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  1. #1
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    Default Treatment Free "Thriving" vs. Treated "Thriving" - Is it Fair to Compare?

    I've been comparing my treatment free progress with a good friend and fellow beekeeper who treats.

    I was pretty discouraged this spring when his bees were "boiling out of their boxes" in May, while mine were struggling. Recently, I got to thinking about pollen sub, and feeding and whatnot. I've typically tried to feed only when the bees were short - and not short due to my harvesting. The feeding of pollen sub seems to be just a standard procedure for people who use it. A spring "boost". I fed a little of it myself this spring, as the bees were in rough shape and getting no help from the weather.

    All of that amounts to "assisted living" of one degree or another.

    But I wonder if it's fair for me to compare my bees with those of my friend. Is it fair to ever expect bees to "boil out of their boxes" with no treatments, and minimal feeding? Is that state of "thriving" an "unnatural one", like the production of the modern dairy cow? Is the modern standard of "healthy colonies" for those treated and regularly fed unrealistic for those who are not?

    Do feral bees get as strong and produce as much as fed and treated bees?

    Are we comparing apples to apples? Or is the minimalist/treatment free bee a different animal?

    Adam

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    Default Re: Treatment Free "Thriving" vs. Treated "Thriving" - Is it Fair to Compare?

    I would think it would also depend on strain/race. The darker strains that overwinter in smaller clusters are less likely to be "boiling out" in May, but could make up for that with rapid build up. I think its tough to compare without somehow trying equalize quality/quantity of forage, amount of store left at the end of winter etc. Maybe the only good way is compare yields per colony and overwintering success over several seasons.
    Adam - Zone 5A
    www.adamshoney.com

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Treatment Free "Thriving" vs. Treated "Thriving" - Is it Fair to Compare?

    What zhiv says. How many frames of bees did he overwinter with compared to yours? Hives that overwinter strong get going quick. Feeding sub will help if you have the bees to raise the brood.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Treatment Free "Thriving" vs. Treated "Thriving" - Is it Fair to Compare?

    As far as the feral bees go, I've caught some very strong colonies but I've also caught week ones. I think there's too many variables to compare. All I know is what I've seen as a result of treating some of my hives. Most of the hives I've treated last summer are all thriving and have produced a good crop of honey. Most of the hives I didn't treat are long gone.
    President, San Francisco Beekeepers Association
    www.habitatforhoneybees.org

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Treatment Free "Thriving" vs. Treated "Thriving" - Is it Fair to Compare?

    I think it depends on you, and your goals... I have not seen wild hives boil with bees like well managed hives. there are a few super colonies out there, but by and large the treecutouts I get are not usualy much more than a real good single.
    But back to my thought.
    Its up to you, if you want to keep bees and sell a few Like Soloman Parker, treatment free and such, or like many here make sure you feed them honey all winter. More power to you... But if your after honey production and makeing money on them (I would refer to as husbandry) then you feed up BEFORE the flows to maximize, you let weak colonies die, or split them up, and you feed sugars in the fall when you take resources......

    Neither is wrong, but you can't compare the two on any real level. yes you can get some hives that will without any intervention keep up, and boil out. several here would swear its done constantly... but if you listen real close and study what these guys are doing, there discounting the dinks. splitting them up.. leaving them out of the big picture counts. the tell you about the ten fantastic 6 story hives, but don't mention the 20 that are struggling in singles...

    Me, I try to balance the two, i TRY not to treat. but I don't consider a pollen patty or feed as treating. Last year into the drought, I had well over half my hives that had to have a mite treatment.. first time ever.......Working real hard not to need that again...
    so as I mentioned... its up to you. some untreated hives will match, but as an average, they will lag behind the nectar flows, not in front of them.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Treatment Free "Thriving" vs. Treated "Thriving" - Is it Fair to Compare?

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    I've been comparing my treatment free progress with a good friend and fellow beekeeper who treats.

    I was pretty discouraged this spring when his bees were "boiling out of their boxes" in May, while mine were struggling. Recently, I got to thinking about pollen sub, and feeding and whatnot. I've typically tried to feed only when the bees were short - and not short due to my harvesting. The feeding of pollen sub seems to be just a standard procedure for people who use it. A spring "boost". I fed a little of it myself this spring, as the bees were in rough shape and getting no help from the weather.

