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  1. #1
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    Mar 2013
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    eolia, lincoln county, mo.
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    Default New beekeeper seeking some info on treatment free

    have just started looking into treatment free. my understanding so far is that we want the bees to develop their own natural defenses againt disease and perisite. am I oon track sp far? If my hives would develop a varroa infestation just let it work itself out? any input is appreciated.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
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    Baker Oregon
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    2,490

    Default Re: New beekeeper seeking some info on treatment free

    I will try to answer this for you. Basically you are correct, you want to have bees that will tolerate, and produce, with disease and pests. However you are unlikely to find tolerant bees in the general population. I would start by trying to find treatment free genetics that are locally adapted, but that can be difficult or impossible. You can always try to capture swarms or do bee removals, but it is a gamble that you will get survivor bees since it is possible or likely that they are straight out of someone else's hive. As a second option I would find treatment free bees from a climate that is as close to yours as possible.

    Once you find the bees you want, start with multiple hives and I would say the more the better. I would suggest going small cell or foundationless, I do not know if it helps, but I doubt it hurts and may help. Prepare for failure, I have lost 7/8 this winter (my third), but perhaps you will be more fortunate. Raising your own queens is likely to be very beneficial as is unitizing over winter nucs to make up for losses.

    This is in addition to a base of solid beekeeping knowledge, experiences and practices. I hope that helps.
    Dan
    Last edited by RiodeLobo; 04-03-2013 at 02:28 PM. Reason: Last line's intention was unclear.
    Dan Hayden 4 Years. 12 hives. Tx Free. USDA Zone 5b.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Walker, Alabama, USA
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    945

    Default Re: New beekeeper seeking some info on treatment free

    If my hives would develop a varroa infestation just let it work itself out? any input is appreciated.
    What we discovered when varroa first hit is that our standard strains had absolutely no resistance against them. Here in Alabama we went from a high of 19000 to below 8000 and are currently at about 9000 hives. So if you do nothing to help nonresistant strains, you get a lot of dead bees. USDA has introduced several resistant strains since then and beeks have looked for and found survivors from the original disaster, and now we are building stronger colonies from these strains. So take advantage of all the work that has already been done plus save yourself a lot of time and grief by starting with known resistance. If you haven't already done so, do read Michael Bush's website (and books) at www.bushfarms.com/bees.htm for a lot of good information.

    HTH

    Rusty
    Rusty Hills Farm -- home of AQHA A Rusty Zipper & Rusty's Bees ( LC and T)

  4. #4
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    Mar 2013
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    eolia, lincoln county, mo.
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    Default Re: New beekeeper seeking some info on treatment free

    Thanks Dan appreciate the time and expertise. My bees will be in Sat. will have 2 hives. They are Minn. hygenics. Will continue to read and probably will be back for more guidance. Also have noted some feral bees (black in color) and may try to find their hive. Thanks again Jeff

  5. #5
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    Mar 2013
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    eolia, lincoln county, mo.
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    Default Re: New beekeeper seeking some info on treatment free

    Rusty thanks for your help. I'm sure it won't be easy but I want to try and improve on the health of the bees. Jeff

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Red bluff, CA USA
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    33

    Default Re: New beekeeper seeking some info on treatment free

    Quote Originally Posted by jeffnmo View Post
    I'm sure it won't be easy but I want to try and improve on the health of the bees. Jeff
    me too! I'm getting my first nuc on monday and have decided to try treatment free, all natural, and foundationless. I too am worried about the mite problem, but I have been looking into companion planting for my bees. what I have found so far is that mites don't like Mint, Thyme, Lavendar and Rosemary. I'm going out to the bee yard tomorrow to build an "herb mound" with the bee's water source on top about 25 ft from the hive! mt thinking is that the bees will love their garden and have to go throughit for water, and the mites will hate having to do this!! I hope it works, although i'm getting Carnies that are already mite resistant, I am still taking prcautions. I also read that the Trachea mite doesn't like having to breath mentol which naturally occures in mint, so my hope is that it will reduce my chances of those little suckers as well!

