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  1. #1
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    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
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    Apr 2013
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    Marshall county, AL
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    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
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    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
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    Feb 2013
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    Lee,AL,USA
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    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
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    Feb 2013
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    southwest colorado
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    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
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    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
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    Dec 2002
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    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
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    Jul 2012
    Location
    Jackson, MO
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    581

    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
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    Jul 2012
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    proctorsville, vermont
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    152

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

    i want to be treatment free. i concider treatment free the non use of man made chemicals, the use of a natural product ok. i have heard some people say that dusting bees with suger is a treatment. what do you concider the line between treatment and non treatment ?
    thats the way i roll.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Ask a Treatment-Free Beekeeper a Question!

    My line (and this is not the line of the forum) is treatment. If you're doing something to 'help' the bees with disease, be it mites, bacteria, viruses, or fungi, it's a treatment and I don't use it. If you call it a treatment, it is a treatment. There are no "treatment-free treatments." That is a quote that appeared once in this forum.

    I use no substances of any kind. I use no special equipment like screened bottom boards or beetle traps. I use no manipulations like brood breaks or systematic splitting.

    I do use small cell foundation. However, that is in an attempt to return to a more natural cell size and to decrease human induced stress. You won't see me touting small cell foundation as the panacea solution to problems.

    In short, I keep bees like these problems don't exist. That's not to say I am ignorant about them, it is to say I ignore them. That is the bees' job.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  11. #11
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    Jan 2009
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    Cookeville, TN, USA
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    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?

  12. #12
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    Cookeville, TN, USA
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    Default Re: Ask a Treatment-Free Beekeeper a Question!

    Quote Originally Posted by Solomon Parker View Post
    My line (and this is not the line of the forum) is treatment. If you're doing something to 'help' the bees with disease, be it mites, bacteria, viruses, or fungi, it's a treatment and I don't use it. If you call it a treatment, it is a treatment. There are no "treatment-free treatments." That is a quote that appeared once in this forum.

    I use no substances of any kind. I use no special equipment like screened bottom boards or beetle traps. I use no manipulations like brood breaks or systematic splitting.

    I do use small cell foundation. However, that is in an attempt to return to a more natural cell size and to decrease human induced stress. You won't see me touting small cell foundation as the panacea solution to problems.

    In short, I keep bees like these problems don't exist. That's not to say I am ignorant about them, it is to say I ignore them. That is the bees' job.
    So, other than small cell and making increase from survivors what are your cultural practices? Do you produce any economically significant hive products? By that I mean does your bee keeping run in the black or the red - if in the red, do you foresee a time when that will change? Is it even a goal? Not trying to be difficult, just asking.

  13. #13
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    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

  14. #14
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    Dec 2012
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    Fort Walton Beach, Florida
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    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

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Ask a Treatment-Free Beekeeper a Question!

    Quote Originally Posted by David LaFerney View Post
    So, other than small cell and making increase from survivors what are your cultural practices?
    That's a pretty broad question. I do lots of things. I try to put new foundation in every hive every year. I insert frames, either drawn or foundation in the brood nest in the spring. I don't use smoke unless I perceive that the bees are not happy. I probably don't inspect as often as some people. I don't really inspect much at all from about the end of June until September. There's a dearth, the bees are mean, they keep a small (less than soccer ball size) broodnest and try not to starve to death. I use upper entrances on most hives.

    Should I use the Housel Positioning word?

    If you're looking for something more specific, I'd be happy to address it.


    Quote Originally Posted by David LaFerney View Post
    Do you produce any economically significant hive products? By that I mean does your bee keeping run in the black or the red - if in the red, do you foresee a time when that will change? Is it even a goal?
    I produce honey, wax, and nucs. Last year I made more than I spent. I plan on doing it again this year, but I'm also buying a bunch of stuff too because I'm moving into mediums, so it might be a wash. It is a goal. It's how I pay for equipment these days, and I also use it to fund my little renewable energy projects.


    Quote Originally Posted by David LaFerney View Post
    Not trying to be difficult, just asking.
    That's what I'm here for. If you were being difficult, I would not be so ready to answer.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  16. #16
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    Mar 2013
    Location
    Taylor County, Georgia, USA
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    713

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

    If I were to cut out a 5 year old feral, untreated hive, could I assume that the bees display some level of the VSH trait?
    Try it. What could happen?

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Ask a Treatment-Free Beekeeper a Question!

    JStinson, I feel that you could assume that they display some level of VSH trait, but don't assume that level is high. Tested ferals have shown wide variations in expression of the VSH trait. That's why I don't test for VSH nor rely upon it. There are numerous mechanisms by which bees are able to cope with varroa and I want them to figure it out without too much interference and unnecessary shallowing of the gene pool.

    I just started a thread yesterday where I opened the brood from a hive I was working on. This is a hive in which I have never seen the tell-tale signs of chewed out brood or anything like that. Yet, they live and they are doing pretty well. I had a hive in the past that was literally crawling with mites, yet it survived the winter and went on to be a moderately productive nuc in drawing comb. So these are a couple of reasons why I like to let the bees worry about it.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  18. #18
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    Jun 2012
    Location
    Spicewood, Texas, USA
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    232

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

    Dear Solomon:

    If a hive has a laying worker, will they automatically reject a new queen?

    Also, I can't find an answer anywhere to this: If a bee is injured, does the bee's body have the ability to heal itself? Is a dent or puncture to the chitin, for example, a death sentence?

    Sondra

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Ask a Treatment-Free Beekeeper a Question!

    Sondra,

    I wouldn't say they would automatically reject a new queen but there's a pretty good chance. Give them a frame or two of open brood to change the character of the pheromones in the hive. Michael Bush's solution for queen problems is adding a frame of open brood every week until the problem corrects itself.

    If there's enough force to dent hardened chitin, there's probably enough force to do significant permanent damage. For a worker, who cares, but you're probably asking about a queen. I'll relate this: Last year, I was checking to see if my queens had hatched in their nucs and I smooshed one enough to dent her abdomen. It did not kill her immediately, but she did not survive. She was still soft.

    Bees don't heal like we do. Most creatures with exoskeletons need to shed their skeleton to heal. Bees cannot shed. I would postulate that any significant amount of damage will result in death before long. I could be wrong, but that's my hypothesis.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Clover, WV
    Posts
    155

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

    Mr. Parker,

    I am brand new and have just installed a standard GA package into a top bar hive. In total, my apiary has a hex hive, 2 top bar hives, and 2 Langs. (check out my photo album in my profile if you want to see the setup) The other 4 hives should all get filled with feral local bees that I have arranged to remove or trap out.

    #1 - Since the GA package presumably came from 5.4 mm foundation, how long will it take for them to regress to ~4.9? Should I checkerboard the brood nest any this first year to allow them to regress more, or leave it alone until next year?

    #2 - My hives are in ski country WV, at around 2900' elevation. Am I accurate in assuming their chances of survival are low, regardless of my practices?

    #3 - My package is drawing comb like a machine, and have been in the hive for 1 week today. When should I expect to see eggs and brood? (I haven't really looked yet. The only thing done was to refill the feeder with syrup, and make sure the first couple of combs they started were straight and on the bars.)

    Thank you for offering you time and knowledge.

    John
    John Sampson-Tucker County, WV
    14 hives - All cutouts and swarms

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