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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Gainesboro, Tennessee, USA.
    Posts
    398

    Default Why Treatment Free.

    I am talking on Treatment free beekeeping in the near future. I wondered if you all would give me your reasons why you have chosen treatment free beekeeping, techniques you like using to aid your bees against mites (non treatment), and things that you have or are learning on the way

    MY reasons are

    1. I believe it's better on the bees and beekeeping (especially for the long term).
    2. It's much cheaper.
    3. My queen genetics are tougher due to no crutches. (aka treatments)

    Thanks in advance!




    P.S. This is not a debate on which way is better. So don't try to make it one.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Location
    Denver, Colorado
    Posts
    5,079

    Default Re: Why Treatment Free.

    When I first started, I did it because I didn't want to spend money (or be dependent upon) treatments.

    Later on, I realized that ultimately, treatment free is the only tenable solution. Sure, beekeepers can limp along for decades feeding and treating, but the only way to really do anything of long term importance is to be totally treatment free and to keep bees with a method that keeps them from being dependent on you. If I died, my hives would go on living, probably slowly losing the traits like gentleness that I have bred for over time, but they'd go on.

    It is much cheaper. The only things I spend money on these days are new frames and other equipment.

    The treating beekeepers are going to disagree, but they'll all have to admit that when they quit treating, their bees die.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Hamilton, Alabama
    Posts
    1,211

    Default Re: Why Treatment Free.

    1. I don't like pesticide residues in honey or beeswax.
    2. Honeybees are uniquely susceptible to a host of maladies linked to the various pesticides and treatments.
    3. It is expensive in terms of materials and beekeepers time to treat.
    4. There are side benefits to being treatment free, including that hygienic bees control both diseases and mites.
    5. There are no negative consequences to treatment free beekeeping, in spite of discussions to the contrary.
    6. Honeybees that naturally control mites are healthier and easier to maintain.

    I did not go treatment free without a lot of preparation. It started with determining the steps that would lead to success. In 2005, the only information available included using small cell and quite a bit about mite tolerant genetics. I knew enough of bee behavior to recognize that getting mite tolerant bees would be a short-lived solution given the number of beekeepers in the area with treated bees so I chose the following steps:
    1. I already use 11 frames in the broodnest so I converted to small cell. In my opinion, small cell (4.9) has a minor effect on mite tolerance, but it works really well with my 11 frame broodnests.
    2. I located stock that was uniquely mite tolerant. This included a swarm that happened to be highly mite tolerant and purchase of stock from Purvis. I raised queens from the mite tolerant swarm and crossed them to drones from the Purvis queens. These bees have been exceptionally mite tolerant and with a bit of selection produce decent honey crops.
    3. I deliberately induced swarming in 2006 with the purpose of getting a huge number of feral colonies as a buffer between me and the treatment bandwagon beekeepers in the area. This step was very difficult emotionally, I wanted to catch those swarms, but in the long run, it gave me protection from poor genetics in the area. I catch a few swarms each year that come back out of the woods. The mite tolerance in this area is relatively high so that feral bees are thriving.
    DarJones - 44 years, 10 colonies (max 40), sideliner, treatment free since 2005, 11 frame broodnest, small cell

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Location
    Adair Co, Oklahoma
    Posts
    120

    Default Re: Why Treatment Free.

    Having a BS in agriculture and working in agriculture my entire adult life, I can tell you the reason I keep bees treatment free is simply good animal husbandry. In any agriculture operation, the healthier the livestock the less reliant they are on chemical intervention. Ultimately, the best situation is when the livestock can be productive and healthy without any chemical treatment.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    hinesville ga usa
    Posts
    359

    Default Re: Why Treatment Free.

    I agree with Solomon, I kept my bees treatment free (with the exception of BT comb treatment to salvage empty or stored comb) for five years until this year when I had to treat in order to sell some nucs. I still held back on half my hives and they remain treatment free ( at a separate location ) I lost 33 % of the treated hives and less than 10 % of the untreated hives. I know in some areas people have lost all their hives when they didn't treat and had to go treatments in order to keep bees, and I understand that, but it is in the end a dead end road.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Baker Oregon
    Posts
    2,382

    Default Re: Why Treatment Free.

