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  1. #21
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    May 2009
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    Anderson County, Texas
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    Default Re: Sustaining Treatment Free - How Many Colonies Do You Need?

    Quote Originally Posted by gmcharlie View Post
    I do brood breaks to control mites. (I find that seems to be the only reliable method survivors use also)
    I did notice that both this year and last, at some point in the season, all brood rearing stopped in my treatment free hives. What i don't know because i don't mark queens, is why.....
    When temperatures here in Texas approach 100F, the queens seem to quit laying, a natural brood break which usually last from mid July thru mid August [or until we get that first good cold front to break the back of summer, usually towards the end of August] in our area. My guess is that this would help for summer mite buildup. That being said, I do think, at least for me, that small cell has made the difference. I had large mite counts and frequently saw mites on the backs of bees until I was fully regressed. Now I hardly ever see mites. I usually make splits with purchased queens, VSH, MHQ, and/or www.beeweaver.com . Also have used some of Joseph Clemens supposed cordovan Sunkist and have had good luck with any and all.

    Kindest Regards
    Danny Unger
    "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country." Nathan Hale, 1776

  2. #22
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    May 2009
    Location
    Anderson County, Texas
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    1,254

    Default Re: Sustaining Treatment Free - How Many Colonies Do You Need?

    Quote Originally Posted by jmgi View Post
    It would be interesting to know if there are beeks out there who run over 100 colonies treatment free year over year? I hope I'm wrong, but I can't imagine it, well ok, Michael Bush does it that I know of. I'm thinking the number has to be very low. John
    Maybe these videos will be of some use for you [Daniel Weaver's story, 2 parts].
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eQhwc3Rt-g0

    Part 2:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cbCZOCyD-c


    Kindest Regards
    Danny Unger
    "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country." Nathan Hale, 1776

  3. #23
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    New York City, NY
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    4,317

    Default Re: Sustaining Treatment Free - How Many Colonies Do You Need?

    I think that the question is really: 'how can I improve my odds of having sustainable, treatment free bees?'.

    In my opinion, you need just 1 hive, but they do have to be the 'right bees'.

    It's more a matter of the source of your bees, rather than the number of colonies.

  4. #24
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    Jul 2010
    Location
    jackson county, alabama, usa
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    4,928

    Default Re: Sustaining Treatment Free - How Many Colonies Do You Need?

    Quote Originally Posted by zhiv9 View Post
    Any thoughts on the cause of queen failure? Age?
    not sure z.

    perhaps poor nutrition when the queens were developing or perhaps they were not well mated well. this was my third winter with bees and it didn't happen before.

    Quote Originally Posted by jmgi View Post
    squarepeg, only 1 hive lost to mites out of 18 over winter is real good for no treatment imo. John
    thanks jmgi, i verified the collapse from mites with an alcohol wash, it was over 100% infestion.

    the queen failures could have been mite related, i didn't do counts on those hives. i found them with laying workers in late winter and shook them out.

    the bees i am using come from a treatment free supplier who started 16 years ago with local feral survivors. the first two winters i had no losses (four hives the first winter, 10 hives the second winter)

    i plan to do mite counts before fall arrives so i can see if there is any correlation to winter losses and/or queen failure.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  5. #25
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    Barrie, Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    660

    Default Re: Sustaining Treatment Free - How Many Colonies Do You Need?

    Quote Originally Posted by jmgi View Post
    It would be interesting to know if there are beeks out there who run over 100 colonies treatment free year over year? I hope I'm wrong, but I can't imagine it, well ok, Michael Bush does it that I know of. I'm thinking the number has to be very low. John
    Kirk Webster in VT: http://kirkwebster.com/. From his writings his best stock has been Russian though he still has some from SMR lines. Dee Lusby runs 700 colonies. I am sure there are others who quietly go about their business and don't treat.
    Adam - Zone 5A
    www.adamshoney.com

  6. #26
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    46,742

    Default Re: Sustaining Treatment Free - How Many Colonies Do You Need?

