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  1. #1
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    Default I don't understand this complaint about treatment free beekeepers

    In another thread, recently closed (due to acrimony, I suppose) an interesting contention was made. In short, the complaint was that treatment free beekeepers pose a risk to those who treat, because when the untreated hives collapse, they make it harder for nearby treaters to control mites and other pathogenic organisms.

    The reason I don't understand this complaint is that it seems to ignore the evidence from the BeeInformed survey that indicates that treated hives collapse at similar rates to untreated. I could understand the complaint if treatment were able to prevent colony loss, but obviously, it doesn't. Even if you find the BeeInformed survey a dubious resource, just reading the news will provide plenty of examples of commercial beekeepers who treat and still lose large percentages of their colonies.

    If collapsing colonies pose a threat to those with healthy hives, then logically, the risk would be far greater for those who don't treat, because they are so greatly outnumbered by those who do, and non-treaters also have to deal with a local genetic overload of less-resistant bees.

    I'd like to see this discussed in a civil manner... and hope that is possible.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: I don't understand this complaint about treatment free beekeepers

    Most people ignore the obvious when treating any livestock...if you keep the weak alive you are in effect breeding for weakness. If you keep your stock held to harsh conditions you will be breeding for strength. So ask yourself are your breeding strong bees or strong mites and pathogens?

  3. #3
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    Default Re: I don't understand this complaint about treatment free beekeepers

    The reality is that there is probably truth to both arguments. Unless you live in a vacuum, or artificially inseminate your queens, your hives genetics will be influenced by the surrounding drones. In my case there are bees from the south in my area, as well as treaters, and non treaters. All of those hives will likely influence how I am able to keep bees.

    When a hive collapses and mites hitch a ride on the robbers it may be possible that the sudden increased mite load could wipe out a "resistant" hive. But this is what would happen in nature, so it is very hard for me to state that others need to keep their bees away from my bees (whether I decide to treat or not). What wouldn't happen in nature is 25+ hives in a single field, or the density of hives in any area due to farming or hobby ownership.

    I am getting to the point where I think the only way we could do large scale non treatment, without heavy hive manipulation or isolated yards, we would need to embrace africanized bees.

    My point is, we are probably all doing something a bit wrong, so we just need to deal with it and come up with a solution to work it out with our current situations instead of expecting others to conform to our ideals.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: I don't understand this complaint about treatment free beekeepers

    Its definitely a little of column A, little of column B scenario.

    On one hand, a *SUCCESSFUL* treatment free hive is going to be what we all really need, so that treatments will not be necessary in the first place and we all have healthier, stronger bees. Until you get to that point though, you have two hives that are essentially the same, one getting treated, one left to suffer from infestations. The infested hive helps build up pest populations that can then potentially transfer to surrounding hives.
    Beekeeper since 2013. Read my bee blog at:
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  5. #5
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    Default Re: I don't understand this complaint about treatment free beekeepers

    Quote Originally Posted by Edymnion View Post
    I Until you get to that point though, you have two hives that are essentially the same, one getting treated, one left to suffer from infestations. The infested hive helps build up pest populations that can then potentially transfer to surrounding hives.
    Well, this is why I'm having trouble understanding this point of view. Implicit in what you say is the assumption that the treated hive is not suffering from infestations. But something is killing treated hives too, at rates not too different from untreated hives, according to the BeeInformed survey.

    To be fair, I think you might be able to make an argument that when the treated hive collapses, it might be from the toxic effects of treatment (queen loss, etc.) rather than from mite load, and so when the hive is robbed out, there would be fewer mites to infest the robbers. I don't know if that's true, but it's at least plausible, so far as I can tell.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: I don't understand this complaint about treatment free beekeepers

    Quote Originally Posted by rhaldridge View Post
    I'd like to see this discussed in a civil manner
    Based on the subject matter (pitting TF and non-TF beekeepers against each other) I'd say you have a 0% chance of accomplishing this.

    You could get a bunch of treatment answers with no TF replies, or a bunch of TF answers with no treatment replies, and that will likely end in a civil manner (at least possible). But you wouldn't get much of an answer to your question (at least an unbiased one).

  7. #7
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    Default Re: I don't understand this complaint about treatment free beekeepers

    Treatment free does not mean disease/pest/pathogen free.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: I don't understand this complaint about treatment free beekeepers

    my understanding ray is that mite transfer between colonies occurs primarily when a strong hive robs a collapsing hive.

    so it doesn't matter if the hive is treated or not, if it is collapsing and measures aren't taken to prevent robbing the mites could be spread to nearby colonies.

    i the criticism has been directed more at the hard bond approach than treatment free per se.

    bottom line, it's just about being responsible tf or not.

    here's an old thread in which this got hashed out pretty good:


    http://www.beesource.com/forums/show...ent+free+risks
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  9. #9
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    Default Re: I don't understand this complaint about treatment free beekeepers

    I think that the premise that treated and untreated hives survival rate is the same is also a stretch. First it is a "survey" not "study", as you noted. I participated in this survey so we can use me as an example. It is true that my untreated hives survived the same as my treated ones. I think that I treated about 10 hives last August. All of those treated hives had overwintered the year before. I had 12, I think, that I did not treat. Mostly the reason that I didn't treat them was that they came from nucs that I made up with new queen cells, so they all had about 3 weeks or so of no brood. I don't treat first year hives. I don't count mites in them. I didn't lose any hives last year.