    I want to be self sufficient as much as possible. Treatment free beekeeping is the logical approach. If I could (or wanted to do the work) I would treat with medications that I could manufacture at home. So my reason is practical and pragmatic versus philosophical.
    Dan Hayden 4 Years. 9 hives. Tx Free. USDA Zone 5b.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    Fort Walton Beach, Florida
    Posts
    1,256

    Default Re: Why Treatment Free.

    My thinking is that treatment has unknown consequences to both the colony and commensal organisms whose role in colony health is not yet well understood. It seems to me fairly self-evident that there is a problem with the current conventions of bee husbandry. Some pretty good beekeepers have lost disastrous numbers of their hives. It seems at least plausible to me that this is the result of an accumulation of insults to colony health-- pests, disease, agricultural chemicals and other sources of toxins, poor forage, excessive feeding of sugar... and treatments. It's been demonstrated that bees can survive without treatments, so that is one insult you can take out of the equation.
    Ray--1 year, 7 hives, TF

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Location
    Pleasant Shade, TN
    Posts
    445

    Default Re: Why Treatment Free.

    Because it is righteous! Lol
    I don't know why I said that but oh well. Seriously, I know of bee trees that have contained bees for the last 20+ years. I look at that and say to myself that they have been thriving, yes thriving not just surviving, with no one taking care of them whatsoever. I don't think you can get any plainer than that. If those bees are surviving with no treatments (and disturbance too; I believe going through the bees too often produce similar effects as too much antibiotics) vs bees that have been "babied", then there is obviously a distinguishable difference in survivability between the two groups. I'm not exactly sure what the difference is whether it is the presence of treatment, the absence of treatment, genetic fitness, or surrounding habitat, etc. But, whatever it is, this is why I am starting out with those particular feral stock. Survival of the fittest always wins in the end.
    I may be a new beek, but I am a wildlife biologist with enough experience to know better. When we want to make a reintroduction of a species such as elk, deer, turkey, bears, wolves, or whatever, we do not pick individual animals from a petting zoo that have been fed artificial supplements and been vaccinated for diseases that are found in their natural surroundings. Rather, we find animals that are from a similar ecosystem or biome and use those individuals to repopulate areas where they once roamed. This has been carried out by wildlife agencies in all 50 states with unrivaled success with countless fish and wildlife species. Why would the same theory not work for honeybees or any other organism for that matter?
    A man is worth just as much as the things about which he busies himself- Marcus Aurelius

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Location
    Little Rock, AR
    Posts
    109

    Default Re: Why Treatment Free.

    I'm treatment free because it is the way God intended it. Ok, that is grandiose, but still. I'm treatment free because I care what goes into my mouth. Because I care about the Earth. Because I care about what we are doing to ourselves and about what is being done to us. It is a stance that I am able to take. I am seeking out strong genetics, recyclingy wax often because I cannot control beyond my fence, diving in toward foundationless to get away from plastics and contaminated wax.... And because I love purity. I drink plain ol' martinis and I prefer plain ol' creme brle. And I like my honey plain ol' ... sans the chemicals please.
    Zone 7B. 8fr meds. 5 hives. 4 years. Still a beginner.
    (hr south of LR)

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    46,212

    Default Re: Why Treatment Free.

    40 years ago it was because I wanted clean honey. Now it's because I've realized how important the microbes in the colony are to the colony's health.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Portland, Oregon
    Posts
    966

    Default Re: Why Treatment Free.

    1. I am not dependent on my hives for my livelihood. High losses are not economically devastating.
    2. Bee health: introducing insecticidal mite treatments chemically attacks bees.
    3. The first colony of bees I obtained had been several years in the wall of a house, unmanaged, and appeared to be thriving.
    (I saw no purpose in wasting time or money treating them)
    4. Product purity: toxins and drugs should not be stored with food, and treatment residues accumulate in the hive, particularly in beeswax.
    5. Sustainability: Hives dependent on inputs (like treatments) that can't get them due to economic, political, or natural disaster can't be reated, and would fail at a time when hive resources would be most beneficial.