    It was pre Varroa when I had a small apiary (2 to 7 hives) But I seldom bought queens or bees. Once in a while I would buy a queen or get impatient and get a package to get back up in numbers. When Varroa hit I didn't really change that much, except at first, with large cell, I had 100% losses not treating. When I got to small cell they were more like 25% averaged out. Some really hard winters were 50% and some nicer ones were 10%. If you have 4 hives and you have 50% losses you still have two hives...

    Granted, it's nice to have some numbers to work with... but even if you occasionally need to buy a queen or a nuc from some other treatment free beekeeper, you can manage most of the time with just 4 to 8 hives or so. Especially if you throw in a few nucs in addition...
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  7. #27
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    Tineo, Asturias, SPAIN
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    184

    Default Re: Sustaining Treatment Free - How Many Colonies Do You Need?

    Tim Ives has annual loses of 8%, but he wrote that for the first several years he had very high losses. In any event, for a very long time he has only been catching swarms and doing cut outs and then breeding from survivors. He has also written (iirc) that the average losses in his club for those using treatments is close to 30%. It is worth mentioning that he leaves three deeps of honey and pollen for each hive in the fall and never feeds sugar. His strategy seems to be similar to that of Oscar Perone - large colonies, all stock from swarms (meaning they might be feral), and no feeding. Those that die, die, and those that survive are strong(er).

  8. #28
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
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    Denver, Colorado
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    5,113

    Default Re: Sustaining Treatment Free - How Many Colonies Do You Need?

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    What are your thoughts on this? Does buying from an established treatment free beekeeper change the picture? How many hives do you need in order to create a sustainable apiary of treatment free bees?
    Adam, these are great questions and ones in which I have some experience, having developed sustainable apiaries on two occasions.

    How many do you need? There are phases we need to think about. At first, there is likely to be a higher loss rate, this is to be expected. So I'd suggest starting with as many as you can handle. However, these will not be full production hives. As I did the first time around, I started with 20 and then consolidated by attrition, not replacing losses, using the comb and boxes to augment the couple of more successful hives. I don't think you need 20, but it would be a trial by fire for sure. The lowest I got to was 6.

    The second time around, I was working with already winnowed bees and moved to a new area. These had a lower loss rate than the originals, but still had some problems before they became acclimated to the climate. That time I was working with 7 and got down to 2. From two and adding a couple here and there and splitting, I maintained numbers. Eventually, I got better at increase and was able to do things like go from 10 to 40 in a year. Once the core population ceases to have major losses, I'd say you could again reduce your numbers to five on a continuous basis. Efficient increase is very important so find an efficient method and go with it. You won't need it forever. P.S. This was all without extra mite combat like brood breaks.

    Currently, I attempt to maintain 25 and produce nucs, queens, and honey. I currently have a bit of an excess due to cancelled orders, and I'm slowly combining and requeening. I've just had my first summer loss of the year. In the last year, that makes one winter, one spring, and one summer. It was due to failed requeening after a swarm.

    In summary, start off ambitious, keep the smallest hives you can get away with in your area and catch swarms and split as much as you can, don't worry about honey. After a period of time as you get a feel for the bees you have and their resiliency grows, you can reduce numbers through attrition or combining to make bigger hives and honey. I recommend no less than five for any beekeeper or small group of beekeepers, a mini-cooperative.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  9. #29
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    Liberty, Indiana, USA
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    167

    Default Re: Sustaining Treatment Free - How Many Colonies Do You Need?

    Adam. I think the number of colonies you must have is irrelevant. I run 30 + or - and my key is the use of swarm traps. I don't feed or treat and have had about 80% overwintering success the last three years. Not buying bees is the first step towards being treatment free. I live in eastern Indiana. There are feral bees out there surviving. They are treatment free stock and if you can catch them they are free.
    Jason Bruns
    LetMBee.com YouTube

  10. #30
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    St. Albans, Vermont
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    5,587

    Default Re: Sustaining Treatment Free - How Many Colonies Do You Need?

    I think you've already figured out the drawbacks of treatment free, northern non-migratory beekeeping. Yes you lost 27% in the winter. Replaceable but for all the fact that many of the remaining colonies were weak.

