton Beach, Florida
Posts
1,253

## Re: New beekeeper interested in chemical free treatment

Originally Posted by libhart
You've got a 50% chance of losing 10 hives or more, because that includes the probability of losing 10, 11, 12, 13, 14....all the way to 26. If I lower the chance of loss to 29.5%, what's the chance of losing 10 hives or more? 21%. Now I only have a 21% chance of losing 10 hives or more. My point is I believe that every point you shave from the chance of loss makes a fairly large difference. It isn't just the difference of a fraction of a hive.
Are you taking into consideration the confidence interval they show? Are they not saying that 95% of their observations on the effect of non treatment fall between a loss rate of 34.9% and 38.5%? To slightly paraphrase one explanation: "If the true value of the parameter lies outside the 95% confidence interval once it has been calculated, then an event has occurred which had a probability of 5% (or less) of happening by chance." In other words, the chance of losing more than 4 hives, in my 10 hive scenario, is less than 5%, by chance.

I take a little comfort from the fact that treatment free beekeepers tend to be hobbyists and sideliners. I'm not saying we're dumber than the commercial guys, but we have a lot less experience. That may skew the percentages... a survey of treatment and treatment-free results from beekeepers of similar experience would be very interesting. There is a breakdown by "size of operation" and as you might expect, there is a marginal difference of 5 points between backyard and commercial operators. The folks who prepared the survey characterized this as "No significant difference," but if you were to integrate that difference with the 7 point difference between treating and not treating, you might end up with an insignificant difference, since as I mention above, they consider a 5 point marginal difference to be without significance. In their protocol a 5 point difference is "not significant" but a 6 point difference is.

Here's what I think. That 7 point marginal difference is probably significant to someone with a thousand hives, not so much to someone with a backyard apiary. But even so, it's the trends that concern me. I'm not aware of anyone treating who claims that their mite problems from year to year are declining. I am aware of folks who don't treat and who make that claim, and in Michael Bush's case, he has the inspection certificates to back the claim up.

It seems to me to be pretty obvious that putting an insecticide into a colony of insects is a desperate measure. (Yes, I know mites are not insects, but close enough for poisoning purposes.) This survey has been a great comfort to me, because to hear the oldtimers tell it, my chance of complete failure is 100%, if I don't treat.

In fact, every beekeeper and prospective beekeeper should be studying this survey, because many of the practices that are recommended turn out to have insignificant effects on the survival of colonies. Terramycin? Doesn't help. Feeding protein supplements? Doesn't help, Feeding carbohydrates? Doesn't help. Thymol, screened bottom boards, drone removal? Don't help.

However, small beetle traps do work, and I have those in my hives, because here in warm sandy Florida, they are a huge problem. I don't worry too much about beetles developing a resistance to drowning in oil.

Anyway, I feel as though I've learned a lot from this thread, and thanks to the OP!

6. Join Date
Sep 2011
Location
Corvallis, OR
Posts
223

## Re: New beekeeper interested in chemical free treatment

In fact, every beekeeper and prospective beekeeper should be studying this survey, because many of the practices that are recommended turn out to have insignificant effects on the survival of colonies. Terramycin? Doesn't help. Feeding protein supplements? Doesn't help, Feeding carbohydrates? Doesn't help. Thymol, screened bottom boards, drone removal? Don't help.
That's a valid conclusion only for prophylactic treatments like fumagilin and terramycin. I'm not convinced they do much good, and the survey bears that out. As for "reactive" treatments like protein patties, syrup feeding, and mite treatments (assuming the beekeeper is treating based on counts rather than prophylactically), "no difference" is to be expected even if the treatments are 100% essential. Carbohydrates (sugar syrup) are fed to light hives in fall until they have adequate winter stores. Presumably those who didn't feed left enough honey for the bees. No difference observed, but I'm sure the light hives would have perished at a much higher rate had they not been fed. Same goes for mites. Most of those not treating have been treatment-free for some time and have adopted mite-resistant genetics and management practices, so losses are not especially high. I'm willing to bet that if all those who reported treating had simply skipped the treatment, their losses would have been in the 50-60% range.

