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  1. #21
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
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    Denver, Colorado
    Posts
    5,033

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Cub View Post
    #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?
    I don't know how long it will take. Keep at it though, if that's your goal. It depends on how you do it and local conditions. I wouldn't worry so much about 'checkerboarding' so much, just add two or so frames of foundation in the middle of the brood nest each spring and work the larger stuff out and up.


    Quote Originally Posted by Cub View Post
    #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?
    Not necessarily. Georgia bees might have problems wintering but you won't know until it happens. From my own experience, I can say that Georgia bees don't winter well if you get temps down below 10 degrees. That's what I happened to me.


    Quote Originally Posted by Cub View Post
    #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.)
    A queen in a hive like that will start laying eggs when the cells are about half depth or so. If there is much comb of that depth, she will have already begun to lay. Probably.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  2. #22
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Clover, WV
    Posts
    151

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

    Thanks for the quick answers. I have a couple more!

    #1 All of my top bars are 1 3/8" wide. Right now they have 8 bars accessible because of the follower board. When I insert new bars (that is what I meant earlier, rather than 'checkerboarding) in the brood nest, would inserting 1 1/4" bars help with the regression? Or should I stick with the 1 3/8" size?

    #2 This past weekend, we noticed some German black bees AMM on a very old apple tree blooming. They were extremely small, compared to the Italians that came in the package. I have decided there will be no resting until I find this hive and capture them for my apiary. If/when I can hive them, should I start them out on 1 1/4" bars, 1 3/8" bars, or would you advise putting them in a foundationless Lang? I have both available and in the need of some bees to occupy them.

    Also, it gets down to 10 degrees and lower on a regular basis where the hives are.

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

  3. #23
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Location
    Denver, Colorado
    Posts
    5,033

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

    1.) It might, I can't say for sure, that's out of my area of expertise. I'm currently debating if I should continue with the narrow frame paradigm. Michael Bush definitely promotes the idea that narrower frames help with regression.

    2.) I'm not one who advises going completely foundationless. I have no problem with people who want to do that, but it's just not utilitarian enough for me. I don't have enough time for the extra vigilance those sorts of things take. Personally, I suggest small cell because it's *more natural* than other larger cell size options available. It's not natural, it's not magic, it's just better. Again, I'm currently debating the utility of the narrow frames.

    I am interested about these AMM bees, it's always interesting to hear about things like that.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  4. #24
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
    Posts
    1,973

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

    I've done some experimenting with some of these things.

    I've been using narrow brood frames, and I find that it makes it much harder to do inspections. The tight spacing makes it hard to remove frames without rolling bees. So I find I tend to only remove what I have to. Maybe that's a good thing, but I have now begun to cut down the top bars as well, hoping that will make things easier.

    I use 8 frame boxes, so I like the fact that I have room for 9. This allows me to split the boxes and make twin 4 frame nuc boxes. Some of what I'm working toward is in keeping with Mike Palmer's nuc-based approach. So the narrow frames allow me to make the same set-up in an 8-frame deep that he's making in a 10 frame deep.

    I have used some foundationless frames, some starter strips and some 5.1mm foundation. I like foundation, but I think foundation strips is a good mid-point approach, as it gets things going straight, but still allows the bees to create natural cells beyond that.

    A full box of foundationless gets messy...

    Adam

  5. #25
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    Belmont, NH, USA
    Posts
    23

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

    Solomon,

    Brand new at this and have really had my eyes opened after having found this TF forum and learning about this philosophy of beekeeping. I have decided that I want to start out being treatment free and learning as much as I can from the experience. They are coming from Rossman and my inquiry to them regarding treatment was as follows:

    We treat early Spring and late Fall with, Apivar for varroa, Tylan for foul brood, Fumagilin-B for Nosema and Honey-B-Healthy for a stimulant. Also we treat with apple cider vinegar and vegetable oil for small hive beetle.

    Knowing what I know now, I would likely not be picking up package bees on Sunday, but would have sought out other local resources in my area for TF bees. Nonetheless, the treated bees are on their way and I intend on learning everything I can.

    I am starting out with a 2 deep hive. It has wooden frames with Rite-cell foundation. I have been considering removing the foundation and using popsicle sticks wedged into the top of the frames for a comb guide.
    I am planning on feeding with sugar syrup to start using the Ziploc bag method. I will enclose the bag in an empty deep hive until combs are drawn out.

    Prior to all this information I have been learning re: TF I was planning on starting them using all the “standard” techniques to include all the treatment regimens, etc.

    I am now somewhat questioning myself and am looking for some feedback as to my attempt to begin being a TF beekeeper with package bees vs. going traditional and seeking out new sources of bees next spring.

    Thanks in advance,

    Scott

  6. #26
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Location
    Denver, Colorado
    Posts
    5,033

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

    Scott, you're not the first to have to approach this question in this way! Unfortunately, it is still the case that many people don't know that treatment free is even an option. It is unfortunate but true.

