Re: Commercial beekeeping and the historical decreasing use of harsh to soft treatmen
Then count me in the treatment free group. I've been a sideliner since 1975 though I had a few colonies in 1969 but really did not know much about them and did nothing to manage them. I had my first brush with AFB in 1976 when a commercial beekeeper gave me some older equipment. My choice then was to use terramycin for prophylaxis. I had about a dozen colonies in 1988 when tracheal mites wiped me out. I bought some colonies from a guy who just hived swarms and did NO stock selection of any sort, but he had live bees and mine were dead. I requeened them with Buckfast queens and I rebuilt to about 30 colonies. Then in 1993 varroa wiped me out again. I had one live colony in 1994. I split it in march and got 3 very productive colonies that made about 500 pounds of honey. I also caught 2 swarms that year, no idea where they came from, but bait hives brought them in. Then in the fall, I split again and wound up with 11 colonies going into 1995. I started treating with Apistan in the fall of 1994 and continued to treat until the fall of 2004. By that time I had located some feral stock that showed decent tolerance of varroa and I found out about Dann Purvis who had been doing serious selection work with mite tolerant stock. His methods were simple, raise queens and AI them from his best mite tolerant stock, then let the mites kill off all they could. Raise more queens from the survivors. It was highly effective, unfortunately, the stock was relatively poor for honey production. He crossed them with a decent Italian line and selected until they were highly mite tolerant and had mediocre performance. I got some of the gold line queens from him in 2005 and requeened 2/3 of my colonies. I kept the best of the feral mite tolerant colonies I already had. Today my bees are roughly 60% descended from the feral lines and 40% from the Purvis queens. I have not treated any colonies since 2005. They survive just fine on their own. Do they produce honey? Yes, my best colony made 5 full shallow supers of decent honey this year. My average colonies made between 80 and 100 pounds. Are they infested with varroa mites? Could be, but I can't find them. I checked last week and even an alcohol roll did not turn up any mites. There is still a palm of your hand sized patch of brood in most colonies so it is possible there are varroa in the cells. But the brood is hatching healthy so it must not be much. I have my colonies on small cell and use 11 frames in the brood nest. I don't know if this impacts the mites and really don't care. What matters is that my bees are alive and treatment free and they make a good crop of honey every year.
NW Alabama, 50 years, 20 colonies and growing, sideliner, treatment free since 2005, 14 frame square Dadant broodnest