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  1. #61
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    Default Re: Leaving Them Alone

    I didn't do mite counts last fall. Shame on me. Fall before I did. Some DWV but counts were single digits. This was August. I tell this story a lot on this forum but it changed my bee keeping world. And,,,,it is the only one I have like it so far LOL That spring, I caught a swarm. Did well till late summer. Lots of DWV in front of the hive. Hive population was dwindling. Did an alcohol wash mite count. Stopped counting at forty. Man I was bummed. Majority advice was to just treat, or they would die. I thought about bagging them because I needed the resources for some of my other hives. A few advised to see what happens, you never know. Made it through the winter, exploded late spring and pretty sure they swarmed. They made a new queen at least as the swarm queen was marked. Slow on the spring build up this year but are doing fine.
    Whatever works for you and your bees and makes the hobby, in my case, enjoyable and worth it.
    Rick

  2. #62
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    Default Re: Leaving Them Alone

    i would never say 'shame on you'......

    and i agree with to each his/her own! cool story rick.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  3. #63
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    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand
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    Default Re: Leaving Them Alone

    Yes I had a case maybe 6 weeks ago, giving my small cell TF nucs a pre winter check plus feeding if need be. Mite wise, most were OK ish, 3 or 4 not. One was really bad, all brood dead from PMS, plenty sick bees with DWV, and bee cluster not much bigger than my fist.

    However in keeping with the bond method I didn't do anything for it. Hardly had any honey but I didn't feed it as I didn't want it to get robbed when it died.

    Went back to that yard a few days ago, and went to throw that nuc on the truck to take home to protect the comb from moths, but noticed a bee fly in. Opened it, amazing. all dead brood removed, and a healthy little patch of good brood being raised. All sickly and DWV bees gone, and the fistful of bees in the hive were acting healthy and happy. It's definitely going to make the winter, so I fed it.

    I've heard of this kind of thing happening to others, but just never thought it would happen to me, so glad I have seen this. The other varroa overun nucs though, well, they are dead, or so few bees there is no way they will make it.

    So. How to know with a sick hive, if they will be able to pull this survival trick? That is the million dollar question I would like to know.

    In any case, I'll be watching this nuc with interest next season. I am torn whether to breed from it. Yes, they survived being overrun by mites. But it's a slightly more aggressive bee, I could not sell such a bee.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  4. #64
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    Default Re: Leaving Them Alone

    very cool ot. so this is a one out of how many occurrence?
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  5. #65
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    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand
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    Default Re: Leaving Them Alone

    As a treater, I never let things get this bad so have never seen this. Since having some TF hives I have let them die, but that is what always has happened, they died, no last minute recovery.

    Of these nucs, there were 21, with 3 or 4 at critical mite levels and showing it. The worst, which I thought had no hope at all, has recovered, the other bad ones have died or will die (too few bees to have any chance now). I'm going to monitor them monthly through winter just to keep up with what's happening.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  6. #66
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    Default Re: Leaving Them Alone

    understood ot, but you've been operating your tf yard for some time now, so could you muster a guess as to how many colonies over that time you identified as critical that didn't make it compared to this one?

    i don't want be misunderstood, i think it's awesome that a colony can pull it out like that, and i agree it furthers natural adaptation. for my goals the bond method isn't practical because i am trying to be productive, although i'm happy that it is occuring in the nearby feral colonies that they might contribute those adaptations to my gene pool.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  7. #67
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    Default Re: Leaving Them Alone

    Understood. All other hives that have got to a bad point, have just continued on down hill and died. This is the only one to have recovered in this way.

    And I understand what you are saying about being productive. With the high losses I've had in the TF hives recently, which is a major cost, I have been wondering about scrapping the TF program altogether. there seemed no light at the end of the tunnel. But then this happened so I'll continue.