    All of that amounts to "assisted living" of one degree or another.

    But I wonder if it's fair for me to compare my bees with those of my friend. Is it fair to ever expect bees to "boil out of their boxes" with no treatments, and minimal feeding? Is that state of "thriving" an "unnatural one", like the production of the modern dairy cow? Is the modern standard of "healthy colonies" for those treated and regularly fed unrealistic for those who are not?

    Do feral bees get as strong and produce as much as fed and treated bees?

    Are we comparing apples to apples? Or is the minimalist/treatment free bee a different animal?

    Adam
    I think it's the ultimate comparison, and you have someone nearby that you can physically lay eyes on. Nothing subjective, nothing lost in translation, nothing overstated. I really appreciate your honesty. Unless you simply don’t care what the difference is. I do. Primarily on bee mortality. I don’t raise bees to kill them. I’m not really in the money making business, but I would like my bees to break even for me on the money side. Comparing how many gallons of honey each hive produces is interesting and I want to know, but how many hives survive and how many hives you can grow into, by comparison, is very important information. Please keep up your thoughtful and interesting posts!

  7. #7

    Default Re: Treatment Free "Thriving" vs. Treated "Thriving" - Is it Fair to Compare?

    It would be hard, in my opinion, to compare your bees to someone else’s. Way too many variables.
    Now….if you had two yards of your own, from a shared gene pool and knew exactly which care methods were applied to each yard, you’d be a lot closer to making a fair comparison.
    Dan www.boogerhillbee.com
    Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Treatment Free "Thriving" vs. Treated "Thriving" - Is it Fair to Compare?

    Quote Originally Posted by beemandan View Post
    It would be hard, in my opinion, to compare your bees to someone else’s. Way too many variables.
    ...
    Sure, I get that. But I think one tends to compare to some degree no matter what. It's kind of how you test your theories and approaches vs. others. And I think that's fine if your practices are similar. And that's the thrust of what I'm after. I think you do compare, and that some degree of comparison is helpful - even necessary - to really understanding how you're doing.

    But I'm just wondering if "thriving" and what "thriving" looks like is going to be the same for bees who aren't given as much "help".

    It reminds me of when I started, and the way I evaluated a "good" queen. When you're a beginner, a "good queen" is basically one that is in there, alive and laying eggs. So right from the start, I figured I had "good queens", because that's what they were doing, and the bees were gentle, and there wasn't too many drones, and all was well.

    But I'll never forget the first time I pulled a brood frame from a really prolific, strong egg-laying-machine-type queen. I was blown away. I couldn't believe there was so much capped brood on one frame. And in that instant, my understanding of "good" totally shifted. I had a new frame of reference to measure things by. And over time, that frame of reference continues to deepen. Now I think of how she reacts to changes in the environment, how much food they consume in winter, etc. "Good" means something different as you learn more about the total picture.

    So I'm wondering if measuring my ideas of what a "thriving colony" is, should be measured against treatment free examples - and if a thriving treatment free might look different from a thriving treated colony. Does a deeper understanding of the total picture of working with bees without treatments make "thriving" look different?

    I'm wondering if there is a place for a more specific sharing of info between treatment free beekeepers - creating a "bar" or "Standard" that is in line with a set of practices...

    y'know?

    Adam

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Treatment Free "Thriving" vs. Treated "Thriving" - Is it Fair to Compare?

    As to what is the natural size, the majority of wild hives I've seen are something around the size of one deep, some even smaller.

    However bees are versatile, and give them a bigger box, they are quite capable of using it. A hive could be "big", ie, several boxes boiling with bees and this is still quite within what is natural to them.

    To the other matter, in theory anyway, it is not reasonable to expect a non treated hive to do as well as a treated one. This is simply because an untreated hive has only these options. Die, struggle against mites and survive but barely, or deal with the mites and do well. But in a treated hive, dealing with the mites is taken care of, the bees do not have to expend energy on it, those resources can be spent on other things.

    Of course the argument will come up that some treated hives die of mites anyway etc. But for our purposes we are talking about a hive where treatment is carried out effectively.

