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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Location
    Denver, Colorado
    Posts
    5,078

    Default Ask a Treatment-Free Beekeeper a Question!

    The last question thread did quite well, ten pages in 6 months! So I'm going to let that one sit in the archives and start a new one.

    Feel free to ask questions of a real treatment-free beekeeper. I have a very real desire to help people keep bees treatment-free. To that end, I want to give anybody who wants to know something an open line to ask. I want to be totally transparent and I will tell you just about anything you ask, as long as I have some actual experience on the subject.

    So ask. I am here for those with serious questions.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Marshall county, AL
    Posts
    792

    Default Re: Ask a Treatment-Free Beekeeper a Question!

    I would love to be treatment free, with man made chemicals at least.

    So how do you keep mites in check? What do you do about foul brood, and other diseases? These may have been discussed in your previous thread but I didn't know about it until I read this one.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Location
    Denver, Colorado
    Posts
    5,078

    Default Re: Ask a Treatment-Free Beekeeper a Question!

    Brad, the simple answer is that the bees keep the mites in check. There are a number of mechanisms by which this occurs. The main one is the VSH trait that is so often mentioned, however, survivor feral hives have broadly varying levels of the VSH trait, so there are obviously other traits and mechanisms involved. I do use small cell foundation which a number of people claim helps with mites, however it has been proven in one study and claimed to have been disproved in several others. However, none of those studies looked at the problem under real life conditions.

    Other diseases are treated in the same way except American Foul Brood. Should I find any AFB I'll burn the hive in which it is found. Treatments for AFB actually tend to guarantee its return due to killing competing organisms.

    I guess you could say the main overall method to compete with these thing is to expand as much as possible so that the disease cannot kill as many hives as are being newly created. I call this Expansion Model Beekeeping. I feel it is far more valuable a skill to know how to efficiently multiply than to be well versed in all the treatments, how and when to use them, the dangers, and etc., only to find them losing their effectiveness after a few years or never having any effectiveness to begin with as the case often is.

    But don't let me give you the idea that loads of hives are dying all the time. The Bee Informed National Survey has concluded that treated hives are lost at a rate of 3 in 10 per year while untreated hives are lost at a rate of 4 in 10. So it's not exactly a massacre every year. And in my experience, the effect is lessened in successive years.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Lee,AL,USA
    Posts
    83

    Default Re: Ask a Treatment-Free Beekeeper a Question!

    What do you feel is the fastest and best method to expand the number of hives?
    Last edited by pndwind; 05-04-2013 at 08:00 PM. Reason: ?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    southwest colorado
    Posts
    137

    Default Re: Ask a Treatment-Free Beekeeper a Question!

    Did you really mean to say " expand as much as possible" or did you mean as much as possible while still leaving the parent colony strong? Sorry if that is an obvious question to those of you who are more experienced but in my readings I seem to find a train of thought that says its strictly a numbers game and then differing thoughts about colony strength being more important than numbers . I guess in an ideal world we would strive for both.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Location
    Denver, Colorado
    Posts
    5,078

    Default Re: Ask a Treatment-Free Beekeeper a Question!

    Let me explain what I find the most efficient. I find grafting into queen cups, raising those cups in queenright cell builders, mating those queens in queen castles (using full size brood frames), and building those nucs up into larger hives, to be the most efficient.

    Now I won't say this is necessarily the fastest. There is a limit on the number of cells a queenright hive will raise at one time. I've gotten 17 twice. But it does allow you to use that hive for other things, for honey or a source of brood for mating nucs. So that's why I find it efficient. Other methods can produce much larger numbers of cells, but may cause a bit more disruption. But I doubt a smallholder beekeeper will have the equipment to expand that quickly, so I feel a number in the teens per batch is more than adequate.

    One qualifying factor is my location. I have a relatively short beekeeping season. Others have a much longer season, during which time one might use queen castles to produce walkaway splits using single frames of brood. Better or worse? I don't know. Beekeeping is local.

    Ultimately though, my message is don't be afraid of grafting. It is an efficient method of producing queens, and do the right thing with those queens and you have an efficient way to produce nucs and nucs become full sized colonies.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Location
    Denver, Colorado
    Posts
    5,078

    Default Re: Ask a Treatment-Free Beekeeper a Question!

    One other note: Keeping hives as nucs, even for a time, gives them fantastical abilities to draw comb and expand. I believe there is something that has to do with hive size and a drive for the bees to be ready for winter. But smaller hives are incredibly capable of expansion.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Jackson, MO
    Posts
    571

    Default Re: Ask a Treatment-Free Beekeeper a Question!

    Quote Originally Posted by Solomon Parker View Post
    One other note: Keeping hives as nucs, even for a time, gives them fantastical abilities to draw comb and expand. I believe there is something that has to do with hive size and a drive for the bees to be ready for winter. But smaller hives are incredibly capable of expansion.
    I am seeing that one already. I installed 2 nucs this spring, one in an 8 frame hive and the other in a 10 frame hive. The 8 frame is filled to capacity with 2 deeps now and the 10 frame is still trying to figure out what to do with the 10 frame box above it. Both nucs came from a supplier that primarily uses 5 frame hives to build his bees. He made mention that the majority of his hives were 5 frame equipment.

    My limited knowledge seems to tend toward smaller hives. It seems to encourage them to prosper.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Cookeville, TN, USA
    Posts
    3,994

    Default Re: Ask a Treatment-Free Beekeeper a Question!

    Quote Originally Posted by Solomon Parker View Post
    But don't let me give you the idea that loads of hives are dying all the time. The Bee Informed National Survey has concluded that treated hives are lost at a rate of 3 in 10 per year while untreated hives are lost at a rate of 4 in 10. So it's not exactly a massacre every year. And in my experience, the effect is lessened in successive years.
    Is there any data on that which weights for beekeeper experience?

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Location
    Denver, Colorado
    Posts
    5,078

    Default Re: Ask a Treatment-Free Beekeeper a Question!

    It may exist, but I have not seen it.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    Fort Walton Beach, Florida
    Posts
    1,256

    Default Re: Ask a Treatment-Free Beekeeper a Question!

    Quote Originally Posted by David LaFerney View Post
    Is there any data on that which weights for beekeeper experience?
    There is, if I recall correctly, though it is indirect. I think they have data for number of hives kept for those who treat and those who don't, and you might infer that more hives mean more experience. My impression is that treatment free beekeepers are in general less experienced than those who treat. It would be very interesting to compare treating with non-treating while controlling for experience. My suspicion is that winter losses might start to skew the other way.

    http://beeinformed.org/2012/03/bee-i...rvey-2010-2011

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