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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    Location
    Windham, Maine, USA
    Posts
    4

    Default Minimum number of hives to be self sustainable and TF?

    I would like to be treatment free without having to buy vsh queens every year. How many colonies and nucs would you consider the minimum to do so?
    I live in Maine, zone 5a.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Location
    Westbrook, ME
    Posts
    7

    Default Re: Minimum number of hives to be self sustainable and TF?

    Don't know the answer to this since I'm fairly new as well. I live just south of you and I'm interested in the answer. I'm looking to build up to possibly being TF but up to this point I treated once last fall.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    Casey, Il, USA
    Posts
    2,509

    Default Re: Minimum number of hives to be self sustainable and TF?

    a local guy gets by with about 10 ( 10 is his target going into winter) He usually doesn't lose more than one or two and makes splits from his others to replace. This wasn't always the case when he first started out he lost several, but built up with mostly swarms from feral colonies as he doesn't have any other managed colonies within several miles from his yard.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand
    Posts
    7,080

    Default Re: Minimum number of hives to be self sustainable and TF?

    Dee Lusby has said 600.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Olympia, Washington
    Posts
    1,333

    Default Re: Minimum number of hives to be self sustainable and TF?

    I've done it with 8 hives and 4 nucs in an area with few other beeks in mating range.

    If there were a lot of other beekeepers in the area, I think you'd need considerably more to maintain mite resistance/tolerance, or the line's genetics would get diluted with intolerant (that is, susceptible) ones.
    Last edited by Beregondo; 03-20-2015 at 07:56 PM.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand
    Posts
    7,080

    Default Re: Minimum number of hives to be self sustainable and TF?

    Agreed, and that's why I mentioned Lusby's 600.

    Point being, if someone had bees in the middle of Lusby's 600, they could probably do it with 10 hives. Even if they started with non mite resistant bees, within a few generations the bees would be the same as the Lusbys. In fact a minimum number of hives in such circumstances may be one.

    If a guy wanted to keep mite resistant hives in an area with several thousand non resistant treated hives, 10 hives would not be enough.

    So a defined number to be treatment free does not exist, although maybe 600 could cut it. But the number must depend on external factors

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Rensselaer County, NY, USA
    Posts
    1,548

    Default Re: Minimum number of hives to be self sustainable and TF?

    And in addition being based on the numbers of other colonies NOT being kept by TF beekeepers, I also think that the effort put into keeping the original queens alive would matter as well. As I understand it, VSH-heritable traits are substantially weakened in every outcrossed generation.

    Better overwintering success (achieved by any method) would mean less need for "self-sustaining", nucs raised to replace winter deadouts.

    Enj.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Concord, CA
    Posts
    4,462

    Default Re: Minimum number of hives to be self sustainable and TF?

    I've been doing well with IPM, & under 20 hives.
    No longer need to purchase packages or queens.
    Even sell a few nucs.
    Dan

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    Location
    Windham, Maine, USA
    Posts
    4

    Default Re: Minimum number of hives to be self sustainable and TF?

    Thanks for all the replies! It seems I either need 10- 20 or 600 depending on the genetic saturation of my area.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    Casey, Il, USA
    Posts
    2,509

    Default Re: Minimum number of hives to be self sustainable and TF?

    Quote Originally Posted by ajsellner View Post
    Thanks for all the replies! It seems I either need 10- 20 or 600 depending on the genetic saturation of my area.
    it's more like figure out what your avg winter loss is, avg life span of a single colony and then figure out how many you need to keep based off those numbers.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Hamilton, Alabama
    Posts
    1,352

    Default Re: Minimum number of hives to be self sustainable and TF?

    You have to keep enough colonies to exceed the pressure of mite susceptible colonies in the surrounding area. I pushed my colonies to swarm heavily a few years to move a few dozen feral colonies into the area around my apiaries. This gives me the critical mass of mite tolerant colonies needed to maintain bees with no treatments. It is a nice sounding statement but not provable, however, my bees are alive in their 11th season with no treatments.
    DarJones - 45 years, 10 colonies (max 40), sideliner, treatment free since 2005, 11 frame broodnest, small cell

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    Location
    Windham, Maine, USA
    Posts
    4

    Default Re: Minimum number of hives to be self sustainable and TF?

    Quote Originally Posted by jefff View Post
    Don't know the answer to this since I'm fairly new as well. I live just south of you and I'm interested in the answer. I'm looking to build up to possibly being TF but up to this point I treated once last fall.
    Jefff, are you a member of Cumberland County beekeepers association? In my area, the cooper's farm probably has the most colonies. I'm going to email the group to survey how many might be TF in my area.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    49,279

    Default Re: Minimum number of hives to be self sustainable and TF?

    In a good year, 2. In a horrible year maybe you need 100... I was not dealing with Varroa but from 1974 to 2002 or so I had between 1 and 7 with my goal to have 2. Once in a while I bought a queen when doing a split, but mostly I let them raise their own. Once in a while I bought a package to get back quickly without weakening them by doing a split. Now with the queens so poor, Varroa to to deal with and packages so poor, I would probably not buy a queen nor a package. Which probably means it would be better to shoot for between 4 and 12 hives if I were doing the same thing with the same kind of goals under more current conditions. Nothing says you can't occasionally buy a queen from someone local, or even a hive with bees. So I guess part of the issue is if you want to be more certain of staying self sufficient or if you want to be "mostly" self sufficient. I think you could be "mostly" self sufficient with between 4 and 12 hives. It's a good idea to have that peak in the fall and make adjustments in the spring. In other words if you go into winter with 12 hives and only 4 survive, you can build back up in the spring. If you go into wither with 4 hives and 3 of them die you don't have much to work with.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    jackson county, alabama, usa
    Posts
    5,683

    Default Re: Minimum number of hives to be self sustainable and TF?

    assuming 15-20% losses as has been my experience so far, and with making increase every season averaging one new colony for each one overwintered, i would say that 10 hives would be enough to not only sustain but to be productive as well. i shoot for +/- 20, and that is all i really have time for with a full time day job.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

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