    Each mite in a hive represents one bee that was raised with a mite family sucking on it through it's pupation. The bee, at a quick glance, may seem normal. But the research is that it will function poorly and die young. That is a cost to the hive, whether we notice it or not.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Treatment Free "Thriving" vs. Treated "Thriving" - Is it Fair to Compare?

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    But I'll never forget the first time I pulled a brood frame from a really prolific, strong egg-laying-machine-type queen. I was blown away. I couldn't believe there was so much capped brood on one frame. And in that instant, my understanding of "good" totally shifted.
    Amen, I had the same experience (unless I just upgraded to mediocre from poor)
    Dan Hayden 4 Years. 9 hives. Tx Free. USDA Zone 5b.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Treatment Free "Thriving" vs. Treated "Thriving" - Is it Fair to Compare?

    Rio- This years bees are better?
    Politics is the entertainment branch of industry. -Frank Zappa

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Treatment Free "Thriving" vs. Treated "Thriving" - Is it Fair to Compare?

    Quote Originally Posted by Oldtimer View Post
    ...give them a bigger box, they are quite capable of using it. A hive could be "big", ie, several boxes boiling with bees and this is still quite within what is natural to them...
    Sure enough. I agree with that, and there is no getting around the fact that "keeping bees" usually means some human interference with what is "natural". It could mean hive locations relative to the ground, number of colonies in close proximity to each other, added ventilation for hives during hot weather, or simply adding or subtracting boxes to accommodate a growing or shrinking colony size. All of these things are "artificial", or man-made alterations, and are therefore not "natural" to the life of the bee. So it's always a question of degree when it comes to beekeeping in relation to what is natural. Varying degrees away from what they would be/do on their own. True.

    So I guess I'm asking about comparisons between operations of similar degrees; similar amounts and kinds of alterations from natural. Treatment free is fewer degrees from natural than treating. And I'm not saying there's a "goodness" or "rightness" in "natural" either. I'm not judging here, just making the observation and noting it for what it is.

    Quote Originally Posted by Oldtimer View Post
    ...in theory anyway, it is not reasonable to expect a non treated hive to do as well as a treated one. ...
    That is also what I suspect, and is the impetus for the thread. If it is not reasonable to expect a non-treated hive to do as "well" as a treated one, then is it reasonable to measure the success of not treating next to treating after you've made the commitment to not treating?

    There's the catch. Because if you're trying to decide between treating or not, then you have to compare what the two models are likely to offer. You simply have to compare the two approaches, and their likely outcomes in order to choose. There's no getting around that.

    But once you do choose, and you choose to go without treatments, is there any point in comparing the two anymore beyond second-guessing your choice not to treat?

    I ask, because I'm thinking that at that point - the point of being committed - you perhaps have entered into a different paradigm. You're in a different world where the cycles and markers and tasks are different. At that point, I wonder if comparing to a treated model only serves to confuse your feedback.

    I go back to the model of the dairy cow.

    I've got a cow without any hormone treatments, no artificial food; eating grass from the meadow and getting milked by hand. Can I really compare its "success level" to a typical "big operation" dairy cow, who's getting hormones, antibiotics a different variety of foods and milked by machine? Unless it's to compare in an effort to decide which one I want to take part in somehow? The first cow is likely going to produce way less, but if I've chosen to go that route, then I've accepted a different paradigm, and a different set of standards to what "successful" means. Again, I'm not saying one is "right" or "wrong" but they are distinctly different in terms of operations and outcomes.

    Is that true of the treatment free approach to bees, or is that generally accepted in the conversations surrounding treatment free beekeeping here and in other discussion forums? I don't think it is. From what I'm seeing, the treatment free approach is constantly compared pretty directly to the treated. And I think it's because most of the discussion is focused on why one should choose one or the other. So the two are pitted head-to-head, and the reasons against generally amount to a list of ways the treatment free approach will not allow a person to get the same results, or meet the same standards for "thriving" that exists within that of the treated world.

    Consider this passage from Kirk Webster's article, entitled "A Beekeeping Diary #3: Early Spring—Unpacking and Evaluating Colonies " He writes:

    "I’m afraid that even after what I would consider good results over winter, many beekeepers would not be very impressed if they came here in early April. There seem to be way too many empty spaces, and the clusters are very small. But now I know better than to spend any energy being discouraged—even if my losses are near 50%. "

    I think this is a very telling passage, from a very successful treatment-free beekeeper. To me, when I first read it, it helped me realize that keeping bees treatment free is its own world, with different standards - to a point. You still need to make your numbers to run a business or make it worth your while to do the work. But in getting there, the road can be quite different.