So...we have evidence that treatment-free is becoming a viable alternative to treating in terms of annual losses. But we can't take this as evidence that treatments don't work. Treatments work on bees that need them, just like feeding syrup improves winter survival of hives that are short on stores.

Mark

7. Join Date
Dec 2012
Location
Fort Walton Beach, Florida
Posts
1,253

## Re: New beekeeper interested in chemical free treatment

Originally Posted by Luterra
That's a valid conclusion only for prophylactic treatments like fumagilin and terramycin. I'm not convinced they do much good, and the survey bears that out. As for "reactive" treatments like protein patties, syrup feeding, and mite treatments (assuming the beekeeper is treating based on counts rather than prophylactically), "no difference" is to be expected even if the treatments are 100% essential. Carbohydrates (sugar syrup) are fed to light hives in fall until they have adequate winter stores. Presumably those who didn't feed left enough honey for the bees. No difference observed, but I'm sure the light hives would have perished at a much higher rate had they not been fed. Same goes for mites. Most of those not treating have been treatment-free for some time and have adopted mite-resistant genetics and management practices, so losses are not especially high. I'm willing to bet that if all those who reported treating had simply skipped the treatment, their losses would have been in the 50-60% range.

So...we have evidence that treatment-free is becoming a viable alternative to treating in terms of annual losses. But we can't take this as evidence that treatments don't work. Treatments work on bees that need them, just like feeding syrup improves winter survival of hives that are short on stores.

Mark
Good points. And history does bear this out; folks who decide to stop treatment often have higher losses than that.

I know of quite a few folks who feed pollen substitute and syrup routinely, not as a response to conditions. Michael Bush has some interesting material on this practice.

http://www.bushfarms.com/beesfeeding.htm

It would be very interesting to see a comparison of survival rates between those who leave adequate honey (and have a good enough season to do so) and those who have to feed syrup to get hives through the winter. It seems reasonable to assume the former would have better survival rates, but I'd be interested in numbers. There's a saying among some beekeepers that syrup is cheaper than honey, which I think can sometimes lead to taking too much honey and trying to get bees through the winter on fall-fed syrup. In general, I think it's safe to say that treatment free beekeepers are less likely to do this, as natural feeds are a part of the philosophy.

I know some Bond beekeepers refuse to feed, on the theory that having enough stores to overwinter in a particular location is a trait that can be selected for. I'm not that dedicated; I would feed rather than let a hive die because the conditions were so bad that even a great hive wouldn't have enough to get by.

8. Join Date
Jun 2010
Location
Calvert, Md,USA
Posts
1,704

## Re: New beekeeper interested in chemical free treatment

Originally Posted by rhaldridge
That's an interesting thought. Do you know of anyone who has treated and whose mites have become less virulent?
In the case of varroa that may not necessarily be true. The really odd thing about their reproductive habits is that as long as their populations remain low they continue to inbreed. It isn't until the populations get high enough for a colony to collapse and be robbed out that cross breeding of varroa occurs to any extent. It seems entirely believable to me that the longer you control your mite numbers the less virulent varroa will become.

My memory is terrible anymore. I seem to remember a study done that suggested (?) it is uncommon for an organism to parasitize it's host to its own end. The idea being, once a certain population of, or mite load is reached, the mites "back off" to some degree. If the bees can tolerate/deal with that level, they survive. A homeostasis of sorts is reached. If treatments/manipulations are done that reduce the mite populations, it triggers a "population explosion" of sorts. Pheromone based. Maybe someone will remember this study and can comment further. I thought it interesting and along the lines of the above quote. Really interesting and informative thread. I get lost in the numbers game but I get the just of it. Thanks
Rick

9. Join Date
Feb 2006
Location
Herrick, SD USA
Posts
6,294

## Re: New beekeeper interested in chemical free treatment

Originally Posted by rhaldridge
That's an interesting thought. Do you know of anyone who has treated and whose mites have become less virulent?
I am not aware of any research either proving or disproving this. Its really just a hypothesis based on what we know about how varroa reproduce.

10. Join Date
Dec 2012
Location
Fort Walton Beach, Florida
Posts
1,253

## Re: New beekeeper interested in chemical free treatment

Originally Posted by jim lyon
I am not aware of any research either proving or disproving this. Its really just a hypothesis based on what we know about how varroa reproduce.
Well, rats. I was hoping you knew someone who treated and who had declining mite problems (not just as a temporary result of the treatment.) The theory seems plausible to me, but I guess the proof is in the pudding.