    But I'm not expanding TF hive numbers any more, so far they have hardly earned me a nickel. Not just due to deaths, but poor production. TF hive numbers can stay where they are, and I'll just see what happens.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  8. #68
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    Mar 2011
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    Utica, NY
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    Default Re: Leaving Them Alone

    Quote Originally Posted by Oldtimer View Post
    So. How to know with a sick hive, if they will be able to pull this survival trick? That is the million dollar question I would like to know.
    It is not a million dollar question, all you got to do is wait it out. The survivors will tell you. If you don't wait it out it will always be a guessing game.
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  9. #69

    Default Re: Leaving Them Alone

    I had a somewhat similar experience this week OT. Not a tf hive….but one of last year’s boomers. Checked in late March…end of winter here…..and there were only a handful of bees and a nonlaying queen. Not a quorum for a new queen, so I planned to shake them out in the yard. As the bed of the truck was already overflowing with stuff, I decided to shake them out on my next visit….which turned into several visits later. This week I arrived at the yard with room to spare, started disassembling the hive and discovered two frames of solid brood and a laying queen. Six weeks ago, if you had told me that this colony would recover….I’d have laughed. It was one of those eye opening….step back….and wonder…..how many of these have I shaken out in the past?
    Dan www.boogerhillbee.com
    Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards

  10. #70
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    Default Re: Leaving Them Alone

    Quote Originally Posted by Acebird View Post
    It is not a million dollar question, all you got to do is wait it out. The survivors will tell you. If you don't wait it out it will always be a guessing game.
    It's a million dollar question cos it would be worth a lot of money to know. If you are in bees as a business, you cannot wait it out, unless you want to go broke.

    I have only realised just how much being treatment free actually costs, since I've tried it. It's not so much about money spent, as about money you don't make. Which if bees are just a hobby, would pass unnoticed.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  11. #71
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    Default Re: Leaving Them Alone

    Good story Dan.

    Yup we've probably all done that a few times.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  12. #72
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    Default Re: Leaving Them Alone

    dan i know you know what you're doing but i have to ask,

    could it be that a swarm has taken over this hive?
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  13. #73
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    Jun 2010
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    Calvert, Md,USA
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    Default Re: Leaving Them Alone

    I actually had gotten a plastic trash bag in hand,,,,,,,and was headed out the door when I just changed my mind/ decided to let nature take it course. Last year early spring, I gave a queenless hive a frame of eggs from that 40 count hive. The queen seemed to do well but the bees superceded her. I took a QC and made a nuc. This was late June. Not a big nuc but some stores, pollen, capped brood to give them a fair shot.( (The parent hive did not survive winter. Ran out of stores. (another story)They expanded quickly from my experience. Instead of putting them in a ten frame, I just stacked another five frame deep on top. First part of september we were getting some fall flow so I put another five frame on. They really did well IMO. Over wintered like that. This spring, I moved them into a double eight frame deep. Not an impressive spring build up but a swarm in july ain't worth a fly. They are doing fine right now. She would be great grand daughter.
    Also, took that nuc to a different location before she emerged to mate with different drone pool
    Rick

  14. #74
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    Walker, Alabama, USA
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    943

    Default Re: Leaving Them Alone

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Y View Post
    Every time I read one of these "They do fine in nature" posts I think of the wild horses we have here. They do so well that they regularly have to round them up to thin the herds. they cannot be sold for $100 each. most of them cannot even be given away. The corrals they are kept in have grown from 2 to 12 in the past 10 years alone. and that is at just one adoption center. Last year on my way to one of my fields I passed over 45 horses standing on the side of the road. close enough I could have reached out and touched them. People will not even go to the effort to try and catch them. They are like weeds. no one wants them. That is pretty much how I see feral hives.

    Horses are something I actually know about, as you can see from my signature. And what everyone seems to be missing in this argument about "natural" vs "managed" is that feral horses have, according to the BLM, an average lifespan of 10-15 years. I can tell you from long-term copious personal experience that domestic horses have an average lifespan of 25-35 years and some breeds live into their 40s. So which would you rather be--the romanticized "wild" horse dead at 10 or the comfortable, cared-for domestic who lives well into his 30s?

    Now my experience with bees is not so in-depth, but I have read that the average feral hive manages to live 2-3 seasons. I have personally had hives that were continuously occupied by the same descendents for 10 years until a hurricane got them. So which hive would you rather be a part of--the feral one or the one where a beekeeper actually works to help you survive? Maybe his efforts aren't as successful as they could be, but they do seem to offer more longevity than the feral girls get being all on their own.

    Fact is once I've dumped my bugs into their box, I feel a moral obligation to them. I feel responsible for their well-being. I feel a duty to do the best by them that I know how to do. Maybe my best isn't going to help them at all, but I feel obliged to try.

