Treatment Free Or Not to Be? - One Person's Internal Debate
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  1. #1
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    Arrow Treatment Free Or Not to Be? - One Person's Internal Debate

    For several years now, I have held the position that consistent treatment or the fighting of mites interferes with the natural ability of the bee to adjust, and that I - not depending on bees for income - should do my part to let the bees do their natural adjusting without my interference.

    I have made no claims to "success", as I feel that I have not subjected my bees to the rigors of honey production and have been more focused on raising bees in smaller colonies as a hobbyist. A new beekeeper recently asked me about being Treatment Free, and about my feelings on the debate. As I started to answer, I realized that I have a philosophical problem to resolve. I thought it might be interesting to share my thoughts with you at this point, in order to contribute to the general discussion.

    To help you see where I'm coming from personally, I will state my basic stances on a couple of things:

    1 - I reject the term "Natural Beekeeping". I think it's misleading, divisive and polarizing within the beekeeping community, and a contradiction in terms. Nothing about people manipulating honey bee colonies is 'natural' from the bee standpoint. There is no major hive type which is inherently "more natural". If you want to keep bees 'naturally', then prepare a swarm box according to their preferred specifications (See Tom D. Seeley's research) and when bees move in, leave them alone.

    2 - I believe that the bee too complex to be 'known' by anyone in a complete sense, and that we are all continually learning. The problems currently facing the bees (and humanity) are extremely complex, and we all stand to gain from sharing the many many perspectives that contribute to the world-wide discussion.

    3 - For my own approach to a beekeeping philosophy, I find the term 'minimalist' suits it best. Not in that I want to 'do less', but that I try to achieve my goals with bees using the fewest possible manipulations that mean pushing the bees to things they would not do on their own, and working to best align my own goals with theirs. I try to be minimal in my use of foundations, minimize feeding, etc etc. I understand that this a choice, and is not inherently 'right'. It's just what I choose to do. The bees know what they're doing, and I try not to get in there way.

    Now this fourth and final point is key:

    4 - For every manipulation I make which is outside the bee's 'nature', I accept that I have a responsibility to counter that manipulation with some countermeasure to resolve any problem that manipulation may cause the bee through no fault (genetic or otherwise) of her own. So for example, if I split a colony and repeatedly reduce it's size and resources, I may need to feed to help them recover from the lack of resources they would not have faced had I left them alone - that sort of thing.

    And herein lies the problem.

    Up to this point, I have been managing bees in relatively small colonies. I've been splitting, wintering nucs, doing cut-outs, catching swarms, etc. But now I am beginning to look at managing some hive for honey production, and this is a place where my needs will contradict the natural processes and intentions of the bee, and my approach to point #4 is challenged accordingly.

    Left alone, the colony would inhabit a smaller, finite space and if they winter strong, they would normally swarm once or twice throughout the summer months, breaking the brood cycle of mites, would keep their numbers fairly low and would build only as much food and size as necessary to carry them through winter. They'd deal with mites along the way in their own manner (perhaps they'd groom, remove or directly attack mites, etc.) and the strength of that colony would determine the number and strength of the drones and queens they produce, and they would contribute in their own measure to the genetic diversity of the bees as a whole in the area.

    But if I'm managing them for honey production, I will not allow them to live in that way. In this case, I will attempt to dissuade them from swarming and manage them to encourage a single, large colony in each hive. I will expand the cavity they live within to accommodate an enormous population (the bigger the better), and I will do everything I can to avoid any brood breaks. At the end of the season, (if following typical practice) I will remove all honey beyond the weight they will require to winter, and condense the space so that the bees are reduced again to a smaller cavity, with a large population. Along with this contraction, an increased mite population - caused largely by my 'unnatural' interference - will be present and weakening the colony accordingly.

    In short, my manipulations will have eliminated a major element in in the bee's handling of her parasite through swarming, and I will have caused an unnaturally large mite population through the adding of space, and then (if I stay treatment free) will have denied her any assistance in recovering from my interference.

    So I ask you:

    Are we asking too much of the bee to adjust to mites on her own 'naturally' while at the same time shouldering the weight of our continued manipulations and 'unnatural' demands of her to produce amid a plethora of other human-made alterations to her natural environment?


    This, to me, is the central question as it relates to being treatment free or not. Up until yesterday, I felt comfortable in my view. If you have the time and energy after reading all of this, I'd be interested in hearing your opinion from where you sit.

