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  1. #1
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    Default Going Treatment Free - step 1

    Full disclosure - I'm not treatment free, but I applaud anyone and everyone who has established a successful treatment free apiary. Seriously I do.

    But, I would suspect that everyone who has done it would agree with a few principles:

    • Treatment free does not mean doing nothing and hoping for the best.
    • Treatment free requires at least as much understanding of bee keeping as any other philosophy - so educate yourself.
    • If you start out with a couple of generic packages from Georgia, and don't check and don't prepare for any contingencies you probably will not be successful as a treatment free bee keeper.
    • If you replace your dead outs with generic packages from Georgia every spring you probably won't ever become successful as a treatment free bee keeper.


    Maybe I am wrong about some of these - and I welcome constructive input. The reason I am even bringing it up is that I get quite a few contacts via our local bee keepers association from new bee keepers who of course want to be treatment free - of course they want that, who wouldn't? But they don't understand these basic points of the pursuit. That is on them of course, it should be obvious that everyone needs to educate themselves about their chosen path. But for some reason a common take away from the treatment free internet community is that all you have to do is not treat and all your dreams will come true.

    I just wish that all of the proponents would make it painfully true that at least at first - treatment free is not easy.

    Or am I wrong?

    Again - not hacking on the whole treatment free thing. I'll probably give it a go myself one day when I think I have achieved a sufficient state of Zen.

    I almost forgot - Step 1 to becoming a treatment free bee keeper - learn to be a bee keeper.
    Last edited by David LaFerney; 04-28-2013 at 10:49 AM.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Going Treatment Free - step 1

    So if you are not treatment free, how did you come to conclude this and the assumptions you have claimed. Curious.
    Best quotes I know of about this is,

    "People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."-George Bernard Shaw

    "Everything works if you let it" --Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick

    I thank Micheal Bush for these.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Going Treatment Free - step 1

    Quote Originally Posted by R Dewhurst View Post
    So if you are not treatment free, how did you come to conclude this and the assumptions you have claimed. Curious.
    Best quotes I know of about this is,

    "People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."-George Bernard Shaw

    "Everything works if you let it" --Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick

    I thank Micheal Bush for these.
    Didn't say it couldn't be done. I'm quite confident that it can, and is being done. Where did you get that idea?

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Going Treatment Free - step 1

    It just seemed that the original post was a bit turned negative toward it, may of just been a wrong perception, no stick poking intended.
    my thoughts on it are as follows,
    if bees are treated for mites, the chems used would weaken the bees a bit from exposure to the treatments. Then the honey and wax gets contaminated. Then keepers take the honey from them and feed back syrup. This is not their food, it is only leading to malnurishment, lacking natural components of honey. These two things together with mites that survive treatments that are stronger, there is no wonder hives crash. anything malnourished with a strong parasite is doomed. Am I the only one that thinks of/like this. So in essence, are keepers to blame for the deaths of their bees. Is greed the leading cause of bee losses? Please open discussion.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Going Treatment Free - step 1

    Quote Originally Posted by R Dewhurst View Post
    Is greed the leading cause of bee losses? Please open discussion.
    No actually please don't. Although some beekeepers do have a need to make a paycheck - if you call that greed. But That's not the point.

    The point is that somehow new bee keepers are getting the impression that they can buy some bees, throw them in boxes and as long as they don't treat them they will get stronger and stronger until they are going out to find mites to beat up on. And the "bee Keeper" doesn't have to do much of anything except think harmonious thoughts. Is THAT what YOU think?

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Going Treatment Free - step 1

    Quote Originally Posted by David LaFerney View Post
    Full disclosure - I'm not treatment free, but I applaud anyone and everyone who has established a successful treatment free apiary. Seriously I do.

    But, I would suspect that everyone who has done it would agree with a few principles:

    • Treatment free does not mean doing nothing and hoping for the best.
    • Treatment free requires at least as much understanding of bee keeping as any other philosophy - so educate yourself.
    • If you start out with a couple of generic packages from Georgia, and don't check and don't prepare for any contingencies you probably will not be successful as a treatment free bee keeper.
    • If you replace your dead outs with generic packages from Georgia every spring you probably won't ever become successful as a treatment free bee keeper.


    Maybe I am wrong about some of these - and I welcome constructive input.
    I think you're right about all of these.

    All the successful treatment free beekeepers I know of stress the importance of locally adapted bees. Most of them have various contingency plans to deal with uinexpectedly high losses, such as overwintering replacement nucs.

    But for some reason a common take away from the treatment free internet community is that all you have to do is not treat and all your dreams will come true.
    This I think you're wrong about. You might hear that from beginners infatuated with the idea of "natural" beekeeping, but not from anyone who has done it and achieved some consistent success.

    But what is true is that the only way to start keeping bees treatment free is to stop treating.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Going Treatment Free - step 1

    rhaldrige -

    "But for some reason a common take away from the treatment free internet community is that all you have to do is not treat and all your dreams will come true."

    This I think you're wrong about. You might hear that from beginners infatuated with the idea of ...

    You're right that didn't come out like I meant it - I meant that new bee keepers get that impression from what they read on the internet. I don't even mean that is what is being said by anyone who knows what they are doing - just that maybe it isn't as clear as it could be that treatment free is no more of a magic bullet than anything else. You still have to be a skilful beekeeper. Probably more so.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Going Treatment Free - step 1

    I can't say that my bees are completely, "treatment free". I use Bt to protect empty comb during storage. And I sometimes supplement the syrup I feed young nucs, with Copper gluconate. Otherwise I haven't used anything to "treat" my bees for mites or diseases - ever.

    I do believe there is merit in what you've said in your opening post. Knowing what to expect, and what to do in varying circumstances, to help the bees to succeed, can be the most important factor. Especially knowing the minimum input that will have the garner most positive output.

    Using absolutely nothing, but perhaps a little physical manipulation, may be quite possible, but would make beekeeping somewhat more challenging than I am comfortable with. For instance, if I did not feed sugar syrup or pollen sub, I would lose quite a few colonies, I know, because I have. And if I didn't use any Bt to protect idle combs, in storage, I may as well throw them away, because they'll be destroyed by wax moth larvae in a few weeks. I know, because I've watched it happen many times. Even Bt protected combs still suffer a little damage.

    I just finished cleaning up a 10-frame medium super that was filled with combs being stored. It was a box I forgot to spray with Bt, and though they were PF120 plastic frames that can be reused, despite the damage, there is almost no wax remaining, just a box, where frames and all were completely bound together with wax moth cocoons and webbing. That is the result of them sitting idle during this past Winter. So much for cold inhibiting wax moths.

    I dread the prospect of having to deal with SHB - may they never find the desert a comfortable place to live.
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Going Treatment Free - step 1

    Joseph, I believe that frames have to be frozen solid for several days to kill all wax moth eggs and larvae. If it becomes a problem for me, I plan to get a used chest freezer, which would be nice to have for other reasons.

    As to feeding: have you heard about Tim Ives? He's a treatment free beekeeper in northern Indiana who doesn't feed. He has very low winter losses, and his hives are really big. There's a video of him unwrapping a hive in March, and the bees are already boiling over. Here's one from April:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dXESkk7ZhXs

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Going Treatment Free - step 1

    good points made by all.

    i do think that it is 'alluring' for beginners want to go all 'natural'.

    i also think that most are overwhelmed by so much to absorb when first starting out that it's 'convenient' to disregard learning about diseases, pests, and treatment options.

    i think you are right david, that it's more challenging for a newbie to pull it off, especially if there is not someone successful at it who is willing to guide them step by step.

    common denominators of successful tf beekeeping seem to be:

    1. honey only diet
    2. resistant stock, locally adapted if possible
    3. capability of propagating these genetics and making increase to offset losses

    that's a tall order for a hobbiest in their first year especially if ordering packages from out of (any) state and putting them on new equipment.

    and there is the consideration that some locations are better than others regarding natural forage, clean water, drone availability, ect.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Going Treatment Free - step 1

    Quote Originally Posted by rhaldridge View Post
    As to feeding: have you heard about Tim Ives? He's a treatment free beekeeper in northern Indiana who doesn't feed. He has very low winter losses, and his hives are really big.
    That's actually a good example of what I am talking about. I've heard many new bee keepers say something like "I don't feed, because I read somewhere that feeding anything but honey is bad and it will only make them swarm." Well, that idea has a basis in truth I suppose, but the thing is those successful treatment free beekeepers that don't (usually) feed are already skilled beekeepers not novices. And I would assume that they have the ability to tell when not feeding is a good option and when it will only result in malnutrition - or slow growth. I fell for that one in my first season too - I was fortunate that I didn't lose my start. In My Humble opinion not feeding should be a thing to consider after you have a bit of experience under your belt - not when you get your first package. Moderate feeding maybe.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Going Treatment Free - step 1

    Quote Originally Posted by squarepeg View Post
    common denominators of successful tf beekeeping seem to be:

    1. honey only diet
    2. resistant stock, locally adapted if possible
    3. capability of propagating these genetics and making increase to offset losses
    I'm going to add one - very judicious honey harvesting. I'm under the impression that a lot of TF guys either leave a very large amt of honey or don't really treat it as a product at all.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Going Treatment Free - step 1

    I've heard many new bee keepers say something like "I don't feed, because I read somewhere that feeding anything but honey is bad and it will only make them swarm."
    I've heard this too and it makes me crazy. Consider: it's early spring and you put a package in a new hive with all new foundation or no foundation and then you don't feed them. What are they supposed to use to build comb and feed themselves in that totally empty hive?!?