    Webster loses 40-60% of his bees every year but has enough nucleus colonies wintering in his apiaries to replace and re-queen his losses. It's not the bees, it's the management.

  11. #31
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    Nov 2009
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    Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
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    1,996

    Default Re: Sustaining Treatment Free - How Many Colonies Do You Need?

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Palmer View Post
    ...It's not the bees, it's the management.
    At this point, I fully agree with you. The question from there is, is there a point where the balance moves from strength of management to strength of the bees? That's the big one, as it's what everything hinges on.

    If being treatment free means that you manage your way around weak bees forever, I guess it may help in marketing, but it's not what I'm looking for.

    If being treatment free means that you have to manage your way around weak bees for a time until your bees begin to find a balance with the mites, then I'm all for it.

    From where I sit, I'm not convinced that's what happens. I'm afraid that treatment free bees are never going to be as strong as treated bees - or at least in the foreseeable future (and yes I see the irony there). And sadly, like almost anything in beekeeping I feel that one has to try for one's self if you're going to "know" for your region and your approach.

    I wish I could believe otherwise, and just pick a book to follow. Unfortunately for me, I still feel compelled to remain treatment free, and I feel like I'm standing at the bottom of a steep hill, with no summit in sight.

    Adam

  12. #32
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    Dec 2002
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    Denver, Colorado
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    5,113

    Default Re: Sustaining Treatment Free - How Many Colonies Do You Need?

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Palmer View Post
    It's not the bees, it's the management.
    I hope Mike means that Webster's bees are weak and not that it's all bees that are week, else by implication he's calling me an excellent beekeeper and that sort of bold accusation just won't stand around here.


    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    The question from there is, is there a point where the balance moves from strength of management to strength of the bees? That's the big one, as it's what everything hinges on.

    I feel like I'm standing at the bottom of a steep hill, with no summit in sight.
    I can't speak to Webster's losses, and he isn't here speaking to them either. I can speak for myself. What I can say is that there is a summit. I'm about to post my summer update here in the next week or so, as soon as I am done extracting. Is there a summit in Nova Scotia, that I can't speak to as much, but I believe that it is there. You have hard conditions. It may take longer. You should get to the point where mites are incidentals, like cockroaches, but you probably don't have cockroaches either.

    Then again maybe it is small cell like Michael Bush says. It works for both of us.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  13. #33
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    Dec 2012
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    Fort Walton Beach, Florida
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    Default Re: Sustaining Treatment Free - How Many Colonies Do You Need?

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post

    From where I sit, I'm not convinced that's what happens. I'm afraid that treatment free bees are never going to be as strong as treated bees - or at least in the foreseeable future
    On the other hand, there's Tim Ives, whose bees appear to be stronger than most treated bees.

    It may be that you have a particularly harsh environment. But I know one treatment free beekeeper in the North Country of northern NY who had 25% winter mortality. Is that good enough to call an operation sustainable? I would think so, since he also sells a few nucs in addition to making up losses.

  14. #34
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    Nov 2009
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    Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
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    1,996

    Default Re: Sustaining Treatment Free - How Many Colonies Do You Need?

    Quote Originally Posted by rhaldridge View Post
    On the other hand, there's Tim Ives, whose bees appear to be stronger than most treated bees... I know one treatment free beekeeper in the North Country of northern NY who had 25% winter mortality. Is that good enough to call an operation sustainable?...
    What is the best place to find details on Tim Ives and his approach?

    Secondly, winter mortality is just a number and doesn't say much else. I have seen images of some of Mike Palmer's overwintered hives, and the strong ones are so strong, it looks tough to put a lid on them. They're practically exploding.

    Mine are alive.

    But there's a huge difference.

    I have seen treated hives here as well, which are just brimming with bees in the spring and are very strong. The difference when bees have had the mites artificially removed is enormous. My bees survived, but not well enough to be able to really thrive through a slow spring. They just didn't have critical mass. I've got several nice colonies now, but it took them all summer to get that way. They're not going to produce any honey.

    That's fine if it's all just a part of the process, but if this is what you're looking at year after year... Then I feel like I'm going to need a pretty fair number of nucs, and will have to continue to chase swarms and do cut-outs, or I just won't have that critical mass.

