TF until today
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Thread: TF until today

  1. #1
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    Default TF until today

    After 6 seasons on not treating (25-40% winter losses depending upon year) I had a massive loss last year (8/11 hives, 10/10 nucs). I wrote it off to bad management due to unavoidable time constraints and a very tough winter. I rarely had time to manage the hives and my personal experience makes me believe treatment free takes more time than when one treats. When you are treatment free there is no big eraser to clean up a heavy mite load.

    I wanted to stay TF so this season I used queen capture to break the brood cycle, split hives and let them raise their own queen, monitored via sugar roll several times, etc. As I prep for winter my 3 hives have become 4 hives and 2 nucs (recombined 2 slow hives). All season long, I have had mite counts of 0 to 1. Then came late summer and 2 of my hives jumped to mite drops of 12+/24 hr. As it was too late to try to break the brood cycle I reverted to sugar dusting (yes, I understand that is a treatment that rarely works). After 2 weeks, the mite load remained constant and it became time to reconsider my philosophy. After hours of reading papers, forum posts, Randy Oliver, talking to friends etc., I finally decided OAV treatments would be the least invasive with minimal side effects to queens, bees and brood. Also, I am not selling honey this year.

    I just completed treating the 4 hives about 20 minutes ago. The nucs have not shown that they require treatment but I will continue to monitor. As this was my first time, I took my time and treated each hive individually before moving on to the next. As I sit here writing this post, the hive activity appears normal with bees coming and going as usual. There is still brood in the hives so I will take a look at the sticky boards next Thursday to see what the mite kill was and then monitor for 2 days to see what the new drop count is. If needed, I will treat the individual hives that require it. To me, the proof will be my winter survival rate. Based on last year's calamity, I know that if I had not treated my 2 largest hives (with the high mite counts) there would have been little to no chance of them making it.

    I'm sad to have had to treat but happy with my decision to do so and my choice of treatment. Now I have to change the blog!
    11 yrs, TF 6 yrs, moved to OAV in 2014, MAQS 2016. 6 hives and 5 nucs Zone 4B
    www.nhbees.wordpress.com

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
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    Fort Gay, WV, USA
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    Default Re: TF until today

    Sometimes in life we must make tough decisions that go against what we had hoped and worked toward for much time. These decisions are always the ones that make us sit and think about what went wrong and how it all happened.

    I applaud you for letting every one know what has happened.
    Thomas Bartram

  4. #3
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    jackson county, alabama, usa
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    Default Re: TF until today

    losses like that would definitely make me reconsider my approach.

  5. #4
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    Default Re: TF until today

    Quote Originally Posted by squarepeg View Post
    losses like that would definitely make me reconsider my approach.
    how much honey was on the hives over winter that you lost?

  6. #5
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    Default Re: TF until today

    Quote Originally Posted by burns375 View Post
    how much honey was on the hives over winter that you lost?
    was your question meant for eyeshooter?

  7. #6
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    Default Re: TF until today

    I was TF for about 6 years, up until 2011. I too had losses in the 25-45% range, until the last year. Starting in the fall, I went from (I think) 25 full hives and 30 nucs down to 5 nucs and 15 hives by November. By December I was down to 5 hives. By January I wasn't a beekeeper anymore. TF "survivor" stock, brood breaks and natural comb ultimately proved unsuccessful. I feel that when one hive crashed from mites, the mites flooded to the neighboring hives, causing a domino effect.

    When I got replacement hives in 2012, I didn't consider going TF anymore. Just treating when needed and in the least invasive method possible. It proved to be a good choice for me.

    When I announced that TF didn't work for me, I was criticized by the TF community. I was told I failed because I did something wrong. Should have been small cell instead of natural cell. I took off too much honey (even though they didn't starve), my "survivor" stock wasn't good enough, or a variety of other things. In the end, they pointed the finger at me. Made me feel horrible. I hope the same doesn't happen to you.

    Good choice. I hope it works out for you.

  8. #7
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    Default Re: TF until today

    I don't blame you; I do sympathize with you; and I am not in your shoes. From your blog, the inability of the bees last year to produce sufficient honey even without your harvesting honey is troubling. Did you see signs of varroa in the collapsed hives? I am curious what the effect of treating, not harvesting, and not feeding would be. But not so much that I would suggest that you do that. (See first sentence.) In my location and given my goals and purposes, I would not have taken the same steps that you did. (kirkwebster.com/index.php/collapse-and-recovery-the-gateway-to-treatment-free-beekeeping) But in the context of your larger operation, I get it. And your sharing your experience will help others know what to expect and prepare for decision points. Thank you for sharing, and I hope i goes well with you.
    David Matlock

  9. #8
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    Default Re: TF until today

    I think you will shocked at the mite drop you will get over the next few days. I hope you left your sticky boards in so you can see just how many mites it kills. Remember you will need to do a couple more treatments over the next few weeks to clean up the mites that are hidden under the capped brood. I've used the vapor on lots of hives and have never noticed any kind of negative effect. I don't use it much any more because of the time required for treatments. But, I must say it is one of the only treatments that I've used that I don't notice at least some negative side effect. Apigaurd and Apivar are my favorite treatments right now but, if your wanting to go semi treatment free Oxalic vapor is a good compromise.

