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  1. #1
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    Default Paring Down for Winter, September Snapshot

    Last Saturday, I undertook to combine some hives I had left over from summer nuc production. Several five frame nucs survived the summer, however, only one was packed out with honey and a little brood like I’d expect a good nuc to be, so I saved that one and mooshed the rest. That leaves me working with a total of 27 colonies. I’d be comfortable losing around seven this winter, however, if the trend keeps up, the chances are pretty slim.

    What this did was allow me to get rid of less desirable stock (probably lowering my winter loss rate) and enlarge hives that I want to keep but that are unable to build up sufficiently during our long summer dearth. In doing this, I’m accelerating natural attrition and accelerating my selective process to produce better bees for human uses.

    This is also one of the benefits of having a larger number of hives. You can operate more like a population rather than an individual. There are many more possibilities to achieve success and many more things you can do to affect that success.

    Furthermore, it goes counter to the idea that every hive must survive. That’s not how it works in nature, why should we try to pull it off in agriculture?

    I am also finally coming into full utilization. Right now, I only have two empty deeps that are not being used. I think with the exception of a couple new medium hives that all hives are of the size of three deeps or bigger. The only hives that will be fed granulated sugar only in an emergency would be the medium ones, they are new and I want the medium hives to make it because I’m making a partial switch to mediums. Nobody else will be fed under any circumstances.

    There’s my September snapshot. During a time when many beekeepers are treating or thinking of treating, this is the sort of thing a treatment-free beekeeper is thinking of.
    Last edited by Solomon Parker; 09-17-2013 at 12:00 PM.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
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    Walker, Alabama, USA
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    Exclamation Re: Paring Down for Winter, September Snapshot

    I really wish you guys would come up with a better name than "treatment-free" because it really doesn't fit. You have a whole philosophy going on here that involves a LOT more than just treatments--maybe "minimalist" would be a better description? Might cut down on the badgering/hectoring you guys always seem to get.

    Just a thought.



    Rusty
    Rusty Hills Farm -- home of AQHA A Rusty Zipper & Rusty's Bees ( LC and T)

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Paring Down for Winter, September Snapshot

    I don't see any currently available term fitting better. I'm not a minimalist beekeeper. I'm actively in hives, manipulating them, raising queens and nucs, and making honey.

    That's it! I'm an Orthodox Beekeeper! Now which smilie to use.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Paring Down for Winter, September Snapshot

    "Traditionalist" maybe?

    But there is a whole philosophy involved here that I never quite appreciated before how encompassing it is. It involves so much more than just whether or not to treat. It's the way you approach the hive from the first blossom to the last bee. It's been carefully thought out and implemented. It may be different from my approach, but it is certainly one I can respect!

    Rusty
    Rusty Hills Farm -- home of AQHA A Rusty Zipper & Rusty's Bees ( LC and T)

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Paring Down for Winter, September Snapshot

    You are correct. It is very frustrating on our side when the argument is trotted out: "I quit treating and all my bees died." or the same used on the account of newbees. Beekeeping is still going on, and sometimes quite active beekeeping. Good beekeeping skills are necessary to get the results we're all looking for. Such is true of any method.

    I like "orthodox" better. Then I can take the "religion" and "cult" insults more seriously.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  6. #6
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    Jul 2010
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    jackson county, alabama, usa
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    Default Re: Paring Down for Winter, September Snapshot

    nice report sol.

    that's pretty much the status here as well.

    all 12 of my production slots have strong hives on them, single deeps with nearly 2 full mediums of honey each. i decided to leave 2 mediums on this year instead of only 1 like i have been in past years.

    i also ended up with 2 ten frame 'nucs' that are getting a medium of honey as well, and 8 five frame nucs.

    i only had one five frame nuc that i had to combine with another one (poor queen) which resulted in one of those ten frame nucs.

    so 22 colonies total, 12 production and 10 spares, after starting spring with 12 colonies, which was down from 18 last fall.
    Last edited by squarepeg; 09-17-2013 at 12:51 PM.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  7. #7
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    Feb 2012
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    Colorado Springs, CO United States
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    419

    Default Re: Paring Down for Winter, September Snapshot

    Amen Orthodox!!, I have been thinking/doing some of the same things Solomon. It looks like I will be going into winter with 24 hives, two of which are a three & two story five frame nucs (a first for me). Had to move/use a double screen on three cutouts that filled their ten frames in the nic of time, but too late to add frames at this point. I have had success with double screens in the past, so I hope this winter will not be an exception.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Location
    Morro Bay, California, USA
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    987

    Default Re: Paring Down for Winter, September Snapshot

    Quote Originally Posted by Solomon Parker View Post
    Several five frame nucs survived the summer, however, only one was packed out with honey and a little brood like I’d expect a good nuc to be, so I saved that one and mooshed the rest. That leaves me working with a total of 27 colonies.
    Solomon, You had 34 colonies in midsummer, so you dequeened and combined 7 summer nucs and accepted 1 nuc. That is a 88% cull rate.

    This is likely what a breeding program would see -- very high cull rates. You said your bees had already been through a cull process and now were improved survivor stock. Why do we drop back to a high cull. Doesn't make sense compared to your earlier characterization of the apiary survival.

    Either this supports my "reversion to norm" description of wild out-crossing of bees, or survival/hive quality is not genetic (as the Michael Bush theory) and the failure to thrive is being driven by some exogenous factor (such as mites).

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Paring Down for Winter, September Snapshot

    Your numbers are wrong.

    1. While I may very well have had 34 colonies at some point during the year, that was not the case Saturday morning, neither did I state it was. I sell queens and nucs remember?

    2. I have never used the word "several" in reference to seven of something.

    3. Therefore, you cannot take spurious number, subtract a concrete number, and then use the answer and apply it to the word "several" and assume all of them were of the same category.

    4. In conclusion, you were not attempting comment on facts, but rather make a point which is now moot because of fuzzy math.

    To clear up this apparently very cloudy situation, I took
    Quote Originally Posted by Solomon Parker
    some hives
    and
    Quote Originally Posted by Solomon Parker
    Several five frame nucs
    and combined them, some with each other and some with other hives and ended up with 27 total hives.

    Additionally, you can be darn sure I made more than 7 nucs this year.

    It's really much more respectable when opposing someone's point of view to state their case and the facts accurately.
    Last edited by Solomon Parker; 09-18-2013 at 10:30 AM.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  10. #10
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    Otero County, New Mexico, USA
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    Default Re: Paring Down for Winter, September Snapshot

    I agree "Treatment Free" is a misleading term and typically used as a divisive label. Most of the these methods really are more of a traditional approach - more like they did it back in the old, old, old days - but not so far back you are using skeps and gums. I get along well with my Mennonite neighbors because of this.

    I have 25 hives going into winter - we will see how many come out. I lost a single hive last year. I expect some more losses this year as quite a few have just requeened, and at least one or two will have problems, Murphy's Law you know. Some of my hives this year have more domesticated queens, so I am sure that will also take it's toll. Last year I overwintered 18.
    NM desert/mountain beekeeper - Black Mesa Honeybees.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Paring Down for Winter, September Snapshot

    How about "orthodox movable frame beekeeper"? Works for topbar hive keepers too.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Paring Down for Winter, September Snapshot

    Of late I have been referring to what I do as Survival beekeeping - that is; using bees you find and keeping them with minimal purchased equipment and no methods involving purchasing anything special you cannot make or do on your own. The term Survival does not really fit either, though.

    My ultimate goal is self sufficient beekeeping where I have to purchase nothing from anyone else for sustainment, except for maybe bartering for queens to get new blood every so often.

    I think it is a shame that keeping bees has become a "rich man's" game in many places.
    NM desert/mountain beekeeper - Black Mesa Honeybees.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Paring Down for Winter, September Snapshot

    I think the notion of 'population husbandry' is the critical thing. The core of the approach is the 'husbanding' ('taking care of') the (best) genes down the generations. This is exactly how all competent commercial beekeepers worked (here in Europe anyway) until quite recently. You can see it in, for example R.O.B. Manley's, or Ruttners books, written in the mid 20th C. And of course its how all animal and plant husbandry worked until the modern age of specialist seed and breeding stock suppliers came along. So the description 'traditional' is right and proper.

    The 'orthodox' method nowadays is the veterinary approach. We can't have that.

    What we do is a breeding approach. But that won't work as the big specialised breeders own it. 'Backyard breeding' might be right.

    In my view the dividing off of treatment and non-treatment was a necessary step, but its a blunt tool, and a slightly misleading label. It allows things like brood breaks and small cell alone to count - and imo its breeding that really makes the difference.

    'Traditional genetic husbandry' is the best description I can think of. If it is a mouthfull, at least it has the value of drawing attention to the part that really matters.

    Mike (UK)
    Anti-husbandry: Medication + Reproduction = Continuing Sickness
    http://www.suttonjoinery.co.uk/CCD/

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Paring Down for Winter, September Snapshot

    I agree - I think genetics is the key. We must use natural selection to our advantage.
    NM desert/mountain beekeeper - Black Mesa Honeybees.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Paring Down for Winter, September Snapshot

    Mr. Parker, when you say you "mooshed" them did you kill the queens and combine the bees with other hives? What did you do with the frames etc.,? Are you worried about transferring mites or disease and what steps do you take to avoid that?

    For nucs created this spring; how late will you do that and still expect a queen to raise enough brood to draw out frames and store honey? Do you never over winter a nuc and feed them? How many months or weeks do you think a new queen should have to result in a strong hive that can survive the winter? I expect you have a short season and a harsh winter with snow, no?

    Thank you, I am still learning in north Marin, CA and raised my first queens this year... Kimberly

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Paring Down for Winter, September Snapshot

    Quote Originally Posted by CaBees View Post
    Mr. Parker, when you say you "mooshed" them did you kill the queens and combine the bees with other hives? What did you do with the frames etc.,?
    That's correct. The frames and all the bees are combined and stacked on top of existing hives or in the case of nucs, two five-frames are combined into a ten-frame, etc.


    Quote Originally Posted by CaBees View Post
    Are you worried about transferring mites or disease and what steps do you take to avoid that?
    I am not at all worried transferring anything. The only disease I would take any measures with would be American Foul Brood in which case, I would most likely burn the hive that had it. Anything else, I expect the bees to deal with or die trying.


    Quote Originally Posted by CaBees View Post
    For nucs created this spring; how late will you do that and still expect a queen to raise enough brood to draw out frames and store honey?
    If it's much beyond April it doesn't work out well. I was set back quite a bit this year due to weather and so ended up making queens in May. Many of them didn't turn out well, unlike last year. They didn't build up much. I had to do a bit more culling than usual. Some did well though. Our major problem is our long hot humid summer with nothing blooming. If a nuc isn't prepared, it's likely to die in summer just as it would in winter. It's almost like having two winters, except I can't work much outside in the summer. Not my type of climate.


    Quote Originally Posted by CaBees View Post
    Do you never over winter a nuc and feed them? How many months or weeks do you think a new queen should have to result in a strong hive that can survive the winter?
    I haven't tried to overwinter nucs. That would be an interesting project, maybe next year.


    Quote Originally Posted by CaBees View Post
    I expect you have a short season and a harsh winter with snow, no?
    You are more right than wrong. I have a fairly short beekeeping season in spring, all nuking and queening and honey collecting has to be done between March and May under normal conditions. Then long summer dearth. Short fall flows of goldenrod, then winter. Winter sees no long no-flying periods, but temps can drop below zero and up to a foot and a half of snow than lingers a few days.


    Quote Originally Posted by CaBees View Post
    Thank you, I am still learning in north Marin, CA and raised my first queens this year... Kimberly
    Great questions, I hope I can be helpful. With your milder climate, you have many fun things you can do and try. I grew up 300 miles north of you and raised my first bees there.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  17. #17
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    Nov 2011
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    Novato, CA
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    Default Re: Paring Down for Winter, September Snapshot

    Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. You live in a tough environment to raise bees and your success is evidence of your knowledge. I will be overwintering my queens (2 nucs) but will you divert sugar and not yet; too soon. We usualy have 'something' in bloom all year round but can have many, many days of rain and cold. I got a late start on these queens from stealing swarm cells, have not tried grafting yet and not sure I want to, but they are busy hives and laying good patterns. There is so much still to learn and I am enjoying it all. Thank you again. Kimberly

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