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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2016
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    Camas, Washington, USA
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    19

    Default Seeley's Darwinian Beekeeping Article

    Folks, as a "natural" beekeeper, I have been doing most of Seeley's 10 steps for better beekeeping as outlined in his article, Darwinian Beekeeping. His last "commandment" is to go treatment free, with many caveats. He says that TF beekeepers need to be prepared to cull varroa-crashing hives before the colony starts to collapse (and drift...).

    As someone with only 5 years into beekeeping, I need some advice from you bee mentors: How do I learn to recognized the signs of a hive on it's death spiral from varroa? Once the numbers start crashing, it becomes pretty obvious. Or if they die in winter, well, they wont be drifting to anyone else's hive. But if they are failing before that, what are the signs that it's varroa?

    Do you do mite counts, and is there a magic number that indicates your hive is toast? I use skeps, and can only do a mite count with sticky boards.

    I'm perplexed because I know that some hives can carry high numbers of varroa and survive. I DON"T want to "cull" a hive that might be doing a valiant varroa battle that they could eventually triumph over. So this last edict of Seeley's seems confusing to me, and I could really use your guidance!

    --Susan in the PNW (where the rain has not stopped since last September. My bees are growing web feet...)

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Rensselaer County, NY, USA
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    3,590

    Default Re: Seeley's Darwinian Beekeeping Article

    It seems to me you are trying to do two mutually contradictory things at the same time, with the same bees.

    Skeps are quaint and charming, but I think they are quite unsuited to modern beekeeping, with its modern problems. I think they pose a severe limitation when it comes to being able to care for your bees responsibly. Without being able to examine the combs for signs of diseases and pests and check brood patterns I don't see how you are going to be able to judge whether you're making progress towards a more self-sustaining apiary, or not.

    But if you are committed to the idea of using skeps then do so with one or two colonies, to see if they can be made to work at all.

    If you also want to follow recent Seeley's novel proposal, then you should do what you can to evaluate its potential using different colonies in standard equipment.

    I sticky board every colony, every week of the year and I would not want to make the decision to pre-emptively euthanize a hive based solely on that data. There are often anomalies that I have to resolve by using sugar rolls. And without the information gleaned from looking at the frames, it's impossible to really know what's going on in the hive.

    There's nothing more unnatural about wooden boxes when compared to straw skeps. Neither is the natural habitat of honey bees. And Langstroth made a significant improvement in the bees' lives with his removable frame design; before that bees and colonies were routinely killed to harvest their honey. I use standard equipment and I fancy that my bees are extremely well-housed (even in my very cold climate.) I see that as my fundamental moral obligation to them, as well as being a practical thing to safeguard the investment of my time, effort and money.

    Enj.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
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    Rensselaer County, NY, USA
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    Default Re: Seeley's Darwinian Beekeeping Article

    deleted dup. post

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    Location
    Kamloops, BC, Canada
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    954

    Default Re: Seeley's Darwinian Beekeeping Article

    I am going to a system where I am using robber screens that will be installed during my late summer dearth. This should reduce mite transference by robbing (both bees from outside the apiary and within), and drifting. I don't see bees drifting to foreign apiaries.

    I think both TF and treating beekeepers should consider this. Its not just TF keepers that have dwindling hives.

    Meanwhile the biggest problem is the import of foreign bees into a region. All the hooey about treating bees to protect them is hypocrisy if this practice is not curtailed.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
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    Rensselaer County, NY, USA
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    Default Re: Seeley's Darwinian Beekeeping Article

    Well, my bees have had robber screens on every opening for years from June to close-out, and believe me, they still get new mites coming into the hives.

    Robber screens keep "foreign" (i.e. not from my yard) bees out of the hives pretty well. But my sweet little darlin' girls go out raiding whenever they have a chance, and they come home with the bee-equivalent of social diseases for their trouble.

    Bees can also pick up mites from flowers when foraging.

    I believe in robber screens, but they are only half the equation. They help, but don't solve the mite problem.

    I am not in area where there are migratory bees, only fresh bees (with fresh mites) that come in each spring to replace TF dead outs every year.

    Enj.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    Location
    Covington, Alabama, USA
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    428

    Default Re: Seeley's Darwinian Beekeeping Article

    Susan: Please re-read this excerpt from Seeley's "last commandment" in the article:

    WARNING: This last suggestion should only be adopted if you can do so carefully, as part of a program of extremely diligent beekeeping. If you pursue treatment-free beekeeping without close attention to your colonies, then you will create a situation in your apiary in which natural selection is favoring virulent Varroa mites, not Varroa-resistant bees. To help natural selection favor Varroa-resistant bees, you will need to monitor closely the mite levels in all your colonies and kill those whose mite populations are skyrocketing long before these colonies can collapse.