  7. #7
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    Mar 2013
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    eolia, lincoln county, mo.
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    Default Re: New beekeeper seeking some info on treatment free

    thanks for the food for thought Moonfire. Be interesting to see if any of the experienced folks have tried this or a similar method. Good luck to you. think i may give it a try.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Dexter, Missouri USA
    Posts
    96

    Default Re: New beekeeper seeking some info on treatment free

    Definitely seek out treatment free genetics. You need a good foundation to build on, otherwise your efforts will likely be fruitless. The key is in genetic based behaviors, not foundation less, or small cell foundation. Both will not effectively control mite populations. Small cell foundation will be a passing fad. Foundationless is cheaper, and perfect for uncontaminated cut comb honey. I don't like them for brood boxes though. Not enough support for rigorous inspections, grafting, or centrifugal force extraction.
    Last edited by Whitetail; 04-07-2013 at 11:30 AM. Reason: Correction

  9. #9
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    Mar 2013
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    eolia, lincoln county, mo.
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    Default Re: New beekeeper seeking some info on treatment free

    thanks whitetail all help and advise appreciated.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Campbell, Wyoming USA
    Posts
    438

    Default Re: New beekeeper seeking some info on treatment free

    Research. Especially suggestions you plan on implementing. There are a lot of very knowledgeable people with a lot of experience on beesource; however, that's a double edged sword. There's a lot of people on beesource with really, really good intentions that offer advice based on something they heard or think sounds good but present it as, 'well what we've always done...'. There's a difference between something that sounds good in theory and something that works in practice. If you come across a piece of advice that seems controversial, there's a reason for it. No one disputes the fact that genetic resistance to disease is a corner stone in the keeping of treatment free bees; however, bring up something that many people disagree on and it's easy to get lost and frustrated.
    We the willing have done so much with so little for so long we can now do anything with nothing

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    Oakland, California, USA
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    15

    Default Re: New beekeeper seeking some info on treatment free

    Hi Jeff,
    My spouse and I are in our third year of beekeeping in the San Fransisco bay area where the bees raise brood all winter long. The first winter we lost one of two colonies, and dusted almost daily with powder sugar from the beginning of Dec to the end of Jan to, we believed, keep the mite population down.
    Since then we concluded that those bees were either hygienic, or had a grooming trait or both. We took five colonies into last winter. We didn't use either powder sugar dusting or any other treatment/medication to suppress mites. Since last September I counted over 26,000 mites on the counting boards of the five hives (all of which are still with us). We believe the bees were raiding weak mite infested colonies and bringing back hitchhiker mites with them. Every day the bees dropped almost all of them through the screen bottom board. (hitchhiker theory supported by an email exchange with Eric Mussen).
    Serge Labesque gave the main talks at the 2012 beekeepers symposium in Sebastopol, on treatment free beekeeping. He said 'try to capture locally adapted swarms' and 'expect to loose colonies' as you try to achieve your goal of treatment free. He also said 'treating for mites selects for strong mite genetics, and allows weak bee genetics to persist.'

    The point of mentioning the hitchhikers is that to understand the level of "infestation," you have to understand what the bees are up to. The # of mites dropped/24hr indicated severely infested colonies, but the powder-sugar-roll showed that the infestation was actually less than 2% for bees sampled on frames with larva, the few times we did the test. (Randy Oliver has many useful things to say about assaying mite infestation)
    When forage improved in Feb., Mar., mite counts dropped off.
    Eric Mussen also suggested that we may 'have weak mite genetics in our area.'

    The above applies to our Italians; one swarm from a fellow beekeeper, two swarms possibly of feral origin.

    Consider keeping Russians because they have much higher natural resistance to pathogens (but they have a reputation for being cranky). There are several suppliers of Russian queens, and maybe packages too. Problematic inside city limits.

    When you do get your resistant stock, let them produce all the drone they want so they can spread strong traits in your neighborhood. I echo the comment about taking the trouble to do cutouts, swarm captures, and bait hives to procure strong local stock.

    I don't personally believe you win with small cell foundation because most of the mite reproduction goes on in drone pupa anyway. We don't use any foundation... just wax starter strips hanging down 1/4" from the top bar. The bees build brood comb to suit their own needs.

    We may just be extremely lucky to have resistant stock in our yard so soon after taking up beekeeping... or there are a lot of urban beekeepers treating/medicating their bees unnecessarily because they think they have an infestation when they don't.