    Sustainability:
    No agriculture that requires purchased inputs can be sustained if acess to thsoe inputs (in this case, treatments) is interrupted.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Otero County, New Mexico, USA
    Posts
    1,388

    Default Re: Why Treatment Free.

    I do not like to be dependent on the outside systems which indebt me to them. Otherwise my reasoning is the same as Kamon's.
    NM desert/mountain beekeeper - Black Mesa Honeybees.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    46,212

    Default Re: Why Treatment Free.

    I find several things about the concept of treatments very intriguing.

    First, 40 years ago any beekeeper who engaged in any discussion of pesticides would adamantly argue the "treadmill" aspect of pesticides. That killing a pest always made the problem worse in the long run. Of course they were talking to farmers about insecticides. Yet when the Varroa showed up they promptly put those same pesticides (which had in the meantime been outlawed) in their hives to kill mites.

    Second, most of the treatments so adamantly defending as being necessary in the last decades have been and still are not only not recommended by any experts in the rest of the world, but are, indeed, illegal in the rest of the world. Only the organic acids are allowed in most countries. Antibiotics (terramycin, tylosin, fumidl etc.) are not only not recommended but illegal. Relabled insecticides (aka acaracides) are also illegal.

    This concept of using antibiotics and insecticides in a bee hive is uniquely American. Maybe we sold the Chinese on it...

    Here is a page with a lot more detail on why treating makes for less healthy bees:
    www.bushfarms.com/beesfoursimplesteps.htm
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Ft. Collins, Colorado
    Posts
    551

    Default Re: Why Treatment Free.

    Michael, do you think it's more the way your handling your hives, ie.. cell size, foundationless, etc.. that is making the difference or the genetics of your stock?
    I know you sold queens for some years, did those queens do as well in other hives without those steps vs. your own with those other conditions... I'm guessing somewhere your mentioning % of winter losses but I haven't seen it lately, only the 2013 hard winter for a number of reasons. Thanks in advance for any info,

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Gainesboro, Tennessee, USA.
    Posts
    398

    Default Re: Why Treatment Free.

    Thanks again everyone!

    I agree that America has way to much chemicals in all Ag. I have notice time after time that those who are using treatments against EFB and chalkbrood have much more of it in the hive. I know they are trying to eradicate it but better to breed a resistant bee. I was scolded by one of the main state beekeepers when I said I have only seen 2 cases of EFB in my hives in the last 9 plus years. He said I was not paying attention enough. Sure I might have missed a small batch coming to the surface (that then the bees did away with) but I keep track of my colony and know very well what to look for.

    Resistant stock, only feeding sugar when necessary and clean pure combs make all the difference. They have never been a problem to me.

    For mites I split often for profit and to help my bees with brood breaks. I will be the first to tell you my bees are not immune to mites. That said, with the proper type of management and a good resistant stock. It works for me just fine. and my losses have never been more than 25% most of the times in the teens. I split to survive what I expect to lose.

    I never have known the "Golden Years" of beekeeping. I don't need to. This time period of beekeeping is enjoyable and profitable for me and I am enjoying year after year trying to breed a better bee.

    What methods do you use to assist your bees as a beekeeper to maintain strong low mite level counts going into winter.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Otero County, New Mexico, USA
    Posts
    1,388

    Default Re: Why Treatment Free.

    I mostly split and use bees that appear to be mite hardy from my locale. I tried others but found them lacking. I do a few other things, like the old Mexican trick of smoking with creosote bush, but not sure it makes a difference. Also put a little spearmint and vinegar in the Winter feed when I feed them - TF still? Don't know or care really.

    I see mites every so often, but you have to look real hard. I did have a hive of regular Cordovan/Italians get them real bad this last season. Pretty sure they won't make the Winter as their numbers got really low, and I didn't combine them with anyone since their yard was pretty far out. Wasn't real happy with them anyway. No big loss.
    NM desert/mountain beekeeper - Black Mesa Honeybees.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    46,212

    Default Re: Why Treatment Free.