    Thanks,

    Adam

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Treatment Free Or Not to Be? - One Person's Internal Debate

    IMO, it is possible to be a treatment free minimalist and expect the bees to produce honey. Nature dictates that honeybees hoard honey. Taking advantage of that behavior is what beekeepers have done for millennia. It is not easy to go treatment free because it means leaving bees to their fate. This is far easier if you start with treatment free bees from a reliable breeder.
    NW Alabama, 50 years, 20 colonies and growing, sideliner, treatment free since 2005, 14 frame square Dadant broodnest

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Treatment Free Or Not to Be? - One Person's Internal Debate

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    I thought it might be interesting to share my thoughts with you at this point, in order to contribute to the general discussion.
    another excellent post by you adam, you have a gift for framing and asking really good questions.

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    1 - I reject the term "Natural Beekeeping".
    i couldn't agree more and i have made this same point from time to time. it's everything but natural to herd colonies together in one yard, dig through their hive from time to time, and take away resources from them.

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    2 - I believe that the bee[keeping is] too complex to be 'known' by anyone in a complete sense, and that we are all continually learning.
    very true. it's an evolving craft with lots of variables not to mention that goals and outcomes are pretty diverse across the universe of beekeepers. just the influence of location alone is huge factor.

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    3 - For my own approach to a beekeeping philosophy, I find the term 'minimalist' suits it best.
    you may have to define that better for us, but it when it comes to pest control that sounds like what some might call ipm or integrated pest management, the goal of which if i understand it properly is to allow what ever system (bee colony in this case) to be as self managing as possible but intervening as necessary to achieve the desired outcome.

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    4 - For every manipulation I make which is outside the bee's 'nature', I accept that I have a responsibility to counter that manipulation with some countermeasure to resolve any problem that manipulation may cause the bee through no fault (genetic or otherwise) of her own.
    the one overriding principle that the bees have taught me during my short tenure with them is that the more i stay out of their way the better they do. some manipulations actually can facilitate what the bees are trying to accomplish, i.e. i believe checkerboarding supers in late winter makes the spring build up easier for the bees. other manipulations may be more neutral, i.e. if i have 5 supers of honey the bees may not notice so much me taking the top 2 from them. making splits later in the season than the bees would likely be swarming is another matter and yes, countermeasures (feeding) is probably good idea.

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    So I ask you:

    Are we asking too much of the bee to adjust to mites on her own 'naturally' while at the same time shouldering the weight of our continued manipulations and 'unnatural' demands of her to produce amid a plethora of other human-made alterations to her natural environment?
    i don't know. i've wondered if having more success with swarm prevention might cause an uptick in mite related losses. so far i haven't seen that trend but i'm watching for it. it may be that having a summer dearth with the associated brood break may have an offsetting effect here. the thing is that not all locations have a dearth like that and not all strains of bees stop brooding during dearths, so this is another one those things that may be 'local'.

    i think fp makes a very good point. if you are lucky enough to find folks in your neck of the woods having success in the way you envision success while keeping bees off treatments by all means take your cues (and maybe some bees) from them.

    if that's not possible adam you may have to embrace the fact that you are going to have to figure it out as you go. we all have to do that to some degree when it comes to our own personal beekeeping, but if you are going to try something new and different for your area you'll be in the pioneering business. there's no right or wrong to it, and no need to be conflicted over what you do or don't do based what others think. it's your ballgame and you get to make the rules.
    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

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    Default Re: Treatment Free Or Not to Be? - One Person's Internal Debate

    Mr Collins, your comments appear to be well thought out and your minimalist approach is what I am trying to do. My only question or disagreement is with the idea that the hive must be manipulated to harvest honey. I agree that to maximize honey production manipulation is required. And I suppose that taking any honey could be considered to be manipulation. However, allowing bees to live the way they choose should still allow for a honey harvest, even if it is a small harvest.

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    Default Re: Treatment Free Or Not to Be? - One Person's Internal Debate

    Just my 10 cents worth.
    I'm running IPM with small cell under 20 hives. Last winter they all survived, & we haven't lost one this year yet.
    I'm a little negligent in my IPM practices, but its still working out, so I think TF is possible.
    Also we raise almost all our own queens.
    Dan

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Treatment Free Or Not to Be? - One Person's Internal Debate

    SteveStevenson:

    I get what you're saying and agree. I have kept top bar hives and taken 20-30 lbs per season with no problem, and mites were manageable. However, that is not the commonly accepted version of honey production, and I believe we have to at least acknowledge the norm in honey production here. We're asking 50 to 100 lbs of honey per colony in honey production hives. That's the norm. I'm not saying it should or shouldn't be - but that's what it is. As I said, a hobbyist has the luxury of managing for smaller colonies, but when you move to a production model, it becomes a big ask for the bee colony to produce those numbers and handle the mites on top of reduced forage, increased pesticides, herbicides, pollution, etc etc.

    Squarepeg:

    Thank you for your kind words and considered reply. Your work and effort to share your experience here is greatly appreciated.

    To clarify, my approach has meant no direct interference with mites. No drone comb removal, no nothing. The reason is that I don't believe we can see the true implications of any manipulation. Bees want drones, so I have tried to let them have them. That's the path I've been following. But when we jack those individual colony numbers to lang stacks 8 or 10 feet high... That doesn't happen in a 40L tree cavity. Is it fair to leave them with all those mites and expect them to adjust to it?

    I realize that some do. I don't know why, but some do. And when they do - when we see colonies who can rock the huge numbers and still show low mite loads - I think we need to let those bees do their thing, and I think we need to focus our queen-rearing on those colonies. But how much do we move the overall strength of the bee in that effort?

    Fusion:

    You're an intelligent person and I have read your posts with interest for years. So I do respect your perspectives.

    I like the idea of breeding. But I worry that it's largely a fantasy for the small beekeeper at this point in history. Keith Delaplane's presentation on the polyamorous nature of honey bees really got me thinking. Right now, within 3 miles of me is a yard of about 75 of Kirk Webster's bees, 30 of Ross Conrad's, maybe some of Chaz Mraz's, Queens from the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, queens from B. Weavers, Queens from the Carolinas on migratory colonies, laden with mite loads, and queens from Mike Palmer (actually, those are in my yard). I have to wonder: how the heck do you maintain any breeding program in all of that?

    Without instrumental insemination (another unnatural manipulation - however useful), you don't. Every time your virgin queen flies out, she's mating with genetic lines from all over the US (and beyond). And this is only getting more common as the internet offers beekeepers a direct line of communication and ordering for bees from all over. This genetic diversity is the key to the survival of the bee. I believe that. But as far as really honing in on a specific set of traits for your individual preferences? I have my doubts purely on logistics.

    It can be done, but I think it takes a lot of colonies and a genetic program based in a dominance of bee populations in a particular geography along with it. That means that anyone thinking they're going to make meaningful breeding progress - with less than about 1000 colonies, spread over a wide area in places that aren't geographically isolated - is kidding themselves.

    I wish it wasn't true, but in my heart of hearts, I believe it is.

    KQ6AR:

    I appreciate your long-standing input here as well.

    IPM is still treatment as far as I'm concerned. In the end, you're manipulating colonies in ways bees could never do on their own. That's fine, but it's not treatment free - at least as far as the way I see it in my thinking. IPM is a form of treatment, and a viable one for sure.

    Adam

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    Default Re: Treatment Free Or Not to Be? - One Person's Internal Debate

    Minimalist is the term I use. Chemical free unless things begin to get out of control, then treat to avoid squandering resources uselessly but then revert back to chemical free. Use a number of IPM practices including adding some hygienic trait queens every year. My interpretation of "manipulating the hive" would include checkerboarding, splitting, combining, requeening, etc etc; any actions I purposely implement to leverage their natural traits and tendencies to better align with my goals and intent. There's a lot of middle ground between no treatment at any cost and treat at every opportunity.

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    Default Re: Treatment Free Or Not to Be? - One Person's Internal Debate

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    But when we jack those individual colony numbers to lang stacks 8 or 10 feet high... That doesn't happen in a 40L tree cavity. Is it fair to leave them with all those mites and expect them to adjust to it?
    that's another great question and to be honest i am not sure. i try to not get over 4 or 5 mediums on top of a single deep which would put the total volume equivalent at +/- 4 deeps. it turns out that the while the bees are pretty dense in the lower part of the hive where the broodnest is they thin out quite a bit in the honey supers, being mostly on the frames that they are processing nectar on up there, and hardly any on the capped frames. i'm not sure exactly but i would guess that having 10 times the volume in a hive doesn't translate into 10 time more bees (and mites), with the actually number of bees probably maxing out at some point regardless of volume.

    again this may be a local thing, but i see brooding already starting to get scaled back just when we hit the peak of our main spring flow. so rather than reacting to the current conditions, it's as if the colony can 'anticipate' that the intense flow is going to be short lived and that it makes more sense to adjust their population down for that in advance. i'm guessing that this mid season ramping down and breaking of brooding serves to throttle the mite population dynamics back as well.