    Good luck reaching your goal.
    Jerry

    ps. we can count mites daily because I'm retired now; I used to abuse electrons for a living.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    Milwaukee, WI, USA
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    92

    Default Re: New beekeeper seeking some info on treatment free

    This article helped make up my mind on small cell. I'm starting my first two hives this spring. One is going to be plastic foundation and the other will be foundationless. After listening to a lot of the discussion on these boards, I don't think you should be worried so much about how your foundation affects the health of your bees. The foundation choice sounds more like a matter of convenience for the beekeeper.

    http://www.beeculture.com/storycms/i...y&recordID=676

  13. #13
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    Mar 2013
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    eolia, lincoln county, mo.
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    Default Re: New beekeeper seeking some info on treatment free

    Jerry thanks foir the info. Am still on a bit of a high from installing my two packages on Sat.. I won't have the option of counting daily but plan to try to stay on top of it. At this point I'm going to watch the progress of each hive. If one stays strong into the fall and one starts dropping off I'll requeen as soon as possible on the weak hive. We have people in our area that are raising queens it's just a matter of talking to them and hopefully pick the right one. The reason I got the Minns. is at recommendation of my mentor but as he says put 10 beeks in a room and you get 20 opinions.
    For this year I'm using foundation for brood and supers and may adjust from there. Thanks again for your help and good luck to you both. Jeff

  14. #14
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    Mar 2013
    Location
    eolia, lincoln county, mo.
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    Default Re: New beekeeper seeking some info on treatment free

    Thanks Gus was an informative read. I agree the choice of foundation is for the beeks convenience.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    jackson county, alabama, usa
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    4,916

    Default Re: New beekeeper seeking some info on treatment free

    sounds like you are on the right track there jeff.

    increasing hives from your own bees is a good strategy because you have had the chance to see them in action.

    i would recommend having a plan in place as to what to do if you find a hive collapsing from mites. in my view there is no reason to burden your healthy hives with a sudden influx of mites brought home when they rob out the collapsing ones.

    to do this, you will have to come up with a method of taking mite counts. i like the alcohol wash method.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  16. #16
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    Mar 2013
    Location
    eolia, lincoln county, mo.
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    Default Re: New beekeeper seeking some info on treatment free

    You are correct SQ. as of yet I haven't come up with my count method. still trying to assimilate it all. haven't heard of the alcohol wash could you please explain? Stupid question next is powdered sugar considered a treatment? If I do have a hive begin to collapse do you have any suggestions?

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    Oakland, California, USA
    Posts
    15

    Default Re: New beekeeper seeking some info on treatment free

    Hi Jeff,

    Did you research Russians? Why didn't you choose Russians in the first place?

    Choice of foundation is more like religion. It can stimulate heated arguments.

    Install a hook on the back of your bottom boards.
    Purchase a digital "fish scale" or "luggage scale" from Amazon.
    (0.05 lb or better least count)
    Use the scale to lift the back of the hive. Record your measurement in your log, and track the progress of your bees. (Quite interesting for a newbie like me.)

    Powder sugar roll is a lot like alcohol wash, but doesn't kill any bees in the process.
    Whatever method you choose, be consistent so your measurements make sense.
    Cross correlation with other methods is almost non existent, IMO.

    An important point I made in my first post that seems to have been missed is that when you have mite resistant bees you'll count lots of mites under your screen bottom board every day, but you won't have a high rate of "infestation" when measured by direct sampling methods like sugar roll, or alcohol wash or counting the # of mite infested drone pupa in a sample of 100.

    Before 1988 when my dad kept bees he didn't have to worry about much of anything. The beekeeper who wants to keep resistant bees these days needs to study up on mite reproduction, and know a lot more about each hive.

    Jerry

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    eolia, lincoln county, mo.
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    Default Re: New beekeeper seeking some info on treatment free

    Jerry thanks for the reply and suggestions. I never thought of the scale idea I'm going to use that. Also I didn't miss your point in the first post I've heard that counting of drone cells is the one sure way to check mite levels. As far as the Russians I hadn't really looked into them and went more on the advise of a local beekeeper and the success he has had with the Minns.. Howerver you can bet I will be checking them out. If all goes well this next year with the 2 hives I plan on increasing to 4 by next year. What I'd like to do is capture a wild hive and introduce Russians or some other breed to start following genetics re: production resistance and attittude. Maybe after 4 hives I'll have picked up enough knowledge to begin raiseing my own queens and nucs. Thanks again Jerry

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