    >Michael, do you think it's more the way your handling your hives, ie.. cell size, foundationless, etc.. that is making the difference or the genetics of your stock?

    www.bushfarms.com/beessctheories.htm‎

    >I know you sold queens for some years, did those queens do as well in other hives without those steps vs. your own with those other conditions... I'm guessing somewhere your mentioning % of winter losses but I haven't seen it lately, only the 2013 hard winter for a number of reasons.

    I think genetics matter a lot for winter survival, general healthy, productivity, gentleness etc. I never saw any survivors from Varroa to breed from until I went to small cell/natural cell and then I didn't have any Varroa problems.

    >I was scolded by one of the main state beekeepers when I said I have only seen 2 cases of EFB in my hives in the last 9 plus years. He said I was not paying attention enough.

    I know what you mean. I've seen EFB and AFB and Sacbrood in other people's hives. I've never seen any of those in my hives in 40 years and neither has the bee inspector. It's not that I don't know what they look like...

    www.bushfarms.com/beescerts.htm
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    Fort Walton Beach, Florida
    Posts
    1,256

    Default Re: Why Treatment Free.

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul McCarty View Post
    I mostly split and use bees that appear to be mite hardy from my locale. I tried others but found them lacking. I do a few other things, like the old Mexican trick of smoking with creosote bush, but not sure it makes a difference. Also put a little spearmint and vinegar in the Winter feed when I feed them - TF still? Don't know or care really.
    Paul, how much would you say you feed, compared to more conventional beekeepers?
    Ray--1 year, 7 hives, TF

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Otero County, New Mexico, USA
    Posts
    1,388

    Default Re: Why Treatment Free.

    I did not feed that much this year. Basically 8 starter hives for the next season to make sure they had enough for winter. The rest are pretty much left with a box of honey for a food chamber. I have been requeening or combining the hives that did not produce a box of honey for food.

    Maybe I will feed a little in Spring when it warms up, but it is usually a little cool for it and the first bloom-outs start way before then.

    Last year I had to feed a lot more, because it was dry as a bone - might have been the year before, can't remember.
    NM desert/mountain beekeeper - Black Mesa Honeybees.

  20. #20

    Default Re: Why Treatment Free.

    My reaction, when I saw the first mite 1996, was pretty much that of Stanisr ( have got BS in agriculture too!). Healthy livestock is the key factor.

    In the beginning
    1. I just could not see any point of giving drugs all the time to keep the system going
    2. I was very sure that nature is not so unwise, that if I stop treating, all bees would die ( If they had died, I was ready to give up beekeeping)
    3. Bees were given time to adjust
    - changes happen slowly
    - if treatments would have been stopped right away, possibly wrong hives would have survived
    - I gradually decreased treatment in the years 2001-2008, after that adjustment I went totally TF

    Now its becoming more like a passion and a lifetime mission. It seems so clear, that most of the troubles beekeepers have today are because bees are pampered too much. We are making bees weaker and mites stronger. Of course there are environmental stress factors (pesticides, other chemicals, mono culture in agriculture etc) too, but beekeepers are making the situation worse.

    How many years will it take for beekeepers to understand, that the only way to get rid of varroa and virus problems is to stop treatments?

    I realize, that it is impossible that all beekeepers would stop treatments at once. Therefore, after testing it myself, I have suggested that all beekeepers start programs in which treatments are gradually diminished to zero or near zero. Different strategies in different parts of the world. Example, a program that would work here in Finland: All beekeepers could change their treatments to be one time oxalic acid dropping 15ml (3% sugar solution) in late November. That would save most of the hives, but would eliminate the hives which are susceptible to mites. The amount of acid is then altered after some years experience.

    www.saunalahti.fi/lunden/varroakertomus.htm
    Last edited by Juhani Lunden; 12-12-2013 at 01:11 PM. Reason: spelling mistake
    Treatment free, honey production, isolation mated queens, www.saunalahti.fi/lunden/varroakertomus.html

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