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    I realize that some do. I don't know why, but some do. And when they do - when we see colonies who can rock the huge numbers and still show low mite loads - I think we need to let those bees do their thing, and I think we need to focus our queen-rearing on those colonies.
    exactly.

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    But how much do we move the overall strength of the bee in that effort?
    i think it's possible to get a measurable result even after a few seasons of selection, (and deselection through the winnowing process). i think i am seeing overall improvement after a few generations here but it may have a little to do with me getting a little bit further up the learning curve or maybe even just plain luck. it sounds like you've got pretty decent diversity in the nearby drone population and hopefully you'll end up with a few rockers to take grafts from.

    it will be a fun experiment adam, and perhaps a little bit like forrest gump's mother described a box of chocolates, "you never know what you'll get". hopefully for you something really good.
    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

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    Default Re: Treatment Free Or Not to Be? - One Person's Internal Debate

    If drones from a tf yard mated with queens from a treated yard, would the resultant genetics be at a disadvantage? Maybe not so much. In instances where treatment loses effectiveness for whatever reason, those genetics may help the treater out a bit on occasion and those genetics will infiltrate his stock. Especially if you are surrounded by those who mostly raise their own and bring in interesting stuff to test out.

    Are feral bees making a comeback in your area? If they are, their genetics is at play as well.

    I hesitate making too many assumptions about what feral bees are and aren't. In the wild, with competitive interactions between hives, size probably matters. If a swarm can find, defend and fill a large cavity, then not only can they rob their neighbors, but any colonies they have happened to kill in the fall, could be taken over with early spring swarms. They can also throw swarm after swarm. They could dominate the local genetic landscape for a while. The ability and desire for at least a subset of bees to take advantage of large cavities may be what allows beekeepers to focus on honey production. Perhaps making bees survive as nucs their first winter, then demanding production out of them the following year maintains some genetic diversity in terms of strategy and flexibility.

  11. #10

    Default Re: Treatment Free Or Not to Be? - One Person's Internal Debate

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    So I ask you:

    Are we asking too much of the bee to adjust to mites on her own 'naturally' while at the same time shouldering the weight of our continued manipulations and 'unnatural' demands of her to produce amid a plethora of other human-made alterations to her natural environment?
    I think when you have TF bees you will notice that because resistance comes with a cost/expence (it takes resources, needs attention and work form the bees) they will produce less. They have smaller brood nests and colonies, so you donīt have to worry of too many supers. They donīt need them. If you wish to be more natural you can always put the new super underneath, next to bottom board.

    TF bees adjust their brood area to what suits them. This happens no matter how many brood chambers you give them. You donīt have to worry about that either. They stack honey and pollen in the extra space.

    When you make splits form a TF hive, you can always make a shake swarm, if you wish it to be more natural. (I make just plain normal nucs, with brood frames and bees.) Shake swarms made in the late peak season can be connected with honey harvest to make it even more simple and natural.

    When bees are in beekeepers hives I think we should not think to much of being natural. Natural they can be in the wild.

    Kirk told me about a mountain mating station he has in Vermont. Maybe you could find a place in the mountains too- for your best survivor bees only.
    Last edited by Juhani Lunden; 12-19-2015 at 01:48 AM.

  12. #11

    Default Re: Treatment Free Or Not to Be? - One Person's Internal Debate

    Adam,
    I have some questions:
    - what`s your definition of a feral bee? An escaped domestic swarm living in the wild for some time with the queen mating with drones from domestic colonies as it would be here?
    or the original local bees (apis mellifera mellifera here) which are bred not to be extinct but are mostly hybrids today?
    - can we keep bees "in a natural way" without interventions in a most unnatural environment with sprayed fields, many droughts, monoculture, bee inspectors supervising the hives, crowded conditions with treated hives all around?

    In my opinion we, who exploit bees for our own use, even if we just house them without taking too much honey, must help them along. As natural in our management as possible, for sure.
    So point 4 is what is important for me.

    I observed wild bees (not honeybees) for 3 years now in my garden and in the wildlife park where I work.
    The most important thing for them to survive is the flow and the plants they need, those being not sprayed.

