Impact of location on treatment-free beekeeping...
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2015
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    Dolianova, Sardinia, Italy
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    Default Impact of location on treatment-free beekeeping...

    I have read speculation in various threads that location might be key to understanding some of the discrepancies in the results of treatment-free beekeepers, who employ similar practices, but live in different places. I wondered if the treatment free-beekeepers of the forum would be willing to recount their experience (be it positive or negative, present or past) in the context of their location, that we might compare these responses together in a single thread, in the off chance that any interesting patterns emerge.

    Information of interest:
    1. hardiness zone;
    2. how long you have been treatment free;
    3. what success (or lack thereof) you have seen;
    4. any peculiarities of your local geography or climate that you think influence your bees or your beekeeping, and the ways in which it has influenced them.

    Given the local nature of the question, my single request would be that the contributors to this thread avoid any generalized statements that are not couched in terms of specific geographic or climactic features.

    Caveat aside, all observations, ruminations, suspicions, or gross conjectures will be most welcome.

    John

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Location
    Stillwell, KS
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    695

    Default Re: Impact of location on treatment-free beekeeping...

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnBruceLeonard View Post
    1. hardiness zone;
    2. how long you have been treatment free;
    3. what success (or lack thereof) you have seen;
    4. any peculiarities of your local geography or climate that you think influence your bees or your beekeeping, and the ways in which it has influenced them.

    Caveat aside, all observations, ruminations, suspicions, or gross conjectures will be most welcome.
    1. 5a,
    2. 5 years
    3. Fair, 20 - 30 hives, generally can get 2 or 3 good productive seasons out of a hive, I've got a few that have survived 5 years.
    4. Summer dearth, local feral population (have never had to purchase bees), mixed suburban and rural environment, probably have about 25% combined losses yearly (mostly due to ppb)

    Conjecture: 1/3 location, 1/3 bee type, 1/3 management

    Michael/Dee's management philosophy works here


    Don
    Last edited by D Semple; 09-30-2015 at 07:02 AM.

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Acworth, GA
    Posts
    54

    Default Re: Impact of location on treatment-free beekeeping...

    1. hardiness zone;
    - 7B
    2. how long you have been treatment free;
    - 3 years, had up to 9 hives
    3. what success (or lack thereof) you have seen;
    - 50% survival (lost several to mice two years in a row, should have ordered mice excludes by now)
    4. any peculiarities of your local geography or climate that you think influence your bees or your beekeeping, and the ways in which it has influenced them.
    - Hot and humid summer

    In my experience, the bees survive just as well regardless if you treat them or not, so why would I want to go through extra work? It seems that breading from the survival stock and introducing occasional diversity is of more benefit than treating. I have lost 50% of the packages I bought, but the ones that have survived first year have more chances of survival the following year and so on.
    4 yr, TF, zone 7b, 5 colonies.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    53,922

    Default Re: Impact of location on treatment-free beekeeping...

    Since the Varroa arrived, I've really only kept bees in southeast Nebraska. They are scattered over a radius of 100 miles or so in seven different beeyards. They do seem to thrive more or less in different locations, but I attribute that to things like farmers spraying, forage etc., not Varroa issues. Some places will only support seven or eight hives. Some will support forty or more hives. But again I think that's mostly forage though it could be other things like pesticide use.

    >1. hardiness zone;
    USDA shows it as 5b but we get -20 F (-29 C) often enough (sometimes -27 F) which would be 5a

    >2. how long you have been treatment free;

    Other than 3 years where I treated some of them out of desperation or fear, 38 years not treating for anything whatsoever.

    >3. what success (or lack thereof) you have seen;

    The same success treating as not treating.

    >4. any peculiarities of your local geography or climate that you think influence your bees or your beekeeping, and the ways in which it has influenced them.

    The same as any cold climate. Winter is a big issue. I have less snow than a lot of cold climates (which means less insulation).
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Location
    Morro Bay, California, USA
    Posts
    2,272

    Default Re: Impact of location on treatment-free beekeeping...

    >1. hardiness zone;
    10a -- no freezes for several years, brief low to 26F about every 5 years, bananas in front yard.

    >2. how long you have been treatment free;
    I've run a distinct, isolated TF yard as an experiment since 2001. I've stocked this with a) Glenn Hygenic queens (back in the day), b) wild swarms caught off the Ventana Wilderness, and this year c) VSH x Italian from a VP Instrumental breeder.

    >3. what success (or lack thereof) you have seen;
    TF colonies collapse and die, typically at year 2. I attempt to catch the hives at collapse and rescue my investment. "Rescued" hives are moved away from the isolated TF yard.