    I'm all for not feeding WHEN they have comb and WHEN they have stores. But early spring often means spotty pollen and little to no nectar. What are they supposed to feed themselves with--air? They are all likely to be dead in 6 weeks, so what are they supposed to raise brood in and feed it with in those few short weeks they have to get this hive started if you give them nothing to start WITH?!?

    To me "not feeding" means that you don't steal all the honey from an established hive. You leave them stores and preferably more stores than you think they'll need. And pollen! Lots and lots of it. And you do this INSTEAD of stealing it all and giving them sugar water to live on all winter. But first you have to have an ESTABLISHED hive!!!

    Ditto with treatments. Poisoning them is not healthful. I do, however, find nothing wrong with trapping beetles or spraying Bt on stored combs. Nor do I expect some poor Italian package bees to be able to fend for themselves after spending generations being treated. You don't treat them and they WILL die. That's why USDA helped develop the resistant strains. No, they are not a bee-all, end-all solution, but they are certainly helpful in the battle.

    So, to me, it's a lot of little strategies all carefully orchestrated throughout the season. It's also experimenting to find even better solutions. It is NOT about "doing nothing" or being "all natural". Which is why I don't label myself as to what I am or what philosophy I follow. I just try to do whatever the bees show me they need.

    As always, JMO!


    Rusty

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Going Treatment Free - step 1

    Quote Originally Posted by David LaFerney View Post
    I'm going to add one - very judicious honey harvesting. I'm under the impression that a lot of TF guys either leave a very large amt of honey or don't really treat it as a product at all.
    exactly. and that may be at odds with someone getting into bees with the goal of harvesting (and maybe selling) honey.

    i am convinced that the bees have much stronger immunity against diseases and pests when they get all of their nutrition from natural forage. this is especially important while they are most vunerable to collapse over the winter months. plus it seems like a healthier scenario to allow the bees to brood up and brood break in response to the natural flows. for these reasons i haven't used syrup (except temporarily and in small amounts) for a couple of years. i share honey from the heavier hives with the lighter ones.

    i found that an overwintered five frame nuc can finish out and fill a ten frame deep and two mediums, and yield up to a medium of harvestable honey to boot, all on natural forage.

    that's mostly what i had last year. this year those colonies have a couple of mediums of comb, but still have to draw another one or two. it will be interesting to see how much i can harvest after leaving them enough to get through the summer dearth, and of course through winter.

    these are bees from a supplier on the al/ga state line who cut feral colonies out of the woods nearby sixteen years ago and has never used a treatment. i've decided to keep them off treatments and i'm going to try raising queens from them this year.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Going Treatment Free - step 1

    Quote Originally Posted by David LaFerney View Post
    That's actually a good example of what I am talking about. I've heard many new bee keepers say something like "I don't feed, because I read somewhere that feeding anything but honey is bad and it will only make them swarm." Well, that idea has a basis in truth I suppose, but the thing is those successful treatment free beekeepers that don't (usually) feed are already skilled beekeepers not novices. And I would assume that they have the ability to tell when not feeding is a good option and when it will only result in malnutrition - or slow growth. I fell for that one in my first season too - I was fortunate that I didn't lose my start. In My Humble opinion not feeding should be a thing to consider after you have a bit of experience under your belt - not when you get your first package. Moderate feeding maybe.
    There might be something to that, but Tim's method, as I understand it, is to have really big strong hives. He winters in 3 deeps, and has a lot of bees in the spring.

    My feeling is that you might be right about beginners. But if you're a smart beginner, you try to feed as little as possible, and you take your cue from what the bees do. My first nuc came from a local guy who routinely fed every hive he had. His nucs were no exceptions, he had to take a feeder lid off my nuc to sell it to me. So I fed for the first week or so, because I assumed the bees were used to getting fed, and might develop problems if cut off too abruptly. As soon as I was sure the nectar flow was well established (and I knew this from the fact that the bees took very little syrup) I removed the feeder. I did the same with the package I installed a couple weeks ago. There was no comb in the hive I put them in, and I wanted them to get off to a reasonable start so I fed for a couple weeks. Again, when they stopped taking any appreciable amount of syrup, I removed the feeder.

