All these theories are good and nice, but there's a few reasons why I will continue to ignore them. First, they don't come from treatment-free beekeepers. Back in the day, it was a different story. There was only one long term treatment-free beekeeper on the forums and lots of very experienced conventional beekeepers. Now that's not the case at all. There are dozens of long term TF beekeepers wandering round the internets and I happen to be one of them. And second, the TF folks have a far better record in using their data to predict outcomes than the rest. That's what science does. The big crashes Roland predicts never happen. And despite being told repeatedly that my bees are disease ridden, they're still here. And no one has ever some to visit to confirm their theories.
Mark, you and I have been arguing about this for years. You know exactly what is happening. I have posted more information than anyone.
I can't say that I follow you enough to really know or understand what is going on.
Not to argue, but it seems that what is happening is that your bees are dead. I don't know how many, only the ones you are showing us I guess. You may be becoming a better beekeeper, but so far removed from what I am familiar with that it doesn't look like it to me.
Which is the state of beekeeping today in general from where I sit. Beekeeping is becoming something so unfamiliar to me.
"Most of my exercise comes from wrestling with pigs and beating dead horses."
Most of my hives are still alive, it has been going on for quite some time.
Presenting the example of cocoa with the presumption that plant breeding directly correlates with bee breeding is another deep magical myth. The resistance you mention in Cocoa is an example of an r-strategist plant disease with evidence showing that resistance is based on key/lock genes which are relatively easily overcome by pathogens. Pest tolerance in honeybees is mostly based on behavioral genes such as those for grooming behavior. I would generally agree that breeding for disease/pest tolerance is a long term project, but it can be done on reasonable time scales in the range of 10 years or less depending on prevalence of resistance genes and the intensity of selection pressure. My bees are highly tolerant of varroa and have been stable for at least 3 years from a start in 2005. It still took 15 years from 1990 to 2004 to find that first resistant colony, but once found, breeding stable varroa resistance was just a matter of time.The assumption that resistance breeding can be short-cut is a deeply magical myth.
I was hit by tracheal mites and wiped out in 1988. Buckfast genetics resolved that issue. I have never treated for tracheal mites.
DarJones - 45 years, 10 colonies (max 40), sideliner, treatment free since 2005, 11 frame broodnest, small cell
Over the past 6-7 winters that I've lived in this location, I've seen colonies of only two major genres, and that is during normal cold and abnormal cold. While a minority of hives appear to die of disease pressures, major dieoffs happen at record cold temperatures. Nucs from Georgia die just because. And by major, I mean 5 or more. This is the most I've ever lost in one year, 7 dead, 8 alive and 8 as yet unchecked. My operation was stable for a couple years, the last two winters I only lost one and I still consider it to be stable in reference to varroa. My hives at home show that and the feedback from the nucs I've sold show that as well.
Isn't that kinda what people are saying. You've been keeping bees for more than 10 years? You had a couple of years you call "stable", now, as others have correctly predicted, back to a large number of dead hives, and way less survivors than you predicted last year you would have this season.
No criticism at all Solomon, you have done well, I wish I could replicate what success you have had. But a 2 season blip does not a long term success make, and it's hard to beat maths and statistics. 2 season blips are a common experience for TF beekeepers. 2 years is not a long time in the cycles of beekeeping, but in human psych, it's long enough to make many people believe they have achieved nirvana, right before major losses or crash. many here can vouch for that from personal experience, some having gone even more than 2 seasons of excellent results, before major unsustainable losses again.
I'm about a 2 hour drive due West of Sol. I do treat for Varroa. I'm also having the worst overwintering I've had in 7 winters of beekeeping. I don't think it's Varroa that is doing this to my hives. It also is not starvation. My best guess is that it is Nosema ceranae.
How about the rest of the Association Neil, are they seeing increased losses as well? I'm sure I'll hear at the Buzz, but are you getting any info from the group?