    JMO


    Rusty

    edited to add that the other thing that bothers me about the whole "leave them alone" thing is that many of the problems bees are currently dealing with are problems we humans created, such as pesticides, mite problems, SHB, poor forage. Yes, I did say we are responsible for mite/SHB problems. After all, how did we get these problems? WE imported them and now the bees have to live with our mistakes. All of this is why I feel obliged to try to do something about the mess we humans created for the bees instead of just shrugging my shoulders and saying, "Oh just let them be bees and live naturally." That's what they were able to do BEFORE we made the mess. Now I think we owe it to them to clean up that mess, either through treatment or by breeding bees that can handle mites. Personally, I opt for the 2nd option and that is what I am trying to do in my own small way. Maybe someday they actually WILL be able to go back to living naturally IF we do our part.

    As always, JMO!
    Last edited by Rusty Hills Farm; 05-19-2013 at 09:15 PM.
    Rusty Hills Farm -- home of AQHA A Rusty Zipper & Rusty's Bees ( LC and T)

  15. #75

    Default Re: Leaving Them Alone

    Quote Originally Posted by squarepeg View Post
    dan i know you know what you're doing but i have to ask,

    could it be that a swarm has taken over this hive?
    Never...not for a single moment...EVER....believe that I know what I'm doing.
    It crossed my mind. Such a thing surely happened to one of its neighbors last year. A queenless hive, overrun with hive beetles. I was so po'd that I dropped the cover back on and stormed away. Came back two weeks later to clean up the mess....and the hive was FULL of bees and brood...and not a beetle to be found. I couldn't conjure up any other explanation.
    But....this year's hive....if it was a swarm that moved in....it was a small one. Could it be? Yep. Do I think so? Nope.
    Dan www.boogerhillbee.com
    Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards

  16. #76
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    Default Re: Leaving Them Alone

    Quote Originally Posted by Rusty Hills Farm View Post
    All of this is why I feel obliged to try to do something about the mess we humans created for the bees instead of just shrugging my shoulders and saying, "Oh just let them be bees and live naturally." That's what they were able to do BEFORE we made the mess. Now I think we owe it to them to clean up that mess, either through treatment or by breeding bees that can handle mites. Personally, I opt for the 2nd option...
    Me too. I have a feeling that many of the treatments people try are actually making the problems worse. We've been in a long spiral of problems, and every solution seems to carry within it the seeds of the next problem.

    I look at this from the perspective of an organic gardener. Folks who are skeptical and not well-informed about that philosophy tend to think it's all about just not spraying for bugs, or using slightly less destructive pesticides. Or using cow manure instead of ammonium nitrate. But that's not the essence of the method. That essence is the idea that you feed the soil instead of the plant, make that soil healthy and alive, avoid damaging its microbial life, and the plants you grow in that soil will be able to withstand pests and diseases. It actually does work. It works even in the case of imported pests and diseases which devastate gardens in which the health of the soil is not the focus.

    I think that the same philosophy could be usefully applied to the hive, which like the soil in a garden is an entire ecosystem of interdependent life forms. Treatments, in my view, are like bludgeons that takes out much more than the stuff you want to kill.

    I suppose that if someone could offer me a plausible example of a treatment which permanently eliminated a parasite or a disease from beedom, I might take a different view. But it seems to me that the only longterm solutions have involved better bees (tracheal mites, for example.)

    Bees are a kind of livestock with a very high reproductive rate. It makes sense to me that they will just have to evolve resistance to these pests, and I think there's evidence that they can.

    They've been on the earth for millions of years, and it seems impossible that they have not met and triumphed over formidable challenges many times in the past. I fear that our efforts to help them may be making it harder for them to meet the most recent challenges they've faced.

  17. #77
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    Default Re: Leaving Them Alone

    Bees are a kind of livestock with a very high reproductive rate. It makes sense to me that they will just have to evolve resistance to these pests, and I think there's evidence that they can.
    I know that they can, but where is it written that we can't help the process along a bit? What is so terrible about trying to breed a bee that can withstand the ills they are now facing? Why are we supposed to sit on our hands and do nothing and just wait for them to "evolve" or "survive"? We've got pretty good brains and I sincerely believe we can think our way through our current problems and find helpful solutions.