    Okay, there is some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that you're starting a marathon with a missing foot. The good news is that there is a small chance you can grow that foot back. Somebody is going to hate me for that one. If you want to go totally treatment free, you're going to have to accept that this particular method of starting (treated package) is probably going to hiccup. This package will more likely than not die this winter. I just want to tell you that right at the beginning because that's about the worst it can get. Still more good news, you can get a lot of value from this endeavor, even if it does die. Number one, you get experience, valuable experience. Number two, you have a hive, and it will have drawn comb which will be pretty well protected due to your climate and ready for next year. Three, you have the opportunity to be more prepared for next year, to do things like catch swarms, find better sources of bees, and not make the mistakes you'll make this year.

    Until then, don't treat. Most treatments will leave residues in your comb and especially with foul brood, actually increase the chances of an outbreak in the future.

    Now, maybe you're more ambitious. Maybe you'd like to expand now, split, try to catch a swarm. Then you need to move fast, need more equipment, more research, splitting, feeding, brood breaks, give yourself more chances for the upcoming winter.

    So the question is, where do you want to go from here?
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  7. #27
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Baker Oregon
    Posts
    2,367

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

    One additional comment is that if you can find a source of local queens, you could introduce local genetics to you colony and increase your chances of surviving the winter.
    Dan Hayden 4 Years. 9 hives. Tx Free. USDA Zone 5b.

  8. #28
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Clover, WV
    Posts
    151

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

    Quote Originally Posted by nhbuckeye View Post
    Solomon,

    Brand new at this and have really had my eyes opened after having found this TF forum and learning about this philosophy of beekeeping. I have decided that I want to start out being treatment free and learning as much as I can from the experience. They are coming from Rossman and my inquiry to them regarding treatment was as follows:

    We treat early Spring and late Fall with, Apivar for varroa, Tylan for foul brood, Fumagilin-B for Nosema and Honey-B-Healthy for a stimulant. Also we treat with apple cider vinegar and vegetable oil for small hive beetle.

    Knowing what I know now, I would likely not be picking up package bees on Sunday, but would have sought out other local resources in my area for TF bees. Nonetheless, the treated bees are on their way and I intend on learning everything I can.

    I am starting out with a 2 deep hive. It has wooden frames with Rite-cell foundation. I have been considering removing the foundation and using popsicle sticks wedged into the top of the frames for a comb guide.
    I am planning on feeding with sugar syrup to start using the Ziploc bag method. I will enclose the bag in an empty deep hive until combs are drawn out.

    Prior to all this information I have been learning re: TF I was planning on starting them using all the “standard” techniques to include all the treatment regimens, etc.

    I am now somewhat questioning myself and am looking for some feedback as to my attempt to begin being a TF beekeeper with package bees vs. going traditional and seeking out new sources of bees next spring.

    Thanks in advance,

    Scott
    My situation is exactly the same, although I knew from the start local bees were better. I just didn't want to have nothing, if the bee trees or swarms didn't pan out and have to wait til next year to start up.
    John Sampson-Tucker County, WV
    14 hives - All cutouts and swarms

  9. #29
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    Belmont, NH, USA
    Posts
    23

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

    Now, maybe you're more ambitious. Maybe you'd like to expand now, split, try to catch a swarm. Then you need to move fast, need more equipment, more research, splitting, feeding, brood breaks, give yourself more chances for the upcoming winter.

    So the question is, where do you want to go from here?
    Yes, I like the way your are challenging my thinking. Thank you for your entire reply. I am feeling even more optimistic about this endeavor now. I will keep in touch. Off to do more research and pondering.

    Scott

  10. #30
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    Belmont, NH, USA
    Posts
    23

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

    Rio, Thanks. That is something that I had given some thought to and will start reaching out to some of the locals and find out what they are doing.

  11. #31
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    Belmont, NH, USA
    Posts
    23

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

    John,

    It is a good feeling to know I am not alone. Thanks. I have read many of your posts and am following your experience as well.

  12. #32
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Location
    Denver, Colorado
    Posts
    5,033

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

    Yes, I'm sorry, I should have mentioned the possibility of requeening. Thanks Dan.

    Even then, I'd recommend splitting and putting the new queen with the split. Anything you can do to decrease the chances of losing everything at once. You want something to be able to split from next year. It's looking like 30% of all kept hives in the country were lost last year, probably 40% of untreated ones. So that means, in a single winter, you'd have a 40% chance of losing a single hive, but only a 16% chance of losing both if I'm doing my math correctly.

    In comparison, long term treatment-free beekeepers lose far fewer. I know a beekeeper (well known former state inspector etc. etc.) who averages less than 8%. And I personally lost less than 5%. But getting off the ground is rough, and you're pretty far north which doesn't make things easier, especially starting with storebought packages, most of which come from the south.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  13. #33
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand
    Posts
    5,727

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

    One thing I'm constantly hearing, but does not make sense to me, is that if you start with a commercial package you are likely to lose it.

    So I'd like opinions from several experienced TF beeks. If the package was requeened with a queen from say, Solomon, in time for all the bees to be replaced before winter, is it still more likely that hive would die, than if the package had come from a TF source.