    Nature is without mercy, it`s normal that sometimes there are 90% losses but mankind is not up to those losses because it`s taken as a personal affront not being able to control this.

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    Default Re: Treatment Free Or Not to Be? - One Person's Internal Debate

    Mr. Collins - I have little to say that has not already been said by those with more right to say it. Yet I will take you up on your invitation to express my opinion, which is most emphatically written "from where I sit."

    I want to thank you for putting to such eloquent expression doubts and questions which have also been much occupying my mind. My position as beekeeper is in some ways an embodied instance of your final question: for I and my family depend on the money that we garner from our bees, but at the same time if we do not become treatment free then I am in danger of running into hypocrisy with my philosophy. Your question thus touches the nerve of my dilemma, and I shall be more than curious to hear your continued thoughts on this matter.

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    So I ask you:

    Are we asking too much of the bee to adjust to mites on her own 'naturally' while at the same time shouldering the weight of our continued manipulations and 'unnatural' demands of her to produce amid a plethora of other human-made alterations to her natural environment?
    I believe - and I state this belief as my own, which should have no ramifications for anyone but me - that the only way to answer this question is to put it to the test. I do not mean the test of a single season, nor of a single scientific study, nor anything at all so brief and inconclusive as that, but rather to the hard and perhaps painful test of years or even decades, as many of the intrepid beekeepers on this very forum have done, or are doing. And this must be done, recognizing as well that such a test shall certainly entail harship for the bees, and quite likely for their keepers as well.

    Of course, the question does not need to be answered; and here is the rub. But (and I repeat, these are but the thoughts I speak to myself, and should not at all be taken as exhortation to others) if I were to allow that we are asking the bees too much when we demand of them at once productivity and resistance to the parasites that afflict them - if I were to allow this, I say, then I must perforce accept the stark division between the more-or-less healthy wild bee on the one hand, and the industrial or technologically dependent honey farmer on the other. Put otherwise, I must accept the impossibility today of an older style of beekeeping, which epitomizes that tenuous and enigmatic and beautiful point at which the ordered artifices of humankind touch the ungovernable wildness of the inhuman world.

    It may well be that such a style of beekeeping is in fact antiquated and presently impossible; but if it is, then I want nothing to do with this profession in any case. And so I intend, as much as is possible for me, to put my bees to the trial, and myself with them, as is only fair, to see just what potentialities there are still left in the both of us, which have yet to be undone by our strange modernity.

    John

  14. #13

    Default Re: Treatment Free Or Not to Be? - One Person's Internal Debate

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    For several years now, I have held the position that consistent treatment or the fighting of mites interferes with the natural ability of the bee to adjust, and that I - not depending on bees for income - should do my part to let the bees do their natural adjusting without my interference.

    I have made no claims to "success", as I feel that I have not subjected my bees to the rigors of honey production and have been more focused on raising bees in smaller colonies as a hobbyist. A new beekeeper recently asked me about being Treatment Free, and about my feelings on the debate. As I started to answer, I realized that I have a philosophical problem to resolve. I thought it might be interesting to share my thoughts with you at this point, in order to contribute to the general discussion.

    To help you see where I'm coming from personally, I will state my basic stances on a couple of things:

    1 - I reject the term "Natural Beekeeping". I think it's misleading, divisive and polarizing within the beekeeping community, and a contradiction in terms. Nothing about people manipulating honey bee colonies is 'natural' from the bee standpoint. There is no major hive type which is inherently "more natural". If you want to keep bees 'naturally', then prepare a swarm box according to their preferred specifications (See Tom D. Seeley's research) and when bees move in, leave them alone.

    2 - I believe that the bee too complex to be 'known' by anyone in a complete sense, and that we are all continually learning. The problems currently facing the bees (and humanity) are extremely complex, and we all stand to gain from sharing the many many perspectives that contribute to the world-wide discussion.

    3 - For my own approach to a beekeeping philosophy, I find the term 'minimalist' suits it best. Not in that I want to 'do less', but that I try to achieve my goals with bees using the fewest possible manipulations that mean pushing the bees to things they would not do on their own, and working to best align my own goals with theirs. I try to be minimal in my use of foundations, minimize feeding, etc etc. I understand that this a choice, and is not inherently 'right'. It's just what I choose to do. The bees know what they're doing, and I try not to get in there way.