    They've been on the earth for millions of years, and it seems impossible that they have not met and triumphed over formidable challenges many times in the past. I fear that our efforts to help them may be making it harder for them to meet the most recent challenges they've faced.
    Yes, they have. But this time most of their problems are of our making, which is why I feel strongly that sitting on our hands is not an option this time.

    I like your organic slant on this. But as an organic gardener, personally I look for varieties that have resistance to pests so that I'll still get a crop even though I don't spray. Good soil does do a lot but so does breeding in some resistance!

    JMO


    Rusty
    Rusty Hills Farm -- home of AQHA A Rusty Zipper & Rusty's Bees ( LC and T)

  18. #78
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    Default Re: Leaving Them Alone

    Quote Originally Posted by Rusty Hills Farm View Post
    I know that they can, but where is it written that we can't help the process along a bit? What is so terrible about trying to breed a bee that can withstand the ills they are now facing? Why are we supposed to sit on our hands and do nothing and just wait for them to "evolve" or "survive"?
    I would never advocate doing nothing. I think we should all be breeding for varroa resistance. But treatment is a hindrance to that process, in my opinion, in several ways. Treatment props up weak genetics, for example. If you treat, how do you know whether a certain line of bees is surviving because it is resistant? It might be surviving because you treated. Another way that treatment hinders the process is that it damages the hive's interior ecology-- some of the beneficial organisms die right along with the mites. You might have a line of bees that could survive if hive conditions were optimal, but you treated, so you'll never know because hive conditions are no longer optimal. And then there's the matter of increasing resistance in the mites. You might say that won't matter if the goal is to not use acaricides some distant day, but you don't know what strategy the mites may evolve to protect themselves from the poison-- it might lead to a more virulent mite that would prevent or delay the development of bees that can co-exist with the mites without treatment.

    I think breeding better bees is the only long term solution. I should have made that clearer.

  19. #79
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    Default Re: Leaving Them Alone

    Quote Originally Posted by rhaldridge View Post
    Treatment props up weak genetics, for example.
    I hear that argument a lot. But it's flawed, at least in relation to the present situation with farmed bees. Because among other reasons, bees have more than one gene.

    If you allow a genetic line of bees to die, along with the bad, you lose the good.

    I do not believe, that of all the bees that have been lost to varroa, that they contained only bad genes, and no good ones have been lost. Treating for varroa has allowed the breeding of varroa resistant bees of various types, now being used by treatment free beekeepers, that wouldn't have happened had they never been treated, they would have died before the good genetics were put together in one bee.

    The US has millions of farmed hives. Any backyarder with 2 hives who think that letting one of their hives live or die is going to affect the US gene pool in any significant way, is dreaming. Those with resistant bees, are reaping the benefits of work that has already been done by professionals, much as they often like to claim the credit themselves.
    Last edited by Oldtimer; 05-20-2013 at 04:13 AM.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  20. #80
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    Default Re: Leaving Them Alone

    I do not believe, that of all the bees that have been lost to varroa, that they contained only bad genes, and no good ones have been lost. Treating for varroa has allowed the breeding of varroa resistant bees of various types, now being used by treatment free beekeepers, that wouldn't have happened had they never been treated, they would have died before the good genetics were put together in one bee.
    I believe this as well, and I admit that I am fearful that the good genetics we so desperately need are being senselessly squandered in the rush to become treatment-free. It's kinda like we're running with scissors before we've really mastered how to walk.

    I do like the organic gardening analogy. It IS all about the soil. But the gardener works hard to build up that soil using every tool in his organic arsenal from compost to ground rock minerals. He feeds his soil just as we should be feeding our hives. He uses resistant seed/stock and treats them using safe, organic solutions to problems and we should be doing that with our bees. There is NOTHING hands-off about organic gardening and there should not be anything hands-off about keeping bees. Just as the organic gardener doesn't use chemical treatments to help his garden flourish, we don't need them either. BUT there are many, many things we CAN do--non-chemical things that are helpful. They aren't cure-alls but they certainly are legitimate weapons in our arsenals. Oil traps and sugar dusting are the first things that come to mind, but there are others and we should be actively looking for them INSTEAD of grabbing the invasive treatments that come in a box or a sprayer or letting the hive flounder and die. We need to start SAVING the good genetics while we're overcoming the bad.

    As always, JMO!

    Rusty
    Rusty Hills Farm -- home of AQHA A Rusty Zipper & Rusty's Bees ( LC and T)

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