  10. #9
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    Default Re: TF until today

    I hope Eyeshooter sees johng's comment below.

    "Remember you will need to do a couple more treatments over the next few weeks to clean up the mites that are hidden under the capped brood."

    One OAV treatment this time of year is not sufficient.

  11. #10
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    Default Re: TF until today

    I've been IPM with small cell for 6 years. Our losses run from 0-20%. I only remove the drone comb if its infested, & only PS occasionally.
    Everyone's experience is different.
    Dan

  12. #11
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    Default Re: TF until today

    The end goal should be keeping your bees alive with as little treatments possible, you did that, dead bees can't adapt. If ever I get in that position, I will also chose to treat.
    Where I would try draw the line is giving them something that will kill off all the things in their gut that they depend on to keep their immune system going. An external treatment is not too bad. Hope your bees do better this winter, thanks for sharing.

  13. #12
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    Default Re: TF until today

    Re the OA treatment, 70% to 80% of the mites are inside sealed brood and not available for the OA to kill.

    So as per the other comments, repeat applications are necessary, and on a time frame that does not allow mites coming out of brood cells to get back into another one before getting killed.

    It is very satisfying to do an OA treatment and a few days later see a big pile of dead mites on the floor but if that is the case, consider how many must still be in there and do something for them also.
    "Every viewpoint, is a view from a point." - Solomon Parker

  14. #13
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    Default Re: TF until today

    To Burns375:
    Most of the nucs were very low on honey tho' there were still a couple of frames in most of the nucs. 3 were empty.

    As to the hives, I still have 7 full supers of honey I removed from the dead outs this spring plus I have given the nucs and hives about another 15 frames throughout the early spring and summer. Every hive had honey still present.

    I had the state inspector come visit and autopsy the hives with me. We had a brutal winter last year. Several periods of 4 -5 days of -20F. Several hives "chimneyed" because it was so cold and never broke cluster. They moved straight up one side of the hive (leaving honey in their wake) reached the top and starved. Most of the others had significant numbers of mites on the tops of the frames. Ben said cold may have gotten some of them but the main culprit was mites.

    Johng:
    Thanks for the heads up. I've read that OAV only affects the phoretic mites. I plan on doing a 2nd treatment in 6 days and possibly one more the following week. I did take a look at one of the sticky boards under one of the high count hives. After about 8 hours there were more than 150 mites on the board.

    I'm not thrilled that I had to treat but my plan was not working and I was going to loose 2 booming hives. The choice of OAV gives me some satisfaction in that it is considered an organic treatment but I am not trying to fool myself. All of the research says it is not harmful to the bees and does not affect the queen's cycle. We'll see but I do know the bees were acting as if nothing happened today. The front activity was a bit slow immediately after the treatments but was back to normal shortly thereafter. When I went out to clean up the apiary this afternoon the bees were numerous and gentle as normal. Just short some mites...

    Thanks for all of your thoughtful responses.

    John
    11 yrs, TF 6 yrs, moved to OAV in 2014, MAQS 2016. 6 hives and 5 nucs Zone 4B
    www.nhbees.wordpress.com

  15. #14
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    Default Re: TF until today

    SpecialKayme - Is there a lot of commercial or other bee sources in your area? I have wondered if maybe any hygienic genetics in your cutouts might have been bred out of the hive after a few years. Each mating could reduce the hygienic actions and finally the mites just overwhelm the colony. Hate to hear that because the path you went down sounds just like me.

    Eyeshooter - I plan on doing treatment free but build a fogger in the spring just in case.

    Sometime you have to do what you have to do. Good Luck
    Started 9/13, building slowly, not trying the no treatment anymore

  16. #15
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    Default Re: TF until today

    Don't confuse the correct statement that oxalic acid is classified as an organic acid in the chemical sense with the idea that it is an "organic" treatment, meaning acceptable in organic production certification.

    I'm not being critical of your decision because I treated this summer, too, with formic acid (MAQS) and later this year when my bees are broodless, with OA vapor. Last year I used concentrated thymol (Apiguard). I chose all three of these because they are "soft" treatments, unlike "hard" ones like Amitraz.

    I will do what I have to do keep my colonies alive and healthy. I also wouldn't want to be the source of the neighborhood mite-bomb that spreads the problem to other apiaries.

    I'm glad to hear of your positive experience with OAV.

    Enj.

  17. #16
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    Default Re: TF until today

    Quote Originally Posted by enjambres View Post
    Don't confuse the correct statement that oxalic acid is classified as an organic acid in the chemical sense with the idea that it is an "organic" treatment, meaning acceptable in organic production certification.
    Enj.
    what organic production certification are you referring to?

  18. #17
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    Default Re: TF until today

    To sell food (and some fibers, like cotton) labeled as organically produced you must grow them using only certain growing techniques, chemicals, ferilizers, etc. The word certfied organic is a national standard, but the actual practices allowed under the certification varies from state to state.