    So while it is true that my untreated hives had an equal survival rate as my treated ones, it is a big stretch to say that untreated hives will survive at the same rate as treated ones.

    The other factor is that commercial migratory bees will have any more stresses than my babied hobby bees. The commercial bees will probably be treated but again will have many stresses that untreated ones won't.
    Bruce

  10. #10
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    Default Re: I don't understand this complaint about treatment free beekeepers

    Quote Originally Posted by rhaldridge View Post
    Well, this is why I'm having trouble understanding this point of view. Implicit in what you say is the assumption that the treated hive is not suffering from infestations. But something is killing treated hives too, at rates not too different from untreated hives, according to the BeeInformed survey.
    That may or may not be true. But as others have stated, a strong hive will rob a collapsing one for it's stores. The assumption is that a treatment free hive that is collapsing is more likely to have a pest infestation like mites that the robbing bees will then pick up and transfer back to their parent hive.

    It has nothing to do with failure rates for treated hives (which could be due to completely unrelated causes, correlation does not imply causation), but in the safe assumption that strong hives rob weak hives, and many pests will transfer from the dying hive to the strong one to perpetuate the cycle. The conditional assumption is that the collapsing hive is the untreated one, and that the robbing hive is treated, simply due to the assumption that even a genetically weak hive can be propped up by treatments, meaning it will be more likely to do well than an early generation treatmentless hive will.

    So yes, there is a risk to the treatment folks hives from untreated hives, if said untreated hives are allowed to have rampant infestations that bring said hive to it's knees and allows it to then be robbed. The same thing can happen the other direction as well (where an untreated hive is infected from a failing treated hive), but it is less likely.
    Beekeeper since 2013. Read my bee blog at:
    http://harrisonbayhoney.blogspot.com

  11. #11
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    Default Re: I don't understand this complaint about treatment free beekeepers

    my understanding ray is that mite transfer between colonies occurs primarily when a strong hive robs a collapsing hive.

    How long does it take for the bees of one yard to find and then rob out a hive from another yard? I'm curious about the bee behavior here. Are bees in a yard and from other yards aware of all the other hives? Are they constantly checking other hives for weakness and potential to rob or is it more happenstance that the bees come along and find an empty to rob?

    The further point is that unless there is a pretty quick response time wouldn't the apiary owner notice a dead out? If so is not the best course of action to close it up to stop robbing and spread of mites/disease or if they feel their is no threat to simply place the boxes on another hive?

    If I had a dead out and was concerned about such things I would not want feral or bees from other yards coming into my hives. If there was enough honey in the hive to rob I wouldn't want it taken by another yard either.

    Seems to me the "Best practice" is to keep an eye on your hives and when you see robbing or even a weak hive, close it up or shut it down. Then it's a moot discussion, no?

    ~Matt

  12. #12
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    Default Re: I don't understand this complaint about treatment free beekeepers

    Quote Originally Posted by MJuric View Post
    my understanding ray is that mite transfer between colonies occurs primarily when a strong hive robs a collapsing hive.

    How long does it take for the bees of one yard to find and then rob out a hive from another yard? I'm curious about the bee behavior here. Are bees in a yard and from other yards aware of all the other hives? Are they constantly checking other hives for weakness and potential to rob or is it more happenstance that the bees come along and find an empty to rob?
    During robbing season, yes, pretty much, other bees are testing for weakness constantly.

    "The further point is that unless there is a pretty quick response time wouldn't the apiary owner notice a dead out?" Going by what I read on Beesource, a lot of them don't notice till after all the action is over. See all those "what happened to my hive" type threads.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  13. #13
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    Default Re: I don't understand this complaint about treatment free beekeepers

    Quote Originally Posted by Edymnion View Post
    So yes, there is a risk to the treatment folks hives from untreated hives, if said untreated hives are allowed to have rampant infestations that bring said hive to it's knees and allows it to then be robbed. The same thing can happen the other direction as well (where an untreated hive is infected from a failing treated hive), but it is less likely.
    I guess I don't understand why it's less likely. I don't know how to demonstrate this apart from surveys like the BeeInformed one, but my impression is that treated hives outnumber untreated ones by a huge amount. As an example, suppose in my area, there are 100 treated hives and 10 untreated ones. If half the untreated ones collapse and only a quarter of the treated ones collapse, then 5 untreated hives will be robbed out... and 25 treated ones. That's a situation in which the treated yards contribute 5 times as much to the area pathogen load as the untreated ones.

    (I realize this has nothing to do with the merits of treating or not treating, I'm just trying to get a picture of reality here. How much of a threat do untreated colonies pose to the treated colonies around them? Or is it the other way around?)

  14. #14
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    Default Re: I don't understand this complaint about treatment free beekeepers

    i think it may have to do with the number of colonies in a yard, and whether or not they are observed on a daily basis.

    i had two hives this year that i inspected after noticing just a little fighting at the entrances. there wasn't any all out robbing frenzy going on. turns out they were queenless after failing to make a new queen post swarm.

    it's not hard to imagine that in a large commercial operation with hundreds if not thousands of hives it might not be possible to catch every robbing incident in time to prevent it. treatments can fail, and mites can be spread.

    on the other hand, for the hard core bond keeper, robbing is going to be the inevitable result of a collapsing colony.

    and no one can stop it when we're talking about an unmanaged feral hive crashing and getting robbed out.

    my view is that we all should be considerate of other colonies and exercise due diligence to prevent crashes and rob outs when we can.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  15. #15
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    Default Re: I don't understand this complaint about treatment free beekeepers

    if there's any bees around within foraging distance robbing can start quickly. You will constantly see scouts in front of your hives in summer just testing the waters. If there's anything to rob nearby it gets even worse which is why people discourage open feeding because it sets off a frenzy.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: I don't understand this complaint about treatment free beekeepers

    Well I think the answer is it goes both ways. If I am running treatment free hives I certainly wouldn't want a large apiary nearby run poorly and being treated but not properly. Likewise beekeepers who are treating minimally and trying their best to do everything right may not appreciate a "Bond" apiary next door suffering 80% losses and being left to die, of whatever, and be robbed.

    For me, I've spent my life being surrounded by beekeepers who are lax on disease management. However I deal with it. Just, AFB is something that really bugs me if I get that due to someone else's negligence, nothing is worse than burning your own hive.

    Think you'd have to say it goes both ways.

    Bear in mind RHAldridge also that the accusation you complain of was made in response to a counter accusation made the other way, and it was not in the treatment free section. The thread had to be locked because it was derailed by someone pushing his own agenda and had moved far away from the actual thread topic.

    A thread like this one is only designed to pit one group against the other. To me, if there are problems caused to a beekeeper by a neighboring beekeeper, I think it's better to assess it on a case by case basis rather than categorise everyone and then try to start something.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  17. #17
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    Default Re: I don't understand this complaint about treatment free beekeepers

    I think part of it has to do with how people say to get there. Typically TF beeks are staunch advocates of the bond method and believe this is the only true way to be Treatment Free or obtain treatment free bees which is not the case of course. Anyone can select for treatment free bees by not treating, whether you let the hive die out in the end is up to you.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: I don't understand this complaint about treatment free beekeepers

    And something I have wondered a good deal about: what thought is being given to the density of bees and apiaries for a given area of forage.

    Will the growing "popularity" of backyard beekeeping (perhaps in some way prompted by anxious news reports on the general health of bees) lead to more hives/bees/acre?

    And what is the optimal carrying capacity for any area, or classes of forage for honey bees?

    I am univeristy-trained in agronomy and horticulture. A single fairly isolated specimen or small group of anything may survive quite well, whereas larger stands, herds, colonies, fields, etc. will be constantly under seige because of the simple density and attractiveness to pests and diseases. In my farming practices (veg. and small fruits) I often see this effect at work.

    Although I've seen almost no direct references to it, the modern practice of huge-scale migratory beekeeping would surely to serve to concentrate, and then disperse any bee diseases and pests on a continental-wide scale. Certainly far faster and far beyond what normal, unassisted, bee transmission or contact would be.

    Perhaps some of the success of the TF apiaries is due to their relative isolation from other honey bees, and conversely some of the persistent need for treatment of treated colonies is due to the high presence of vectors of bees pests and diseases.

    And in both cases conscientious beekeepers of both types are merely reacting to their local conditions, as best they can.

    If anyone knows of studies related to bee/apiary densities, I would be very interested to know about them.

    Certainly speaking as very new beekeeper (of the barnyard, not sideline or commercial variety), I can see that keeping bees, (if you catch the bug) could certainly be very more-ish. I have three hives and I am thinking of making more next year. But I am mindful that in my enthusiasm I could very well tip the balance and find myself under more pressure from pests than I am now.

    Enj.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: I don't understand this complaint about treatment free beekeepers

    varroa destructor is a pretty dumb parasite if you think about it, after all killing off its host isn't exactly in its best interest.

    it depends on the robbing nature of the bees for its survival.

    preventing robbing and spreading to nearby colonies is something we all can do.

    as time goes on, and as v. destructor and the honeybee evolve toward host/parasite equilibrium there will be less dead outs.

    in the mean time we can select for less destructive mites by not letting them spread.

    this is easier said than done. for example i'm not sure what i would do if i found a hive so infested mites with as winter approaches that it would be sure to die. i am leaning toward putting it in the freezer, killing the bees and mites, and salvaging the comb and stores.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  20. #20
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    Default Re: I don't understand this complaint about treatment free beekeepers

    The difficulty with science and bees is numbers and money. You have sixty thousand individuals bringing back to one house near anything from the surrounding 28 square miles. Add a few more hives into the area and the possibilities become greater than the lottery. No control group exists. Add the comparison between the money spent on research to the money spent on chasing a salad bug. What we're left with is any idea can be supported but few can be substantiated.

    I do know that fighting among ourselves is a great way to keep the pesticides flowing.

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