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Thread: Off the wagon

  1. #41
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    Default Re: Off the wagon

    I would say that we do have mite resistant bees here in the US. However, you need to requeen often, and they aren't very productive.

  2. #42
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    Default Re: Off the wagon

    I'm sorry to hear Oldtimer, that you are giving up on your treatment-free efforts. I don't blame you, certainly, but I was looking to you for a bit of inspiration, as I too am struggling.

    I have been treatment free for about 14 months now, and I'm feeling a bit discouraged at the moment.

    I went into winter with 11 hives and came out of April with 8. I lost one of the weaker ones during our cold, wet month of May, and have lost two more since then. Then I put a queen in a hairclip queen cage during an inspection, only to find her stung through the bars when I went to let her out - another queen lost.

    I picked up two swarms and now sit at 6 hives. I hoped to reach between 20 and 30 this season, and even with swarms I'm going backward.

    I'm not ready to break yet, as I can't really say that the lack of treatments have been the deciding factor. Most colonies certainly showed the strain of mite damage in the spring. But I also wonder if I could've had stronger hives going into the winter if I'd have been more sensitive to a dearth that hit late last summer. I was slower to respond than I would like, and I think that cost me some cluster strength in the fall.

    I also think I could've managed somewhat better this spring. I should have tried to equalize colonies more than I did, but I was trying not to mess much with my strongest colonies, and so the weak ones got weaker, and by the time I realized it wasn't going to turn around I had lost too much precious time.

    All this to say that I'm going to stick with it here, as - unlike you - I can't say that I've got the years of experience in to lay the blame soundly on the lack of mite treatment.

    I'm not sure how long I'll struggle along before I come to that.

    For the sake of the conversation, I am running deep 8's in the brood boxes. All narrow frames, on a mix of foundationless and 5.1mm wax. I also have several top bar hives, all of which were lost this winter - the last one was the one in May.

    I'm also working on wintering nucs, and 6 of the 11 I went into winter with were nucs on 8 frames.

    I have just raised a batch of queens, which are now in mating nucs. I'm hoping I get another swarm or two, and in the meantime, I'm hoping my 6 colonies build up enough so that I can take resources for 12 nucs mid July and still have some viable colonies left behind. If I can do that, I'll be able to get to 18 colonies before winter.

    I'll keep swingin' at 'er and see how it goes.

    Adam

  3. #43
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    Default Re: Off the wagon

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    I have just raised a batch of queens, which are now in mating nucs.
    Adam
    Well that's good to hear at least.

    Always enjoy your posts Adam, hope it all works out.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  4. #44
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
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    Loup City, NE
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    Default Re: Off the wagon

    Oldtimer, In doing tf thru the small cell method, what did you feed the bees if and when they
    needed feed? How often and how long did you feed when you had to? Thanks Tom

  5. #45
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    Default Re: Off the wagon

    The very first one I set up got a feed of white sugar to start them on drawing the small cell foundation as there was no flow at the time. After that, they collected their own food naturally. I did store surplus honey and used it when setting up new nucs to give them a comb or two of honey, didn't use sugar again.
    All the sc hives & nucs originated from that one hive.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  6. #46
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    Default Re: Off the wagon

    Oldtimer- Don't give up the ship just yet. Try starting the pkg or nucs out of the barn so to speak, and feed them strickly
    honey. Use honey comb or even creamed honey on a plate, but NOT WHITE SUGAR, or any form of it. You might be slightly
    surprised. I lost one hive to mites out of 32 hives in 3 years of keeping bees. I refuse to give them WHITE SUGAR, I believe
    it breaks down their immune system to mites and even pesticide sprays. Even the advocate of small cell, Michael Bush, hardly
    believes in feeding sugar and instead quickly will recommend any form of straight honey instead. Seems to work for him and works
    for my girls too. Might be worth a try?

  7. #47
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    Default Re: Off the wagon

    His test lasted "about two years" and the only sugar he fed was an initial feeding to get them started drawing comb and after that their diet was strictly honey. It sounded like they did pretty well for the first year and most of the second year. Given those facts I think it would be a reach to conclude that feeding white sugar (which by the way is far better for bees than brown sugar) was any factor in their demise about 2 years later.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  8. #48
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    Default Re: Off the wagon

    Yes Jim is correct, one hive got a sugar feed 2 years ago. All up they got less sugar than say, Solomons. Really I've gone against my gut with a lot of this, and just strictly followed what the prominent small celler's on Beesource do.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  9. #49
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    Default Re: Off the wagon

    I know very little about mites and the bees resistance to them in NZ, you are the expert judge on that Oldtimer.
    But I personally feel that sugar is a toxic poison to bees anywhere and that beekeepers should avoid using it for feed
    always. Again, just a beeks opinion, you have to decide what's best for your bees.

  10. #50
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    Default Re: Off the wagon

    OK well my views on sugar are different, but regardless, it's academic. Haven't fed sugar in yonks, even to the treated bees. Right now my hives are wintering on pure honey, and there is 2 tons of comb honey stacked in the shed to be used as spring feed for making up nucs. Sugar not needed.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  11. #51

    Default Re: Off the wagon

    Have kept bees on pure honey for about ten years now. I observed not the slightest difference in mite resistance. Treated or not treated. (Did survival tests all the time.)

    It certainly is the right thing to do, keeping bees on bee food.

