Re: Treatment-Free, Summer 2013, How's it going?
this is my fourth season keeping bees and i now have 12 full size colonies and 15 nucs that have not received any mite treatments.
i lost one hive last fall that was heavily infested with mites, but most of my losses have been the result of queen failure as evidenced by laying workers in late winter, (and perhaps secondary to varroa). all of those losses occured last winter after having zero losses the first two winters. overwintering the nucs this year will give me the resources to prevent these kind of losses going forward.
my bees were obtained from a supplier that started 16 years ago with feral cut outs and has never treated. so these bees are derived from locally adapted feral survivors, and i am blessed to live in an area with an abundance of natural forage almost year round.
one thing i have noticed is that they have been naturally giving themselves a brood break, either by swarming or by supercedure.
i am still harvesting honey after a very productive spring. the hives that did not swarm are easily yielding 120 lbs. surplus even after drawing out a super or two of foundation. the ones that swarmed are yielding more like 60 lbs. and they didn't draw out much wax for me.
i am happy with the productivity and workability of these treatment free bees, but they do like to swarm. now that i am accumulating enough drawn comb and getting a feel for swarm prevention (which means i need to not let them stop moving up into the next box) i think i can get my average up to 100+ lbs. and still leave plenty for the bees.
we haven't gotten to our fall flow yet, but i'll be leaving some of the spring honey plus whatever they store in the fall. i use a single deep and will be leaving somewhere between one and two mediums of honey for winter. in addition to not using treatments, i haven't fed syrup for over two years.
i'll be taking mite counts about mid-summer, after i finish with the honey harvest.
journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives