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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

    Quote Originally Posted by Pipiyolti View Post
    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?
    Also, most people who "breed" ignore the obvious fact that professional breeders understand. Heritability is based on phenotypic variation and what proportion of it is genetic. In order to make progress in selection, you must have high phenotypic varariation, in other words a large population size. In corn breeding I start with 10,000 new lines every year and will be happy in 5 years if 2 or 3 survive. If I were only starting with 20 or so (like most back yard breeders) what would be my chances for success? Unless you have the capacity to look at thousands of queens every year and innoculate with mites, and/or access to molecular markers for the trait of interest your probability of finding the proberbial needle in a haystack is pretty small. You are most likely just looking at random error rather than genetic improvement.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by hilreal View Post
    Also, most people who "breed" ignore the obvious fact that professional breeders understand. Heritability is based on phenotypic variation and what proportion of it is genetic. In order to make progress in selection, you must have high phenotypic varariation, in other words a large population size. In corn breeding I start with 10,000 new lines every year and will be happy in 5 years if 2 or 3 survive. If I were only starting with 20 or so (like most back yard breeders) what would be my chances for success? Unless you have the capacity to look at thousands of queens every year and innoculate with mites, and/or access to molecular markers for the trait of interest your probability of finding the proberbial needle in a haystack is pretty small. You are most likely just looking at random error rather than genetic improvement.
    I find it amusing that you used "maze" as a reference for your argument. Something cultivated from what we would consider a weed by people who were in tune with natural cycles and not scientific papers and lack of intuition.
    Last edited by Pipiyolti; 08-28-2013 at 02:59 PM.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: I don't understand this complaint about treatment free beekeepers

    > 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

    Exactly. I think it is an erroneous assumption.

    >Implicit in what you say is the assumption that the treated hive is not suffering from infestations.

    Which is patently not true.

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

    Treated does not mean disease/pest/pathogen free.

    >What I didn't understand was the assumption that this was more likely to happen with treatment free beekeepers

    It is a world view. If they did not have that world view they would not be treating. But I do think the assumption is erroneous.

    http://www.bushfarms.com/beescerts.htm

    In reality what is a constant threat is the continued propogation of weak genetics that can't survive being propped up by artificial means, and "super mites" who can breed fast enough to overcome treatments... these are not coming from the treatment free hives...
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    In reality what is a constant threat is the continued propogation of weak genetics that can't survive being propped up by artificial means, and "super mites" who can breed fast enough to overcome treatments... these are not coming from the treatment free hives...
    Its been about 25 years since varroa first impacted the US. Is their any evidence that these super mites have evolved? Wouldnt a mite that breeds fast enough to overcome treatments serve to hasten its own demise? My experience is that varroa is far easier to control now than when it first affected our operation. Our bees could never have weathered even a single season without a mite treatment 20 years ago. I worry far more about the mite vectored viruses, even in bees with fairly low mite counts.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

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

    TF and Treating Beekeepers are co-evolving -- just like the parasite and host.

    The reservoir of TF and feral hives allows drug resistance to be overcome, by breeding the suseptible strains back into the commercial hives. Amitraz-resistant Varroa was reported almost immediately, but it is a genetically unfavored trait in the mites, and non-treated Varroa replaces the resistant ones, if a sufficient reservior of non-resistance exsists.

    As I noted elsewhere, maintaining a "reservior" of resistance in the crop was part of the initial plan for BT Corn and Soy.

    A forward thinking Commercial keeper would ring his yards with feral hives -- these would maintain amitraz and fluvinate NON-resistant genes in the wild Varroa, and the non-resistant types would introgress into the managed colonies preventing the resistant types from overwhelming the drug.

    The hobby keepers are providing a service to the commercial by maintaining hives with populations of non-resistant Varroa.

    Varroa doesn't kill directly, but is a vector for the lethal virus load. Hypo-virulent virus adaptation seems unlikely to develop. DWV is evidently a weak virus and has a long history in North America (so has reached a natural equilibrium level), but is the major symptom of Varroa affected hives in my area. I cannot model further hypovirulence in the virus when horizontal transmission of DWV has so few barriers.

    One needs to separate the goal of Treatment Free husbandry from the backyard hobby meilieu. If the goal is TF, then challenging hives with disease, selecting the most resistant, and breeding those queens is a long-term, laborious and LARGE SCALE undertaking. It is large scale because it requires isolation and saturation to prevent the bees which are promiscuous, out-crossing flying insects from simply blending into the background genotype. Backyard keepers are embedded in their landscape, and adaptation will not be accomplished on that local scale (in my landscape).

    Some of the TF advocates might live in a "bee desert", and the reduced density of feral and commercial colonies might allow inadvertent semi-inbred and beneficial lines to develop. My own immediate landscape has about 2 colonies per acre around all my outyards, and the wild type is simply going to re-assert in any uncontrolled outcrossing scheme.

    Directed selection is long-term because the generation time of bees is relatively long, disease expression is delayed, and inbreeding is a genuine issue. A selected graft + outcrossing with non-related drones (per the Russian Queen model) is the best approach.
    This requires isolation, saturation and exchange of selected drone colonies.

    Resistance is not binary (like live/dead) but is measured on a relative scale. A backyard keeper might have a nearly perfect genotype, but that hive might still (and easily) succumb. The genotype will be lost in an uncontrolled out-cross. All the effort and lineage of that genotype is lost if the colony succumbs, and in the outcross you reset the selection clock back towards the background genotype.

    A far better approach is to make a rational assessment of health and vigor and propagate those colonies. Letting colonies die is wasteful and inefficient in the extreme. Selecting the breeding colonies by quantifying the traits and managing queen production will be the approach that creates a "hobbyist" bee type.

    The SW already knows what a "survivor-type" is----- it is AHB. AHB have higher fecundity -- they swarm continually. Swarms are mite reduced for their initial build up due to the brood break. The swarming type is going to replace (in the wild) the type where swarming has been selected against.

    Beekeeping with AHB is NO FUN. It is doable, but is a constant struggle. The "Bond" advocates are setting themselves up to be the promoters of AHB. This is totally unnecessary because a rational selection model exists that would prevent the AHB genotype from being favored.

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

    It is insane to think a person can create a better model than one that exist within a suitable area in a region and create a "breed" of honeybee for the masses. Adaption happens first, before any succession occurs. I think it is rather presumptuous to believe the honeybee passes nothing more than a genetic code to the next generation. The model you describe has only ONE outcome.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by JWChesnut View Post

    One needs to separate the goal of Treatment Free husbandry from the backyard hobby meilieu. If the goal is TF, then challenging hives with disease, selecting the most resistant, and breeding those queens is a long-term, laborious and LARGE SCALE undertaking. It is large scale because it requires isolation and saturation to prevent the bees which are promiscuous, out-crossing flying insects from simply blending into the background genotype. Backyard keepers are embedded in their landscape, and adaptation will not be accomplished on that local scale (in my landscape).

    Some of the TF advocates might live in a "bee desert", and the reduced density of feral and commercial colonies might allow inadvertent semi-inbred and beneficial lines to develop. My own immediate landscape has about 2 colonies per acre around all my outyards, and the wild type is simply going to re-assert in any uncontrolled outcrossing scheme..
    Interesting post, as always, but I think one of your basic assumptions, if I'm reading you correctly, is in error. You seem to believe that genetics is the primary factor in the ability of bees to coexist with mites in a stable manner.

    Since smalltime treatment free beekeepers do in fact exist, and prosper, even in places with substantial commercial presence, how can this be plausibly explained, other than by factors not directly related to genetics?

  10. #10
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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.

  11. #11
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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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  12. #12
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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.

  13. #13
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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:
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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?)

  15. #15
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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).

  16. #16
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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.

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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

  18. #18
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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

  19. #19
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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

  20. #20
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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).

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