Jim, maybe you can answer a question. Do the majority of commercial beekeepers do mite counts and treat when the mites reach a certain threshold, or is it more common to take a prophylactic approach and just treat all hives on a schedule?

11. Join Date
Feb 2006
Location
Herrick, SD USA
Posts
6,294

## Re: New beekeeper interested in chemical free treatment

Originally Posted by rhaldridge
Well, rats. I was hoping you knew someone who treated and who had declining mite problems (not just as a temporary result of the treatment.) The theory seems plausible to me, but I guess the proof is in the pudding.

Jim, maybe you can answer a question. Do the majority of commercial beekeepers do mite counts and treat when the mites reach a certain threshold, or is it more common to take a prophylactic approach and just treat all hives on a schedule?
I can really only speak about what we do. Despite the fact that there are now treatments that can be used with a honey crop on (MAQS and Hopguard). I still feel, though, that realistically for honey producers there are only two safe and effective mite treatment windows, spring and fall. We make a determination on what to do with all the hives, it's just not realistic to do it any other way. We have never chosen not to treat in the fall as that is always when levels are at their highest. A thymol treatment when the last honey supers are removed in late August through September followed by an oxalic dribble in October is all it has taken in recent years. A simple brood break in the spring is the only thing resembling a treatment that has been required in the spring in recent years but we make the determination of whether to retreat with oxalic in the spring through mite counts on a sampling of the hives about 3 weeks after the queen has been removed. In recent years the answer has been no and I expect the same result this year.

12. Join Date
Apr 2013
Location
Spokane, Washington USA
Posts
21

## Re: New beekeeper interested in chemical free treatment

I remember years ago, my grandfather used to melt menthol cough drops and mix them into sugar syrup and candy boards. That worked for quite awhile just fine until the CCD started really happening and we had to amp up the medication. We didn't do much more than just the menthol at the time (also used some terramycin), and it worked. So I'd say it's worth giving a shot at least. Not that cough drops are necessarily "Natural" but I'm following the "Can put it in my mouth" guidelines.

13. Join Date
Dec 2008
Location
Menomonee Falls, Wis.
Posts
3,653

## Re: New beekeeper interested in chemical free treatment

I concur with Jim Lyons hypothesis in post 79, that keeping mite populations low encourages inbreeding. It works best when you do not have many neighbors with bees.

Crazy Roland

14. Join Date
Mar 2011
Location
Utica, NY
Posts
13,238

## Re: New beekeeper interested in chemical free treatment

Originally Posted by Roland
I concur with Jim Lyons hypothesis in post 79,
At what mite fall would you expect the cross breeding to occur?

15. Join Date
Feb 2006
Location
Herrick, SD USA
Posts
6,294

## Re: New beekeeper interested in chemical free treatment

Originally Posted by Acebird
At what mite fall would you expect the cross breeding to occur?
That's a good question Brian. It would seem to have to be a pretty high concentration, though, to get to the point where more than one female is vying for a single larvae.

16. Join Date
Mar 2011
Location
Utica, NY
Posts
13,238

## Re: New beekeeper interested in chemical free treatment

Originally Posted by jim lyon
to get to the point where more than one female is vying for a single larvae.
Isn't there always more than one female vying for a single larvae? The first egg is male and everything after that is female.
OK maybe now I get it. You are talking about multiple adults going into a cell which would produce multiple males in a cell. So I suppose you could cull some drones to see if they have multiple adults without youngens.

17. ## Re: New beekeeper interested in chemical free treatment

> but of the beekeepers I know, the only ones with healthy bees treat

Odd. I have the opposite experience.

18. Join Date
Apr 2013
Location
Hogansville, Georgia, USA
Posts
5

## Re: New beekeeper interested in chemical free treatment

I'm new and very interested in the answers. My bees also arrive in late April. Good luck to you and may we both survive our first year ;-).

#### Posting Permissions

• You may not post new threads
• You may not post replies
• You may not post attachments
• You may not edit your posts
•