    The standards are unique to the method, and that means - once you've made the choice and committed to a method, you really only need to compare with others using similar methods - if you're going to compare at all.

    I wonder if too many of us are spending more time defending the approach while trying make it match a standard it's not really capable of.

    It's like top bar hive users spending time arguing with people who are challenging the use of them, because they can't do what a langstroth does. If you're in the process of choosing a hive type to use, then great; that discussion is useful in weighing your options.

    But once you've chosen and are committed to using the top bar hive, then you've got a different set of things to think about, and a different set of standards to measure "success." At that point, the continuing dialogue about comparing the top bar to the lang is a waste of time, and often leads to tension between people that just aren't looking for the same things anyway. By default they cannot - and will not ever agree. They're in two paradigms; comparing apples to oranges.

    I'm wondering how long it's going to take before the conversation norm within the treatment-free dialogue has nothing to do with treating, and no longer spends so much of the time defending the choice itself.

    And focuses more time and creative energy truly comparing apples to apples...

    Adam
    Last edited by Adam Foster Collins; 08-13-2013 at 04:48 PM.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Treatment Free "Thriving" vs. Treated "Thriving" - Is it Fair to Compare?

    Agree good post.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Treatment Free "Thriving" vs. Treated "Thriving" - Is it Fair to Compare?

    adam, i wonder if a three deep set up would give you a bigger winter cluster and faster build up in the spring?
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

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    Default Re: Treatment Free "Thriving" vs. Treated "Thriving" - Is it Fair to Compare?

    Quote Originally Posted by squarepeg View Post
    a three deep set up
    With all the discussion about this, I've decided to go from 3 to 4 mediums.
    Politics is the entertainment branch of industry. -Frank Zappa

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Treatment Free "Thriving" vs. Treated "Thriving" - Is it Fair to Compare?

    Who knows?

    I'm working on wintering nucs, so that's an effort to find the smaller end of the envelope. I have one colony on three deeps now, so I could work toward going into winter with that one and see how it does.

    Overall, my present effort is on as many colonies as I can manage on as little gear as possible. The 3Deep approach is a "maxi-gear" model. I am also an urban beekeeper, so storage and workshop space is at a premium...

    Adam

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Treatment Free "Thriving" vs. Treated "Thriving" - Is it Fair to Compare?

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    All of that amounts to "assisted living" of one degree or another.
    Yes, and that assisted living has effects and consequences, as you're noticing.


    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    Is it fair to ever expect bees to "boil out of their boxes" with no treatments, and minimal feeding?
    If your bees are accustomed to boiling out at the correct time of the year, then yes, but I have rarely seen any feral or wild sort of bee boiling out in May, which for me is late spring, but for you is probably early spring. When bees don't have the unnatural benefit of feeds and treatments, they winter smaller, they are more efficient, in short, they do what it takes to survive and boiling out before the time comes is a huge gamble and can easily result in starvation if things don't pan out. That's not a good survival strategy.


    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    Is that state of "thriving" an "unnatural one", like the production of the modern dairy cow?
    I haven't noticed any cows thriving lately either (I live next to a small time cow farmer and former dairyman). What I see is calves dying pretty regularly, diseases that need constant treatment, and that far corner of the field where he drags the carcasses to be cleaned by the vultures.


    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    Is the modern standard of "healthy colonies" for those treated and regularly fed unrealistic for those who are not?
    The modern standard of health has precious little to do with health and much more to do with "what the bees look like right now." What the bees look like right now is really irrelevant in the overall scheme of things. The right question is, will they survive, produce honey, and be gentle enough to enjoy working with? I don't care what they look like right now.


    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    Do feral bees get as strong and produce as much as fed and treated bees?
    No.


    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    Are we comparing apples to apples? Or is the minimalist/treatment free bee a different animal?
    Well, that depends, it's an animal that doesn't collapse if left alone. It's an animal that survives without inputs. It's an animal living in an environment much closer to that of a tree or hole in the ground with fewer chemicals in the comb, and it's an animal that dies like all animals do, not being expected to live forever, and not being allowed to become fit for its conditions.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Treatment Free "Thriving" vs. Treated "Thriving" - Is it Fair to Compare?