    Materials used for treating certified organic crops have a listing with OMRI (Organic Materials Research Institute) but each certifying state or organization has their own list of permissible materials. Small producers in some areas may self-certify if they keep good records, for the first few years. After that it's more complicate and expensive to get, and maintain, certified organic status.

    Just because some particular chemical is OMRI-listed doesn't mean it is completely benign for the environment, or safe to use widely. Sometimes the OMRI chemicals are pretty vile (and unsafe for bees), but are allowable when no other chemical or cultural practice will suffice to make a crop.

    I was just trying to point out that oxalic acid which is classified as a "organic acid" in chemistry (vs an inorganic acid) is NOT the same thing as using a chemical allowable for certified organic honey production. (I'm not even sure if there is such a thing as certified organic honey.) But for sure, some of the more agressive anti-mite chemicals could not be used in hives that were organically certified, even if there was no honey crop in the hive when particular chemical was in use. Similarly, as an example, you can't treat bean seeds with non-OMRI certified soil fungicides even though those fungicides wouldn't be on the beans themselves that were later harvested and marketed as food. Organic certification is about more than just limiting chemicals directly applied to the food crops. It's about how the crops were grown, in what type of environment, with a limited input of precisely spelled-out practices and allowable materials.

    One thing I am sure of though, is that without formal certification as organically produced by some outside agency you can't use that phrase on your product. You could say it was produced without chemicals, or naturally raised, or pure and natural, etc., just not "Certified Organic Honey" unless you met those standards (whatever they are in your certifying area.)

    Enj.

  19. #18
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    Default Re: TF until today

    I understand the organic acid classification and point you made about it.

    My question relates to the organic production certification, and I'm not sure either if there is such
    a thing as certified organic honey or organically certified hives but I'm pretty sure there is not.

    I am familiar though with certified naturally grown, CNG , and Oxalic acid is allowable under their guidelines.
    clyde

  20. #19
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    Default Re: TF until today

    "Several hives "chimneyed" because it was so cold and never broke cluster. They moved straight up one side of the hive (leaving honey in their wake) reached the top and starved."

    I wonder if the fact that several hives did that illustrates that taller hives with smaller boxes (8 or 5 frame boxes) may fare better in harsh conditions.
    David Matlock

  21. #20
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    Default Re: TF until today

    Quote Originally Posted by marshmasterpat View Post
    SpecialKayme - Is there a lot of commercial or other bee sources in your area?
    None that I'm aware of. The hives were mainly in Cary, NC at the time. Not a hot spot for commercial apiaries. I've heard there was one commercial operator located in Wake County, NC, but as best I could tell he would be at least 20 miles away from where I was. That's based on rumor, speculation and conjecture. No way to be certain though.

    Quote Originally Posted by marshmasterpat View Post
    I have wondered if maybe any hygienic genetics in your cutouts might have been bred out of the hive after a few years.
    I attempted, rather vigorously, to maintain the genetic diversity of the TF stock I had. My stock had gone untreated since 2005. In 2008 I incorporated two MH queens into the mix (trying to increase hygenic behavior). While I kept them as part of the gene pool, I did not graft from those hives. In 2009 I bought out a guy in eastern TN. He had 5 hives that had gone untreated (and unmanaged, other than him "robbing honey" once a year) for 8 or 9 years. I continued to graft from my stock, and 1/2 of the TN stock. In 2010 I incorporated 1 VSH queen and 2 local "survivor" queens, both of which were advertised as maintained without treatments. I hadn't bred from either of them, as in 2011 I was still evaluating their genetic value.

    Who knows what actually happened, but I highly doubt the hygienic (or whatever traits they had) were "bred out" of them.

    Looking back on it, I wouldn't have done anything differently (except I would have treated as soon as the first round of hives started to collapse, rather than let the whole house of cards fall).

    Quote Originally Posted by enjambres View Post
    I'm not being critical of your decision because I treated this summer, too, with formic acid (MAQS) and later this year when my bees are broodless, with OA vapor. Last year I used concentrated thymol (Apiguard). I chose all three of these because they are "soft" treatments, unlike "hard" ones like Amitraz.
    I hope your experiences are better than mine. When I went back to treatments, I started with Apiguard. I still had mite losses. The Apiguard helped, but didn't knock the mites back enough. I then switched to formic acid (MAQS). The mite kill was substantial, but the temp range is so picky I can't treat in July/August. Only in the spring. When I treated in the spring, I lost 15% of the queens that were treated. The remaining 85% of the hives shut down all brood rearing for a 3-4 week period. It KILLED my honey production, as a shut down of brood rearing in spring destroys the foraging force. This year I was weighing either going with OA or going with Amitraz. I went with Amitraz. Zero recorded residue in comb, and it's legal. Not what I wanted, but my hives are healthier than ever after using it.

    I may go with an OA/Amitraz combo next year though. Jury's still out.

    Quote Originally Posted by Riverderwent View Post
    I wonder if the fact that several hives did that illustrates that taller hives with smaller boxes (8 or 5 frame boxes) may fare better in harsh conditions.
    I've heard that mentioned several times. I have yet to see a shred of evidence supporting the theory though (other than anecdotal evidence).

    It was mentioned in the last ABJ issue, and dismissed as "unfounded."

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