    And if so, why?
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  14. #34
    Join Date
    Dec 1999
    Location
    DuPage County, Illinois USA
    Posts
    9,327

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

    I don't buy into it that much either. I've used packages over the years. I will be getting one in a few days for a friend that will be TF. First goal is to get the PF120's drawn out. The particular bees are lower on my list of importance.
    Regards, Barry

  15. #35
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Location
    Denver, Colorado
    Posts
    5,033

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

    I'm as usual simply reporting my experience. And in my experience, SOUTHERN commercial packages do pretty poorly. They are not adapted to the weather conditions, and they have very little if any disease resistance.

    Even SOUTHERN treatment-free nucs do pretty poorly. I bought six of them from 2008 to 2010. Only two survived their first winter (both likely swarmed). The other four died with no signs of disease, sizeable clusters, early in the winter, with hives well stocked with honey. They're all dead as of last summer.

    If you look at the pictures on my blog and website, you'll notice a nice Brushy Mountain 8-frame setup at the back of my home yard. It has one of those really expensive copper roof garden hive lids. It was given to me after it was stocked with a SOUTHERN commercial package (5 lbs. even) two years ago. It didn't last six months, knocked off at the first sign of winter.

    Is there some connection to cell size? I think so, but I don't rely on it as evidence because as evidence it is not widely accepted. What I see pretty consistently (in other words, virtually every beekeeper I know except the one who catches a lot of swarms) is that SOUTHERN commercial packages are not a good way to start if one wishes to go treatment free.

    One of the strangest arguments I see is "if you go treatment free, you're bees are going to die" but the same person will then post something like "but it's not the fault of the package." I don't see that, and the data doesn't show me that. I see SOUTHERN packages of my friends and neighbors dying, and I've had SOUTHERN treatment-free small cell nucs die for me. When I did start with packages, they were from less than 300 miles away from a climate very similar to my own. And they had a relatively low loss rate (~20%) considering they went from treated to treatment-free. But when I moved them to a climate with a much colder winter (in other words, I moved north climate wise), I experienced losses.

    If someone wants to explain this data alternately, I am as always ready to explore new theories, but until then this is my experience and this is the message I will continue to deliver. Local bees survive better, treatment or no. Southern packages are a poor choice. That is my case.

    And I am all for PF-120s, I just bought another 210 of them. However, scientifically, I cannot make any comparisons as I have kept only one standard cell size hive (5.2mm) since I've kept bees. It's dead by the way, but I can't be intellectually honest and draw conclusions from single data points.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  16. #36
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Garland, Bladen County, NC, USA
    Posts
    2,917

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

    I have wondered what percentage of Southern Bee packages are actually Southern bees. When the almond pollination is over, many pollinators head straight for GA where they sell massive excess bees which would no doubt swarm soon. And those bees could come from anywhere..... so I wonder...
    “Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you have travelled.” - The Quran

  17. #37
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Clover, WV
    Posts
    151

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Oldtimer View Post
    One thing I'm constantly hearing, but does not make sense to me, is that if you start with a commercial package you are likely to lose it.

    So I'd like opinions from several experienced TF beeks. If the package was requeened with a queen from say, Solomon, in time for all the bees to be replaced before winter, is it still more likely that hive would die, than if the package had come from a TF source.

    And if so, why?
    Oldtimer,

    I am not saying that my package is doomed for failure or anything of the sort, but am being realistic about the chances of survival. Especially compared to the local feral stock that I am seeking. The climate that the bees are living in has a much harsher winter than what is typical for most of WV, and the elevation is near 3,000'. The bees I purchased came from the south and from an elevation of around 100'. They have also lived through many generations of bees that have a strict treatment regimen in place. The only thing they are getting from me is sugar syrup and, hopefully, regression back to natural size.

    Nature has a way of making it somehow, but the gamblers odds on these bees as compared to ones I can find myself in the woods are much smaller.

    By the way, I am coming to your 'hood in the fall for a vacation!
    John Sampson-Tucker County, WV
    14 hives - All cutouts and swarms

  18. #38
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Baker Oregon
    Posts
    2,367

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

    I have had similar experience with southern queens. This last winter I lost 7/8 of my colonies, 5 were headed by supposed resistant queens. It was their second winter and all crashed, most likely due to weakness from mites. This year I am requeening most of my packages and nucs with northern queens, and will raise a couple for nucs that I will try to overwinter.
    Personally I do not think it makes much difference where the package comes from if you re-queen early enough. However I am years away from what I would call experienced, as I have only been doing this for a few years.
    Dan Hayden 4 Years. 9 hives. Tx Free. USDA Zone 5b.

  19. #39
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    jackson county, alabama, usa
    Posts
    4,277

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

    cub's in west virginia, which is relatively south, will have its unique ebbs and flows relative to other parts of the country.

    i don't think it's a southern/northern thing, it's about being 'locally adapted' ya'll.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  20. #40
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Cookeville, TN, USA
    Posts
    3,915

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

    If you hive a package onto pf-120s and remove any Misbuilt comb - so that all subsequent brood cycles are raised in 4.9 comb - at what point are they "small cell bees?"

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