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.
NW Alabama, 50 years, 20 colonies and growing, sideliner, treatment free since 2005, 14 frame square Dadant broodnest