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    Who knows?

    I'm working on wintering nucs, so that's an effort to find the smaller end of the envelope. I have one colony on three deeps now, so I could work toward going into winter with that one and see how it does.

    Overall, my present effort is on as many colonies as I can manage on as little gear as possible. The 3Deep approach is a "maxi-gear" model. I am also an urban beekeeper, so storage and workshop space is at a premium...

    Adam
    understood adam. given those parameters and the fact that you are in the far north i think you have some ambitious goals. if you are able to achieve them you will have really done something worthwhile, i wish you success!
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Treatment Free "Thriving" vs. Treated "Thriving" - Is it Fair to Compare?

    An awful lot of the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of feeding syrup or pollen to stimulate brood production is, depends on locality.

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

    In my locality it often backfires. I can feed syrup and pollen early IF the weather cooperates and IF we don't get a late hard freeze, I could have hives boiling with bees by the 1st of May. The problem is they will swarm by the 7th of May and my flow isn't for another month.

    On the other hand IF the weather does not cooperate enough that they can even take the syrup because it never warms up enough, it doesn't make much difference.

    And then the other possibility is that it gets warm enough, you stimulate all that brood production and a late hard freeze locks them on that brood and they starve without moving off of it.

    So the end result, in my locality is that it seldom works out well. I either end up with swarming a month before the flow, no change, or they die stuck on brood.

    This may or may not be the case in some other climate, but I prefer bees in tune with my climate who know when to build up and hit the main flow.

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

    I think it's significant how many of the great beekeepers of the past tried stimulative feeding and concluded it was a bad idea.

    "The reader will by now have drawn the conclusion that stimulative feeding, apart from getting the foundations drawn out in the brood chamber, plays no part in our scheme of bee-keeping. This is in fact so." --Beekeeping at Buckfast Abbey, Brother Adam

    "Very many, at the present time, seem to think that brood rearing can be made to forge ahead much faster by feeding the bees a teacupful of thin sweet every day than by any other method; but from many experiments along this line during the past thirty years I can only think this a mistaken idea, based on theory rather than on a practical solution of the matter by taking a certain number of colonies in the same apiary, feeding half of them while the other half are left "rich" in stores, as above, but without feeding and then comparing "notes" regarding each half, thus determining which is the better to go into the honey harvest...results show that the "millions of honey at our house" plan followed by what is to come hereafter, will outstrip any of the heretofore known stimulating plans by far in the race for bees in time for the harvest." --A Year's work in an Out Apiary, G.M. Doolittle.

    "Probably the single most important step in management for achieving colony strength, and one most neglected by beekeepers, is to make sure the hives are heavy with stores in the fall, so that they emerge from overwintering already strong early in the spring" --The How-To-Do-It book of Beekeeping, Richard Taylor

    "The feeding of bees for stimulating brood-rearing in early spring is now looked upon by many as of doubtful value. Especially is this true in the Northern States, where weeks of warm weather are often followed by 'Freeze up.' The average beekeeper in the average locality will find it more satisfactory to feed liberally in the fall-- enough, at least so that there shall be sufficient stores until harvest. If the hives are well protected, and the bees well supplied with an abundance of sealed stores, natural brood rearing will proceed with sufficient rapidity, early in the spring without any artificial stimulus. The only time that spring feeding is advisable is where there is a dearth of nectar after the early spring flow and before the coming of the main harvest." --W.Z. Hutchinson, Advanced Bee Culture

    "While it is often advocated that stimulative feeding be resorted to early, in order to build the colonies up to a sufficient strength, the author inclines to the belief that colonies in two stories will build up just as rapidly if there is an abundance of sealed honey in the hive, as is possible with stimulative feeding. Sometimes it seems that uncapping a portion of the honey has a stimulating effect, but feeding in small quantities, for the purpose of stimulating the bees to greater activity, rarely seems necessary..."--Frank Pellett, Practical Queen Rearing
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Treatment Free "Thriving" vs. Treated "Thriving" - Is it Fair to Compare?

    Michael, do you use the same thought process for pollen patties??

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