    Now this fourth and final point is key:

    4 - For every manipulation I make which is outside the bee's 'nature', I accept that I have a responsibility to counter that manipulation with some countermeasure to resolve any problem that manipulation may cause the bee through no fault (genetic or otherwise) of her own. So for example, if I split a colony and repeatedly reduce it's size and resources, I may need to feed to help them recover from the lack of resources they would not have faced had I left them alone - that sort of thing.

    And herein lies the problem.

    Up to this point, I have been managing bees in relatively small colonies. I've been splitting, wintering nucs, doing cut-outs, catching swarms, etc. But now I am beginning to look at managing some hive for honey production, and this is a place where my needs will contradict the natural processes and intentions of the bee, and my approach to point #4 is challenged accordingly.

    Left alone, the colony would inhabit a smaller, finite space and if they winter strong, they would normally swarm once or twice throughout the summer months, breaking the brood cycle of mites, would keep their numbers fairly low and would build only as much food and size as necessary to carry them through winter. They'd deal with mites along the way in their own manner (perhaps they'd groom, remove or directly attack mites, etc.) and the strength of that colony would determine the number and strength of the drones and queens they produce, and they would contribute in their own measure to the genetic diversity of the bees as a whole in the area.

    But if I'm managing them for honey production, I will not allow them to live in that way. In this case, I will attempt to dissuade them from swarming and manage them to encourage a single, large colony in each hive. I will expand the cavity they live within to accommodate an enormous population (the bigger the better), and I will do everything I can to avoid any brood breaks. At the end of the season, (if following typical practice) I will remove all honey beyond the weight they will require to winter, and condense the space so that the bees are reduced again to a smaller cavity, with a large population. Along with this contraction, an increased mite population - caused largely by my 'unnatural' interference - will be present and weakening the colony accordingly.

    In short, my manipulations will have eliminated a major element in in the bee's handling of her parasite through swarming, and I will have caused an unnaturally large mite population through the adding of space, and then (if I stay treatment free) will have denied her any assistance in recovering from my interference.

    So I ask you:

    Are we asking too much of the bee to adjust to mites on her own 'naturally' while at the same time shouldering the weight of our continued manipulations and 'unnatural' demands of her to produce amid a plethora of other human-made alterations to her natural environment?


    This, to me, is the central question as it relates to being treatment free or not. Up until yesterday, I felt comfortable in my view. If you have the time and energy after reading all of this, I'd be interested in hearing your opinion from where you sit.

    Thanks,

    Adam
    Natural or unnatural there are many ways of understanding and interpetations. I am sure the natural beekeeping is possible and for the TF it is very important to keep bees naturaly..
    My view of natural beekeeping starts from a clean area somewhere in woods. So your bees are able to stay clean out of pests, toxins etc gatering clean honey and able to raise up a healthy offspring .. Then youre keeping them in clean wooden hives where never used any chemicals and your using foundationless combs so the wax also is free out of pest and toxins.

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    Default Re: Treatment Free Or Not to Be? - One Person's Internal Debate

    "Are we asking too much of the bee to adjust to mites on her own 'naturally' while at the same time shouldering the weight of our continued manipulations and 'unnatural' demands of her to produce amid a plethora of other human-made alterations to her natural environment?"

    I say we are asking too much if we insist bees live in 10 frame Langstroth's without a brood break year-round. JohnBruceLeonards' eloquence has helped me order my thoughts. I believe part of the problem is beekeepers' reluctance to leave the "older style of beekeeping". In relative terms this "older style of beekeeping" is a new thing.
    As I understand it (reference the Heath beekeeping series on youtube) colonies were routinely started from swarms before Langs came into being. From 1852-1987 it was possible to place honey bees in Langs and have hives that stayed alive for years. Yet in the 4500 year history of beekeeping this 125 years is not very long. Many people's livelihoods depend upon the 10 frame box and continuous brood rearing. Adherence to this method is very limiting.
    "Broodbreakers" and "nucers" are having success without chemicals and accept that the year-round-continuous-10-frame-box-beekeeping model is not for them. I use 10 frame equipment for honey production, but recognize that my bees overwinter better in skinnier boxes and do best when they have had a restorative broodbreak. Most of my bees overwinter in nucs.
    Adam, I believe it is possible to have modest success as a treatment-free beekeeper if you can forgo some honey at the end of the season in order to allow restorative brood breaking and/or splitting. It is not hard if you are thinking of making a thousand pounds or so of honey. Thank you for starting this thought provoking thread.