    >4. any peculiarities of your local geography or climate that you think influence your bees or your beekeeping, and the ways in which it has influenced them.
    "Winter" is the dearth in October, November. Eucalyptus blooms in December and spring begins with that flow. No rain between April and October.

    I've been keeping bees since the 1970's. In the past two decades, I've watched a lot of idealistic new beekeepers come and go. Some of those crashed dreams have resulted in personal and financial calamity.

  7. #6

    Default Re: Impact of location on treatment-free beekeeping...

    1. Hardiness Zone
    Not quite sure, Finland is in the latitude as Alaska (60-70), but because of Golf stream a lot warmer than Alaska. Willow starts here end of April, Dandelion last half of May, Apple starts 1.-10. of June, last honey crop (rare, but possible) in the beginning of August.

    2. 7 years totally, before that 4 years insufficient treatments

    3. During my treatment free period I have never bought any bees, collected any swarms or sold any nucs. One of the most respected European bee breeders writes a statement (in Internet) that a queen which I posted to him 2009 "Does not need any treatment". He lives 1500km south from here. (So treatment free beekeeping is not local !) I recently came across with another treatment free beekeeper here nearby. My queens are selling 500€ each.
    Lack of success: we have not reached 100% resistance, plus these bees make a lot less honey and they have somewhat more temper. In normal bees mites reproduce 20 fold or more each summer, in our stock the factor might be 2 fold or less, but it is enough to get into troubles in the long run if the mite load is heavy. We are having serious troubles at the moment. There might be brilliant breeders but average of all hives is always less.

    4. Long winter is an advantage, in a normal year bees do not fly from mid October until mid March. The length of broodless period depends on your stock, some imported Italian queens (30 years ago) were reported to brood all winter. My favourite bees start heavy brood rearing along with willow blooming.
    Our region is not the best for honey production, and the main honey flow may last only one week, or even less. This may have had influence on the brood areas they have.

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Location
    Crown Point, NY, USA
    Posts
    601

    Default Re: Impact of location on treatment-free beekeeping...

    1. hardiness zone;
    4a and 4b

    2. how long you have been treatment free;
    15 yrs.

    3. what success (or lack thereof) you have seen;
    Initial losses were around 70%. Now losses are like anyone elses in the area (10-20%).

    4. any peculiarities of your local geography or climate
    Winter. Bees that can't survive; well there is no point in going any farther there dead....

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2015
    Location
    Dolianova, Sardinia, Italy
    Posts
    263

    Default Re: Impact of location on treatment-free beekeeping...

    Many thanks for your responses. It is always of great interest to me to hear about the experiences of other beekeepers such as yourselves, who have been at this work for years, if not decades, and I am grateful that you have taken the time to respond.

    I wonder if climates that are either very hot or very cold (say, anything under hardiness zone 5a, or over hardiness zone 8b) do not pose unique difficulties for treatment-free beekeeping. I could imagine, for example, how very cold or very damp winters might heighten stress on bee colonies, such that they succumb more easily to Varroa-vectored diseases (though this might also be an aid in natural selection, as I think Clayton Huestis suggests). Similarly, I could imagine how in very hot locations (for example, in JWChesnut's area) the lack of a winter brood break might exacerbate the growth of Varroa sufficiently to lead rapidly to critical infestation, in any given period of the year. I also have the sense that humidity is an important factor here, although I am not sure in what way.

    These are but shameless surmises on the part of one attempting to gnaw away at the wide borders of his ignorance. I propose these ideas only in hope that they will be critiqued by the better seasoned members of this forum.

    This thread's query is of course still very much open, but as a related point, I'll add this question as well: do you have any thoughts or experiences on treatment-free beekeeping in places with severe winters, or in places with long or unbroken brood seasons?

    John

  10. #9

    Default Re: Impact of location on treatment-free beekeeping...

    So far all treatment free bees I have seen are making smaller than normal hive. They control queens laying and remove infested pupa. This has an effect on honey crop, which is smaller than normal. I would be very much surprised if someone can show me a location where the "evolution" has led to something else.

    I would like to think, that very hard winters is an advantage and on the other hand a strong wild bee population (+ africanized bees genes in free flying drones) is for advantage.

    If the region is a very good honey area, there are probably a lot of (treating ) beekeepers, who will make getting tf more difficult (impact from drones and mites moving from hive to hive).

  11. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    Denver, Colorado, U.S.A.
    Posts
    2,672

    Default Re: Impact of location on treatment-free beekeeping...

    Excellent thread with interesting responses!
    --shinbone
    (1975-1980, and now since 2011; maintain about 10 hives; Zone 5b; 15" rain; 5500')

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