There's not been a real survey, and its pretty early. But I have heard more bad news being reported than normal so far. Last winter, one of the beekeepers who is very competent and experienced had something like 80% of his hives die.
I had two hives die out last fall. I have another one dead right now. I have another one that's dying. I have two more that have bees but the brood pattern is lousy and there are not enough bees. I have one hive that looks good. I have another one that I've not checked yet but which did not look that great going into winter. All of them had lots of stores.
All of these hives follow a pattern of going from looking fine and dandy to not having a laying queen and dwindling out. All of these hives were treated for Varroa last August, and they were all going along fine until they just mysteriously start to not have enough bees and then end up queenless. The Varroa numbers were not high after treatments last August, and they don't appear to have died from Varroa no stunted growth, deformed wings, varroa poop in cells, etc. (although I can't really do a Varroa count on a dead hive.) Have not seen any x-wing bees. To the extent there is brood, it does not appear to be diseased. There were an unusually high number of dead bees near the front porch after the last cold spell ended, as if more than the normal number of bees died during the cold and then they all got moved out.
I usually treat for Nosema too, but I stopped doing that last year after reading that Fumigillin does not seem to affect Nosema c. One of the hive appeared to have soiling right around a top entrance the bees were using, but not lots of Varroa poop like you have with Nosema Apis.
I really think that this is either Nosema ceranae or some virus that is spread by Varroa even if the Varroa numbers are not really high.
I know this is a treatment-free forum. I'm just reporting what I'm seeing and suggesting that there is something going on here that is unrelated to sufficient stores or Varroa.
I need to gather up my some bees in the hive that in a real nosedive and send them to Beltsville.
Seems like you aught to be able to do an alcohol wash on all of the dead bees in a hive and find what mite be there.
"Most of my exercise comes from wrestling with pigs and beating dead horses."
Neil what you describe can be related to n cerana, they do not poop excessively with n cerana like with n apis.
I now have n cerana in my own bees and this has been confirmed by a lab. Fortunately our environment is kind and the bees handle it well. But if in combination with high DWV can be very tough on the bees I have learned this the hard way. Don't lose hives to it here because of bee friendly weather, but the cerana / dwv combo does cause what could best be described as failure to thrive, and in a harsh winter like yours I could certainly see hives dying. The other problem with this virus combo, if you use an infected hive to raise queen cells, a lot of the queen cells get torn down by the bees when you put them in the nucs. That has been my biggest issue with it.
Eh, if I did, I'd either have mites or I wouldn't. But I can tell you already, I do have mites, everyone does.
My untreated, un-meddled-with bees have overwintered a record wet winter very well. I've lost one good one that was invaded by a nearby queenless hive that didn't have the sense to bring their stores along, so they all starved together. I drowned a tiny nuc accidentally, trying to encourage it to build a bit with syrup. I over-harvested one of my best hives then put candy on the top of a lift, instead of taking the lift off. They starved with candy 6" away. I'm most annoyed about that one, but I have several of her offspring.
My mental count is 24 still going strong, meaning I must have had 28 going into winter (having lost a few to robbing/late mating failure and combined a few).
All the winter losses are accountable by starvation. Nothing else.
However: most of those are last year's swarms and splits/builds. I fed most of them. Most of the best older queens are kept in nucs. Apart from not treating I am protecting these in order to maintain bees that I have good reason to believe may well possess resistant traits.
Ongoing natural (and unnatural) winnowing due to poor internal varroa control will maintain and enhance that qualitiy, and I'll work on general health and vitality and productivity in the same way.
What Neil said, and I quoted, was "I know this is a treatment-free forum. I'm just reporting what I'm seeing and suggesting that there is something going on here that is unrelated to sufficient stores or Varroa."
It might just be worth looking into what might have changed, forage wise.
We've just had a change of rules that has banned what are thought to the worst neonicotinoids for a couple of years - though last year's plantings may be present this year. Whether that actually represents an improvement remains to seen - the alternatives might be as bad or worse.