    Some treatment free keepers do not feed because they want bees that can survive without feeding. If the colony dies... well, they weren't well suited enough to that locale. But a beginner can't learn a lot about beekeeping if his bees are dead, so I was pragmatic. I hope not to have to feed again, because sugar syrup is not a natural foodstuff for bees, and I'm one who believes in taking care of the percentages when it comes to beekeeping. I don't think bees evolved to eat sugar water, so feeding them the stuff probably has a negative effect on hive health, perhaps in subtle ways... but it seems scientifically naive to think that sugar water is as good as honey.

    I don't think there are any silver bullets for treatment free beekeeping. There isn't one thing you can do to assure success. I'm a percenter. Bees can survive on sugar water... okay, but It probably isn't optimally healthy. There may only be small amounts of acaricides in foundation wax... but if there's a chance this could lead to lowered health, why not go foundationless? And so on... a lot of little stuff that adds up. I got one hive of local bees, and they're doing great. I got a package of small cell bees from Wolf Creek, and they're doing great. I think one characteristic of all successful treatment free beekeepers is a willingness to experiment, to not go with the flow, to examine conventional wisdom closely. Just because a hundred beekeepers tell you something, that doesn't make it so, if all they have for evidence is anecdotal experience. And I guess another necessary attribute is a thick skin, because if you continue to ask questions after these guys have told you The Way It Is, they'll start calling you names.

    Anyway, you're right. It's not simple. But nothing worthwhile and different is ever easy to do, or else everyone would be doing it.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Going Treatment Free - step 1

    rh, sounds like you're off to a good start. have you decided whether or not you'll be monitoring for mites?
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Going Treatment Free - step 1

    Quote Originally Posted by Joseph Clemens View Post
    I can't say that my bees are completely, "treatment free". I use Bt to protect empty comb during storage. And I sometimes supplement the syrup I feed young nucs, with Copper gluconate. Otherwise I haven't used anything to "treat" my bees for mites or diseases - ever.
    If you ever want to get away from BT you can do what I've been doing. Line a cardboard box (the one that your PF 125s came in is perfect) with a trash bag, and carefully stack your frames of comb in it as tight as possible. Here in the humid south I put in a bag of silica jel desiccant (some cat litter is 100% silica gel) close up the bag and the box. Put the whole thing in the freezer for a few days. When it comes out It will be completely safe until you open it as long as there isn't a hole in the bag. It sounds like it would tear up your comb, but it doesn't. With the desiccant you can even tolerate a little bit of honey or pollen residue without any mold issues.

    This is more work than leaving them in the supers in some ways, but it also frees up your boxes for painting or repair, or just stacking back out on the hive stands.

    What is the Copper gluconate for?

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Going Treatment Free - step 1

    Quote Originally Posted by squarepeg View Post
    rh, sounds like you're off to a good start. have you decided whether or not you'll be monitoring for mites?
    I won't. Since I don't intend to treat for varroa, I can't see the point. If I lose a hive due to mites, I'll be able to tell, no doubt. If I do, I'll have comb for next year, and the nucs I plan to make in the next couple of weeks will, I hope, provide replacement bees.

    Here's something I found interesting. In the week after installed the local nuc, I found 2 bees with DWV crawling around in front of the hive. Once the hive began to build up, I saw no more of these bees. Other folks had assured me that this is a precursor to disaster, and I was quite worried. But the hive is booming; I can't see how it could be doing any better. Out of curiosity, I've been looking at some of the dead bees hauled out of the hive under a little handheld microscope, and haven't seen any mites yet, though I'm sure they're present.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Going Treatment Free - step 1

    Copper gluconate for honey bees.

    Another link to copper gluconate information.
    Last edited by Joseph Clemens; 04-28-2013 at 07:59 PM. Reason: Adding an additional link
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Going Treatment Free - step 1

    Quote Originally Posted by David LaFerney View Post
    No actually please don't. Although some beekeepers do have a need to make a paycheck - if you call that greed. But That's not the point.

    The point is that somehow new bee keepers are getting the impression that they can buy some bees, throw them in boxes and as long as they don't treat them they will get stronger and stronger until they are going out to find mites to beat up on. And the "bee Keeper" doesn't have to do much of anything except think harmonious thoughts. Is THAT what YOU think?
    What I think is that all this discussion coming from someone who does not go treatment free I like a door greeter at wal mart trying to give advise to a person on selling cars. If bees have bee doing their thing for how many thousands of years without our help, why are we needed now. If we give them what they need to survive on, then if they do not, there may of been other unseen factors. And why not discuss the question? the human nature in the past has been that everything man has tried to "help" has usually failed. But I am not here to sway opinions or tell others what they should be doing as we all need to realize that bees are not and will not be domesticated. They are unpredictable and no one person can say what they will and will not do. I stand firm on if we give them what they need to survive, then they have the tools needed, and it is up to them to put those tools to work.

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