  12. #52
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    Jan 2012
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    Young County, Tx
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    Default Re: Off the wagon

    OT, as an aspiring new treatment free beekeeper, I've got to ask. How large are your hives and do you practice unlimited brood nests? I've skimmed through this thread and apologize if you already addressed this. I ended last fall with 4 hives and started the year with 4 and have since added swarms and splits to now have 10 hives. An original hive 3 years old is in 4 deep now with a couple of mediums. The other 3 hives, swarms and cutouts from 2012 wintered in 2-3 deeps. The 2013 additions will be in 2-3 deeps by fall if all goes well.

    So I'm curious about the volume of bees per hive and what if any bearing that has on treatment free success. Like you, I have used no artificially feeds or any kind of treatments. Just small cell foundation or starter strips within the core of the brood and unlimited brood nests. I have not requeened any of the hives, instead relying on supercedures. The original had a queen that lasted 3 years. They superceded in May.

  13. #53
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    Default Re: Off the wagon

    They had 2 deeps for the brood nest, then an excluder and the honey boxes on top, so they were not unlimited brood nest. Some TF beeks on the forum don't use excluders, but some recommend it to put poorly built combs on top of where the queen cannot get to them. So as I read things, an excluder is OK, the main thing being the queen only has access to lay in sc comb.

    However it might be a factor, who knows.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  14. #54
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    Default Re: Off the wagon

    Oldtimer, given the value of the honey, why do you not sell it and feed sugar??? Logistics or just trying to stay away from it??

  15. #55
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    Default Re: Off the wagon

    Thanks for the reply OT. I agree with the "who know" if its a factor, but might be something to consider if there's enough left to combine into a strong hive or two. The only time I've used queen excluder is for swarms after being transferred to a hive body and used as an includer. Otherwise, the hives I have tend to cap the brood with honey, which I'll open up the center and feed back in wets or SC foundation.

  16. #56
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    Default Re: Off the wagon

    As your tf hives dwindled, did you use any measures to prevent robbing? You mentioned Bond. I guess that gets into the nitty gritty of Bond. I got asked that question and my answer was yes. I used robber screens. Just curious
    Rick

  17. #57

    Default Re: Off the wagon

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick 1456 View Post
    yes. I used robber screens.
    In my opinion, it is unusual for a vigorous colony of bees to get robbed. If you are tf....and won't be doing anything to improve the condition of the hive what is the point in a robber screen....other than to delay the inevitable?
    Dan www.boogerhillbee.com
    Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards

  18. #58
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    Default Re: Off the wagon

    Thanks Wissler.

    I could have scrape surviving bees together and made a nuc or two up, or alternatively added bees from treated hives. One of the things that really affected me was the nuc that had been virtually dead from mites but recovered, which was inspirational to me at the time, was going down the toilet again, that was hard to take. There was nothing in the nuc yard that was going to survive without help.

    When I started this 2 years ago my plan was that if this ever happened, I would re stock the sc combs with other bees and simply continue. What made me not do this, was something I had just not fully considered at first, the economic cost. Now, I'm relying on bees for a part of my income. This year the treatment free hives I've lost 9 hives and 21 nucs. The cost to me, as a seller of bees, is those 9 hives could have been split into 4 each, 36 total, allowed to build and then sold as single decker hives at NZ$250 each, and the nucs could have been made into hives & sold also. That's 36+21 = 57 at NZ$ 250 ea = NZ$14,250, which in US money is around US$ 11,400.00. This is real money that I would have made had I treated those hives for mites. The cost of this, for me, is getting too much to do it again. Not only have I lost that money, but to re- stock I would have to divert further bees from being sold which is even more cost.
    In the end the decision to let it go is economic. Some folks won't agree with that but in the end I don't want to be a bottomless pit.

    Gmcharlie you raise a good point about the honey. There's a couple of reasons I feed honey not sugar. One is that for a small beekeeper like me there is a heckuva lot of legal requirements around food safety and hygiene to be allowed to sell honey and I really cannot be bothered with the cost of compliance. The other thing is I'm not as fit as I used to be and don't want to mess with lots of honey boxes, so to pre-empt that I just constantly split hives so they don't store a lot of honey. But there is an incidental crop when some hives get away on me, so that just gets stored for feed. I'm geared for bee breeding so the system works for me. If honey ran out, personally I would have no issues feeding sugar but it's mostly not necessary. This season I did get a bit more honey than my estimated feed honey needs, so sold around 1/2 ton to someone that extracted it in their own premises plus I got around another 300 kg (650 or so lb's) put into jars for me to give away to friends, family etc. But all up I don't want to mess with honey, breeding bees is easier on my old body plus I've never lost my fascination for it & I enjoy it, plus the personal interaction with lot's of different kinds of people that selling bees brings.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  19. #59
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    jackson county, alabama, usa
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    Default Re: Off the wagon

    nice post ot, i have enjoyed keeping up with your exploits.

    thanks for taking the time to share them with us.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  20. #60
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    Default Re: Off the wagon

    One of the things that really affected me was the nuc that had been virtually dead from mites but recovered, which was inspirational to me at the time, was going down the toilet again, that was hard to take.
    OT referred to this in an earlier post. I had this happen with one of mine. I was told it was an inevitable loss but reduced the entrance and let nature take its course. It recovered and is a strong hive. I was interested to see what happened with OTs but sorry to hear of the outcome. There are some theories about what is going on with this but that is fodder for another thread.
    Rick

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