  16. #15
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    Casey, Il, USA
    Posts
    4,130

    Default Re: Treatment Free Or Not to Be? - One Person's Internal Debate

    Great thread ! What I see locally is some feral colonies are living in trees etc for 3-5 winters as bees have lived for thousands of yrs. The local TF guys have incorporated those bees into their yards and know after a few good yrs of production its time to bust them up into nucs to reset them so to speak. This is the TF model I'm trying to achieve. I think to many folks thing colonies should live perpetually and want to treat to save that individual colony. It just doesn't happen that way in nature.

  17. #16
    Join Date
    Aug 2015
    Location
    Abbotsford, BC, Canada
    Posts
    61

    Default Re: Treatment Free Or Not to Be? - One Person's Internal Debate

    Leo Sharashkin (translator of Keeping Bees With a Smile) taught a friend of mine to let his hive swarm every spring. So far he has done that, and the hives have been big and healthy.

    Are many TF people encouraging/allowing the spring swarm?

    What is the "nucer" method? Hives are kept in a single Lanstroth deep, and that is reduced to 5 frames for overwintering? Or 5 over 5?

  18. #17
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Hamilton, Alabama
    Posts
    2,998

    Default Re: Treatment Free Or Not to Be? - One Person's Internal Debate

    I don't usually permit a colony to swarm though one or two get away each spring. I usually pull a nuc out of half of my colonies to increase numbers and have a few to sell. The parent colony is expected to make a crop of honey. The remaining colonies are maintained for honey production. I am going to try to double my colony numbers this spring in an effort to make a few more treatment free colonies available in the area. This should be possible with little impact on honey production if I start at the right time.
    NW Alabama, 50 years, 20 colonies and growing, sideliner, treatment free since 2005, 14 frame square Dadant broodnest

  19. #18
    Join Date
    Dec 2014
    Location
    Kraków, Polska
    Posts
    123

    Default Re: Treatment Free Or Not to Be? - One Person's Internal Debate

    My opinion is, that "beekeeping" would always be unnatural in some way. However we would practice it.
    In Poland beekeepers always say/write that I souldn't call my beekeeping as natural, because natural is watching bees in tree hollows. I kind of agree, however I see "natural beekeeping" as simplification.
    I would say (and that is my personal definition of that) that natural is the kind of beekeeping that allows your bees to live in the nature for free - survive there, give swarms, and sustain the feral population. So what I try to do here is to have bees that - even they presently live in "unnatural" conditions (hive od the beeyard) - they may have the chance to survive in the wild.
    For me that means that they MUST have traits that allow them to do that, and that are:
    - resistance to dieseases (so they must be TF)
    - being somehow defensive;
    - propolising;
    - not beeing high score productive;
    - swarming.
    etc.
    For me that means I have to tolerate these traits, even I don't like them, because that are the traits that "natural bees" need to stay alive (evolution of these traits proved it). That are the traits that AMM have (my local bees here).

    And that means for me :
    - natural hive (e.g. wooden)
    - natural methods (accepting swarming, not taking too much honey, no tratments, no disinfecting etc);
    - no excessive husbandary, not eliminating "unfavorable" traits etc.

    So I see my "natural beekeeping" as doing what allows "my swarm" to survive on its own.

  20. #19
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Hudson, WI USA
    Posts
    2,569

    Default Re: Treatment Free Or Not to Be? - One Person's Internal Debate

    I consider a "nucer" as someone who uses skinny boxes of 4 or 5 frames, or divided boxes, as the backbone of their apiary. Beekeepers use a variety of different methods capitalize on the efficiency of these boxes. If this is new to you go to youtube and search "Michael Palmer bees" as a starting point. Another way to investigate is to do a search on Beesource with "Michael Palmer" as the subject. There are many threads on Beesource related to nucs and "nucing" methods. Mike has reported that he doesn't treat his nucs, but does treat his 10 frame boxes.

  21. #20
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    53,748

    Default Re: Treatment Free Or Not to Be? - One Person's Internal Debate

    >Are many TF people encouraging/allowing the spring swarm?

    I might if I were home all the time to catch them and if I had some baited limbs where I could reach them, that had lemongrass oil and QMP on them. But I work all day and bees in the trees don't do me any good, so I split them instead if I think they are about to swarm. Also hives that have swarmed are not very productive as they have lost most of their field force.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

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