    And how much time can I throw at the effort? (personal problem, I know, but a real one)

    Adam

  15. #35
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    May 2013
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    Tineo, Asturias, SPAIN
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    184

    Default Re: Sustaining Treatment Free - How Many Colonies Do You Need?

    "What is the best place to find details on Tim Ives and his approach?"

    He is on here, but not very active. This is his profile - from here you can read everything he has written here, best to go to the threads and read in context: http://www.beesource.com/forums/memb...94489-Tim-Ives

    He also is on Facebook.

    There are three videos of his on YouTube.

    Other than that, just scrounge the internet. You can piece together most of his strategies.

    And yes, his colonies are much stronger than 99% of treated ones. 8% annual losses - and average harvest of about 200 lbs of honey per hive. No treatment, no feeding.

  16. #36
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    Dec 2012
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    Fort Walton Beach, Florida
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    Default Re: Sustaining Treatment Free - How Many Colonies Do You Need?

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    What is the best place to find details on Tim Ives and his approach?

    Secondly, winter mortality is just a number and doesn't say much else. I have seen images of some of Mike Palmer's overwintered hives, and the strong ones are so strong, it looks tough to put a lid on them. They're practically exploding.

    Adam
    Adam, I'm just a beginner, so all I really know is what I read, and see online. But Tim Ives' hives are overwintered in 3 deeps, and they have bees spilling out of them in March. One of his videos shows him taking felt paper off his hives and it really is inspiring.

    As far as the amount of time put in, I get the impression most of Tim's time is spent supering and extracting. He doesn't treat, he doesn't feed, he makes increase from splits and swarms. As far as I know, he doesn't even raise queens-- his splits are of the simplest sort. I think he's said that his biggest challenge is having enough woodenware and comb.

    In addition, his yards are in soy and corn country, so his bees are putting up with a lot of pesticides and herbicides.

    Interesting stuff.

  17. #37
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    May 2013
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    North Liberty, IN
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    344

    Default Re: Sustaining Treatment Free - How Many Colonies Do You Need?

    Quote Originally Posted by ForrestB View Post
    "What is the best place to find details on Tim Ives and his approach?"

    He is on here, but not very active. This is his profile - from here you can read everything he has written here, best to go to the threads and read in context: http://www.beesource.com/forums/memb...94489-Tim-Ives

    He also is on Facebook.

    There are three videos of his on YouTube.

    Other than that, just scrounge the internet. You can piece together most of his strategies.

    And yes, his colonies are much stronger than 99% of treated ones. 8% annual losses - and average harvest of about 200 lbs of honey per hive. No treatment, no feeding.

    200# would be a bad year per supered hive.

    The amount of soybeans around this year, they could put that up from beans alone.

  18. #38
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    May 2013
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    North Liberty, IN
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    344

    Default Re: Sustaining Treatment Free - How Many Colonies Do You Need?

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Palmer View Post
    I think you've already figured out the drawbacks of treatment free, northern non-migratory beekeeping. Yes you lost 27% in the winter. Replaceable but for all the fact that many of the remaining colonies were weak.

    Webster loses 40-60% of his bees every year but has enough nucleus colonies wintering in his apiaries to replace and re-queen his losses. It's not the bees, it's the management.


    The drawbacks are, never enough equipment....

  19. #39
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    Jul 2010
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    jackson county, alabama, usa
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    Default Re: Sustaining Treatment Free - How Many Colonies Do You Need?

    tim, are you still getting a pretty strong nectar flow? is it just the soybeans?

    the flow has slowed down considerably here.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  20. #40
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    North Liberty, IN
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    344

    Default Re: Sustaining Treatment Free - How Many Colonies Do You Need?

    Quote Originally Posted by squarepeg View Post
    tim, are you still getting a pretty strong nectar flow? is it just the soybeans?

    the flow has slowed down considerably here.
    Beans won't be in bloom for another week or two. Still have clover in bloom (yellow sweet just started) alfalfa fields are getting cut down. Chicory blooming along the road sides and some type of a white aster just started blooming.

    Have 4 more yards to get the supers cleared and back on yet.

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