    I agree with enjambres that using skeps will not allow you to monitor your hives and mite levels in such a way that Seeley states is required for Varroa-resistant bees.

    I am not suggesting that you stop using skeps. I think a primary way that we can contribute, as hobbyist beekeepers, to the development of Varroa-resistant bees is to work with, support and even pressure, regional queen breeders for Varroa-resistant queens. Like all innovations, we must create a market for regionally raised, queen-resistant bees.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2015
    Location
    Germany, BW
    Posts
    851

    Default Re: Seeley's Darwinian Beekeeping Article

    Hi Susan.

    But my sweet little darlin' girls go out raiding whenever they have a chance, and they come home with the bee-equivalent of social diseases for their trouble.
    What enjambres says happens often. This depends a little bit what bee race you have, it seems. The bad, bad italiens
    If they are in need of honey they rob, some rob without need if they detect a weak hive.

    If you want to monitor in an easy kind of way watch the traffic and virus disease. If you see this ( virus disease or many mites on bees), you may decide to place these colonies isolated from your others, if possible.
    If they survive in isolation and thrive again they are very good.
    Or treat them, if you want to save them.

    If you are able to cut out drone brood from the bottom, do this ( and worker brood, too) and open cells to watch the infestation.
    Listen to good advice, then.... make your own decision. fusion_power
    www.vivabiene.de

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    Location
    Kamloops, BC, Canada
    Posts
    954

    Default Re: Seeley's Darwinian Beekeeping Article

    Quote Originally Posted by enjambres View Post
    Well, my bees have had robber screens on every opening for years from June to close-out, and believe me, they still get new mites coming into the hives.

    Robber screens keep "foreign" (i.e. not from my yard) bees out of the hives pretty well. But my sweet little darlin' girls go out raiding whenever they have a chance, and they come home with the bee-equivalent of social diseases for their trouble.

    Bees can also pick up mites from flowers when foraging.

    I believe in robber screens, but they are only half the equation. They help, but don't solve the mite problem.

    I am not in area where there are migratory bees, only fresh bees (with fresh mites) that come in each spring to replace TF dead outs every year.

    Enj.
    Yes, so if everyone used them it would solve some of these problems. As well as doing more to restrict bee movement. I'm pretty sure a big migratory operation parking close to an apiary is a huge issue compared to a TF "mite bomb". There is potential to educate a backyard keeper on robbing screens, but a big operation? I'm not at all worried about random mites brought home from flowers. Totally insignificant.

    If bee clubs aren't actively promoting local bee self sufficiency, they are not really concerned with bee health.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    Shreveport, Louisiana, USA
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    2,164

    Default Re: Seeley's Darwinian Beekeeping Article

    This is the article by Dr. Seeley: http://www.naturalbeekeepingtrust.or...ian-beekeeping
    David.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    Denver, Colorado, U.S.A.
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    2,121

    Default Re: Seeley's Darwinian Beekeeping Article

    The first couple of year that I kept bees, I had major robbing problems. I finally built some very nice robber screens and left them on from spring through Fall. The design was such that the screens blocked the robbers without impeding the home bees.

    I no longer use robbing screens. Instead, I monitor the traffic at the hive entrance, and I adjust the entrance size so that it is always a little crowded. The entrance is small when the hive population is small, and the entrance is bigger when the hive population is large. The entrance is about two bees wide in the winter and early spring. It gets opened to about 2" wide about 3 weeks after our first blooms start. It goes to about 4" wide about the time I am putting on the second honey super. Etc. When the entrance is properly scaled to the size of the hive population, even the smallest hive can defend itself from robbing, and I have never had a robbing problem since using this method.
    --shinbone
    (7th year, 10 hives, Zone 5b, 5500')

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    Location
    Kamloops, BC, Canada
    Posts
    954

    Default Re: Seeley's Darwinian Beekeeping Article

    Quote Originally Posted by shinbone View Post
    The first couple of year that I kept bees, I had major robbing problems. I finally built some very nice robber screens and left them on from spring through Fall. The design was such that the screens blocked the robbers without impeding the home bees.

    I no longer use robbing screens. Instead, I monitor the traffic at the hive entrance, and I adjust the entrance size so that it is always a little crowded. The entrance is small when the hive population is small, and the entrance is bigger when the hive population is large. The entrance is about two bees wide in the winter and early spring. It gets opened to about 2" wide about 3 weeks after our first blooms start. It goes to about 4" wide about the time I am putting on the second honey super. Etc. When the entrance is properly scaled to the size of the hive population, even the smallest hive can defend itself from robbing, and I have never had a robbing problem since using this method.
    The issue is more what to do with dwindling hives that can't defend themselves and resultant mite transfer.

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